Sunday, 28 September 2014

Skulker - The one that hides !

I am often interested in how birds names are derived, some are obvious, others have interesting backgrounds. this particular bird was named after Francesco Cetti, but why, my first thought was that he must have discovered the species, not quite.

Francesco Cetti was born in Germany, his parents were of Italian descent. Educated at Lombardy and a Jesuit college at Monza, Italy.
He was sent to Sardinia to help educate the people there, he became a Mathematician, a priest and a zoologist.

He recorded his discoveries in the book 'Storia Naturale di Sardinia'
(Natural History of Sardinia)
about quadrupeds, birds, fish, insects and fossils, the latter two volumes were never finished because he died in 1778 in Sardinia.

Another renowned naturalist 'Alberto della Marmora'
who wrote Viaggio in Sardegna (Travels in Sardinia) in 1860,  extended the study of the island previously made by Francesco Cetti. 

To honour him and the work he had done, 'Alberto della Marmora' named a bird that he had collected on Sardinia after him, hence,

The Cetti's Warbler  (Cettia cetti)

This elusive old world warbler is one of those birds that most people visiting a wetland habitat in southern England would have heard, its explosive song erupting from deep inside dense vegetation is instantly recognisable, it usually takes you by surprise, although frustratingly, never actually seen, as it skulks low down in the reed beds or wet scrub habitat.
This warbler belongs to the Bush Warbler family, and I believe is the only member of that family that occurs outside Asia.
It colonised England as recently as 1961, first breeding at Stodmarsh, it has suffered a few setbacks due to harsh winter conditions, due to its reliance on small soft bodied insects and larvae,  it appears to be doing very well now, being one of the only warblers that chooses not to migrate, it has become one of our resident species.
 The males can be heard calling throughout the winter and summer months as they establish territories and attempt to attract the females.
Described as a medium sized warbler, their upper parts are a rich chestnut colour and the under parts grey, it has a pale grey  stripe over the eye, which also has a white eye ring. Both male and female are similar.

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have actually had a good view of this Warbler, but it doesn't stop me searching for it whenever I hear that call.
I just managed to catch a glimpse of this one as it was moving through the scrub at Rainham RSBP.

Still a few Dragonflies on show, mainly Migrant Hawkers, Ruddy Darters and Common Darters, no sign of the Willow Emerald Damselfly on this occasion.

A single Hobby caught my attention flying very high over the reserve.

Butterflies were represented mainly by Speckled woods, and a few Red Admirals.

Always on the look out for interesting Bee's , these caught  my eye, Ivy Mining bee's in huge numbers feeding on Ivy flowers.

And as I left the reserve this Buff tailed bumblebee made an appearance.

Winter seems to have been put on hold.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Oare Marshes Revisited !

Oare marshes was one of my favorite birding sites from way back, when I first started bird watching in 1986, it appears to be a lot of other peoples favorite site now, as I found the car park overflowing, birdwatchers appeared to be everywhere, walking around the flood in pairs every fifty yards or so, and the hide full of people giving annoying commentaries on every bird they saw.

No solitude here, but still a good place to see passage migrants, hence its popularity I suppose.

So, as I joined the formation walk around the East flood trying hard to keep equidistant from the couples in front and those behind. I tried to lose myself into the marshland atmosphere and enjoy the wildlife.

I was hoping that I might get a chance to photograph some of the Bearded Tits that seem to be regularly reported, no such luck, although I did see four Bearded tits fly over the reed beds and land well out of range of the camera and disappear into the reeds.

The Black Tailed Godwit flock was pretty impressive, but
without my spotting scope to trawl through the waders and see what else was hidden in the roost, I contented  myself  with the sheer beauty of the masses,  and to be honest these were still too distant to produce a decent photograph.

Further around the flood I approached the East Flood hide, carefully opening the door to the hide making sure that I did not disturb the general ambience of the hide, and took my place on the bench, to admire the views,  
I was treated to a running commentary on every single bird that made an appearance, now I know this can be very useful when something unusual turns up, but really annoying when uttered in a loudish voice on every single bird that appears. 

And then to top it all, as they leave the hide they slam the door.
totally oblivious to the disturbance they have caused. Rant over.

Old age brings intolerance I feel.

Fortunately most bird watchers are very considerate, just a bad day.

Golden plover roosting on one of the islands in the east flood.

Lapwing and  Ruff


Black Tail Godwit
Juvenile Little Stint

View down the causeway to the Swale, where a few deep breaths of fresh salty air restored my sanity.

A walk out to the West flood did not produce any avian sightings, but as I approached the West hide a small skipper like butterfly caught my eye, unusually trying to settle on a timber fence rail, my first thought was that this was a late Large skipper, but on closer inspection two white eyespots could be seen on the wings, and it appeared more moth like.
It seemed determined to stay on the fence rail, the problem was a spider was determined to make a meal of it, each time the spider approached, it would fly off, but kept coming back.
Eventually the spider lunged and made contact, the moth and spider both fell from the fence rail, a few seconds later the moth flew up and settled on the fence rail again.

I took a couple of photographs hoping to identify the moth later after some research.

This turned out to be a Vapourer moth, sometimes known as a Rusty Tussocks which sometimes flies in the daytime, quite common and usually seen between July and October.

What I didn't realise at the time, was that the creature in the bottom right hand corner is actually a wingless female Vapourer moth, these give off pheromones which the males find irresistible, hence the males persistence in returning to the fence rail.

Once the female has mated, she lays  her eggs on the silken cocoon and dies. The eggs hatch the following spring.

Never too old to learn something new though.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Carder Bee revealed !

Earlier this year I had noted up to six different Bumblebees, visiting one particular flowering shrub in the garden,
   Ribes Sanguineum Flowering Currant bush. 

 I finished off the blog page I had written at the time with the following quote:-

" 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......."

So six months later, as I sat in the garden, with my feet up, watching House Sparrows sipping water from my garden pond, contemplating nothing in particular, as only a retired person can do with a clear conscious.

I noticed a couple of bumblebees visiting a newly flowered Hebe close to my recliner, on looking  a bit closer, I realized that the missing Bumblebee from my garden list had finally revealed itself.

The Carder Bee - Bombus pascuorum.

It is said that this Bumblebee is quite common,that they emerge from spring onwards, and can be seen as late as November when the males and the old Queens die in the autumn.

New Queens hibernate,  emerging the following spring to start new colonies.

Dont know how I missed this one, as they seem to be all around the garden now.

Its a hard life !

Friday, 19 September 2014

Search for an Emerald !

My field guide 'Damselflies and Dragonflies of Britain and Ireland' 

tells me that there are four varieties of Emerald Damselfly.

 None of which I have seen.

All of which, are on my   " to see list"

The Emerald Damselfly, which appears to be fairly common and found throughout the United Kingdom.

 Then the Scarce Emerald Damselfly, which as its name suggests is much rarer, occurring at a few sites in Norfolk and North Kent.

The Southern Emerald Damselfly, a continental colonist that appears to have made a faltering attempt to expand its range across the English channel, has again been found at a few sites in Norfolk and North Kent.

The Willow Emerald Damselfly another recent colonist from Europe, seems to have become established around the East Coast of Norfolk and North Kent in recent years.

So when I read  that a Willow Emerald Damselfly had been seen at Rainham RSPB, I could not resist the urge to go and have a look for it.

It was reported as seen near the so called  "Troll Bridge",
 not sure where this name comes from, as three of the volunteer wardens were unsure themselves when I made a tentative enquiry.

There are quite a few bridges around the reserve, I narrowed it down to one of two bridges, either the bridge just past the Cordite store, but on arrival this seemed wrong, no suitable habitat,
certainly no overhanging Willow trees.

I moved on to the next Bridge just before you approach the conservation area near Ken Barratt Hide.
This looked more Promising, standing or slow running water, a few overhanging willow trees.

The initial search revealed only some Migrant Hawkers, and a few Common Darters, no sign of a Willow Emerald Damselfly.

 The field guide says that they are easily overlooked, as they hang from overhanging willow vegetation, with their wings spread  cryptically wide, this was not going to be easy.

As I searched through the overhanging willows, I could see the tell tale breeding marks on the willow branches, this action is peculiar to this species, the female lays a single egg in the willow twigs above the water, using the serrations on the underside of her ovipositor, this results in oval galls on the  twig.

Then something caught my eye, as a large Damselfly landed on the reeds in the water, in front of the bridge, a quick look through the Binoculars revealed the Willow Emerald Damselfly, a male identified by its long slender abdomen.

The beautiful metallic green colouring extended down to the tip of the tail, and the pale whitish wing spots were clearly seen.
This male seemed quite content to hold territory, this apparently is a vertical territory, no females were seen while I watched.
 I believe later that day up to three individuals were seen, including a female in tandem with a male ovipositing.

These Damselflies are around to well into October, being one of the later flying Damselflies, breeding has obviously taken place, 
so worth noting for a search next year.

On the bird front, several Whinchats and Stonechats were evident on the fence wires, although a bit distant.

A couple of Hobbies were hawking for dragonflies over the marshes, always distant, but a record shot confirms sighting.

As I neared the end of the boardwalk,  a Kingfisher zipped past along the ditch towards the dragonfly pools, too quick for a photograph.

Very enjoyable day, with good views of the Willow Emerald.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Small Copper in the Firehills !

Some late summer sunshine lured us out for a walk in the country, our destination was the 1066 country walk running from the Firehills at Fairlight along the coast to  East Hill above Hastings Old Town.

We have done this walk annually for many years now, described as a moderate to hard walk, and a round trip of seven miles, doesn't sound a lot, but some of the inclines and descents are pretty gruelling, especially on worn and old knee joints.

       But the scenery is spectacular, and well worth the effort.

View looking down on Hastings old Town from East Hill

Ever vigilant for a wildlife sighting, a small orange Butterfly caught my eye as we passed along the footpath beside Ecclesbourne glen.

In all I saw about four or five of these Small Copper Butterflies, occasionally settling on the footpath I managed to get a couple of record shots.

This is a very small butterfly, easily missed but the bright orange on its wings catches your eye.

I didn't realise at the time, but the very first Small Copper seen was of the rarer blue spotted form ( cearula-punctata)
you can see the blue spots on the hind wing of this enlarged version.

And here is a photograph of a regular Small Copper.

These small Butterflies certainly live up to their reputation for being territorial, I witnessed one in an aerial combat with a Clouded Yellow Butterfly, almost twice its size.

Bird wise, there was an obvious visible migration across the channel of Swallows and Martins,  quite a few Wheatear were on the cliff top fences contemplating the flight ahead of them, sadly no Whinchats seen.

A single Raven was seen flying along the cliff tops.

A very enjoyable walk although my knees say not.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Late Summer walk around Rainham RSPB

There's a subtle change in the air at the moment as the warm summer days give way to autumn, birds are streaming out of the country,  leaves are beginning to fall from the trees, wild flowers have gone to seed. 

Those warm summer evenings are drawing in.

Some people find the winter months depressing, I love the changing seasons, and look forward to the winter visitors to our shores.

My tripod and birding scope have given way to my SLR camera and zoom lens for the moment, with a new found interest in wildlife photography.

Frustratingly, still can't get the razor sharp images of the professionals, I know that the answer is in part, to use a tripod, but I must admit,  I like the freedom and spontaneity of the hand held shot, whilst walking through the countryside.

Stronger arm muscles would probably help, as those zoom lens are pretty hefty too.

Here a few images from my latest wander around Rainham RSPB

"The Hunter" ( Grey Heron ) in front of the Ken Barrett Hide.

"The Hunted" - ( Marsh Frog ) some of these frogs have reached a really impressive size and very variable in their colouring.

Grass snakes still elude me, but the Common Lizards are easy to see as they take in the warmth from the timber boardwalks.

Still plenty of Butterflies to be seen in the cordite store, mainly Red Admiral, the occasional 'Comma', a few Common Blues, Holly Blues, Small White and Speckled Woods, but sadly no more Clouded Yellows were seen or that elusive Painted Lady.

Damselflies have all but vanished, although one 'Blue Tailed Damselfly was seen.

As for Dragonflies, the Migrant Hawkers are still numerous, and a few Ruddy Darters were also seen.

September seems to be a good time to observe Spiders, these were a few that I managed to see as  I walked around the reserve.

Four Spotted Orb Weaver

Garden Cross Spider

Wasp Spider

Nursery Spider

Still lots to see at this time of the year, plenty of waders passing through the reserve, passage migrants making brief appearances.

This mute Swan family have been in residence most of this year, one of the juveniles possessing the " Polish" gene.

No water voles seen on this trip, in fact the only mammal seen was this Grey Squirrel.