Monday, 10 July 2017

A Royal Visit !

Well its not every day an Emperor visits your garden and takes a breather on a plant less than five feet away from you,  fortunately my camera was not far away and I fired off a few shots. before it moved on.

 This is the first Emperor I have seen in the garden, Migrant Hawkers are the usual garden visitor  and  even those are quite scarce in the garden.

This looks to me to be an female Emperor, my field guide describes the female as having a dull green abdomen but sometimes blue, the brown markings instead of black could indicate an immature female, eyes are definitely green on this specimen, another indicator of a female, or could it be an immature male to be honest I am not entirely sure, I can say its definitely an Emperor Dragonfly.
( over to you Mr Conehead )

Ironic really when I think of the time I spent at Rainham Rspb reserve watching an Emperor flying around the "dragonfly pools" willing it to land close by on a reed for a photograph that was never going to happen.

 Makes this sighting all the more satisfying.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Elusive Reedling !!

Maybe its just me, but most of my encounters with this elusive bird  appear accidental rather than design.

And so it was on this occasion, the reed beds at Rainham RSPB are nearing there maximum growth, making bird observations very difficult unless you are lucky enough to find a bird perched on the reed mace heads, most sightings are relatively brief, the warblers give a tantalizing view, and then quickly melt back into the reed-beds.

The Bearded Reedling or Bearded Tit as its better known, is one of those birds that remain in the reed-beds all year long, doesn't make it any easier to see them. their diet changing with the season, during the autumn and winter months they feed on reed seeds, spring and summer months they switch to insect, my reference books stating that they are rather partial to the Reed Aphid.

 juvenile Bearded Tit

Bearded Tits are a sandy brown colour with longish tails, yellow bills and eyes, the males have grey heads and the conspicuous black mustache down the side of the bill, I suppose its this that gives them a bearded appearance, certainly an attractive looking bird, and it's the males that most people want to see.

Most observations are preceded by the call of the bird moving through the reed-bed, described as a sort of "pinging" I have never heard this or its never registered with me as the call of this bird.
 Perhaps its just my lack of high pitch hearing masking there arrival.

I always find it amusing when in conversation with other birders, and my disclosure that I have not heard this "pinging" call, they then proceed to give me a rendition of there interpretation of the call, still hasn't helped though, and I've heard a lot of interpretations.

juvenile  Bearded tit
So back to my all-but brief sighting today, in a small clearing in the reed-bed, close to the raised boardwalk,  two probable juveniles were moving through the reed bed floor, probably searching for these reed aphids. oblivious to the observers that had gathered, intent on their search for food.

Very difficult to focus on the birds as they moved through the reeds, a clear shot almost impossible. but bearing in mind that breeding bird references state that there is probably only about 780 breeding pairs in the country, and there susceptibility to harsh winters, any sighting is more than welcome.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Summer on the Marshes !

Rainham Marshes remains one of my favorite haunts, travelling time is short, viewing time long, every visit seems to turn up something different, seasonal birds, Dragons and Damselflys, Butterflies, insects of all sorts, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, marsh fauna, you name it, you can find it.

I have listened and watched the local Marsh Frogs, always very vocal, an occasional glimpse of a Grass snake as they hunt the young frogs, its not hard to find a lizard basking in the sunshine on the boardwalks. I wasn't expecting this Red-Earred Terrapin basking on the edge of the reeds, I have heard rumors of its presence, not the most welcome of pet releases I expect.

Red-Earred Terrapin

Plenty of young birds around the Marsh, especially Sedge and Reed warblers, must be some Cetti's and Reed Bunting young there, Bearded Tits are reported often but I am yet to come across any as yet.

Sedge Warbler juvenile

Reed Warbler

This male Blackcap singing its heart out in the Cordite store,
  Swallows House Martin and Sand Martin were all seen around the reserve

The open water holding good numbers of young waterfowl, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Coot, Pochard. and Moorhen

Herons are represented by Grey Heron and Little Egret, with a few Juvenile Grey Herons causing agitation with the adults.

You can't miss the 'Warden of the Marsh' and I'm talking about the Redshank adults keeping an eye out for any considered dangers to there young.

Plenty of Dragonfly's appearing around the reserve at the moment, I have managed to see a few Common, Azure and Blue Tailed Damselflys, Large Red Damselflies have eluded me this year.

Common Blue Damselfly
Azure Damselfly

This Sedge Warbler was having more luck than me, taking an Emerald Damselfly of some sorts,
right in front of me, unseen on the reeds in front of the hide window.

Not so many four spotted chasers around, this being the only one I have seen this year.

Four-Spotted Chaser

Plenty of Emperors patrolling up and down the dykes, caught this one ovipositing in front of the Marshland discovery Zone Hide, although a bit distant

Black tailed Skimmers appear quite widespread this year, Found this nice female Black Tailed Skimmer in the old cordite store. first female I have seen.

And a few males basking in the sun on the tracks,

Black tailed Skimmer.
Plenty of photo opportunities with  the Ruddy Darters, females seem to be everywhere.

Ruddy Darter male

Ruddy Darter Female

Bee sightings were covered in the previous blog page, but a few Hover flies caught my eye.

Xanthogramma pedissequum

possibly Bumblebee mimic Volucella bombylans ?

female Chrysotoxum cautum

unknown Hoverfly genus Sphaerophoria sp. on flowering Rush

Butterfly sightings included, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Peacock, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell,
Common Blue, Holly Blue, Ringlet, Green Veined White, Large Skipper, Small skipper.


Painted lady

Red Admiral

Small Tortoiseshell

Large Skipper


Common Blue

Holly Blue

Small Skipper


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Hibernaculum !

Hibernaculum  - Latin term for winter quarters, The official term used to describe a variety of shelters used by many kinds of animals, including insects, toads, lizards, snakes, bats, rodents, and primates of various species.

I came across this one in the 'cordite store' at Rainham RSPB, one of many scattered across the reserve, affectionately referred to as a 'the Invertebrate Palace'

This one constructed not only to provide a year round home for insects and spiders, but also for Yellow Necked mice, lizards and grass Snakes.

To be perfectly honest, I have never seen a creature anywhere near one of these shelters, but on this occasion I noticed a few Bees flying around the front of the structure, so I decided to watch these from a conveniently placed bench next to the shelter.
 I was in for a pleasant surprise as a number of Bees were using the Hibernaculum, some I could recognise, some remain a mystery.

So I will start with an easy one which I hope I have correctly identified, and that is the Leaf -Cutter Bee Megachile centuncularis . slightly smaller than a Honey Bee, the abdomen all black, the underside being bright orange.
In the time I watched these coming and going, not once did one arrive carrying a piece of cut leaf which was disappointing. But nice to see the Bees using the hollow tubes.

I can not positively identify this one, my first thought was that it was possibly a male Leaf-Cutter but dos'nt seem to fit the description in my Bee guides, nice looking Bee though but shall remain one of those mystery's unless someone can identify for me.

Another easy one to identify was this Ruby Tailed wasp, only the second that I have ever come across. Appropriately for a 'cuckoo wasp' this one was inspecting the cavities in the old bricks placed in the hibernaculum looking for a host nest to place its egg I suspect.

Here's another unidentified  resident of the palace

A bad photograph of another tiny black wasp like resident, probably another parasitic type wasp which was seen investigating the hollow tubes.

Contrarily to my first impression of  no life here, there was plenty to see, you just need to sit quietly and watch to see what turns up. I do not think I will pass one of these structures now without taking a closer look in future.