Thursday, 22 August 2013

There be Dragons !

Not many dragons to be seen around the pond.
 Although earlier this year a small red damselfly was seen around the margins of the pond, could only be a Small Red or Large Red.    The Small Red is much rarer I believe, so more than likely, a Large Red, hopefully I will get a photograph at the next opportunity to establish its correct identity.

A few days ago this little beauty passed through the garden, just managed a quick shot before it moved on.

A  Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) , one of the more common of the hawker dragonfliesthis was once a rare migrant to our shores, but has now become well established in the south and east of the country.

The one below was seen last year in the garden

Dragonfly & Damselfly sightings

The only other hawker seen this year  was a Brown Hawker 
(Aeshna grandis) this was seen flying along the River Darent, true to its nature, it never settled,but the brown body and rusty red wash appearance of the wings was unmistakable.  

Emperor Dragonfly - This one was seen on the aptly named dragonfly pool at Rainham RSPB. 
Just as hard to get a flying image, as it is with the birds though.

Good numbers of Ruddy Darters at Rainham RSPB reserve.
these were settling on the vegetation next to the board walks, making photography a lot easier. top photo is of a male, and the female below.

 I am having trouble distinguishing the different varieties of blue damselflies, there is the common blue, southern , azure , variable,
blue tailed and the scarce blue tailed, not to mention the female forms.
These were taken along the banks of the River Darent.

I am pretty sure that the photo below is of a  immature female
 Blue Tailed  Damselfly, taken at Rainham RSPB.

I have found that the best way to get a positive ID is to try and get a photograph, and then study the different forms.
 Stealth, patience and luck being a key factors.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Lullingstone Loop !

Lullingstone Loop is a way-marked  route around the perimeter of Lullingstone country park.

A favoured country walk with many happy memories of past times.

 From our early days, when our three young daughters were encouraged to enjoy the country side, and their constant pleas for reassurance, that this was actually a circular route, never dampened our spirits.

The girls have grown up and lead their own busy lives, probably never to return to this park,  but my wife and I still find time to follow that route, now with our dog, and still enjoy the open spaces and beautiful views over the Darent valley.

A former medieval deer park, and by all accounts, mentioned in the
 " Domesday Book".
Even the Romans appreciated the beauty of the valley as the remains of "Lullingstone Roman Villa" testify.
Nestling on the valley floor is a beautiful old manor house and gate house said to have been frequented by none other than Henry VIII and Queen Anne.

The park is home to many ancient trees, including Oak, Hornbeam, Ash and Sweet Chestnut, some said to be over 500 years old,

Expectations for wildlife sightings are never quite fulfilled, but there are always the views.

The route leads you up past some open meadow land full of wild flowers,  in early summer,there is a fine display of pyramidal orchids .

From the top of the path as you look back, you begin to appreciate the fine views across the valley.

The path now enters the woodland,  Beechen wood, good for woodland birds and butterflys.

As the path crosses the golf course ,it leads you to one of the high points giving you some excellent views across the valley, before dropping down to the valley floor where the roman villa is situated.

You can just make out the impressive nine arched red brick viaduct which carries the railway line to the " Bat and Ball Station, The viaduct being built by the independent Sevenoaks railway. Incorporated in 1859 to link the Chatham line to the market town of Sevenoaks.

As you reach the valley floor you can now head towards " Lullingstone castle" and the River Darent.

Much of the water in the Darent comes from springs which emerge from the local chalk and sandstone rocks.

Since 1993 efforts have been made to reduce the ammount of water extracted from this river for public water supply as there were serious fears that the river Darent would dry up.

Seems to be working !

This is a good area for dragonfly sightings, today we managed to see a Brown Hawker and fm Emerald damselfly  along the River, as well as the following damselfly's. 

The river path now leads you back to the car park, where you can enjoy  well deserved refreshments in the tea room.

Two hours of your time is all that you need to experience this lovely country walk.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Bombus !

 The old adage " The more you look, the more you see" is certainly true when it comes to Bumblebees.
I have always had a great interest in nature, but never really taken much notice of Bumblebees.

     Wasps sting, Bumblebees don't,  that was my understanding.

So, while looking for some subject matter around the garden, to try out some macro photography, I came across a bumblebee on some ivy flowers.
Like most macro shots, once you can see the detail, a whole new world emerges.

After some research on Bumblebee identification, I decided that this was a probable "White Tailed Bumblebee" apparently one of the six quite common bumblebees likely to be seen in the garden.

I am now checking  all the bumblebees seen on my daily round of dead heading the plants and flowers.

Another day, another bumblebee, this one also had a white tail, but looked completely different from the white tailed bumblebee seen earlier in the week.

  "Tree Bumblebee"

My first thoughts were that this must be rare, but no, although a relatively new bumblebee to the country, first noted in 2001, they are spreading throughout the country quite rapidly. But a good one for the garden list.

Some real Bombus action, I noticed this large bumblebee on the concrete drive,and on closer inspection saw that it was two bumblebees, in what I thought was some sort of life and death struggle. It was in fact a "Red tailed Bumblebee" queen and a male in their mating ritual. You can just make out the stinger on the queen which she has to lift out of the way before mating can take place, bit risky.

 The queen was last seen flying off in the distance with the male still attached.

This Red tail bumblebee I believe is a worker.

During an afternoon stroll around Rainham RSPB reserve, my wife and I were looking around the wildlife garden, I noticed a new sighting, a possible "Buff Tailed Bumblebee", this is the one on the left, the other looks like a White Tailed Bumblebee.

So out of the six common bumblebees to be seen, that leaves just two, the "Early Bumblebee" and the " Garden Bumblebee"

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Up North !

A visit to my daughter in her adoptive town of York in July,  and a visit to the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs, North Yorkshire, provided the perfect opportunity to practice some photography shots of sea birds. along the cliff top walk.

The cliffs are home to one of the largest sites of nesting sea birds in England, includes a colony of Gannets, nesting Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes,Fulmars, and Shag

 Puffin,  Razor-bill and a group of  Common Guillemots 

Puffins seem to be the star bird, looking very smart in there breeding plumage.




Kittiwakes and Fulmars were not as numerous as the Auks and Gannets. 

Tried to get some flight photographs of the Gannets, 
the best I could manage. Need more practice.


These were very spectacular, with there effortless flight around the cliffs.

We also noted a thriving tree sparrow colony around the visitor center,where they are using  nest boxes provided by RSPB.

Tree Sparrow

We then moved on to Bridlington , a lovely old fashion English

 sea-side town, where we had arranged a cruise on the "Yorkshire Belle"  to get a different perspective of Flamborough Head. And a chance to photograph sea birds doing there thing, close up and personal.

These chalk cliffs are over 400 feet in places, providing numerous ledges for the nesting sea birds.

The following photographs taken as we cruised around the base of the cliffs.


  Guillemots -Notice the "Bridled guillemot"  top of the photograph.



A very enjoyable visit to this part of the country, excellent views  of all the sea birds on show were seen