Sunday, 30 May 2010

Different Sounds

I was sitting on the edge of a dyke. The sun warm on my back, it was peaceful, tranquil a complete contrast to my usual wanderings around urban nature reserves. I am at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, it’s by no means quite though, but the sounds are different. There is no sound of planes arriving and departing the London airports, or the continuous drone of distant traffic, not even the crackling sound from overhead pylons. Water is the constant background sound in this spot, as it flows through a nearby weir. Also the ‘plip plop’ as small fish break through the water’s surface, they are fly catching, it happens so quickly. Occasionally, for a split second, I see a fishes head and then ‘plip plop’ it’s gone. A common tern passes; they never seem to pass quietly ‘keee keee kurrr’ announces its presence, behind me a greenfinch sings his nasal song while not far away a blackbird, its short melodic song is always a pleasure to hear. Whoa! The tables have been turned, now it is me being watched, a dragonfly has stopped a few feet in front of me at head height. Its four wings a blur as it remains motionless and for a second I’m sure it’s watching me. After a brief moment it moves backwards and darts up vertically, a second dragonfly has entered its territory and is soon chased away, the moment has gone as it returns to patrolling its patch of water. The dragonfly’s instinct to protect its stretch of water is so strong, that even a reed warbler crossing the dyke is given a half-hearted chase

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Dances With Butterflies!

Strolling along a tree lined trail, ahead of me, parts of the trail were highlighted, where shards of sunlight pierced the leaf canopy. Two speckled wood butterflies were dancing in one shaft of light. Rising and falling in harmony with each other, I watched quietly until they disappeared into the canopy. Continuing my walk I was aware of another speckled wood coming towards me at knee height, I moved slightly to my right and the butterfly, mirrored my movement. I dodged back to my left and again the butterfly moved the same way, it was now just a few feet from me and then, it had passed me and I watched as it disappeared along the trail. Had we danced briefly, was it aware of my presence? Probably, it was definitely my first dance with a butterfly!
Speckled Wood

Monday, 24 May 2010

Raptor fest in south Essex!

With glorious sunshine and temperatures in the high twenties this weekend, sky-watching came up trumps!
Late morning on Sunday a red kite was picked up heading west over RSPB West Canvey Marsh. While 15 minutes later at Wat Tyler Country Park, while looking for the kite a honey buzzard flew in from Holehaven Creek, Canvey direction and headed straight out across RSPB Vange Wick in a north westerly direction. This more than compensated for not seeing the red kite! Also a large Peregrine Falcon almost certainly a female was seen hunting over Vange Wick, watched from Wat Tyler Country Park. A Common Buzzard, Hobby and Sparrowhawk were also seen, and it didn't end there as a second Honey Buzzard drifted over Wat Tyler Country Park mid afternoon having been seen 10 minutes earlier over Hadleigh Downs. A real red letter raptor day with seven different species seen including Kestrel.
Also seen at Wat Tyler were two Cetti's WarblerTurtle Dove and a Mediterranean Gull. At West Canvey Marsh the warm sunshine tempted many butterflies to the wing, the highlights were, 2 Wall, 4 Small Heath and a Small Copper.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Mediterranean comes to Canvey!

A taste of the Mediterranean at RSPB West Canvey Marsh today, with warm sunshine and a Woodchat Shrike. The shrike was found mid morning by a couple visiting this new RSPB reserve, and identified late morning by RSPB staff.  Woodchat Shrike is an annual vagrant to the UK, this striking bird will perch prominently on top of hedges, trees and fences regularly dropping to the ground to feed. It's prey is mainly insects, beetles, damsel flies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, wasps and bees. During the last ten years Woodchat Shrike has been recorded on only ten occasions in Essex. In bright sunlight this Canvey visitor displayed a black forehead, a broad patch around each eye contrasted with a fiery chestnut-red hood on the rear crown and upper mantle. While oval shoulder patches provided further distinctive field marks.

Woodchat Shrike - West Canvey Marsh - Tony Coombes

Woodchat Shrike - West Canvey Marsh - Tony Coombes

Friday, 7 May 2010

First damselflies reported

Both blue-tailed and large red damselflies were seen at Wat Tyler Country Park yesterday, along with orange-tip, speckled wood, peacock and brimstone butterflies. The male cuckoo and two or three turtle doves can be heard around the park  and a hobby flew over heading west early afternoon. From the marina overlooking the creek and Vange Wick a cracking male yellowhammer was seen this morning and our first whimbrel this spring was in the creek.
Vange Marsh hosted five greenshank along with single green sandpiper, redshank and ten avocets. Overhead a hobby was seen chasing swallows and house martins without success, while four little grebes were 'giggling' in the reedbeds. On our newly opened West Canvey Marsh reserve good numbers of whiethroat along with two or three blackcap and similar numbers of lesser whitethroats continue to sing from the hedgerows and at least four reed warblers are now present in the reedbeds. A pair of great crested grebes have appeared on the reservoir and our fingers are crossed that they may stay to breed. Small numbers of Adela reaumurella have emerged and should be looked for in the hedgerow. This striking moth, is a member of the longhorn family and has distinctive, very long antennae. They are common throughout England, and with metallic green and bronze wings, coupled with the fact that they they fly by day, makes them worth looking for during May and June.
Adela reaumurella

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A wet and windy bank holiday weekend, well you didn't expect sunshine, did you!

A wet weekend with strong winds particularly on the Sunday, didn't stop some people from getting out, and there was plenty to see!
Common Terns were seen fishing along the fleet at Wat Tyler Country Park and two Turtle Doves were 'purring' away near the motorboat museum hide. From the perimeter path a Nightingale could be heard singing on the former county tip. Whitethroat and Blackcap have increased in number and provided a constant musical backdrop to Monday's dawn chorus walk. The male Cuckoo continues to sing near holly cottage. While out on Vange Marsh reserve the drake Garganey reappeared and is still present today. Swift numbers have increased and as the wet overcast conditions kept their food source, flying insects low. This provided a spectacular aerial display often at head height.. West Canvey Marsh saw the pair of Black-necked Grebes return today to the reservoir, while the delightful song of Skylark appears to follow you around the reserve. A Cuckoo can be heard singing near the seawall and both Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat can be heard singing from the hedgerows. All in all despite the weather not a bad weekend!