Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Sevenoaks, bit of patchwork

It seems like ages since I had a proper look around my so-called local patch, though I have looked in briefly a couple of times this month. Today I did it properly, got up at 6am to make the most of a lovely sunny morning, with a gentle southerly breeze. Saw a Goldcrest hover-feeding around a conifer on Lambarde Road, then at Bradbourne Lakes noticed that a large and very much still alive tree had fallen in the nearest lake. Wonder how that happened?

Heading down the access track, there were lots of singing birds to hear. This Robin was really giving it some welly. Then in the wildlife garden the first of numerous Garden Warblers was warbling away. How appropriate.

I went to Tyler hide first. Not very much to see - a few Tufties and Mallards, a family of Canada Geese on the Serengeti, two Egyptian Geese flying in to land, about four Little Ringed Plovers. Also several Lapwings, this one in an interesting role reversal being chased by a Jackdaw.

I've always wanted to photograph this moment - when a displaying Lapwing turns over onto its back before diving earthwards. Guess we can tick that off the list, then.

The LRPs are still being very entertaining, chasing each other and everything else all over the place. After some dismal attempts to photograph them, I decided to try another spot where I might get a closer view, and went up the path towards Willow hide, turning off to follow a trail to the water's edge. Here the views were closer but the light was horrible. Or was it? I do sort of like the smoky late-night atmosphere of this shot.

On the way to Willow hide I took a trail I'd never been down before, to see where it went. I almost walked straight into a Canada Goose family, and decided to turn back rather than spook them (after a couple of quick photos of the sweet little goslings).

Willow hide itself was pretty much a dead loss, though there is some mud appearing which may start attracting waders and wagtails over the next month or so. From here I went to Reed Warbler corner and photographed this Reedie collecting nesting material, as well as (badly) a male Reed Bunting with a gobfull of food.

Then it was on to Long Lake. I parked myself at my usual spot in the corner and quickly realised that the numerous blue damsels around included many Red-eyed, several perched close and high enough to the bank for me to get my best-so-far photos of this species.

While sat there, I noticed a blue damsel caught by one wing in a spider's web. It was the damsel's lucky day, for the spider wasn't around - and I was. I very gently removed it from the web, and picked off a trailing bit of silk. The damsel, a male Common Blue, was in no hurry to leave, and I had a great opportunity to inspect him at point-blank range. I was also fascinated to watch him trying to clean the last bits of silk off his wings, which he did by curling up his abdomen and passing it between the wings.

Now then. I'd taken a look at the sightings book through the visitor centre window, and the most recent had a list of Odonata, which included Downy Emerald. I was naturally quite intrigued by this. I'm a dragon fan but never saw this species here last year... in fact to my knowledge I've never seen Downy Emerald anywhere. But when I noticed a smallish dragon with a slim but swollen-tipped and downcurved body fly past, I figured that's what it had to be.

Cue probably the most frustrating photographic experience of my life., though it came good in the end. As soon as my stricken damselfly had flown off, I got to work trying to photograph one of the four or so Downies that were about. They didn't want me to though. One would fly into the inlet where I was, wait for me to raise the camera and fly off again. I tried autofocus, it was too slow. I tried removing the teleconverter. Better AF speed, but still kept missing the target. I tried manual focus, and after many failed attempts got this shot and the one above.

This one was the only successful AF shot I got. It shows off the Downy's most striking features - those spectacular eyes, and the very distinctive shape of the abdomen. I didn't see any of them settle, although the sun was in and out a bit by this point and they did vanish for long spells. That would be the shot to get, though I'm reasonably happy with these.

Heading back, a little hurriedly and worriedly because I had no idea what time it was, having failed to bring either watch or phone, I paused briefly to point my camera at another singing Garden Warbler. Listening to him singing, I wondered how I had ever struggled to tell GW song from Blackcap. The differences are obvious (except when they're not).

One last damsel. Banded Demoiselles are not particularly abundant here but I saw half a dozen at various points around the reserve. Always worth a look, and a photo.

1 comment:

Mike Attwood said...

Nice pics, especially the reversed lapwing and the gosling portrait.