Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Wild Orchids and The Duke !!!

Kent the Garden of England, is supposed to be one of the best places to see wild Orchids in this country, that is if you know where to look, and I must admit I do not.

I do know that we are fast approaching the optimum time to observe them, early May to late June, so I thought I would make the effort to try and find some.

Denge wood near Canterbury was going to be my first visit, an ancient wood looked after in parts by the Woodland Trust, and a place I have never visited before.

The plan was to reconnoitre the area and try and locate an area called the Bonsai Bank within the woodland.

 I was not really expecting to see much, just familiarise myself  for a visit later in the month.

I thought I had a good sense of direction, this proved not to be the case, after  checking the site map located  at the entrance to the woods I headed off  towards the Bonsai Bank, after taking what I thought was a short cut, I became completely disorientated and got completely lost, after wandering along many similar looking paths for what seemed an eternity, a couple of local dog walkers took pity on me and pointed me in the right direction.

Eventually I stumbled across the area I was looking for, although more by accident I think.
 The Bonsai Bank so called because there are a  number of stunted conifers  growing in the area, opened up before me.

And there were my first Orchids at least nine or ten 'Early Purple Orchids' quite easy to pick out, but a little past their best.

The photograph above is the complete flower spike, the one below a close up of the individual flowers,  nine to twelve inches tall,the leaves have  large dark spots on them.
The reference book states that these begin to flower as early as April and are one of the earliest flowering Orchids.

In all, at this time there were probably about twenty or so flower spikes on show, this was the first week in May.

I had a good look around this area, just concentrating on the Bonsai Bank, the only other Orchid I could find was this 'Lady Orchid'  just beginning to flower.

 Here on the Bonsai bank a small butterfly caught my eye,  a very small delicate butterfly about the same size as the small blue butterflies you commonly see.
It was the "Duke",  the Duke  of Burgundy to be precise, I don't know why, but I was expecting something larger.
Probably one of the rarest butterflies I have seen, quite approachable as it flitted about in the grass.
but only one was seen at this time.

Another first for me, was this Dingy Skipper, again quite
 small , probably about the same size as the Duke.

There was a good variety of  Butterflies on show, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Green Veined White.

Plenty of other insects on show, finally caught up with the Carder Bee,  looks very familiar, I'm sure I have seen this before, just not recognised as a Carder Bee

While watching the  Carder bees this small insect caught my attention, a Common Snout Hoverfly.

As I tried to find my way back to where I had parked my car, saw lots of Bee Flies feeding on the 'Bugle'

 Not so many birds,  to be honest my eyes were focused down, searching for Orchids, I did hear a couple of Turtle Doves purring away in the trees though.

Very enjoyable trip well worth a look, if you are unfamiliar with the woods like me, take a map or photo of the information board.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Wildlife Views from Rainham RSPB

I can't resist the Kingfishers at Rainham at the moment, so once again I found myself in the hide watching the  kingfishers bringing in food to their young,  they must be getting very close to fledging now.

Their behaviour when bringing back fish was quite predictable, they either perch for a moment on the farthest post in the pool or fly direct to  a small branch just outside the  nesting hole, before flying in with their fish.

I managed  to get set up and focused on this small branch. It was
 a bit hard  on the knees, but worth it, only a short wait for the kingfishers, they were coming in every ten minutes or so.

 The Kingfishers came out of the nesting hole backwards, and after a quick dip in the water flew off for more fish.

Reed bed birds are all busy either brooding there eggs hidden along the dykes and reedbed fringes or nurturing their young.

 Grey Heron ever watchful for a quick meal !

Good selection of Butterflies around the reserve, Peacock,Green veined White, Brimstone and a few Orange Tip, still can't get close to this one yet. 

Speckled wood was a lot easier to photograph.

I noticed this bright red beetle sunning itself in the cordite store, 

a Cardinal Beetle, would have been rarer if the head was black apparently !

Reed beds were alive with Warbler song, Reed and Sedge but not showing themselves very well.
I did manage to see a pair Reed Warbler's as I approached the end of the trail though.

While watching the warblers this Mute Swan flew over allowing me to grab a quick flight view.

Another good day at Rainham, still plenty to see.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Kite country !!!

Once a common site in towns and cities all over the UK, the Red kite has been persecuted from as far back as the sixteenth century and nearly wiped out by the end of the eighteenth century, only in rural mid Wales did the Red Kite manage to hold on, reduced to just a couple of pairs.

Luckily, over the last hundred years, through the work of various conservation organisations, the Red Kite has managed a remarkable recovery, we should all be grateful to the Welsh Kite Trust and the RSPB that we can still see these beautiful birds in our countryside.

No visit to Wales is complete for me without a visit to the Kite feeding stations, in particular the one at Gigrin Farm  at Rhayader, Powys.

Most of my sightings away from Wales have been a low glide over a motorway, the M40 in particular.
I was lucky enough last year, while out cycling to see a Red Kite feeding behind a tractor, swooping down for earthworms in the ploughed up field at Higham in Kent.

To really appreciate the beauty of this bird and its sheer agility in the air, a visit to a Kite feeding station is a must, not only seeing vast numbers of Kites interacting with each other, but to see the flying skill of these Kites is unforgettable.

As we travelled down through mid Wales from Snowdonia the countryside is noticeably more rural , the green hills and valleys of Wales, perfect Kite country.

On Approaching Rhayader, Red Kite sightings were increasing, they seem to know exactly when the feeding stations are going to lay there next meal.

My last visit here was back in 2006, things have changed a bit, the facilities improving with a new cafe, there are more hides to watch and photograph the Kites, but still a very friendly informal atmosphere.

This was also my opportunity to practice my photography skills, so many birds, it was hard to know which way to look.
Once the tractor has scattered the fresh beef over the field in front of the hides, the Kites come swooping in, snatching up morsels of meat, consumed on the wing, very unusual to see one actually land to feed.

The following photographs are some of my favourite shots.

The wing tagged Kite in the photograph can be interpreted as follows, the right wing tag indicates the year the Kite was born in this case 2008, the number indicates the nest site , the left wing tag usually indicates the area the Kite was born in, although this cannot be seen in the photograph.
There is sometimes a coloured line under the number on the right wing tag, this indicates the colour of the left wing tag when it can't be seen.

Surprisingly there was only one Buzzard feeding always on edge with one eye on the swooping kites.

The Wing tagged Kite on the left shows that this Kite was bred in Wales in 2002 I believe, the Red Kite literature states, that most Kites have a life span of four to five years, although they can live up to 26 years.

In amongst the corvids, this huge Raven was feeding.

In the long grass bordering the feeding area, this fox looked on longingly at the feeding frenzy, 
not daring to venture out to snatch a meal.

This was the only Kite to settle on the ground to grab a morsel of meat.

After the initial feeding frenzy in which Kites are swooping down in all directions, the pace slows down and the Kites circle the area, before dispersing.

There must have been in excess of a hundred Red Kites in the air together.  A great site to see.