Saturday, 18 June 2016

Frog and Lizard

The Frog and Lizard, a good name for one of those trendy pubs up west,  but no,  just a short blog entry to record a couple of sightings made at Rainham a few days ago, and I can't think how else to record them.

The Marsh Frogs are very vocal at this time of year, the males competing for a female by calling very loudly, If you can observe a Marsh Frog while it's calling  you will see that it inflates its vocal sacs, also makes for a more interesting photograph, these calls seem to get louder and louder, causing other males  to compete with an even louder song. until it all fades away, and the silence of the reed bed returns.

I did notice one Marsh frog had moved under the boardwalk at the Dragonfly pool, giving its song some very effective echo, clearly the loudest song  in the pool, and probably the most attractive to the females.

These Marsh Frogs are an introduced species, and one of the larger frog species you will find in Europe.

Male Marsh Frog

Common Lizard
Haven't seen to many of these Common Lizards this year, the RSPB at Rainham have made good efforts to prepare suitable sanctuaries for them around the reed beds for them to hibernate overwinter.

They like to sun themselves on the boardwalks, but this one was basking on some overhanging vegetation, stayed just long enough for a quick photograph, quite prehistoric looking I feel.

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Mole - A Happy Ending of sorts !

I have often wondered how these wildlife photographer's or naturalist's that produce wildlife documentaries deal with a situation where an intervention would change the outcome that's being viewed, should you interfere or should you let nature take its course, however cruel you feel the situation is.
I think the answer is probably not to interfere, as after all you are only an observer of a natural event.

But this was the dilemma that faced me, and being a bit of a "softie" I failed miserably and intervened in an indirect manner.

 As I wandered through the reed beds. and some might think this a trivial and insignificant situation.

I was startled by a large black bird flying out from behind the reeds very close to me, a Carrion Crow, a bird with a bad reputation for predation on many a defenceless creature, young birds, nests eggs. nothing is sacred.

The crow in question, flew a short distance and settled on a fence post, no more than twenty feet away, giving me the evil eye I felt.

But no, what he was interested in was a poor defenceless Mole, left spread eagled on the track close to where I was now standing.
Now I don't get to see many Moles, In fact this is probably the first I have ever seen. I was hoping my first viewing would be  a Mole peeping out the top of a Molehill or a similar situation.

I must admit, the Mole did not look in a good way, but as I tried to get a good look at the mole, this being my first, his foot suddenly twitched , and he very slowly turned himself over. I glanced at the Crow who was now bobbing his head in frustration.

The mole obviously stunned by its ordeal, was slowly recovering and started to move around in circles, the Crow was very agitated now and obviously wanted to continue its attack on the mole,
hence my dilemma, should I move on and let the crow continue its attack, the Crow was obviously bothered by my presence.
I decided to stay, and willed the mole on to the relative safety of the reed bed, a few feet from where it circled,

Slowly the Mole appeared to fully recover and now moved towards the reeds and grass.

The disgruntled Crow flew off, the Mole  moved out of sight. 

Hope he made it.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Couple of Chasers !

Its that time of year again when the Dragonflies make their appearance, although some more sunshine would improve the chance of some sightings.

As I wandered along the reed edged dykes and ditches catching the occasional glimpse of a restless Hairy Dragonfly, a few Azure Damselflies and not much else.

 I disturbed a brownish looking Dragonfly from a reed stem, it flew off down the dyke, turned around and returned to the reed stem where I first saw it. which just happened to be where I was now standing poised with my camera.

Four-Spotted Chaser
The sexes of these Four-spotted Chasers are quite similar in colour, very difficult  especially for me to tell them apart, it's a lot to do with the appendages at the end of the tail, are they parallel indicating a female or do they touch indicating a male.

Even with a close view still very difficult to tell apart. one thing for sure, my description of a " brownish looking dragonfly certainly does not  do it any justice, with the sun shining on its wings,
it's an absolute stunner.

It looks to me as the appendages at the end of the tail are just touching, so it might be a male.
My field guide tells me that the males are more likely to be seen perched close to water where they wait for a female to appear, they are notorious for returning to a favoured perching spot, this one settled for about a minute at a time before going on patrol up and down the dyke returning to the exact spot each time, more evidence for a male sighting maybe.

I quite like this frontal view, looking like an old Biplane of times gone by.

On the other side of the Marsh I caught sight of another Chaser, this one easier to identify, the Broad bodied Chaser, clearly a female with its yellow colouring, the male is pale blue on the body, this one was ovipositing in the shallow waters, just quickly dipping her tail  briefly into the water, a distant photograph cropped down.

Broad-Bodied Chaser female
Quite pleased with these sightings, hopefully more to follow in the coming weeks.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Up Close and Personal !

I first came across the Nursery Web Spider a few weeks ago when I noticed a spider spread eagled across a nettle leaf, what caught my attention was the way it had arranged its legs, the front two pairs held together and at an angle, I have since discovered that they sometimes do this with there back two pairs legs as well, forming an X-shape, although I am yet to find one in this position.

The Nursery Web spiders are from the family of Pisauridae, there  full latin or scientific name is Pisaura mirabilis

The innocuous named Nursery Web spider belies the true nature of this ferocious hunter spider. they resemble a type of Wolf spider, slightly larger and with more eyes, eight in fact, arranged in two rows of four, as you would expect they have excellent vision.

They wait in this characteristic position usally low down in the vegetation until suitable prey appears,  no web required, they chase down their prey and overpower them.

As you can see in the photographs of the specimens that I have come across are quite variable in colour ranging from light tans, browns and greys, some with creamy coloured lines on their bodies, even appearing  quite hairy when seen in close up.

Another characteristic of this family of spiders is that the female carries her eggs in an egg sac, which she carries around  with her until the eggs are ready to hatch, she then forms a loose web under a leaf, or folded leaf where she places the egg sac, and the spiderlings hatch in a place of relative safety, which she guards. hidden close by.

 Now at the beginning of June, I had still seen no Nursery Web spiders carrying their egg sac's, I was visiting Rainham RSPB and was determined to look for this particular spider, after much searching I had found no sign of any egg carrying spiders, just one large female basking on an leaf.

Then as I was walking through the woodland trail, a spider carrying a large white egg sac on an unknown plant caught my eye,  a closer inspection found at least another six females all with egg sacs, unbelievably all on the same small clump of vegetation,

  Time for some up close and personal photographs.

This was the unknown plant that the Nursery Web female spiders seemed to favour.

I also found a few Nursery webs prepared ready to receive the egg sacs on a few folded leaf tips, one even had a female spider in the nursery web with egg sac, shown below

I know spiders are not everyone's favourite creature, but there's a certain charm about the way they clasp their legs and palps around the egg sac.

It would be nice to find a nursery web with the Spiderlings hatched,  and maybe the female spider close by in the background, not to much to ask for is it ?

Friday, 3 June 2016

Mixed bag from Rainham RSPB !

A trip to Rainham is always quite appealing to me, short on travelling time, pleasant surroundings, and the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife.

Apart from the nightmare traffic situation that has plagued the Dartford tunnel and approach roads, making a trip to Rainham RSPB a bit hit and miss just lately.

Several abortive trips have found me turning around and avoiding the area completely. but the lure of Rainham keeps drawing me back. so with the sun shinning, a good traffic report showing the tunnel clear of problems, I tried again, third time lucky, I was through the nightmare, and a few minutes later I was on the marshes enjoying the reserve.

A few weeks on from my last visit has found a change around along the dyke reedbeds where Sedge warblers were very obvious with just a few Reed Warblers calling. This visit found just one Sedge Warbler and many Reed Warblers chasing around the Reeds. Cetti's Warblers were still very vocal but none seen on this trip, a single Bearded Tit was seen flying over the Dragonfly pools

Reed Warbler

Lots of birds to be seen out on the pools and scrapes , a bit to distant for my camera, I did manage to get close to a Redshank family in front of one of the hides giving a nice photo opportunity.

A few other common birds presented themselves for a photograph,Grey Heron, Little Egret.
A Coot dispute is high on my list of sought after photographs, It always seems to be a snatched shot when I here the splash of there feet as they clatter across the surface of the water, always out of focus.

Coot dispute
Grey Heron fly-by
Little Egret
This female Pochard splashed down  close by in one of the dykes, seemed oblivious to my prescence, as she swam up the dyke towards me , she appeared to be looking for an area where her nest was probably hidden in the reeds

female Pochard

In the woodlands a Jay flew out in front of me and landed close by , closely followed by a very agitated Wren.


A few Blackcaps could be heard singing in the cordite area, with just one female showing briefly. with a nest of young hidden close by.

female Blackcap
The hoped for Hobbies did not materialise, the Kingfisher  did not show while I was in the hide, although it probably turned up as I left the hide.

Some interesting Bees around the reserve, good numbers of White Tailed Bumblebees and Carder Bees especially around the woodland areas

White Tailed Bumblebee  &  Carder Bee
I came across this unusual wasp like Bee below, probably half the size of a honey Bee, resting on some nettles in the woodland, I haven't seen many of these, although once again described as common.

 possible  Flavous Nomad Bee,

 I recognised  it as a type of Nomad Bee, a species of Cuckoo Bees, but which one, apparently there are about twenty eight species of Nomad Bee, all looking pretty similar, each species preys on a different host of Mining Bee or Adrena species, they lay their eggs in the nests of their chosen host, leaving the grubs to feed on the food larders accumulated in the nest.The adults feed on nectar and pollen. This one looks like a Flavous Nomad Bee, but I could be wrong.

Another colony of Mining bees was apparent on one of the set aside areas for Bees near the dragonfly pools, and another difficult one for me to identify, my new Bee reference book  does not seem to be much help as some of the Bees are very similar in appearance, so this is going down as another one of those unidentified types of mining Bee.
The unusual aspect of this Bee was that it did appear to be colonial, a number of Bees were using the same entrance hole to the colony nest, probably having their own  entrance burrows within this large entrance hole. They were quite small looking bees. any id help appreciated.

Another hoped for target today was Dragonflies and damsels, and a few were seen two Hairy Hawkers seen flying along the dykes, but not coming within range of the camera. 
Damselflys were a bit more accommodating with good numbers of Azure Damselfly and a few Blue Tailed Damselflies seen resting up in the long grass adjacent to the woodland track.

Blue Tailed Damselfly

Azure Damselfly
Azure Damselfly
No Large Red Damselflies seen which was disappointing. as was Butterfly sightings, A single Brimstone and a Green Veined white being the only species on view for me, I was hoping for a sighting of the Green Hairstreak thats has been reported lately, a species that has completely eluded me.
A few insect sightings made up for there absence though. lots of the unusual looking Scorpion flies resting on the grasses.

Panorpa communis  Scorpion Fly

Red Headed Cardinal Beetle

Nursery Web Spider 
'Drinker moth Caterpiller'
Marsh frogs were very vocal all around the reserve.

Marsh Frog

As you can see a mixed bag of wildlife sightings, none of my target species seen today, Large Red Damselfly, Green Hairstreak, Cuckoo, but still a very enjoyable visit once again.