Sunday, 7 September 2014

Murky, grey and quiet, but better than nowt

Apparently August happened recently, but I missed it. Ditto most of June and July. My poor blog has been badly neglected, for which I apologise. As work is currently not completely overwhelming I thought I would go birding today, and the forecast was very encouraging - it would be sunny, they said. They were in fact lying - it was cloudy, quite misty, rather cool and very still, and stayed that way for the four hours or so I spent at Sevenoaks Nature Reserve.

In the wildlife garden, the Purple Loosestrife around the pond is looking great. The pond itself isn't looking too bad either - it contains water, which is always a bonus at the end of summer.

While I was photographing the various flowers I was aware of woodpeckers calling - a peal of laughter from a passing Green, and the insistent 'kick, kick' of a Great Spotted perched somewhere above. I moved around a bit and then saw it, sitting in a bare bit of a tall tree.

It was clearly too busy saying 'kick' to concentrate properly on balancing, because it nearly fell off its perch.

Then it flew across the garden, and I totally fluked an in-focus flight shot, albeit a vastly underexposed one because I'd dialled back to -1.7 just before to photograph (badly) some backlit fancy grass. Photoshop has rescued it, though I'm left with slightly peculiar colours.

On into Grebe hide, where the willows around the feeding station are beginning to turn, and making for some pretty autumnal shades against which this Blue Tit briefly posed. A flight of Long-tailed Tits went through while a couple of Chaffinches lurked on low branches. Somewhere out of sight a Chiffchaff was chiffchaffing, and somewhere else out of sight a Blackcap was giving a hesitant subsong.

I went to Tyler hide but found little to inspire me there and didn't fancy continuing to Sutton hide, so I turned back and headed for good old Willow hide. There were two 'togs in situ already (not surprising - it's Kingfisher season) so I squeezed into the right-hand corner.

It turned out to be a good spot, as I noticed this Chiffchaff through the side window, busily sorting its plumage out after (presumably) a bath.

The lake itself was VERY quiet. Even the handful of Coots seemed subdued. A subadult Great Crested Grebe, a couple of Mallards, some Canada Geese at the back and this lone Black-headed Gull was about all there was to see.

Then a Kingfisher arrived, or materialised silently (when we were all looking the other way) on one of the two posts available to it this year (the nice walking-stick post has disappeared). It's a bit too far away really but still, lovely to see. It hung around a little while, checking out both posts, and catching a tiny something (possibly an Odonata nymph) before zooming off to the island.

Then the Canada Geese set off. And after that it really was quiet, though I did note a steady back and forth of Jays, the odd Stock Dove among the Woodpigeons, and a Shoveler that took off from some hidden corner of the lake and flew a brisk circuit before heading away to the south.

Then the young grebe flew over and spent a couple of minutes very near the hide. I like the flapping shot because it shows that what we think of as a very slim and streamlined bird is actually quite... porky. It just hides it well (by submerging it).

While we were watching the grebe, the Kingfisher rematerialised. I think it's the same one anyway. Its stay this time was very brief.

Looking out of the side window again, I noticed a kerfuffle going on at ground level on the narrow island on the far right - two Robins having a scrap. The action was obscured by closer vegetation though, so all I can offer is this pic of the apparent victor as it hopped out into the clear and sat on a stump looking noble. That reminds me - have you voted for Britain's National Bird yet?

Two more birders arrived then, and because I was feeling unsociable and curmudgeonly, I left, and went down to one of the swims overlooking the north side of West Lake. Here I noticed a bunch of caddisflies dancing about over the sedges at the water's edge, and decided it would be fun (ie extremely frustrating and arm-achingly painful) to try to photograph them in flight.

As you can see, I was not spectacularly successful in this endeavour.

I wasn't the only one trying to catch a caddis. This smart leggy spider was having no luck either.

A Great Crested Grebe and its tirelessly squeaking chick paddled past, distracting me from caddisfly hell. By the time the grebes had moved away (the adult having caught a big fish which it seemed to want to have for itself, and the baby rushing after it squeaking with even more vigour than before), the caddisfly party was over. I looked out over the lake, where a few House Martins were hunting flies and a few Tufted Ducks were drifting about, watching me warily, and decided it was time to go to Long Lake.

Here I saw my first Migrant Hawkers of the day. This one settled quite close, and sat shivering its wings furiously. I didn't think it was THAT cold.

The meadow (which is really starting to turn into a scrubby meadow now) was thronged with spider's webs, and at first glance devoid of damselflies, though a careful search eventually produced a few Common Blues. I went for the classic 'eyeballs' pose with this one, though its wonky wing spoils the effect a bit.

On the way back to the visitor centre I photographed another Migrant, in flight this time, by North Lake, and also saw a couple of Brown Hawkers overhead on the trail past East Lake.

And that's about that. For the last pic of the day, here are several eclipse drake Tufted Ducks and an interloper Coot. I have a couple of trips planned for later this month so hopefully there'll be more blogging to come soon.


Warren Baker said...

Is there nothing you wont photograph in Flight! LoL :-)

Mike H said...

Well done on getting the Kingfishers to pose Marianne. I spent 5 hours in the hide on Monday and although they(2) passed 6 times they never stopped on the posts preferring the willows.

Bob Telford said...

Very enjoyable read which demonstrates that even what you thought was a poor day out was, on reflection, not so bad after all. Interesting comments about the Grebes too, they do look somewhat porky when they rise like that. Personally I have never seen a Great Crested Grebe in flight so much of what's below the waterline remains below the waterline(-:).