Saturday, 29 June 2013

Good news and bad news from Cranford Park

The bad news is we found a dead male adult Kestrel today. There's no knowing if it is one of the Cranford Park birds. It was found by the orchard area, which is very near to the M4 motorway. The bird had no physical damage that we could see. After calling a couple of experts in the area, it was decided not to send the bird off for a post-mortem. Reasons stated included that the location meant this was probably a victim of a car strike, and that there were no other dead birds around, so poison would have been unlikely. During my seven hour visit today I saw three more adult birds at various locations around the park. I also scanned the undergrowth beneath the woodland nest tree, and found no more dead birds, meaning hopefully any youngsters are still in the nest. I'm guessing that fledge time is near, probably within the week. I'm estimating this from some kestrel web cams that I've been following, however one cam in Dorset shows a kestrel still sitting on eggs, so my guesses could be well out. Only time will tell.
The good news is that a Little Owl has been seen. A lot of dog walkers know me by sight, and are always happy to tell me what they've seen at the park. Two today, told me they had seen at least one Little Owl within the last week. I scanned the area where they had seen it with no luck. I had just about given up, when I thought I'd give last years location a quick look, and I was in luck. There was a commotion high up, and out flew a Little Owl with several small birds mobbing it. It all happened too quickly for me to get any photos, but at least I know the rough area to look now. Hopefully next week I'll manage a really early morning at CP, and hopefully get some photos of the little lovely.
Elsewhere around the park there are lots of young juvenile birds. Some are already learning how to fend for themselves. I watched a large family group of Long-tailed tits practising their acrobatic ways of feeding. The Common Whitethroat juveniles are also collecting their own food now. However some youngsters are very recently fledged and still relying on the parents for food, despite leaving the nest. I found this very young Song Thrush on the floor, and retreated to see if the parents came down, and they did.
For anyone visiting the park, or any other parks, if you do see a young bird on the floor, please don't pick it up unless it really is in imminent danger from dogs. If you have to pick it up, please place it in a shrub or hedgerow nearby and leave. The parent birds will be around.  
Common Whitethroat juvenile
In the long grasses in the middle of the park I could hear several Skylarks. They were flying up high singing away, then gently 'parachuting' back down again. Once they were in the long grass, they were hidden. They are lots of 'paths' been cut through the long grasses, I just wish there were signs up asking people to stick to them. Several kids and dogs were running through the long grass, I hope no nests were trampled on. On one of the grass 'paths' I flushed a Skylark and just about managed to get a photo of its 'behind'. The bird turned and I could make out it was carrying food. Another photo I managed to grab was a Skylark silhouette, with a plane silhouette in the same frame.
I also saw a large flock of Linnets today. They are so hard to get close to, but I managed to get a shot of a male sitting in one of the shrubs.
The sun really came out in the afternoon, and enticed all the insects out.
I'm not exactly sure what this is. The nearest I can find in my books is a type of musk beetle, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. It was quite large, about 400mm.
Cinnabar moth
There were lots of butterflies around. Some looked really fresh, others looked really scruffy.
Scruffy Comma
Small Copper - way past its sell-by date
Small Copper with very tatty wings
Small Skipper (male)
Small Skipper (male)
Speckled Wood
Speckled Wood, starting to look a bit tatty.
Small Tortoiseshell under wing
Small Tortoiseshell
and last but by no means least, a nice gathering of Peacock butterfly caterpillars.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Insects at work

Today at work, it was fairly warm and sunny. The only birds I saw were over head, Cormorants, Common Tern, Mallards, Pied Wagtails, Chaffinches, Starlings, Woodpigs, Swifts, Swallows, Blackbirds etc (though I did have my first work Hobby of the year fly over yesterday)
So finding a quiet couple of hours during my shift, I went off down to the paddocks and skip yard at the back. No sign of Mr Fox, in fact I haven't seen him for the last three days. The horses were feeling the heat and midges, and were sheltering under the trees. So I went exploring with my camera setting on macro. I don't have a proper macro lens, instead I have a Sony 75-300 zoom, which is macro at 1.5m. The results aren't great, but it does mean I can take photos without disturbing the insect.
In amongst all the rubble and wildflowers around the skips I found
Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood butterflies.
And this rather lovely beetle, which I cant identify. It might be one of the click beetles ?
All along both paddocks there are hundreds of damselflies. All of my photos are of Azure and Common Blue damselflies, though I did see Blue-tailed as well.
In amongst all the wild flowers, nettles and brambles, this beautiful poppy had self seeded.
My office attracts quite a few moths, as we run a 24 hour service and therefore the interior lights are often left on. I don't know my moths very well, so if anyone can identify the bottom two, I would be grateful......
I had the below Cinnabar moth outside my window today. Its a day flying moth.
But the icing on my cake, was when I was prepping a drivers paperwork, and he said 'you've got a visitor' and pointed to the umbrella we keep in the corner of the tea room. There was this gorgeous Poplar Hawk moth. I've never been fortunate to see on in the flesh, so to speak, so admired it for ages. Apparently some people call them 'Popular' Hawk moths, as this is the one that most people see.
So thank you Ben (the driver), if you hadn't had pointed it out,
 I honestly don't think I would have spotted it :)

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Blustery day at RSPB Rainham

I woke up very early this morning and decided on impulse, to go to RSPB Rainham. I'd recently received one of Howards invaluable e-mails recording the latest sightings and as I had not been for some time,  I figured I should be in for a good day. However instead of checking all the weather reports, I only checked the BBC one (fatal mistake) and I also failed to check the train times (another fatal mistake), so instead of the journey taking the usual just under two hours, it took nearly four, and I arrived to find it overcast and incredibly blustery.
First stop was the woodland area. I was hoping it would be the most sheltered and therefore show me some lovely damselflies or birds. Chiffchaffs, Greenfinches, Chaffnches, Wrens and lots of juvenile Blue and Great Tits could be heard but not really seen. I got some views of Blue-tailed damselflies and some hornets, but trying to get photos was near on impossible. 
However amongst a large nettle patch I did find thousands of Peacock butterfly caterpillars. I have never seen such a huge number of them before in the one concentrated area.
By this time it was already lunchtime and there were black clouds looming over head, so I decided to head back to the café, grab a hot snack, then try my luck back out on site but going in the opposite direction. Before I had a chance I could hear raised voices by the cordite area. I wont go into too much detail, but one of the RSPB staff had discovered some young lads amongst the ivy on top of one of the cordite walls. He coaxed them down, and they eventually left the site through a gap in one of the iron fences, but not before insulting both myself and the staff member. I was already walking that way, so ended up following the group of four lads, and after they insulted me some more, I retaliated by taking their photos. Maybe not the best move for me, but if you were called a 'paedophile' and a 'f***ing slag' what would you have done ???? At that age myself, I didn't even know those words ! At the bottom of my blog I have made the decision to publish the photo I took of the ring leader, and its not because he had a mouth like a sewer, its because I truly believe that what he was carrying in that white plastic bag was something he had removed whilst hiding in the ivy. Whether it be bird eggs, or even chicks or nestlings, he was certainly holding and carrying it in a manor that I found very suspicious.
But back to the rest of my day. After a bite to eat, and informing the staff about the trespassing kids, the weather was still pretty atrocious. I knew there would be little or no chance of seeing any more damselflies nor my first dragonfly of the year, so I nipped into one of the hides and watched a juvenile Little Grebe for a while.
There was also a male Reed Bunting singing away by the edge of the path.
By the first bridge I found a very obliging Water Vole.
And then watched mesmerised as not one, not two, but three Reed Warblers kept flitting across the water from reed bed to reed bed. It had to be an adult with a couple of juveniles, so after much patience and being blown around by the ever stronger winds, I finally got a photo of an adult.
And then a couple of shots of one of the juveniles.
The shot below, was the one I really wanted though, but obviously without all the reeds blowing in the way. I tried unsuccessfully for over an hour to get a decent clear photo of an adult and juvenile together, but was thwarted and eventually gave up.
On the path way separating the sea wall from the RSPB site, I watched the resident female Kestrel land on one of the posts and start to preen. She's well known at Rainham for being not just very photogenic but also very approachable.
Some cyclists just didn't see her.......
But the majority did.........
By this time it was almost 3pm, and as the weather was so dire, and I was dreading the journey back home, I decided to make a move. I didn't even make it all the way round the site today, but hopefully if next weeks weather is good I'll pop back, but this time I will check the train times first. London Underground is fine on a Sunday, but sadly the Overground isn't !
So lastly, my photo of the rude, obnoxious ring leader of the gang of trespassers today. Please, if you see him at RSPB Rainham, please let one of the staff know. I honestly believe that in that white bag there is something very suspicious. And if I'm questioned in the future, as to why I chose to publish this, then on my head be it. As I have found out since leaving the site, its not illegal to take photos of children so long as they are not engaged in anything illicit.