Saturday, 28 August 2010

Catching the sun

It's been one hell of a miserable week. Or a fantastic week if you're a fan of rain. Noticing the forecast promised sunshine first thing, I got up early, tried and failed to persuade Rob to join me, and headed down to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, arriving at about 7am when it was still too dark for either of the two lenses I'd brought (Bigmos plus the 180mm macro, which will henceforth be known as BigMac).

I shuffled slowly northwards and parked myself in the Willow Hide, where the sun was slowly turning the lake to greeny-gold, and watched a bunch of Coots, a few Gadwall (oh, they're back!), GC Grebes, Mute Swans and so on going about their business. There was a lot of exposed mud in front of the hide, but the only Green Sandpiper I could see was on the far shore and looked perfectly happy to stay there. I wandered back the way I came, wondering about staking out a spot by the North Lake.

Sitting by North Lake on my nifty rucksack-chair, I noticed a commotion in the trees opposite - Magpies plus a big brown bird. As all birders know, small brown birds are ubiquitous enough to have their own TLA - it's LBJ for 'little brown job'. However, if you see a BBJ, its usually something interesting. Or a Mallard. Or a Pheasant. Neither Mallards nor Pheasants are much inclined to chase Magpies through the treetops though. It was a Sparrowhawk, a young built-like-a-barn female, too far away for decent pics but she seemed settled for the moment. I decided to try the Carter Hide for a better view.

This is a tiny, four-person hide, looking across the northern edge of the North Lake. I settled in and scanned the trees - nothing. Then she flew out, giving me a brief, lovely view of her outline as she zoomed hard right, but no opportunity to point the Bigmos at her through the hide's narrow slots. Muttering swear words, I looked back in front again and nearly fell off the bench.

This Kingfisher had discreetly flown in to land on one of the two sticks positioned right in front of the hide, where it now sat and bobbed peacefully as I goggled at it. I managed to control my hysterics enough to fire off some shots.

It flew off but was soon back, this time with a fish. It chose an equally close but rather hidden perch on which to violently shake then swallow its breakfast. I was just edging to the corner of the hide for an unobscured view when two other birders arrived and scared it off.

It was obvious that this hide was, at least of late, THE place to photograph the local Kingfishers. Soon all four seats were full, and when a fifth person showed up, I left, happy with the pics I'd got (for today, at least).

I went back to Willow Hide and watched the Green Sandpiper some more as it pottered about, smugly refusing to even consider a jaunt across to the near side of the lake. Instead, this female Grey Wagtail showed up and showed off for a bit.

I switched to the BigMac after that, and started looking at insects. The sun was up properly now and it was becoming quite warm. Darters (Common and/or Ruddy) darted about.

I've never had much luck photographing hawker dragonflies. Maybe that's all about to change... this Southern Hawker certainly obliged with a prolonged rest in photographable view. A passing Brown Hawker was not so helpful.

Here's a scorpionfly. One of several I saw, and a male (you can tell by the bulgy thing on its abdomen tip). I am not sure whether I was looking at one or more species - this individual was distinctly smaller than the others I saw.

As for this... no idea. It wasn't the subject of this photo - that was an equally mysterious wasp species that I've cropped out because it didn't come out very well. Unlike Mr Gingerbum here, who looks great considering I wasn't trying to photograph him and had no idea he was there. Maybe I should try this zen photography thing some more. (Though presumably with zen photography there is no 'try'...)

ETA - one of my budskis on the RSPB forums has IDed Mr Gingerbum as a Large Rose Sawfly - Arge pagana. Thank you very much for that, Maria :)

A nice straightforward female Speckled Wood. Other butterflies around included Common Blue, Painted Lady, Green-veined White and a very tatty and exhuasted-looking Meadow Brown. I'll stop there for now, but Rob joined me later on and I'll probably add some of his pics after he's woken up from his afternoon nap...

 A couple of Rob pics. We had no further Kingfisher action from Carter hide, but these two pics show just how dreamy the light is here on sunny mornings - drake Mallard...

... and a reflective Grey Heron. From here there were also lots of pairs of joined-up darters dipping into the water, laying their eggs.

Unfortunately no return visit from the Kingfisher/s, but I'm going to make a return visit sometime this week. The Kingfisher sticks were still pretty shaded by the time we left (about noon), but I still think good shots (better than the ones I got today) should be possible.

No comments: