Wednesday, 20 August 2014

RSPB Rainham Marshes

Spent the morning at RSPB Rainham Marshes along the boardwalks I counted at least ten Common Lizards all enjoying the morning's sun and a mix of adults and younger ones.

Near the cordite the nettles were alive with Peacock Butterfly caterpillars.

Migrant Hawker in the wildlife garden

Southern Hawker near the cordite

Spider not sure which species, any ideas?

lots of Wasp Spiders on the reserve

Monday, 11 August 2014

Swifts - Gone Too Soon!

It’s been a few days now since I last saw a Common Swift from my garden. They arrived later this year on May 5th, during the last ten years the first arrival date has been April 23rd to 28th.  With the last sightings 18th – 24th August. So this year, disappearing almost 2 weeks early and arriving a week late, I feel as though I have been robbed of three weeks of joy, watching the Swifts from my garden!

They peaked this year at around 50 in early to mid-July, the highest count in recent years from my garden. Which was fantastic to both watch and listen to as this aerial specialist graced the sky with it's characteristic ‘screams’ as they sore overhead, feeding on insects at rooftop height and higher.

Now at the height of summer, having bred, they are starting to leave our shores, heading south for Southern Africa. On route they will encounter many perils including shooting, adverse weather and predators, before they reach their destination, usually by late October or early November.

The swift spends most of its life on the wing, with young birds, which are not yet breeding, remaining permanently airborne for one to three years. Swifts eat, mate and sleep on the wing, only landing when they need to lay and incubate eggs, and feed young in the nest.

Natural nest sites would be located in the crevices of cliffs, but London architecture can also provide good nesting sites. Unfortunately for the swift, many of our modern buildings are built with energy conservation in mind (and rightly so) but this leads to a lack of crevice spaces in our roofs and fewer places for swifts to breed, but the inclusion of swift boxes can rectify this.

In addition to this, swifts feed exclusively on insects but many insect species are in decline. The loss of nesting habitat and insect food sources has led to a steep decline of swifts in recent years. Although, this year appears to have been good for them, warm sunny skies make for the most productive insect hunting.  It is essential though, if this iconic species is to remain a part of London's summer skies, that further work on improving building design and providing habitats for insects in our urban landscape takes place.

We can all do a little to help our Swifts and by each of us doing a little, we can actually help a lot. Installing a Swift nesting box is one way, or planting native pollen rich flowers for our insects is another. For more ideas check out, an organisation that works specifically on promoting their conservation needs, with some great tips and nest boxes to purchase.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

RSPB Rainham Marshes

Spent the day on the marshes at Rainham today and boy was it hot, the reserve on the north bank of the River Thames is a proper suntrap, and with little to no wind it was hot!

Whilst waiting for the reserve to open and the drawbridge to be lowered an Italian destroyer passed going up river.
Italian naval destroyer Luigi Durand de la Penne was en route for Canary Wharf and the public are invited onboard on tomorrow from 9.30am to midday and from 4.30pm to 7.30pm, on Saturday from 9.30am to midday and between 3pm and 6pm, on Sunday from 3pm to 6pm and on Monday from 9.30am to midday and 3pm to 5.30pm.

I spent probably too much time on the northern boardwalk and managed a whole 4 second view of the Spotted Crake, not only that it was distant at the back of the pools and viewing through a heat haze! Was it worth it, probably not, but it was my first one this year. Another year-tick was also frustrating with rubbish views. A Whinchat was showing sporadically and briefly behind the dragonfly pool.

On the other hand the Little Grebe family did show well, and what big feet this juvenile has!

Plenty of Dragon & Damselflies around including these Migrant Hawkers.

Migrant Hawker female

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker male
And these Ruddy Darters
Ruddy Darter female

Ruddy Darter male
Two Clouded Yellow butterflies led me a merry dance and I never managed a single shot, but this Cinnabar Moth caterpillar was far more obliging!