Saturday, 22 March 2014

A Bumblebee, no longer so humble !!!

The recent warm spring days have released the Queen Bumblebees from their winter hibernation, and this seemingly insignificant shrub Ribes Sanguineum or Flowering Currant in my garden has been the centre of their attention.

Like a Buddleia is to Butterflies, this Flowering currant has attracted Bumblebees from afar,  providing a much needed  source of pollen and nectar when most flowers are only just emerging.

Bumblebee's first grabbed my attention last year in August when I managed to see White Tailed, Buff Tailed, Red Tailed and Tree Bumblebees, four out of the six most common Bumblebees to be seen.

The large number of Bumblebee's around the Flowering Currant had caught my eye, and I was hooked on looking for the missing two.

To my surprise, almost the first Bumblebee seen and photographed was  Bombus Hortorum the Garden Bumblebee,
 one of which I was keen to see.
This  apparently, is quite common and one of the smaller Bumblebees, identified  by the two yellow bands on the thorax, and single yellow band at the top of the abdomen with a white tail, it also has one of the longest tongues of any of the bumblebees found in the UK, this can be seen in one of the photo's below.


Next to show was the the Early Bumblebee or Early-nesting Bumblebee Bombus pratorum .
Another very small Bumblebee, which flies early between March and July, which is probably why I missed it last year.
Quite easy to identify with a bright orange tail, yellow band at the top of the abdomen , yellow band at the top of the thorax.

Early Bumblebee  Worker

In the space of two or three days in March, the flowering Currant shrub had been visited by all six of the common Bumblebees.
By far the most numerous were the Early Bumblebee and the Garden Bumblebee.

The largest Bumblebee seen on the shrub was this Buff Tailed Bumblebee  Bombus terrestris, another bumblebee that emerges in early March.

The White tailed Bumblebee Bombus lucorum was also seen on a few occassions.
You can just make out a tiny Bumblebee mite on this White Tailed Bumblebee, near the top of the abdomen, most are harmless to the bee, they feed on wax, pollen and nest debris, as they reach a certain stage in their life cycle, they cling to a worker bumblebee and are transferred to flowers,where they will attach to other bees and be transported to new nests.

The Red tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius seemed much scarcer at this time, only a few individuals being seen.

Not sure if this Tree Bumblebee is included in the  six most commonest, but here it is, on the Flowering currant taking its share of nectar and pollen.

While watching these Bumblebee's, I noticed a very fast flying,  black miniature Bumblebee, after some investigation I realised it was a type of solitary Bee known as the

Hairy-footed Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes

What a great name for a little bee, the bee in question was a female as shown below, one of the fastest flying bee's we have, and not easy to photograph.

Female Hairy-footed Flower Bee
Male Hairy- footed Flower Bee

So in a few short days in March, six different types of Bumblebee have visited  one small shrub in the garden, plus one interesting little bee.

One other bumblebee that has escaped my attention at the moment is the Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum.
I would be very surprised if this turns up in the garden, but you never know,
so a  good excuse to keep looking.......

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Butterflies and Bunting !!!

Another beautiful spring day, with warm sunshine. Too  nice to stay in and do those D.I.Y. jobs that never seem to end.

So it was off to Rainham RSPB once again, I wanted to check out the Long Tail Tits nest which was reported as near completion, and the new Kingfisher bank.
A walk through the woodland revealed the now completed nest with domed roof, well camouflaged and ready for breeding.

At the Marshland  discovery  zone, an excellent viewing area has been set up allowing observation of the Kingfisher bank, a pair of Kingfishers have already been checking the site out with at least two tunnels dug into the bank. 

No Kingfisher visits while I was there, although they had been reported at least three times  during the morning.

I did see one
Kingfisher flash by near the Mardyke.

Plenty of Butterflies on the wing, woken from their hibernation by the warm sunshine, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma, Red Admiral and Brimstone reported.

These were the  Butterflies which I saw.

Small Tortoiseshell on Blackthorn Blossom
Small Tortoiseshell

These Male Reed Buntings seemed to be very prominent around the reedbeds, presenting some nice photo opportunities.

Goat Willow Catkins
Another very enjoyable day at Rainham RSPB.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Its all in the Name !!!

This Great Spotted Woodpecker, has been visiting the pear tree feeders on and off for the last few weeks now, sometimes two or three times a day.

A typical pose is usually on the peanut feeder or the trunk of the pear tree as below.

As I was trying to get a decent photograph, the woodpecker decided to fly to another branch, just as I pressed the shutter, giving me the image below which I am really pleased with,
 pure luck no skill.

Same situation with the next photograph, the Great Spotted Woodpecker decided to launch itself off the feeder exactly as I pressed the shutter, not perfectly sharp but still a nice image.


Another first for the Pear tree was this Greenfinch, came to the garden for two consecutive days, I have not seen a Greenfinch in the garden for years now,  so hopefully this is about to change.

This Carrion Crow has been systematically stripping twigs from a Silver Birch tree at the bottom of the garden for its nest.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

" Big Sky " at Elmley

It was with fond memories  I returned to Elmley today, it has been a long time since I last trekked down to the flood.

This was one of the first bird reserves I ever visited when I first became interested in bird watching.

 The RSPB have moved on, and the land is now being managed by new owners.

The entrance track up to Kingshill Farm is in better condition than it used to be, plenty of familiar birds to see from the car .

Redshank  " Warden of the Marsh " ever watchful, ready to give its warning cry.

Lapwings or "Peewits" as we used to call them in my younger days, are pairing up and staking out there  breeding sites.

Curlew with its impressive bill.

 The meadows situated in front of the farm have been partly seeded with wild bird mix to encourage Grey Partridge which can be sometimes seen here.
No Partridge today only these Pheasants skulking through the set aside areas.

A view of Kingshill farm, showing the Oak trees, where the Little Owl and Barn owl boxes are situated, and often giving good views of the Owls at the appropriate times.

From here you park your car and begin the long trek down to the flood and beyond.

As you leave the farm and look out across the land, you cannot help but be impressed with the vista set out before you.

" Big Skies" my father in law often talks about his love of a
 "Big Sky", and this is what comes to mind, as you walk down the track.

It seems as if all the hides around the flood have been upgraded over the years,  the Swale hide suffered storm damage few years ago, I believe the new owners have plans to replace it soon.

A new view from the Southfleet hide, an abomination on the landscape, I hate them with a passion.

A better view over Spitend marshes and the distant Spitend Hide,
It was here I used to head for, at the end of a busy tour of duty at the fire station, long before I retired, complete solitude and a place to escape the madness of East London, not today though.

Back to the main flood, this is is a good place to watch Marsh Harriers, and if you're lucky, a Peregrine or Merlin, as they
put up the birds hidden across the floods.

A typical view below.

Heres a distant view  of part of a large flock of birds put up by a Marsh Harrier. If you look carefully you can see Avocet, Black Tailed Godwit, Wigeon, Shoveller, Common Gull and Black Headed Gull.

I spent some time in the WellMarsh hide, the tide was up on the Swale, and the waders were coming into roost on what was left showing of the small islands.

Dunlin coming into roost

Some Turnstone having a wash and brush up before they settle down to roost and wait for the tide to change.
Grey Plover not yet in their breeding plumage.

A  few Ringed Plovers scattered around the islands with  Oystercatcher, Avocet, Black Tailed Godwits.

Wildfowl represented by huge numbers of Wigeon, Teal, smaller numbers of Shelduck, Shoveller, Pintail, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese,

These Brent Geese flew over the flood, but did not Settle.

Little Egrets outnumbered Grey Herons, how times change.

As I headed back up the track towards the end of the day, I was lucky enough to see two  Short Eared Owls, which I tried to photograph, not very successfully in my panic.

As I drove away from the farm, a quick look  over the meadows towards the old school building revealed a number of Hare's.

Heres a selection, not brilliant as they were quite distant, a total of eight Hare's seen together is the most I have ever seen.

Seven Hare's in this small corner of the meadow.

A view of the old and new Bridges bringing you on to Isle of Sheppey.

Hopefully I will not leave it so long before I return again!