Saturday, 30 July 2011

July 30th

I started this morning at home with a rare outing for my moth trap in the garden, it doesn't produce anything like the number or diversity of species as the one at the castle but it's to see what is around. I ended up with 31 species and about 80 moths which I was quite pleased with especially as one was new for the garden, White Point generally considered a migrant although now in the south east I think it's becoming much more common. Other moths included 2 Buff tips, Green Silver Lines, Scarce Footman and 2 Least Carpets.
White Point

After checking the moths I managed to snatch a couple of hours at the castle, there were a few bits and pieces about, still several young birds BLACKCAPS, GARDEN WARBLER, SPOTTED FLYCATCHER plus the numbers of SWALLOWS seem to be growing daily with over 20 birds today. A Migrant Hawker seen just down from the moat was the first of the year for me and as I continued down the hedgerows there were good numbers of Gatekeepers and on the bird front good numbers of WHITETHROAT.


Migrant Hawker - I think


SEDGE WARBLER put in an appearance again and YELLOWHAMMER and REED BUNTING were both favouring the established hedge along the bottom ditch.

Female Pheasant

Walking back up to look across the valley I found Brown Argus and managed my first photo of Small Copper, while I photographed these I caught sight of a COMMON BUZZARD heading north west. I spent 20 minutes taking in the view but could only add 1 more Buzzard, and some extremely high gulls, HERRING and LESSER BLACK BACKED.

Small Copper

Brown Argus

Thursday, 28 July 2011

July 28th

I overslept this morning! I did just manage a quick run round the patch and was joined by Pete, who came up to Norfolk with me at the end of June. As I walked down to meet him a WILLOW WARBLER popped up onto the fence surrounding the veg garden and at least 15 HOUSE MARTINS, the first double figure count of the year, were gathering over the restaurant. I thought that was a good start, unfortunately we didn't really pick up anything else much in the next half hour, there were the usual YELLOWHAMMERS singing, 2 birds this morning, 7 SKYLARKS came up from the fields but didn't really get into song at all and a REED BUNTING flew over. I counted 17 SWALLOWS sitting on various poles and wires a slight increase in recent numbers. There was no sign of any Sedge or Reed, in fact the hedges were mostly birdless!!
Yesterdays poorly lit Garden Warbler

Great Spot.

A hungry Whitethroat

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

July 27th

It was cloudy with a couple of showers for my walk this morning, it felt reasonably quiet again though 3 CHIFFCHAFF chased around the car park and a GARDEN WARBLER was enjoying the only ripe elderberries in the hedge. A young LITTLE OWL was in the new orchard but too far away for a pic. and the light wasn't great for photos either, a GREY HERON called as it flew north over the far end of the field.
 On a couple of occasions recently the Swallows had alerted me to the presence of a raptor which has turned out to be a Hobby, today they made me aware of a male SPARROWHAWK that hugged the hedge line and then disappeared towards the moat. The next bird of note was yet another SEDGE WARBLER, they have been almost daily for around a week now, it's still difficult to tell if it's the same young bird hanging around or new birds arriving but still good to have around nonetheless. I spotted Stephen on the far side of the field and gave him a quick call to let him know he was close to the Sedge Warbler, while we chatted he picked up a HOBBY chasing a HOUSE MARTIN with great vigour, I managed to see the bird when it had given up the chase and headed my way. On the way back to the car I came across a nice little flock, that consisted of several SPOT. FLYS., a couple of CHIFFCHAFF, a TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH and a handful each of GREAT TIT, BLUE TIT and CHAFFINCH again the light wasn't great and I didn't pick out anything else, I was hoping for a bit of luck with maybe a Wood Warbler or Redstart as they both have been picked up on the move already elsewhere, despite it still only being July.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Migrants trickle through

There were good numbers of moths this morning, although again avoiding the Wasps in the traps was highest on the agenda! Steve had Double Lobed yesterday which brought up the 300, although there is a slight doubt on one my records while Steve was away and I'm beginning to think that Toadflax Pug is dodgy ID from me and should be taken off the list :-(. We did have Sycamore today and the smart micro Lozotaeniodes formosanus!
Lozotaeniodes formosanus


I arrived before the birds started singing this morning and managed to hear both TAWNY OWL and LITTLE OWL before a SONG THRUSH led the way for the day time singers, closely followed by a YELLOWHAMMER. CHIFFCHAFFS and GREEN WOODPECKERS were most vocal in the car park and moving on the SWALLOWS were really high by 5.30. Several BLACKCAPS tacked from the top hedge, probably a family party, there was also a GOLDCREST there.
The lakes were surrounded by NUTHATCHES, I counted at least 8 birds and a couple of TREECREEPERS tagged along with them flitting from Poplar to Oak and back again. Also a KESTREL flew through there and a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER called from the very top of one of the Oaks.
Suddenly Yellwhammers have started posing again!

I had an hour and a half to grill the hedges, firstly I followed a small mixed flock of birds down the bridleway, there were a couple of WHITETHROATS, BLUE TITS, GREAT TITS several DUNNOCKS and another SEDGE WARBLER which showed just about long enough for a quick snapshot. A bit further on I could hear a bird moving in the hedge and could see the odd leaf flicker as it made it's way through the hedge, not wanting to give itself away to easily, eventually it did, REED WARBLER (103), like the Sedge Warbler it showed briefly then dropped back into the safety of the hedge.
Blurry Sedge Warbler

and Reed Warbler!

All the time that I was out in the fields, I kept one eye to the sky in hope of a passing wader, they are pretty few and far between here but you never know! What I did see was a LITTLE EGRET flying high and heading north. CROSSBILLS were heard again this morning but I failed to pick them up in flight. Luckily when the Swallows and Starlings started dispersing quickly and sounding the alarm, the HOBBY that flew through was much easier to find!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

July 24th

A slightly breezy but nice and sunny, I was out for a long walk this morning, determined to improve on my recent efforts with the camera! 5 REED BUNTINGS were in the entrance lane as were 4 LINNETS and a couple of WHITETHROATS. Up in the car park it was fairly quiet 1 CHIFFCHAFF called and a young GREEN WOODPECKER showed briefly.
Young Green Woodie!

It appeared the breeze was keeping things generally quiet. The SWALLOWS were around the veg garden, today there were 13 birds. Even the fields were quiet and only 1 YELLOWHAMMER sang and there were just the odd snatches of SKYLARK song.


I decided to sit for a while and started counting the butterflies that were starting move up and down the hedges, also a Hummingbird Hawkmoth was hovering around some honeysuckle close by.
Humminingbird Hawkmoth

A WREN sat and preened a few feet away and a small party of tits moved along the hedge. Struggling to find things I headed into the woods via the meadow, as I walked the edge of the meadow a YELLOW WAGTAIL (102) called several times as it flew south east, after just another half a dozen paces a GREY WAGTAIL also flew over, heading along the stream. By this time my butterfly list was doing quite well with 10 species recorded including another Purple Hairstreak, Essex Skipper and Brown Argus and the number of Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns were well into double figures. A short stop by a couple of small ponds added Azure Damselfly, Common Darter and Brown Hawker to the day list.


Great Tit

Brown Argus

Once in the wood, I headed to the spot where I'd seen the Silver Washed Fritillaries, unfortunately there was no sign today but I added Green Veined White, Comma and another Brown Hawker.
 Moving on I came to one of my favourite clearings, the one where there is never anything there when I do the guided walks! today though it was busy, there were 3 Purple Hairstreaks in the first Oak I came to plus a single Red Admiral on the bird front there were 2 SPOT. FLYS, MARSH TIT, COAL TIT, 2 TREECREEPERS, 3 NUTHATCHES and numerous BLUE and GREAT TITS, this kept me occupied for ages!
Marsh Tit
Red Admiral (this one was in my garden when I got back)

I didn't really add much else on the walk apart from several Large Red Damselflies and loads of Azures.
I think female Common Darter

Random Bee!

Large Red Damselfly

Ruddy Darter

The butterfly totals were quite surprising and these are probably pretty conservative, Gatekeeper 41, Meadow Brown 26, Speckled Wood 9, Large White 8, Purple Hairstreak 8, Small Skipper 6, Green Veined White 5, Large Skipper 3, Essex Skipper 2, Comma 2, Ringlet 2, Small White 2, Brown Argus 2, Red Admiral 1 and Peacock 1. With 7 different Dragons and Damsels, I was more than pleased with the mornings work! This afternoon I did another walk with Bec and added SEDGE WARBLER, SPARROWHAWK and GREY HERON to the bird list plus probably 50 assorted gulls BLACK HEADED, HERRING and LESSER BLACK BACKED.

Friday, 22 July 2011

July 22nd

The first thing I noticed this morning on my arrival was the autumn call of the CHIFFCHAFF, there were at least 3 around the car park and probably a total of at least 10 were heard or seen during my visit. I didn't find the young GARDEN WARBLER today but an adult was in the same area, as I watched this a butterfly came into view, another Purple Hairstreak!
Purple Hairstreak

I moved on and scanned across the newly planted orchard and picked out 7 hirundines high up heading my way, when they got closer, they were 4 HOUSE MARTINS and 3 SAND MARTINS (101). A GOLDCREST called in the hedge at the top of the car park. Stephen joined me for a good part of the rest of the walk, we didn't see loads of stuff but some young SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS were keeping out of sight near the moat and 8or 9 HERRING GULLS flew north east. In the hedges a male BLACKCAP was in song and a single 'tack' and a brief view of a warbler turned out to be another SEDGE WARBLER, Stephen also had one yesterday, it could be the same juvenile here for the last 3 days always tricky to tell at this time of year. A TURTLE DOVE was purring in the bridleway with the tall trees in and a couple of KESTRELS were seen this morning one attracting the close attention of a persistent crow for several minutes.
The story of my bird photography recently!!

One stayed still Hoorah!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

July 20th

We were back on Moths today after a short break, it looked pretty busy, there were several bits on the walls including Chinese Character, Dark Umber (new for year), Dwarf Cream Wave plus several others. Once in the traps it was evident quite a few wasps had been attracted to the light overnight, so taking out the boxes was a more delicate operation! The trap by the greenhouse held 5 Poplar Hawkmoths and 3 Swallowtails were near the trap, also my first Pinella of the year, sorry can't remember it's first name but it's a micro. Another one new for the year was the tricky Svensson's Copper Underwing, which can only be told from Copper Underwing by... you guessed it comparing the underwing! After todays records, the year list here stands at 293, so the 300 beckons.
Despite the traps being reasonably busy I was walking by 5.40am, it was calm and mild with some light cloud. I had the camera at the ready, as ever, but didn't get a sniff of a photo opportunity, so apologies for not having something to break up my ramblings!Although another view picture might appear.
It was pretty busy on the bird front as well today, 2 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS did a fly pass as we finished the moths, first of 6 in total. GOLDFINCHES were whizzing around in pairs, which didn't seem quite right. The young GARDEN WARBLER called from the top end of the car park and a YELLOWHAMMER was singing along the entrance lane. There was a steady flow of ROOKS heading north from their roosts, unusually not accompanied by any Jackdaws which has been the norm of late.

A quick stop by the lake was brightened by the KINGFISHER doing a circuit, before landing in a willow on the island, I did take a photo of this but probably shouldn't have bothered! A TREECREEPER was also here, as was MARSH TIT and several NUTHATCH. 2 GREY HERONS dropped into the far end of the top lake and I could hear young BULLFINCHES nearby. I still had an hour and a half before having to leave for work, so a slow walk along hedgerows was on the cards. A GOLDCREST was the first noteworthy bird followed by my second 'autumn' WILLOW WARBLER. The number finches, buntings and sparrows was lower this morning, although I did see 3 young REED BUNTINGS. As I approached a gap in the hedge a warbler started a bit of subsong from where I had just come from, I thought either Reed or Sedge, after about 5 minutes it showed, just coming to the edge briefly before darting back in, to sing a little bit more (Dr.Hook), it was my second SEDGE WARBLER of the year. It was getting close to witching hour, so my pace quickened. On the way back I heard a CROSSBILL and met Stephen on his way out, he had managed to see the Crossbill which was infact, 2 green individuals flying west.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Brighter Morning

After shirking my patch-watching duties for a couple of days, I arrived this morning around 7am, hoping that loads of things had arrived over the last couple of days!! Obviously they hadn't, despite feeling slightly autumnal, it is after all, only just passed the middle of July.
Yellowhammer in full song

MAGPIES were making a bit of a racket and as I rounded the first hedge a LITTLE OWL flew out which probably explained the noise. BLACKBIRDS were also noisy a bit further up the car park, maybe a young Owl was sitting tight there somewhere, as they have in previous years. A CHIFFCHAFF and a BULLFINCH both called nearby. GREEN WOODPECKERS were heard throughout the walk and were seen at various points flying across a few of the open spaces and disappearing over hedges. The local SWALLOWS had either fledged a couple more young or been joined by some wandering individuals as there were 12 birds in the air over the veg garden today, where the maximum has been about 8 for a week or so. A SPOTTED FLYCATCHER was still catching insects in the garden and commuting back to a hidden nest. I missed out the lake this morning but in the moat were some very young MALLARD ducklings and a mother keeping a close eye, something there has been shortage of here this year. It was still only a small family of 5 or 6 but the largest number we've had so far.
Blue Tailed Damselfly

The hedgerows beckoned again, there was no real change from the Friday visit apart from HOUSE SPARROW numbers had risen to over 30 birds, YELLOWHAMMER and REED BUNTING were still well represented but there was still no sign of any skulking Groppers or Sedge Warblers.
Heading back up the hedgerow towards the garden 11 GREYLAGS flew over and the Swallows started sounding a bit agitated, which drew my attention to a HOBBY which flew over the bridleway and off towards Frittenden.
I took a quick walk at lunchtime today in the field behind our warehouse and took a few shots.
Cinnabar moth caterpillar

and again

Teasel with Bumblebee

Brown Argus


Bee on Vetch (unfortunately I don't know my Bees!)
It was quite a productive little walk!!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Moth Night

This post is a little later than planned and takes in Friday mornings walk and Friday night Saturday morning, 'Moth Night'.
Friday morning was really quite pleasant, BULLFINCH was calling as I got out of the car and there was plenty of activity, after 20 minutes I'd recorded 26 species and hadn't left the car park! There was nothing amazing but a young GARDEN WARBLER called and had me deliberating as to what it was, it quite sounded quite finch like. There were also young CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP milling around.

Help please, is it Keeled or Black Tailed?

Goldfinches have started posing all of a sudden.

One of the pairs of SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS was busy feeding and the songs of several SKYLARKS drifted up from the fields. By the lake, 1 SWIFT went over and 2 TURTLE DOVES posed in the dead branches of an Oak, unfortunately, although posing they weren't close enough for a photo. CORMORANTS were again evident with 1 flying east and later another 2 flying south, a surprise bird was a GREAT BLACK BACKED GULL which flew over with 3 HERRING GULLS.
So to Moth Night, so far we have managed at least one these in the first couple of years we have been trapping at the castle. It involves a couple of generators, 4 traps and lots of extension leads! The group consisted of Pete, Steve, Matt presently from Dungeness and myself.
We started setting up around 8pm, all the equipment just about fitting into the new National Trust truck.

Setting up

Choosing where to put the traps we considered the following, what the terrain was like, what trees are nearby, where the wind is coming from and how far will we have to walk between traps during the night. All that considered we chose under a very grand Oak, a coppiced clearing, a sheltered ride and a spot near the lake. All we needed to do was unwind the leads and get the generators going.
Ready to go

And we're off!

The forecast was for rain at some stage overnight so we weren't sure how long we would be trapping for. By about 10pm the first moths were starting to arrive, first up were a couple of micros followed by our first macro, Willow Beauty. We made the route between the traps into a bit of a circular walk and visited each one in turn, gradually it got busier and a few nice moths including several year ticks were added. Oak Eggar arrived early, a female that was much larger than I remembered.
Oak Eggar

More moths started to arrive

There were good numbers of Black Arches, a particularly striking moth, as was a Yellow Shell (see Pittswood Blog, Warren took a great photo of one last week). Species numbers steadily rose and by around 2.30am we had about 55 species, a few highlights were August Thorn, Scallop Shell, Lunar Spotted Pinion, Dingy Shell and Muslin Footman.
Scallop Shell, Dingy Shell and a few others

With a few short showers throughout the night we decided to pack up and timing is everything, we got back to the trap by the barn, our usual spot, and managed to record the moths here just before the heavens opened!By 3.30am we were on our way home. A total of 77 species was maybe less than we hoped for but it was still good. I think Steve and Matt were going straight to Steve's house to check his traps before heading to Dungeness, I was happy to get home to bed!