Saturday, 23 June 2018

Shorne Chaser !

Fishing lakes at Shorne Country Park

As we move into peak Dragonfly watching season I couldn't resist another visit to the fishing lakes at Shorne Country park to see if I could add a few more species to my list, as I mentioned in a previous post, up to nineteen species have been reported at the country park,  I managed to see just six species on my last visit and only distant views of  a chaser species.

So with the temperatures rising, the sun shining,  and time on my hands, my search began.

The matted weed shown in the foreground of the photo above was particularly attractive to the female Emperors, first and largest dragonfly to be seen  today. couldn't get a decent flight picture but a nice photo of the Emperor female oviposting .

Still good numbers of Black Tailed Skimmers, by far the most numerous Dragonfly species around the lake. the males still partial to waiting on the lakeside banks, where they dart out to chase off another male, or hopefully a passing female.

On this visit I noticed that a Common Darters were making an appearance around the edges of the lake, none settling for a photograph though.

Then I stumbled on the Dragonfly I was looking for, as always in my case, common and widespread,
but a lovely looking Dragonfly all the same, typically, this one was on its favoured perch where it kept returning too, allowing photograph or two.

This particular individual appeared slightly different from the norm, with the wingtips darker. a quick look in my field guide where it was noted as a Four-spotted Chaser - the colour form praenubila,first time I have come across one of these.

Four-spotted Chaser - the colour form praenubila

 Damselflys were much the same as my last visit, Red-Eyed Damselflys guarding there chosen lily pads, Azure Damselflys attached in tandem to the females oviposting in the weed mats, a few Large Reds and a Blue Tailed Damselfly.

Large Red Damselfly
Blue-Tailed Damselfly

Red-Eyed Damselfly

Azure Damselfly

A walk through the woodland revealed a Banded Demoiselle and on the small pond at the back of the woodland cafe a family of Pied Wagtails hunting for insects in the grass alongside the pond appeared to have caught a Emerald damselfly.

So my Common and widespread list of Odonata species at Shorne stands as follows :-

1. Emperor Dragonfly
2. Black Tailed Skimmer
3. Four-Spotted Chaser
4. Common Darter
5. Banded Demoiselle
6. Emerald Damselfly
7. Red-Eyed Damselfly
8. Blue-Tailed Damselfly
9. Azure Damselfly
10. Large Red Damselfly

The Waterfall !

The waterfall that carries freshly filtered water back down to my fish pond is a relatively small affair, not really sure if  I can call it a waterfall, one of those preformed fiberglass jobs, but with a few years weathering, some strategically placed plants,even some moss making a determined effort to soften the edges have given it a relatvely authentic look, however the garden birds seem to love it.

Fortunately our swinging  garden chair has been placed in a position where I can watch the birds at the pond, without disturbing them,  although to be honest I think also they  have grown accustomed to me hanging around the garden and just get on with there thing.

The favoured part of the waterfall for the House Sparrows and Blue Tits is a lower shelf just before the water falls into the pond, The blackbirds, Starlings, Robin and Dunnock like to bathe out of sight at the top of the waterfall under the overhanging vegetation.

Series of photo's showing the Blue Tit bathing, usally an individual event.

Always amazes me that after a good soaking they still have the ability to fly off up into the garden trees.

The House Sparrows on the other hand appear to be attracted by a bathing bird, either waiting on the sidelines to take their turn , or just jumping straight in for a communal bathing event. sometimes not always that amicable.

The local Blackbirds use the waterfall for collecting wet leaves I expect for lining their nest which is hidden somewhere in the ivy.

There always seems to be a Dunnock skulking around at the top of the waterfall where I suspect  they bath in privacy.

Always a few photo opportunities around the pond, thankfully the Heron has left my few remaining fish alone this year, the only unwelcome guest to the garden.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Fishing lakes at Shorne !

Shorne Woods Country Park has always held many happy memories for me, when my children were young they were encouraged to participate in the Nature club and there summer " Action Dragonfly " events, all to no avail it seems, as they have little or no interest in nature now, but good fun at the time. the country park was still in its infancy then, twenty years later, their have been many changes, the park has grown in acreage, a massive car park with the now obligatory parking charges,
a state of the art cafeteria, albeit very ECO friendly, a trim trail,  a children's playground, Orienting trail, and some nice natural sculptures scattered around the park.

A lot more people using the open spaces.

I have seen many photographs of this sculpture, now I know where it resides.

The two fishing lakes remain much as they always were, surrounded by woodland relatively quiet and serene. Water Lilies have always been spectacular, and the dragonflies and damselflies always around in good numbers. with up to nineteen species being reported.

On a warm sunny afternoon, my new grandson was introduced to the world of nature like his mother before him.

He was more interested in the children's play area, but I have high hopes that an interest in wildlife and natural surroundings will develop.

I took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with a walk around the fishing lakes, I was not disappointed. managed to get some photographs, although all hand held shots.

There were several Emperors patrolling up and down the lakes, I particularly liked this shot of a female Emperor dragonfly ovipositing in a mat of weeds with a tiny Azure Damselfly looking on, and then cheekily landing on the female Emperor. shows off the size difference perfectly.

Female Emperor Dragonfly  & Azure Damselfly

 Many of the Lily pads near the edge of the lake had  Red-Eyed Damselflys and the chance to photograph another damselfly although not as scarce as the Small Red-Eyed Damselfly. nice to see in such high numbers.

Red - Eyed Damselfly

Red-Eyed Damselfly tandem

Azure Damselfly tandem.

Red-Eyed Damselfly

 I had noted the presence of a Few Common Spotted Orchids which I was going to photograph later when I came across the first of two Bee Orchids, been a long time since seeing my last Bee orchid.

Common Spotted Orchid.
Bee Orchid No1

Bee Orchid no 2
All around the lakes Black Tailed Skimmers were staking out the territories, they seem to like sitting on a sunny bank on the edge of the lake waiting for a female to appear, males easily outnumbering females or maybe they were just lying low.

Black-Tailed Skimmer

Another strange looking Common Spotted Orchid on the edge of the lake.

Another Damselfly which I do not see a lot of was this Large Red Damselfly, at least three  individuals seen here.
Large Red Damselfly

Plenty of waterside plants  to admire, including these lovely yellow flag Iris.

My final Dragonfly of the afternoon was this Four-Spotted Chaser, these were always on the move, just managed to get this record shot

Four-Spotted Chaser
All in all, a memorable stroll around the lakes, three species of Damselfly, three species of Dragonfly,
a couple of Orchids, I must go back for another look later in the month.

Finally another Orchid found just outside the country park during my dog walking duties, at least eleven spikes of the Pyramidal Orchid growing on waste ground, seems appropriate to display them here.

Pyramidal Orchid

Monday, 21 May 2018

Amble through the Marshes.

I was taken aback recently, when in conversation with my wife as we walked our dog through the woodlands, she described me as a "slow walker",  I think the 'fitbit'  permanently affixed to her wrist, counting her never-ending steps may have had something to do with her pace though, strangely I had always considered myself as reasonably active.

But then the other day as I was walking along the pavement in parallel to a younger walker on the other side of the road , I noticed myself being left behind, this was obviously playing on my mind, perhaps I am a slow walker I thought, but then again since retirement, I'm in no real hurry to get anywhere these days.

Once again as I walked around the circular route of Rainham RSBP I noticed that after at least an hour and half I had made no real headway at all on the route ahead of me, what is the relevance of these observations you may well ask yourself.

As I sat in one of the hides enjoying the wildlife around me, a coach load of senior schoolchildren (probably fast walkers) burst into the hide shattering the peace and tranquility of the moment, I heard the mutterings of  "nothing to see here" as they all moved off, thankfully.

I smiled to myself thinking they still have a lot to learn about enjoying the countryside, maybe slow down, open their eyes, close their mouths.

Definition of  'Amble' is quite apt I feel, to walk at a slow, relaxed pace, especially for pleasure, enjoy the moment.

No more worries for me, I'm happy to 'amble along' and see what I see.

Green Veined White

Plenty of Butterflies on view today, especially these Green Veined Whites ,a bit flighty in the warm sunshine. but you can usally find one more interested in nectering, that allows a close view, love those eyes.

As I ambled along the track, I could hear a Cuckoo calling , my first for the year, but I was distracted by a Holly Blue Butterfly taking in the early morning sunshine, typically in the wings closed position.

Holly Blue

The call of the Cuckoo grabbed my attention again seemed a lot closer this time, just could not pin down its position, a game of 'hide and seek'  now pursued with the Cuckoo seemingly close by and then suddenly far away. the woodland borders the reed-bed, it had obviously selected a good vantage point ,it was calling quite regularly now, but still difficult to see, then suddenly it flew out across the reed-bed in front of me, quickly attracting the attention of the nearby Lapwings.
I managed to fire off a few photographs, although relatively distant, a bit of cropping produced a reasonable image.

Common Cuckoo
As I watched the Cuckoo, a couple of Swifts were seen again my first for the year. This was probably a male Cuckoo, I was informed by another Birder watching the Cuckoo that the female Cuckoo has a different call, more of a gurgling bubbly sound he explained, well I didn't know that.

As I approached the old Cordite store, the Cuckoo was calling again, and briefly touched down in the tree tops by the entrance to the store,

Still ambling along, I approached the first of a number of Insect hotels scattered around the Cordite store always worth checking out, a Lizard caught my attention sunning itself on the decomposing wood.

Blackcaps, Great Tits and Chiffchaff were all seen in the surrounding trees together with this acrobatic Grey Squirrel, not sure what he was eating, but he was obviously enjoying it.

Grey Squirrel 
The Cordite store is always good for a bit of insect hunting, Damselflies were everywhere, mainly Azure and Blue Tailed, nice to see them again around the marshes.

Azure Damselfly

Blue Tailed Damselfly
More Butterflies to be seen here, Green Veined Whites , Holly Blues, and the sighting of the day for me in the form of this lovely little butterfly, the Green Hair-streak. it didn't stay for long and I spent far too long trying to relocate it. about the size of a Holly Blue and that green metallic sheen on the underside of the wings helps it blend in perfectly with the newly emerged foliage.  

Green Hairstreak
My attention  now was drawn to the local spiders, a few Nursery Web spiders were sunning themselves on the nettle leaves.

Nursery Web Spider

I had hoped to find some recently reported 'Jumping spiders' but no such luck, I did find a nice 'Wolf Spider' on the wooden bench in the store.

Only Bumblebees seen were White Tailed Bumblebee and the common Carder bee.

( my original identification is wrong, the White tailed Bumblebee is possibly one of the cuckoo species Bombus vestalis , thanks to Conehead54 for correction. also a species of Bumblebee not encountered before.)

 Vestal Cuckoo    Bombus vestalis

Common Carder Bee

Orange Tip Butterfly
It was probably about this time I realized that I was not making much headway, my 'ambling' almost approaching a standstill. I moved on picking the pace back up to an amble, but I was approaching another favored spot, an old wooden bridge near an overgrown pool, back to a stand still as I searched for Dragonflies and damsels, in particular the Large Red Damselfly, I have seen them on this near stagnant pool in past years. it wasn't long until I found my first of  three or four Large Reds. Quite pleased with that sighting.

And as a bonus , a Hairy Dragonfly flew in and landed on the overhanging vegetation just long enough for a photograph.

Hairy Dragonfly
I was joined here by one of the local Robins which I suspect was waiting for a handout of free meal-worms which they have been enjoying recently by local birders hand feeding them. I felt guilty as I moved on with the Robin watching my every move.

As I moved out of the woodland a few Speckled Wood Butterflies were seen. along with a single Peacock  and a Small Tortoiseshell bringing the Butterfly tally to seven species.

Speckled Wood.

Back on the board walk and into the reed-beds I came across this gaudy male Pheasant looking very splendid in the sunshine, if not out of place in the reed bed.

Still ambling along, I approached the Ken Barrett hide, always worth spending some time here. a pair of Gadwall seemed very at ease with each others company.

Unlike a poor female Mallard duck which ventured out of the cover of the reed-bed and spent most of her time trying to escape the attention of three Mallard drakes.

A family of Coots were feeding close to the hide providing some nice views,  I presume the male Coot was very protective of his family chasing away the Tufted Duck, Pochard and a pair of Shovellers.

 A couple of Common Terns put in an appearance, always distant but nice to see.

Common Tern.

It was at this point , the hide was invaded by the fast walking children, fortunately not staying long, as their was nothing to see here. !!!

 Not the Grey Herons, the Little Egret, the Marsh Harrier, the Hobby, the Moorhen. the Marsh Frogs

Marsh Frog
Leaving the hide and approaching the reed-beds alongside the channel tunnel rail track. a quick look at the Terrapins favored pool, found him sunbathing on some old reed stems. only partially hidden, totally ignored by the fast moving children. I wonder how old this Terrapin is, seems to have been in this particular pool for some time now.

Red-Earred Terrapin /
Other birds noted  along this north walk, were Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and the resident Reed Buntings.

Reed Bunting.
I eventually reached the 'Shooting Butts' hide where I stopped for lunch, more Hobbies were seen here, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Pochard, Canada geese, Greylag, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Little Egret. Kestrel, Buzzard. Lapwing, Redshank.

Moving on through the Dragonfly pools, no sign of any Bearded Tits for me, but I did pick up two Wheatears, Common Whitethroat. two more Wolf Spiders crossing the track, one carrying its egg sac. and Little Grebe.

As I approached the end of the circuit I spent some time watching a Dragonfly cruising up and down the Mardyke eventually settling on a reed stem allowing me to identify it as a Four Spotted Chaser.

 To amble is to walk in a relaxed state enjoying a favoured pastime.  
slow down, theirs plenty to see.