Friday, 2 July 2010

Take what you can get

I haven't done much birding or wildlife-watching lately. However, I did manage a short Medway walk last Friday, on a very warm but overcast afternoon. It was still and muggy, birds were thin on the ground but there were a few nice insect encounters.

My efforts to find Red-eyed Damselflies at Sevenoaks have failed so far, but there are plenty on the Medway. The trouble is that they seem to prefer to rest on lily-pads rather than riverside vegetation, and there aren't many lily-pads within photographic reach of the riverbank. I got lucky today though and found a pair in tandem, apparently about to be rudely disturbed by a curious pond-skater.

Readers of a sensitive disposition, look away now (sorry, it's probably too late). I hoped to capture pairs of Banded Demoiselles 'in cop' but this angle is positively pornographic. Ahem.

I also saw a Large Red Damselfly along with the usual swarms of Common Blues and Azures, and my first Large Skippers and Meadow Browns of the year.

The next day, Rob and I went to the Biggin Hill airshow. He is keen on planes - I'm not desperately interested in them but it seemed like the decent thing to do, given how thoroughly Rob has embraced my obsession with wildlife. I had a pleasant surprise though - almost throughout the whole show there were Skylarks disporting themselves in and over the grass between us and the runway. So there were many moments when all cameras but one were pointed hard left waiting for the Spitfire or Tornado or whatever to appear, while I was clicking away at a small brown bird right in front of us.

One particular male (recognisable by a sticky-up covert on his right wing, not visible at this angle) was coming up in song flight at regular intervals. Over the course of the day I took a couple of hundred photos of him.

I was worried that the planes would disturb him, and he did go a bit quiet after the Eurofighter ripped the sky to shreds in its searingly noisy display, but he was soon back again.

A couple of times an intruder wandered too close and an escalating aerial tussle ensued - the territory owner furiously kung-fu kicking at his rival in flight.

In the late afternoon, a parrot species flew over, squawking as it went. It didn't sound like a Ring-necked, but it wasn't til I got home and looked at the distant photos on screen that I could see what it was - a rather flashy male pied Cockatiel. It was by far the most exotic bird around that day with a supporting cast of Carrion Crows, Meadow Pipits and a lone Kestrel. I'd hoped a Red Kite or something might drift over, but it was not to be. However, I was still much entertained by the Skylarks, and the planes weren't too bad either...

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