Thursday, 23 April 2015

Chasing year ticks!

Great day yesterday on the marshes, I started early before 7am, well early for me! at the landfill and surrounding areas. Had a Swift go over the landfill early on, steady numbers of swallows also moving north. Finally after five attempts I caught up with the Corn Bunting, pretty sure it is the only one there and sings very occasionally! On the Thames a Sandwich Tern with 50+ common and 2 arctics. On the reserve 2 Hobbies were over Wennington and thanks to Mark Vale's directions for the Lesser Whitethroat. Five species added to my personal Rainham year list today.

The Linnet gorse colony are still busy, looks like this one is building a mega nest!



The Cetti's Warbler opposite the Linnet colony, shows very well at times and after a number of attempts this is my best image to date, still not great though!
On top of the landfill site the Skylarks and Meadow Pipits are excellent value, their song flights are brilliant. I particularly like watching the pipits as they gain height singing as they go and then parachute back down to earth.
Skylark in full song
There were also two Wheatears on the top at times showing quite well as they use the fence posts as a lookout.

I spent an hour or more at the top and finally caught up with the elusive Corn Bunting, to see the bunting walk west from the Wennington (serin) Mound after a short distance along the path, turn left through the new-ish walk-through the fence and cross the road, following the path up the grassed-over eastern end of the landfill. When you reach the top, pause for a moment to enjoy the amazing view of the reserve and river; I had the Corn Bunting a short distance further on, as the path starts to descend towards the road on the south side of the landfill. It only sings and shows briefly and has been heard on the north side too. Thanks to Dominic Mitchell for the directions.

This Little Grebe is incubating eggs about 3 foot from the boardwalk. It could of course suffer some disturbance as people stop and take photos, but I'm sure as long as people don't camp out right beside it, it will be fine. After all they chose the spot and just maybe having us humans passing by so closely gives them a little protection from would be predators, well at least while the reserve is open!
Bombus humilis - Brown-banded Carder-bee. I photographed this bee behind the Butts Hide and thanks to Martin Harvey for the confirming it's ID. Peter said 'Yes. Absolutely 100% certainty would require microscopical examination of the tergite structure of the sides of the tergites towards the upper end of the abdomen, to rule out Bombus muscorum, but muscorum does not occur this far east from the Essex coast.'
The Brown-banded Carder Bee Bombus humilis has declined sharply in the UK over the last forty years or so, mainly because it needs large areas of grassland rich in flowers, especially vetches, clovers and trefoils for feeding. The queens also need tussocky grass containing mouse nests in which they found their colonies, raking in moss and fine grass leaves. Heavy grazing, “improvement” of pastures, encroachment of scrub and the use of herbicides have all taken their toll on humilis and other specialist bees such as the Shrill Carder Bumblebee Bombus sylvarum. Nowadays Bombus humilis is mainly restricted to dry coastal grasslands, but is also common on Salisbury Plain. It is often associated with brownfield sites such as the grasslands of the Thames Gateway, especially where these are extensive and have a continuous succession of flowers.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Wren

Marsh Frog
Cream-spot Tiger Moth caterpillar - This moth caterpillar grows to about 65mm and is fairly common in open habitat in southern parts of the British Isles. When fully grown in the early spring it may be found basking in the sun on grasses and herbaceous plants during the day. The brown head helps identify it from other hairy caterpillars. Nearly tripped over this big beast near the Ken Barrett hide!
 A number of butterflies about today despite the cool breeze including this Speckled Wood.

male Blackcap in the woodland