Wednesday, 14 May 2014

First Odonata

With the wind dropping and sunshine promised, I squeezed in a morning visit to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, determined to catch up with the rest of... everyone and see at least one dragon or damsel.

I made a bee-line for Long Lake, and as it was still rather chilly (6.30am) I decided to see if anything was under the refugia here. The first one produced nothing but a mysteriously moving piece of wood, which on closer inspection proved to be a Common Toad, my first for the patch. The rest really did produce nothing.

I spent the next couple of hours wandering between Long Lake and the Willow hide area, switching from long lens to macro as the mood took me. Everywhere is very leafy now, making it difficult to locate small birds (unless the small birds are Robins, of which I saw a multitude). There were lots of singing Garden Warblers about, the Willow Warbler by Long Lake is still around, and I heard two different Reed Warblers there as well.

A Stock Dove, chilling out up a tree. I assumed when I spotted it that it would be a juvenile Woodpigeon, mainly because it didn't fly away at my approach, but a look through the lens proved me wrong.

This tiny fly was very eyecatching, with the blue and violet light reflected from its wings. I have no idea what species it is, though I note it has pretty stonking antennae for a 'true' fly. A brief flail on the internet has led me to Rhaphium but I'm not sure that's right.

Odonata! A nice male Azure, found after much creeping around by the little pond by Willow hide. Now I have to remember how to keep the tails in focus when taking damsel pictures...

That's better.

And we mustn't forget the grisly close-up.

As things warmed up, I began to see lots of damsels, though all were Azures. Here's a female.

Also much in evidence were bumblebees, which were resting on the damp leaves in between visiting flowers. Here's an Early Bumblebee.

And a Tree Bumblebee.

A female Scorpionfly, one of several I saw today.

And a caddisfly, species unknown, but looking photogenic on a weeping sedge.

With all these tasty insects out and about, it's probably a good day to be a spider. I think this is a Tetragnatha species.

Some more of the things I didn't photograph. I went over to look out across West Lake, just as something big and heavy made a huge splash in the water. I waited, and a minute or so later a big carp jumped almost fully clear of the water. Meanwhile, Swifts were overhead on and off through the morning, and I noticed a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying over a couple of times, carrying food.

The Garden Warbler that was singing by Long Lake seems to have gone, but there were two singing birds which seemed to be very close together by Willow hide. I sat on the little seat with the roof, and eventually got a clear view of one of them.

Almost from the same spot I could hear a high-up singing Chiffchaff, while lower down his other half (I presume) was busy ridding the world of spiders.

I spent a long time 'staking out' a female Robin which was food-soliciting, but I was too slow or the view was too obscured whenever the male came to feed her. While I was waiting, a Canada Goose pair with a gaggle of small goslings came hurrying past.

Giving up on the Robin pair, I headed back to the visitor centre. I stopped by the river for a while, looking for Banded Demoiselles, but saw none. Today's Odonata species count was destined to stay in the singular. This Song Thrush was at the fork of the path near the visitor centre.

I sat at a picnic table to pack away my things, and a Robin instantly bounced up onto the table edge to examine me and my belongings in case I had anything eatable for it. Deciding after a couple of minutes that I didn't, it flew down onto the grass.

I could hear another Robin making food-soliciting chirps from somewhere within a thick stand of hawthorn, so I presumed this one was a male, hard at work finding food for his mate.

While I was sitting there, I noticed a Blue Tit visiting a large nestbox on the visitor centre wall, so decided to stick around and try for some photos.

That wire coming out of the box means, I presume, that the action inside is being filmed and, probably, shown on screen in the visitor centre (which was closed, so I couldn't check).

It's funny how, when you stop to observe A, you often then notice B, and then C. While watching the Blue Tit, I saw a Wren nipping into the space below, where the loos are and where there's a bit of overhanging roof. I went in for a closer look, and discovered that hanging under the overhang was a nesting pouch, and it was full of Wren nest and baby Wrens. There are picnic tables under here too, so I sat quietly at one of them.

Very shady under there. I reduced noise as much as I could by taking shutter speed down and using my camera bag as a makeshift camera support.

I brightened this shot up a lot so you can see the cute gaping maws of the Wren chicks. There were at least three, and they looked well-grown and feathered, and very lively. I wouldn't be surprised if they fledged later today.


Warren Baker said...

Off the mark for Odonata then Marianne :-) It's very difficult to keep both the head and tail in focus isn't it!

Greenie said...

Marianne ,
The Long Lake meadow GW was at the far end yesterday , along with the Willow Hide bridge bird , one at the viewpoint on East Lake and one at Slingsby Hide , all singing .
Perhaps he got lonely down at the end !
Wish I had seen the Wrens .

Penny Taylor said...

Oh wow! I always wondered if any birds ever used that little nest box!

I saw my first damsel in my parents' garden a couple of weeks ago (quite dark in colour, but presume it was a large red, since there are loads of them around there now). This week's been good though - on my birthday, I took the advice of someone quite a lot more knowledgeable than myself (!) and went off to Hadlow with my ma to search out demoiselles. The weather was on the turn, so we only saw one (female) beautiful demoiselle, sadly, but there were *loads* of azure damselflies about before the rain kicked in.

Then, yesterday, Nath and I were at Hever Castle and it turned out to be really Odonata friendly -
Nice flicky banded demoiselle over the water maze and first two dragons. They were too far away to get a proper impression, sadly, but hawker types - one bluey, one brown and sitting at the top of a tree! Huzzah! Wished I could have had you there to let me know what they probably were... Xx

Marianne said...

Thanks folks :) Penny, your dragons were probably Hairy Dragonflies, there shouldn't be any other hawker-shaped dragons around at this time of year and the colour sounds right (bluey male, browny female). Glad you found a Beautiful at Hadlow - we have Warren B to thank for the 'gen' on that site!

Penny Taylor said...

I know! Thank you, Warren! I just wish there's been a few more around of the things. My mum was chuffed to pieces though - she hasn't seen one since she was in France a couple of years back. I was doing a bit more research today and had thought it seemed like they probably had to be hairies at Hever ( sounds a bit like some sort of dodgy film title!). What field guide did you use before you got all expert, like?!

Oh, my mum and dad's nightingale seems to have moved on now, sadly. I did get one brief glimpse of him having a wash though before he left though, so swings and roundabouts.