Friday, 2 September 2011

Sevenoaks and Shoreham

On Bank Holiday Monday, I made the most of a sunny (though coolish) morning with a few hours at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. I got home thinking I'd not seen a lot, but a look through the photos showed that it had actually been OK, all things considered.

Walking down the access track, I noticed quite a lot of bird activity, and decided to have a sit down in the busiest area in front of a big dead ivy-cloaked tree, and see what came along. A few young Greenfinches appeared, then a Willow Warbler which evaded my lens. Finally a stunning Great Spotted Woodpecker flew round and landed on a branch just a few feet away, then noticed me and sped off. I must invest in a bag hide.

On around the reserve, via Carter hide. Here, almost a year to the day since the last time it happened, a Kingfisher flew in and settled on one of the two perches right in front of the hide window, almost as soon as I'd sat down. It was only there for a moment, and in any case my 420mm is too much lens for a photo at such close range. I took off the teleconverter and waited hopefully for a repeat performance, but it was not to be.

On to Willow hide and to my relief the vegetation that had grown up and blocked the view has now been cut down, revealing a vista of Canada Geese, Gadwalls and Coots. Nothing more autumnal yet though, unless you count this busy Jay.

I sat for a while anyway, hoping for something to happen. Another flock of geese arrived, this time including some Greylags, and did some fine wiffling overhead.

Next I went to the meadow area by Long Lake, noting a few Stock Doves around the trees behind the lake en route. The meadow was busy already, with two other photographers and a pair of fishermen. Just as last time there were a few Hornets patrolling the grass, but the cooler weather slowed them down a bit this time and I managed a few photos. I also (as usual) disturbed a Brown Hawker from its perch as I blundered along.

I went back via Carter hide. Not a sniff of a Kingfisher this time, despite all the small fish skipping about in the clear, shallow water. This, however, was not a small fish. I don't know what it is, but it was a big 'un, and it doesn't look right for a carp. Anyone have any ideas?

I set up my chair at the viewpoint over West Lake and attempted to photograph some of the many hirundines going overhead. Then I noticed something bigger, flying eastwards with power and purpose at a considerable height. It was my long-overdue first patch Common Buzzard. A juvenile, I guess, because all its feathers are present and correct (most adults are showing plenty of wing and tail moult at the moment).

Some of the hirundines. There were lots of Sand Martins and only a few House Martins. Sorry for the particular fuzziness of the last shot, but these two Sandies seemed to be engaged in a mid-air food exchange - a behaviour I've not seen in this species before.

I went to Tyler hide, but didn't add anything much except a pair of Teals. Leaving again, I spotted this female Sparrowhawk circling the lake. A two-raptor day is a red-letter day at Sevenoaks...

A shot grabbed on the way back past West Lake. Not much of a breeding season for this female Tuftie, and her lone duckling is still very much at the 'small and vulnerable' stage.

On the way out, I switched to the MacZoom lens for a bit of insect photography. The lens made a reasonable fist with this non-macro subject, hurrying up a tree with a mouthful of beechmast.

At the top of the access track I had a go at photographing the many wasps and other insects visiting the flowering ivy there. I was hoping for a wasp in flight. This was the closest thing I managed, but it wasn't quite what I'd had in mind. I think the 300mm might actually do a better job of this...

In the afternoon, Rob and I went down to Shoreham, grabbing Michele on the way. Our goal was to find some of the Wall Lizards that live on and around Shoreham Fort. The Wall Lizard is a continental species, but has been introduced in a few places along the south coast and seems to like it here.

I suppose it was because of the weather that the lizards were not flaunting themselves high on the fort walls but instead lurking in the shingly vegetation below. Michele proved herself a star lizard-spotter and found several for us, including this one. Rob got better photos, but I haven't managed to get my hands on his memory card yet.

I was excited to spot a Hummingbird Hawkmoth investigating the fort walls (for what, I don't know, but it seemed very interested in them). Unfortunately my efforts to get a sharp photo were in vain, but it is at least IDable.

Done with lizards, we walked along the harbour arm and back again, seeing a few Turnstones and a Little Egret on the way. Then we began the drive home, but stopped off for a short walk over the marshes from Rodmell, a village near Lewes.

We followed a bridleway past meadows and wheat fields, sheltered by the South Downs to the north. Lots of Woodpigeons flew by. Then a raptor appeared in the distance and sped right past us - I shouted 'Hobby' and Rob shouted 'Peregrine'. I screwed up the photography but include this hopeless pic just to show Rob that I was right :)

Rob photographed this female Common Darter from every conceivable angle. I was just pleased to get one with her head sort of sharp despite her wings being in the way. The late sunlight on the tracery of wing veins was rather beautiful actually.

Back at the car park, Michele came up trumps again when she drew my attention to an LBJ high in a big tree. I was expecting a Chaffinch but what I got was this lovely Spotted Flycatcher. I grabbed one photo before it disappeared into the tree's shady interior.


Mike Attwood said...

It sure is a hobby marianne.

Phil said...

Hi Marianne.
Some very nice in flight shots on your post today I must say. Those HB Hawkmoths are difficult though, I must have taken 50 shots of the only one i've seen this year and only got a couple of half decent efforts from them.
As for the last Hirundine picture, maybe it was just a bit of Sand Martin romance:-)
Will pay a visit to Sevenoaks in the not too distant future hopefully.

Alan Pavey said...

Some lovely shots, I keep trying to get Hirundines in flight and failing miserably! You had a good mix of species too.