Thursday, 10 July 2014

Close Encounters of the 'Beardie' kind !!

There has been several Bearded Tit reports from Rainham over the last few weeks, possibly up to three broods were being seen on and off , particularly around the Dragonfly pools and the Northern trail.
For me they remained elusive, I still had not managed to see a single sighting of this good looking bird here at Rainham.

My luck was about to change though, as I approached the Dragonfly pools area, a fellow birder said that he had just been watching two juvenile Bearded Tits in the reedbed and was sure they were still in the area.

Dragonfly Pools at Rainham RSPB reserve

The next thirty or so minutes I was teased by the two juveniles as they flitted about the reedbed, each time I tried to focus on them they were off ,disappearing into the reedbed and reappearing somewhere new.

At one point they arrived on one of the iron dragonfly sculptures,  indulging in some mutual preening, 
but always partially obscured by the reeds. 

Finally, as I was about to leave the area, one of the Juveniles flew up on to reed stem allowing me to get a photograph.

Another reed-bed resident checking out what all the fuss is about.

Reed Warbler

Plenty of dragonflies on view around the pools, 
still plenty of Black tailed Skimmers.

Emperor dragonflies were quite numerous, with several females ovipositing.

Male and female Ruddy Darters around the reed beds

Not so many Damselflies at the moment only saw a few Blue Tailed Damselfly

A Brown Hawker was flying around the pools much to the Emperors annoyance it seemed, never came close enough for a photograph.

Little Grebe Family resident on the Dragonfly pools  are still doing well.

A family of Coots raising their second brood.

Another satisfying day at rainham RSPB.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Friend or Foe !!!

Nothing unusual about a Grey Squirrel sighting, except of course, when its on our pear tree in the garden, its the first time we have  seen one in the garden, and it wasn't my pears he was after.

So as  part of the purpose of this blog is to record the wildlife sightings on and around the Pear tree, here he or she is, not sure where it's come from as there are no wooded areas close by.

My father-in-law Sid, a self confessed Squirrel hater, says I should be wary, as they can find there way up into  your roof space and cause all sorts of harm.
 Personally, I like to see all manner of wildlife in the garden.
 and theres plenty of nuts to go round.

I did cast a quick eye around my soffit boards though,
just in case.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Golden Skippers !!!

I have seen lots of Skippers these last few weeks, but for an unknown reason, I  have never really taking much notice of these very small, moth like butterflies.

That is until recently, after investing in a very good Butterfly field guide, I cannot let a Butterfly pass now without trying to positively identify it.

The Skippers in question, are known loosely as " Golden Skippers" and within this grouping are, Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Lulworth Skipper, and the Silver Spotted Skipper.

The Lulworth and Silver Spotted Skipper are rather more scarce, the Lulworth confined to the South East Dorset area, the 'Silver Spotted Skipper' confined to a few areas in  Southern England on Chalk downlands.

But, there's a good chance of seeing the other three, 
Although the Small and Essex Skippers are very similar to my untrained eye.

So these are what I have seen so far, hopefully with the right identification.

 The Large Skipper, this was one of the first of the  Golden Skippers I saw, this was back in June, at Lullingstone Country Park, quite easy to identify with the golden checkered effect on the wings, flight time between June and July, also slightly larger than both the Small and Essex skippers.

And another from Rainham Marshes. RSPB

The Small Skipper shown below flew into the picture frame as I was photographing Dark Green Fritillaries.
Quite small with a much plainer wing colour, you can make out the dark line or male sex branding on the wings. Also the colour of the underside of the antennae is brown or orange, difficult to see in the field and this seems to be the critical identifying factor 
between the Small and the Essex Skipper.  

Lastly the Essex skipper, appropriately seen at Rainham, Essex.
I found it quite difficult to identify in the field, I could see lots of  Skippers flying around in the long grass, my strategy was to take quite a few pictures of the Skippers and hope that after scrutinizing later, that I had an Essex Skipper. 

This one was on the location map outside the Ken Barrett hide,
black tips to the antennae, short branding line running parallel to the wing edge.

The male branding line looks good for  this Essex Skipper, fine, short, running parallel to wing edge, antennae  tips black.

you can clearly see the black antennae tips in the photograph,
 not so easy in the field.

As it turned out, all my pictures seemed to be of the Essex Skippers and none of the Small Skippers.

Quite pleased with those , Hope I got the identification right.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Ashenbank Wood , Spider & Butterfly

Ashenbank Wood, looked after by the Woodland trust is fast becoming my local patch, I seem to spend a good part of my daily routine walking my dog here, I have a good idea of what to expect through the changing seasons, and always looking for the unexpected.

The area of land adjacent to the woods , known as Jeskyns community woodland was planted up with wildflower seed a few years ago, there's always something which catches your eye, in this case a fine specimen of Viper's Bugloss, reminiscent of blue Delphinium, it stands tall in a sea of wild flowers.

As I walked past this plant three days ago, a fairly large moth caught my eye on one of the blue flowers, looking closer I could see a white Crab Spider sucking the life out of the unlucky moth.

Two days ago, I checked the Vipers Bugloss again as I walked past,  there was the Crab spider lurking in typical pose, with its two front pairs of  legs outstretched, ready to ambush any unsuspecting insect that visits the flower.

After reading up on the spider, I decided that the Crab spider I had found, was probably a female Goldenrod Crab Spider, all the identification points seemed to fit.
 an interesting fact about these is that they can remain in the same place for days, waiting for their prey to arrive.

So yesterday, I took the camera with me on my daily dog-walking duty, hoping the spider would still be there.
And there true to form, was the spider, 
hiding  under the blue flowers of the Vipers Bugloss.

These crab spiders have the ability to change colour, depending on their chosen plant, as the name suggests this spider prefers a plant called Goldenrod, a bright yellow flowering plant.
 The background colour of the female is usually yellow, or in this case white.

You can see quite clearly, that it is ready to ambush the next unsuspecting insect that visits the flower.

Apparently the females are the ones to be aware of, especially when they have eggs, they stand guard until the eggs hatch, and are very protective, its bite has been described as below

.........If one bites you, you will feel excruciating pain like a hammer blow on the nail, the cut grows to double its size, the nail turns black, the finger discolours and the pain shifts from the fingers to the hand, the symptoms subside after a few hours.

Doesn't sound very pleasant does it !!!

Another stroke of luck, as I was walking back through the woods,  passing through a sunny glade, a black and white Butterfly flew up in front of me, disappearing into the tree canopy.

I waited around for a few minutes hoping that it might return to the sunny area, and before long it appeared again, gliding down from the canopy, it settled on the undergrowth for a few short moments, luckily I had the camera with me and managed to get a few quick photographs, my first White Admiral.

These have a particularly nice underwing pattern, but this was the closest I could get to seeing it, 
It soon disappeared back up into the canopy, hopefully I might get another chance to see it, maybe there's more, who knows.

Good year for Butterflies for me, seeing  many more new species.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

It's a Swale walk !!!

With the sun on our face and an aromatic salty smell in the air, we walked along the old Saxon shore way, around Oare Marshes nature reserve and along the Swale estuary towards Conyer creek.

This old sailing barge was making its way up the Swale, against the wind, tacking and jibing along the narrow channel, I think thats the correct term, amazingly  these old sailing barges can be crewed with just two people.

I love to watch these old Thames sailing barges, not exactly a tall ship, but they do have an air of elegance about them with their distinctive red brown sails.

Once the river workhorse of the 19th Century, transporting commercial goods up and down the river, sometimes beyond, sadly now, only used for pleasure cruise's.

The East flood was busy with lots of birds tooing and froing, just a bit too distant for the camera, so here's a view across the flood, plenty of Black Tailed Godwits some in their breeding plumage can just about be picked out in the photo.

This Little Egret flew up from the sluice and posed nicely on the fence, 

A few Butterflies showed along the banks of the estuary mainly Meadow brown's, Small White, Green veined white and a few Small Tortoiseshell, I was hoping to see a Clouded Yellow or maybe a Painted Lady, but not this time.

Green Veined White

Meadow Brown

Dragonflies were represented mainly by Ruddy Darters .

Being new to the world of Odonata I can still get excited by a relatively common species that I have not come across before.

Like this Black Tailed Skimmer which landed on the gravel track in front of us, just long enough  to get a few photographs.

Love the colour of those eyes.

Very enjoyable walk, will be back to search for those Clouded yellows later in the summer.