Sunday, 19 November 2017

Black Swan at Leeds Castle

An afternoon stroll around the estate of Leeds Castle in Kent didn't deliver any surprise wildlife sightings,  a Great Crested Grebe on the castle lake and a nice Kingfisher perched on an overhanging tree again on the castle lake were the highlights.

But I found some interest in the captive Black Swans scattered around the estate lakes, which now number eight pairs.

I remember many years ago seeing Black Swans at Dawlish in Devon, seemed to be at home there, I wonder if they still frequent that area, been a while since I last visited .

The Black Swans at Leeds Castle originate allegedly from a gift from Winston Churchill to the then owner of Leeds Castle, Lady Baile for her collection, I believe they were gifted to Winston Churchill from the Australian goverment.

Lady Baile had a love of Birds and for many years a large collection of exotic birds were kept in her private aviaries. These have long gone now, closed down in 2012 to save money, although there is still a relatively small Bird of prey centre in the grounds.

 But the Black Swans seemed to have survived and flourished and appear to be regular breeders on the lakes at Leeds,



I have read that many Black Swans have escaped private collections around the country and are breeding at many sites.

[Black Swan is listed under Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with respect to England and Wales. As such, it is an offence to release or allow the escape of this species into the wild.]

A piece of legislation that appears not to be working .

Some research by the British Trust for Ornithology found back in 2004, Black Swans were recorded at 73 sites with only 11 breeding pairs. In 2009 that there were at least 500 reports of Black Swan at 170 different locations, but of these only 37 locations had breeding pairs.

So numbers are increasing and there is evidence that the Black Swan population is nearly large enough to become self sustaining and may be added to the authorative " British List" of birds found in the UK.

I must admit I have not come across any in the wild, only those in private wildfowl collections.

The Black Swan is said to be more aggressive than its white counterparts to both human and other wildfowl especially when it comes to protecting its chosen territorial waters. these at Leeds appear friendly enough.



There seems to be some mixed opinions that they may be a threat to biodiversity, as they compete with other species for food and habitat. No proposals at present to control the numbers in the wild, so they're safe for the moment from DEFRA

Black Swan adult and Juvenile

Apparently these Black Swans can breed at any time of the year, although the Juveniles find it difficult to survive our winters, At Leeds castle they have had seven Black Swan cygnets this year 2017, some of which you can see in these photographs, hope they make it through the winter.





Certainly an eye-catching bird to see, even in a private waterfowl collection.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

" Common & Widespread "


" Common and Widespread " a small phrase which is the bane of my life at the moment,  a phrase  I frequently encounter with disappointment each time I research a new sighting, especially with my recent foray into the world  of Moths.

I had read recently that the possibility of an influx of rare moths into the country was highly likely, due to recent extreme weather conditions, and the best place to look was on flowering Ivy, which just so happens is available in my garden right now.

I've had the Skinner Moth trap out earlier this month and caught exactly " zilch ", with this in mind thought I would give it another go, so placing the Moth Trap in front of the flowering Ivy.

 I was anticipating a rare specimen or two, but no, once again a very poor catch, in fact just one Moth found its way into my trap. but this looked promising, a Moth I did not recognize, and what a beauty.


A quick look through my latest field guide on Moths, I checked out the "Marbled Green", "Frosted Green" and  " Green Arches "  Moths have such beautiful  names, but none of these looked like my Moth. I flicked through the field guide in anticipation, searching for my assumed rarity, and there it was, staring out at me from the field guide  "Merveille du jour" sounded very European and rare, its name translates to "Wonder of the day" described as one of our most beautiful moths,  a moth that particularly likes flowering Ivy, a moth that flies from September to October, this looked promising, and then that phrase once again "common and widespread" unbelievable.

Merveille du Jour Griposia aprilina


And so, common and widespread it may be, but not in my garden, first time I have seen one.

.......................

Another Moth which just happened to be resting on the glass of my porch door caught my attention, which I managed to capture for a few quick photographs before releasing it.

 Once again turned out to be  "common and Widespread" but still a beautiful Moth when looked at closely.


Feathered Thorn Colotois pennaria

The Feathered Thorn moth, so called for the feather-like antennae of the male, another autumnal Moth, described as common, this being the first time I have noticed one venturing  into my garden.

My garden list of  "common and widespread" moths has now moved on to sixty seven species with these two additions.   I live in hope.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

No Rest For The Wicked !


No rest for the wicked or so it seems especially for the urban Red Fox, seemingly hated and despised by all alike, I find I have a grudging respect for the wily old Red Fox whenever our paths cross.

I usally encounter a few foxes on my nightly dog walk, more than often they keep their distance, always keeping a wary eye on me.

 My dog on the other hand, appears to have an inbred hatred of the fox and accelerates barking furiously until he reaches the end of his retractable lead with a jolt, I'm sure some of the local Foxes have worked out that he can only cover a short distance on this lead, as they stand there taunting him with their presence, until they both loose interest and carry on with there nightly activities.

 A young Fox has been seen around the gardens of late using the shed roofs as a form of  urban highway, as he passes through his presence is given away by the local dogs barking there annoyance.

The last few days we have had some late autumn sunshine, I caught sight of this young Fox trying to rest on my neighbors discarded trampoline, camouflaged quite well on the old conifer leaves.





He managed to snatch a couple of minutes rest before the local neighborhood dogs detected his presence, and moved him on.


These urban Red Foxes never look in that good condition compared to the country cousins you occasionally encounter, I noticed when he yawned he had a missing incisor tooth and bite marks to the top of his leg, he seemed fit enough though.


Nice to see occasionally in the garden, although I prefer it if he keeps just passing through.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Oare Marsh's revisited !!!



Following last weeks visit to Oare Marshes to see the Wilsons Pharalope and Long Billed Dowitcher thought I would have a return visit to practice my wader identification skills on the vast number of waders there at the moment, this time armed with my trusty old spotting scope, camera and binoculars I was prepared for all eventualities, except for the excessive weight of my ever-growing amount of optical equipment.

Weather was not good this time either, very grey, with a cold northerly wind blowing.

After a quick walk along the sea wall to view the Swale and Faversham Creek in the hope of seeing the Black necked Grebe I found the tide well out, and a slow trickle of water in Faversham Creek which meant no sign of the Grebe.

I could see a few seals hauled up on Horse sands out in the Swale, but far to distant.
My first few waders came into view in the mouth of the creek,  Avocet, Dunlin, and Redshank.

By far the best position for viewing the waders was the road which runs between the two floods, fortunately, roadside viewing areas are available.

Wader number four came into view here the Black Tailed Godwit, most were in the wader roost at the far end of the flood, but theirs always a few feeding in the shallow waters of the flood.


Black Tailed Godwits
These are quite easy to identify with their long legs and bill, much harder were the few Bar Tailed Godwits which were roosting with the Black Tails, in the end I did manage to pick out four Bar Tailed Godwits, slightly shorter legs and upper  plumage appeared more streaked almost Curlew like.
To far for a photograph but five waders now identified.

A few of the Godwits were colour ringed, but I couldn't get a clear view of the complete series of coloured rings.

Colour ringed Godwits at Oare
The Long Billed Dowitcher was still on the East Flood feeding alongside the Godwits, but never coming close on this occasion, wader number six.

Long Billed Dowitcher feeding with Black Tailed Godwits
 Small numbers of Ruff were feeding along the shallows, seen as individuals, the Buff coloured juveniles looked quite smart. wader number seven.

Juvenile Ruff


Ruff and Dunlin

Ruff
The Wilsons Pharalope was soon picked out feeding in the middle of the flood today and following close behind the dabbling ducks, picking food from the surface brought up by the ducks feet, very clever. together with numerous Lapwings the wader number moved up to nine species.

Wilson's Pharalope

Another wader in huge numbers on the flood were the Golden Plovers, not hard to identify and bringing the wader species count to ten. surprisingly no Grey Plovers seen on the flood.

Golden  Plover

Dunlin were quite numerous out on the flood although not so obvious, I always use the Dunlin as my 'base line' for small wader identification,  ( bigger than a dunlin, smaller than a Dunlin etc )


Dunlin


My next wader sighting was definately smaller than a Dunlin and looked to me like juvenile Little Stints, feeding along the edge of the reed fringed flood, and only giving the briefest of views. shorter bill, brighter plumage, clean white underparts,  I saw at least three or four of these on my visit, I believe up to ten have been seen. wader number eleven.

Juvenile Little Stint



Not a hundred percent on this next observation, just a single bird which looks to me like a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, there have been several reported of late.  wader number 12




Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper
With a few sightings of Snipe in the reed fringes ( number 13 ) and a single Ringed Plover which landed on the shingle island and promptly took off again bringing the total wader sightings to fourteen.

A water Rail was also picked out skulking along the reeds  with several Little Egrets, Grey Heron .


A good site to visit especially in the autumn for waders, bringing along the spotting scope certainly made a difference.



Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Yankees !!!


The shallow floods at Oare Marshes have played host to several American vagrants of late, situated on the southern edge of the Swale, a very attractive site which draws in vagrants, passage migrants, and our own resident waders species alike.

High Tide on the Swale is always a good time to view the waders which rest and feed on these floods.

East Flood -  High Tide wader roost

So far this year there have been visits by a Bonaparte's Gull, revisiting the site in July for its fifth year running apparently, a small delicate gull of North America and Canada.

A juvenile Red Necked Pharalope, a bird of the arctic regions of North America, arrived for a short visit  at the end of August.

And now in October the opportunity to see another two birds from the Americas, a Long Billed Dowitcher which arrived in the middle of August, and a Wilsons Pharalope which has only recently arrived on the 3rd October. definitely time for a visit to see these rare vagrant species. and maybe the opportunity to see a Black-necked Grebe that was also reported in Faversham Creek which runs alongside the flood.

The Wilsons Pharalope was showing well from the road which bisects the two floods, not hard to find with the line of admiring bird watchers stretched out along the road, this individual reported as a first winter. This is where a field guide comes in very useful showing the salient  id points to look for, a nice looking bird in breeding plumage which we in this country are very unlikely to see here.
You can see quite clearly that its a Juvenile moulting into its first winter plumage.






First winter Wilson's Pharalope




Fortunately for me, the sun was shining in the right direction for a change and the Pharalope was feeding relatively close to the road. the bird was spinning in the typical Pharalope fashion picking food particles from the surface. a little distant for my camera lens, but the Pharalope was moving around this area of the flood, sometimes close, sometimes out of sight behind the reeds, but plenty of opportunities to watch its feeding techniques, and grab a picture or two

 The delicate size of the Pharalope can be appreciated when you look at the photographs below, and this, the larger of the three species of Pharalope.





Occasionally pausing to preen with some of the other resident birds,





It wasn't long before the Long Billed Dowitcher put in an appearance, another bird from the wet tundra of North America, these normally migrate down to the southern American states, some even as far as South America, there always appears to be some that get blown off course and find their way to our shores.
The Long Billed Dowitcher on migration and in winter prefers shallow muddy water pools with some emergent vegetation. it appears Oare Marshes fits the bill nicely.

Long Billed Dowitcher
Looking at photographs of this bird when it first arrived back in August ( 8/8/17) it was showing some red colouring to its underside, this appears to have moulted away now.


The Dowitcher when feeding spends alot of time probing through the mud, the above photograph was  the typical view, I found it quite difficult to get a photograph showing the full length of its bill.



Occasionally the two American waders would pass close to each other causing a hushed murmur of excitement, and a flurry of camera shutters firing off to record the moment. This was my best effort.

Long Billed Dowitcher & Wilson's Pharalope
It  wasn't long until the peace and tranquility of the marshes was shattered, all the waders around the flood taking to the air. A  juvenile Peregrine had arrived causing panic and mayhem, the Pharalope and Dowitcher were lost to sight as the waders scattered in all directions.




Fortunately both the Dowitcher and Pharalope survived the Peregrines attentions, both were reported the following day.

 No luck with the Black Necked Grebe, but I was more than happy with the days viewing.