Thursday, 19 May 2011

Welcome to my patch

Today, I met up with GrahamC and Shane from the RSPB forums, for a look around Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. Shane's been here before, but it was Graham's first time. We had a good day for it, mostly sunny, warm, still. Shane picked Graham and I up from the station and we set off around the Willow Hide side of the reserve at 10amish.

 While we were trying to get a look at the Garden Warbler that's still singing next to the wildlife garden, this Broad-bodied Chaser rattled past and chose a nice stump on which to pose. This is the first 'coloured-up' male BBC I've seen this year.

There were plenty of Chiffchaffs singing, and this one, in the Buddleia clump where the main routes diverge, even let us grab a few photos.

We went round the East Lake side towards Willow hide, and on the way to Carter hide stopped to look at this dragon which settled on the path in front of us. I am pretty sure it is a teneral Black-tailed Skimmer. Handsome beast, though if it is, as I suspect, a male, it will get more handsome than this when it develops its blue coloration.

We didn't see any Kingfishers from Carter hide, or much else in fact - but there was at least one Downy Emerald here, zooming low over the water among many 'blue' damselflies. It looked as though the damselflies were mobbing it as it went.

It would probably have been a good butterfly day today, but SWR is not really a good butterfly place. Still, I wasn't about to turn down the chance to photograph a sunlit Speckled Wood, hanging out in the nettles along the river between Carter and Willow hides, along with many Banded Demoiselles.

Willow hide was quiet. Duck diversity was down to two species - Tuftie (seen here in a marital spat) and Mallard. Add to this a pretty lame supporting cast of Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Moorhen and Coot.

The Coots were doing their best to entertain us, with lots of fights and flights. For anyone who ever wondered whether Coots can fly properly, here is the blurry proof.

We carried on towards Long Lake, noting numerous damsels including this obliging female Banded Demoiselle on the way. Also heard but did not see a couple of Reed Warblers.

Long Lake was a frenzied morass of damselfly sex and egg-laying. These four pairs are all Azures. The grassland was full of shiny-winged tenerals, and I unhooked two damsels from spiders' webs. Both were ungrateful sods that flew off immediately. We were also lucky enough to get quick (unphotographable) views of a couple of small Grass Snakes here.

On the way back, we found a singing Reed Bunting, who was pretty relaxed about us standing close to his tree and taking lots of photos of him.

We had a short quasi-lunchbreak then, which was in the Harvester down the road as the reserve visitor centre/refreshments hatch thingy was shut. Fortified by tea, shandy, Pepsi and crisps, we returned to the reserve and walked around the rest of it.

Tyler hide was quietish, but there were two families of Canadas on the Serengeti. One of these groups decided to go for a swim, which caused an extraordinary panic among the many big carp which had been loafing around in the warm shallows nearby. The water erupted in a whirlpool of frantic fish, and the poor Canadas exited the water straight away and dashed back to the safety of dry land, from where some shouted abuse at the fish, while others tried to hide in a hole.

A lone Shelduck landed nearby. Unafraid of fish, it had a very energetic bathe and flap, showing off its T-shaped belly pattern.

There were maybe half a dozen Little Ringed Plovers about, but their regular chase-circuits didn't take them very near to us. This one landed on the Serengeti, but was still a long way off, hence the very heavily cropped photo.

We went on to the further hides, without seeing much more of note on the way, except a pair of Blackcaps carrying food and looking shifty, close to the Sutton hide.

From Sutton hide, we saw several Great Crested Grebes, two of which did a head-shaking display. Because they're worth it.

We had hoped to see more of the famous grebe dance, but the pair had other ideas and swam off, albeit photogenically together.

Meanwhile, a Lapwing was doing what Lapwings do, loudly and enthusiastically. Here's one of the few non-blurry photos I managed in increasingly dull and cloudy conditions.

We called it a day there and went back to the car park. Not a stellar day for the reserve, and I was more than a little dismayed to note in the visitor book that some lucky get had seen a Whinchat from Slingsby hide that very day. But you can't win them all, and company-wise I had a great time - thank you chaps!

1 comment:

ShySongbird said...

Great post again Marianne and lovely photos. I loved the sunlit Speckled Wood and the amusing account of the Canada Geese and Carp :)

I also enjoyed the 'youngster' post!