Friday, 4 October 2013

Keeping it local

Apologies for the long gap between this post and my last one. I have two visits to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve to report - neither yielded any astounding wildlife sightings but both were pretty enjoyable. The first visit was last Sunday, September 29th, on a pleasant day of hazy sunshine. But before that, on 23rd...

... I did get the camera (and macro lens) out to photograph this hemipteran that landed on my living room window. Not the most helpful angle for ID but I think it's a Dock Bug Coreus marginatus because of its sleek, waisted outline and assertive shoulder pads.

OK, on to Sunday. I spent most of my time in Willow hide (again). On arrival the Little Egret was perched high in a tree on the far side but it flew off without presenting me with any photo opportunities.

Every person who came to the hide was on a Kingfisher quest but there were only a couple of fly-bys while I was there. I was happily distracted by other wildlife, including this eclipse drake Shoveler, a new arrival for the winter.

The Wigeons are here too, just two of them today. I'd say they are late this year, but in fact my patch coverage has been so... well, patchy, that I could easily have missed their arrival date by two weeks.

The Wigeons again, hanging out with three Gadwalls and a confused Little Grebe. Which brings me to wonder what happened to the Great Crested Grebes that used to nest on this lake. Not seen one on here for ages.

At last, a visitor to the Kingfisher perch. I've noticed that some of the keen Kingfisher photographers aren't too hot on identifying other birdlife, but this time no-one was fooled.

A group of Egyptian Geese which had been on the far field came noisily overhead, and then did a couple of laps of the lake before settling.

That lot aside, there wasn't much going on here. No waders (still). The usual crowd of Teals. A few Jays to-ing and fro-ing overhead.

On the walk back, a bit of sunshine drew out a few late insects. These two look very much as if they're reaching the ends of their respective days. Though still being proudly territorial the Speckled Wood is almost worn down to its membranes, while the Common Darter looks like it's hanging its wings down in abject exhaustion.

And so on to Thursday. I was meeting Penny at the visitor centre at 9am, but arrived a little early. It was a sunny morning after some overnight rain, but the sunshine didn't last long, we had cloud then rain before the morning was out. Not that it mattered.

I had a quick look in Grebe hide before Penny joined me. Nothing but Blue Tits and Great Tits at the feeders today, but at least they were full up (the feeders, not the tits. Or quite possibly the tits as well).

We headed first for Carter hide. The usual tranquil scene greeted us, but little in the way of birds. A lone Coot was feeding in a desultory way in front of the hide, and a family of Long-tailed Tits were working their way along the left-hand shore. A Jay and a couple more Jays flew in above the Long-taileds and squawked loudly from their hidden spot. A pair of Mallards drifted along, the male fully out of eclipse and doing the courtship head-bobbing thing, which the female ignored. I can't remember if we saw a Kingfisher from this hide, but we certainly saw one (briefly) by the near shore as we continued on to Willow hide.

No sign of the Wigeons or the Shoveler from Willow hide. A few Black-headed Gulls were around and making a racket, while equally in evidence but keeping quiet were Gadwalls, Coots, Mallards, Tufties... the usual. And the Little Grebe was still there.

The Teal flock has grown to about 10 birds, most of them hanging round the exposed muddy bits near the hide. Some of the young/eclipse males are now beginning to show proper male-like plumage - hope they are still around when they have fully completed their moult.

This is, I'm almost sure, the last Migrant Hawker that will appear in my blog in 2013. It was hovering in one of the inlets halfway down Long Lake. As we stood watching it, a Kingfisher flew past. Then it went past again. And again. We had about five flybys in all, one of them very close. Great stuff.

Another Long Lake Odonata - a very late male Common Blue Damselfly. We went on to the big field, had a look (not a lot there) and retraced our steps. We called into the Willow hide for another quick look and I was pleased to see that the Wigeons had now appeared. What's more, they'd increased since my Sunday visit, to a magnificent three.

As we walked down from Willow to Tyler hide, it began to rain rather hard, and I was glad to take refuge in a deserted hide and spend a bit of time enjoying the view in dryness and comfort while the poor birds got rained on. The experience was considerably enhanced by a slice of truly superlative chocolate cake which my companion had thoughtfully provided :)

Among the Greylags chilling on the Serengeti was this rather gorgeous cream-coloured leucistic bird. I haven't seen it before, but two things have since occurred to me. 1) According to Howard Vaughan, the Sevenoaks Greylags sometimes go up to Rainham (presumably this is known by ring numbers), and 2) I have seen a leucistic Greylag just like this one at Rainham. Being something of a nerd when it comes to plumage aberrations, I feel compelled to tell you all that this is (maybe) an example of the 'brown' mutation, in which the black/grey eumelanin pigment is incompletely oxidised so comes out brown (and then bleaches with exposure to sunlight). But I'm not certain. Anyway, if you want to geek out over pigments and stuff then I recommend this paper.

We'd been here a while when Penny noticed a Kingfisher perched in a tiny tree on the far side of the Serengeti. It sat there for quite a while. Here it is being watched by an interestingly alba-like Pied Wagtail.

Then it took off and flew in a loop around the nearest island, coming quite close at one point and at another giving a fine show of hovering.

Again, no waders to be found here apart from the expected ones - plenty of Lapwings and a handful of Snipes, including one which was pretty close to the hide.

We went on to Sutton hide, from where we saw a pair of Great Crested Grebes, some geese and Cormorants on the foreshore, and after a short while this lovely Grey Wagtail, which landed by the little channel in front of us and made its way in the direction of Kingfisher hide. You can see by the extreme noise in this image how dark and gloomy the sky had become by this point.

Another dark and noisy pic to finish. I don't suppose anyone would care to venture an ID on these mushrooms? Cap diameter about 6-7cm. Lots of them growing out of a well-rotted log. I forgot to say earlier that there were also a couple of Fly Agarics in the woods by Carter hide.

ETA - thanks Greenie for ID - Sulphur Tuft looks like a good call to me.

So not the best day weatherwise but a really enjoyable walk around, and lots of nice autumnal stuff going on. Plus more Kingfisher sightings than I've ever had here. Thanks Penny for a great morning and excellent cake :)


Warren Baker said...

Lots of interesting stuff there Marianne. I like the Egyptian Goose flight shot, and a Kingfisher in flight, well, very well done!

Greenie said...

Marianne ,
As Warren has already stated , plenty of interest to keep the camera clicking on your two visits , and I like those two flight shots too . Good to hear the Winter wildfowl are starting to arrive , roll on the Goosanders .
From this distance , would offer 'mature' Sulphur Tuft / Hypholoma fasciculare for your fungi .

Penny Taylor said...

Thanks so much for yesterday, Marianne. It was so great to meet you and I am so pleased you liked the cake...I was pretty pleased with it...And with all the kingfisher action. You are definitely a good luck charm! Pen x

Lou Mary said...

Wonderfully varied post!! Great migrant hawker photo! On my recent post I have one in flight but it is nowhere near as good as yours! Fantastic shot! Also the in flight kingfisher shot with the reflection is fabulous too! Can't help you on fungi ID I'm afraid. Good photo though!

Phil said...

Nice to see an in flight Kingfisher shot Marianne. Makes a change from all the classic Kingfisher on a stick shots. Although I wouldn't mind the chance of one myself:-)
Nice to see some dragons on the wing still, their days are numbered as your picture shows so well.
Like Warren I like the Egyptian Goose shots too.

TonyJ said...

Great variety of birds and other wildlife, Marianne. I too like the Egyptian Goose shot and the Kingfisher in flight is a cracker. Took me a while to sort it out.