Thursday, 7 April 2011

Bee-flies, big lenses and baffling birds

All were on show today at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. I failed to get up at the crack of dawn but managed to get underway before 8am (just). It was shaping up to be a bit of a scorcher for early April, no clouds (except the ubiquitous con-trails) and just a very light breeze. Walking down Lambarde Road I paused by the lakes, where I'd taken bad photos of a Coal Tit last time, and instead this time I took some bad photos of a Goldcrest. Nothing very interesting overhead, except a vanishingly distant Sparrowhawk. Then on to the reserve.

The trees are coming into leaf, big time. I spent a little while failing to find Lesser Spotted Woodpecker among the car park trees, then down the track locked onto the song of this year's first Willow Warbler. I managed some treetop photos, and while I was taking them I was surprised to hear the warbler change song mid-phrase to a distinctively Chiffchaff-like refrain. It was a perfect blend of the two species' songs (and no, there wasn't a Chiffchaff there as well). Peculiar. After doing this hybrid song a couple of times it switched back to conventional Willow Warbler song.

I continued to Tyler hide and immediately had a go at photographing this young Herring Gull with something in its bill. No idea what the something is, but the gull seemed happy to risk dropping it in midair so maybe it's nothing very exciting.

There were a couple of dozen subadult Herring Gulls present when I arrived, but they were restless and presently took off, circled around and drifted off in various directions, to wherever they spend the day (probably the rubbish dump).

There were four LRPs around. Even when they were on the nearest island their tiny size made them virtually unphotographable. They came closer when chasing each other around in extremely fast and twisty circuits of the lake, and I attempted some flight shots. This is the best of a bad bunch. There were also Lapwings flying about, one of which flushed a Snipe from very near the hide. It was all over too quickly for me to capture.

A pair of Egyptian Geese with four small goslings came swimming in from the east. The female (I presume - the one that kept closest to the little ones) was almost white-headed. The family came out on the shore of the Serengeti and began to systematically crop the already short grass.

I walked down to the far end and visited all three hides. Not much to show for it, apart from this handsome mason wasp which was investigating a bank of bare earth next to the Tower hide.

 There are some bee-flies about. Bombylius major, probably, feeding from Self-heal (I think). I hope to get better photos of these little critters, ones that show off their monster probosces would be good.

As usual, I parked my chair by Long Lake and waited around a bit to see what came along. This time, what came along was a succession of Orange-tips, some of which stopped for a feed on the Cuckoo-flowers. Besides these beauties, I also saw a Peacock, a Brimstone and, on the way home, a Holly Blue.

Continuing alongside Long Lake, I was stopped in my tracks by a song which, under normal circumstances, I'd have had no hesitation in IDing as a Sedge Warbler. However, I've never had Sedge Warbler at the reserve (though they do get reported), and the song seemed to be coming from halfway up a large, ivy-clad tree - not a typical song perch for a Sedgie. I couldn't see the singer, and it soon shut up anyway, so it will for now be a mystery - hopefully I'll hear it again and be able to confirm it (or not).

I had another sit-down further along Long Lake, at the end of a concrete walkway. I disturbed a small mammal along the way but didn't get to see what it was, just a brief impression of fur and scuttliness at my feet. The path ended at a small bay, in which were sunbathing numerous small fish. I think they were Roach, but all my photos were terrible.

The Long Lake Mutes drifted into the bay and scared off all the fish. Unlike the pair on Snipe Bog Lake, the female of which is on eggs, they don't appear to have a nest. I waited til the swans had finished feeding and drifted off again before picking up my stuff and setting off. Then I looked back and saw that the swans were mating.

It was a more tender affair that the brief and nasty grapple that passes for sex among Mallards, and afterward the pair shared what looked like the swan version of a loving embrace. Ahhh.

I know we've 'done' Wrens a lot lately, but I can't resist showing off this gobby little fellow, who was very considerate and hopped out into full view as I was searching the foliage for him.

It was about lunchtime by now and very warm. I was going along the small loop of a path around the reedy bits by Willow hide when I spotted this sunbathing Robin on the path ahead, who let me get very close (this is almost full-frame). Being the sentimental pie-brain that I am, I then prepared to retrace my steps and go the other way so as not to disturb the bird, but when I turned round it flew off. Well, the thought was there.

I could have stayed all day. On the other hand, I'm still a bit poorly, and with the heat and no breakfast was beginning to feel quite lousy. So I headed home, making just one brief stop to get a shot of this cute young Rabbit on the way.

Oh, the big lenses? There was some seriously heavy glass being carted around the reserve today by various people, not me though. Much as I long for more reach than 420mm at times, I can't imagine coping with an un-handholdable lens. Maybe some time down the line I'll have changed my tune ;)

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