Thursday 30 July 2020

Day in Kent, Lesser Yellowlegs and Southern Migrant Hawkers

Another fantastic day, yesterday,  in Kent. Great to finally get back into the field for some autumn birding. I spent the morning at Elmley Marshes and the late afternoon/evening for high tide at Oare Marshes.
Elmley Ebird list HERE and Oare Marshes HERE.

Highlights included the adult Lesser Yellowlegs at Oare, Southern Migrant Hawkers at Elmley, large numbers of Marsh Harriers at Elmley and the usual wader spectacle at Oare . Also an unseasonal presumed Merlin at Elmley (or escape).

Oare Marshes
 Adult Lesser Yellowlegs 

It was great to keep picking up the Yellowlegs, while scanning the flocks of waders as it moved across the East Flood. Here it is trying to hide amongst Redshank, re-united after millions of year of evolution.  
 Such a classic early autumn icon- Juvenile plumage Mediterranean Gull 
 Whimbrel. Another evocative sight and sound of early autumn- I missed a flock of 50 migrating over just before I arrived. 
 One of two Golden Plovers- pioneers of more typical later autumn migrants to Oare 
 There was a noticeable visible migration of Dunlin occurring with flocks arriving, feeding and then circling before gaining height and flying across land.
 Avocets in the evening light at Oare 


 Southern Migrant Hawker- at least two of these. Also Ruddy Darters and Black-tailed Skimmer. 
 Juvenile Little Ringed Plover. Also a few Common and Green Sandpipers at Elmley but I did visit at low tide so most waders were out on the Swale. 
 Pretty good numbers of Yellow Wagtail at Elmley 
 Raptor sp. Had this small dark falcon hunting hirundines and yellow wagtails but it disappeared. There's something in the talon area which might be jesses so might be an escaped bird but it looked like a Merlin, especially the way it was behaving - might be carrying prey 

Tuesday 28 July 2020

The Old Vicarge shift

Been working on the Azores reports and website this long weekend (work in progress HERE) so unfortunately didn't manage to get out in the field birding. Had a family day out yesterday to Green Dragon Eco-Farm and did some moth trapping and sound recording. Some new-for-year moths including Waved Black and a new for site- Gorse Crest and Maple Pug, If all goes to plan its a full days birding tomorrow.

 Waved Black 
 Scalloped Oak 
 Gorse Crest 
 The stunning Black Arches (above and below) 

Red Twin-Spot Carpet
Maple Pug (thanks Dave for id) 
Highlight of Green Dragon Eco-farm was these European Polecats- wild ones occur in the neighbourhood so good to become familiar with how to tell them apart from Ferrets (which they hybridise with- a domesticated form of Polecat). 

Saturday 25 July 2020

Beddington Farmlands, this week's moths

Hit the ground running back in London this week with having to catch up after our week away last week. 35 clients to meet in two days! so I had to do quotes on Wednesday and Thursday and work through Thursday and Friday evening too to keep up with it. As a result didn't get out in the field so recording was confined to processing the moth trap before work. As the mobile obs was being repaired this week I didn't have all my equipment either so looking forward to a return to normal amount of work, all my gear back and time to get out in the field next week. This post covid rush we are experiencing at work is quite stressful but on the plus side we now have all the investment money that we need for the Bulgaria project without having to borrow anything. 

However despite the work enslavement still managed to 'find' a first for Beddington Farmlands in the form a Dark Umber. Also Scarce Silver Lines and Black Arches were class new for year moths. The Beddington moth list is now 231 species for the year. Also had Jersey Tigers this week and a platoon of invasives- Gypsy moth, Box-tree moths and Oak Processionary. 

 Dark Umber
 Scarce Silver Lines 
Black Arches

Friday 24 July 2020

The Black Sea Obs

So excited about our Black Sea project, hoping to get out there in September and October this year. Here's a few drone shots of the project area. We've got 2000 m2 of this habitat and the initial objective is to set up a recording station and create some pools and a photography hide. 

Fingers crossed that travel restrictions are lifted in time and remain that way. 

Monday 20 July 2020

Back at the country home

It's slowly dawning on me that I now live in a country house and also have a London pad, have ponies in the garden paddock and there's a vintage sport's car in the drive....... I think I might be rich but the catch is I don't own hardly any of it! How a radical 'man of the people and nature' (Mark Constantine nick-named me Wolfie after this character HERE) ended up living like this is quite a curious situation, it was certainly not intentional or aspirational and actually occurred as an inadvertent result of a battle I was involved in challenging privilege and wealth and trying to pull off a people and nature revolution in South London. I'm beginning to wonder if I am now some kind of captive behind enemy lines in the country!? Captured by idyllic peace and calm and an abundance of nature in wealthy middle England. Luckily I'm heading back to London and back into the action tomorrow.

Anyway, slow realisation of the paradoxical paradigm that I live in aside, after our trip to the Lizard we have spent the last few days at Holly's on a stay-cation. My actinic bulb got smashed and I had to leave my Robinson's trap behind with the campervan so moth trapping has ground to a halt. Been spending time in the Old Vic garden and also did a stint round the Airfield yesterday and Otmoor RSPB today. Here's a few pic highlights.

Oakley Airfield 
Ebird list HERE

 Corn Buntings (above), Yellow Wagtails and Skylark families were about 
  Swallows and House Martins (above) were quartering the fields 
 Looks like some interesting botany on the old runways with what I believe is Biting Stonecrop (above) and English stonecrop (below) 

Otmoor RSPB
 One of three Redstarts
 Brown Hawker- the most numerous dragonfly this morning with approx 10 
 Southern Hawker
 Small China Mark 
 Bladderwort sp 
 A couple of plants I'm stuck on (above and below). Seemed to be quite a few different Umbellifer species including Alexanders, Hogweed, Cow Parsley, a Water-dropwort sp, Wild Carrot, Hemlock and what could be a Pignut (?) below. 

The Old Vicarage
 The mini-farm (above) and pumpkins (below) coming on well 

More food is becoming ready now. Once the potatoes are ready we are hoping to do our first fully self sufficient day.  
This Pale Prominent was a new for year  
Jacob's first beet root harvest 

Saturday 18 July 2020

The Lizard, day five, journey home via Bystock Pools

Following a largely sleepless night in the campsite due, first to drunken neighbours and later a snoring neighbour in another tent I overslept and missed my appointment with Mark Tunmore (editor of Atropos journal) which was annoying and I ended up missing the chance to see some local speciality moths such as Devonshire Wainscot and meet Mark too. If we had the mobile obs campervan we could have driven off and got a good nights sleep somewhere else but frustratingly I had to leave the mobile obs at home due to strange noises from the engine which I've since learnt are due to a broken gear box and will cost  £2500 to fix! I'm determined to break the mobile obs jinx which started last summer (I'm forgetting about the summer before that when the blinking thing burst into flames on a Slovenian mountain pass) when we had to leave the van in Romania after travelling across the whole of Europe and continue the rest of the journey without it (more on this sorry tale HERE). In order to break the jinx we are going to book another two trips for this summer (and also look for high season campsites that specialise in keeping twats out). 

Anyway we still made the most of our last day despite getting only a few hours sleep. The camp site moth trap had a couple of moth lifers in it for me and then we had to start our journey back home. We popped in again to see Jaffa and did a visit to Bystock Pools to see some dragonfly specialities. Unfortunately I never did get the chance to look for dragonflies or other inverts on the Lizard as the breaks in the weather only coincided with family time. Will just have to plan another trip to the south west (this one was all a bit of last minute thing anyway as wasn't sure it was going to come off due to covid). 

 Coxcomb Prominent 
 Closest I could get to this is Crescent Dart ?
 The built in moth traps (above) at the Old Boathouse, Church Cove (below) - HQ of Atropos journal 

 Golden-ringed Dragonfly at Bystock Pools 
 Keeled Skimmers (above and below). Note the pale antehumeral stripes and yellow pterostigmas. The dark markings on the thorax on the below dragon indicates an immature male. 

 Small Red Damselfly- key features include the small size, red legs, red pterostigma and faint antehumeral stripes. We also had Large Red Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Beautiful Demosielle, Southern Hawker and Emperor. 
 Bog Asphodel 
 Cross-leaved Heather 
Bystock Pools - excellent dragonfly site within heathland 
The highlight of any trip to the Southwest is visiting the Cream Tea Birder aka Jaffa (owner of Wise Birding Tour Company). Needless to say we met at the cafe for a Devon cream tea. Jaffa's blog HERE 
Jacob and me looking for Golden-ringed Dragonfly