Saturday, 6 December 2008

Elmley & Harty

Just had to take advantage of a beautiful wintry sunny afternoon after so much grotty weather. So I decided to head back to Elmley to look for hares and anything else that might appear. Lapwings were much more in evidence since my last trip and using the car as a hide were not too difficult to get closeup photos although they had this habit of running in the opposite direction as soon as I had my lens on them.

A wigeon flock was in the pool and on the grassy bank behind the toilet block looking amazing in the light, one of my favourite duck.

In the late afternoon light the view toward Capel was stunning and believe it or not there is a close brown hare in this shot. It is probably only about 15 feet away.

Initially having a bit of a doze.

It soon realised that it had a camera lens pointing at it and slightly startled opened an eye but the car makes a good hide and it settled back down to its afternoon nap.

That's two trips and hares in almost the same place, so now I need to try and get closer, somehow!
Also drove along the Harty ferry road and found a couple of hares in the fields around Elliots farm but much more distant. At the viewpoint over the Swale a wonderful short-eared owl flew by and landed on one of the signposts just in front but just before I could get a shot a group of carrion crows started mobbing it and it flew across the Swale. One for next time, maybe!

Sunday, 30 November 2008


Haven't really been that inspired to get out much recently, grey days and all that. Still I have been getting the odd redwing in the garden, but it looks as though the pile of leaves carefully stacked up by the hedgehog have been blown to the four corners of the garden and the little pile that is left looks sodden. I haven't prodded whats left in the vain hope that hedgie might still be there but I don't really think so. To cheer myself up I have started a blog that allows me to reminisce and dust off my old slide collection. Before I went digital in 2005, most of the photos were taken with a Pentax P50 and then in 1990 I upgraded to a Canon EOS10. My selection of lenses was a little limited as I used a Tamron 500 F8 mirror lens and tamron 28-300 zoom, great fun.
My other blog can be found at

Friday, 7 November 2008


Over the winter and spring I've set myself a personal target to try and get some photos of brown hare in Kent. I've read in a few places that the track to Elmley can be a good place to see them so I headed in that direction over lunchtime today. Certainly the access to the Isle Of Sheppey has changed with the new bridge now spanning the Swale but to get to the entrance for the Elmley track you still have to go over the old bridge and travel the old but now much quieter road onto Sheppey. Today I noticed a good sized flock of fieldfares and redwings in the hawthorn that ran alongside the track to the clay pigeon shooting site to the right of the Elmley track and decided to try my luck with an odd photo or two. The thrushes were very flighty around 150 fieldfares and 30 redwings and even using my car as a hide it was difficult to get very close. Annoyingly I had taken the wrong tripod mount for my camera so handheld shots it had to be or nothing. With the subject being back lit I had to compensate by setting the exposure against a more neutral colour even with spot metering. Greens and greys are useful for this so I exposed against the green hawthorn leaves and hoped to luck.

Certainly both the fieldfares and redwings were feeding on the hawthorn berries and even drinking from a puddle in the road but these were just to skittish to enable a photo. I think fieldfares are one of the most handsome looking of thrushes and I have been lucky enough to see both fieldfare and redwing close up in the hand on the Orkneys. Certainly a redwing in the hand would not be a good advertisement for the merits of bird ringing as they make one hell of a racket, anyone passing by would think the bird was being murdered. On the contrary a fieldfare in the hand is totally passive, or at least the ones I have seen were. Anyway, I then went back to the start of the track up to Kingshill Farm and the Elmley RSPB reserve. The area looks just fantastic with grazing groups of cattle, flocks of lapwing, feeding curlews and the odd marsh harrier and kestrel but no sign of any hares. As I approached the car park at the farm I noticed a brown lump in a short cropped field just off to my right. Looking through my bins I confirmed that the lump was in fact a hare. At this time a helicopter decided to fly over and I took my eye off the hare for a moment. When I looked back into the field I saw two hares running toward me and across my front. Their turn of speed is just so impressive and they accelerate with such ease. I couldn't believe my luck when the two just stopped on the dirt track in front of me. I was still in the car and slowly poked my camera lens out of the car window expecting them both to race off but they sat there for a few moments.
Brown Hare

They then ran off into some thicker grass and I lost them. I certainly hadn't expected to see two hares in quite this way, what a treat. I turned my car around and headed back down the track to wait and see if they would re-appear. Eventually one did appear in the thick longer grass and a few more photo opportunities presented themselves. If only I had a more powerful lens.....still I'll have to save up for one but in the meantime a few more visits over the winter to hopefully see more of these wonderful animals.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Longfield - Garden & Awards

The other week I glanced into the garden just before heading off to work and noticed a medium sized hedgehog wandering along the raised flower bed. Excited in having one in the garden I took my eyes off it for a few minutes to alert my wife, by the time I looked back in to the garden it had disappeared. I then saw it again wandering around the base of a spirea in its mouth was a load of dry leaves and a few berries. I wasn't sure what to make of it and thought it had been foraging and the berries and leaves had got stuck in its mouth. I then got distracted and by the time I looked back there it was again in the same spot this time with a new set of leaves in it's mouth. It then dawned on me that it was building a nest between the spirea and some pine logs that I have in the garden. This was confirmed when it appeared from beneath the pile of leaves to a well earned breakfast of cat food much to the indignation of our rather large tabby.

Given that I do have two hedgehog houses in the garden, they are either occupied or the decor is not to the liking of this particular individual. Either way it was an exciting and unexpected garden event. I'm not sure just how long the hedgehog had been building its winter home but it must have taken it quite some time to build the pile of leaves, pictured here in the centre.

Since 2005 I have been entering the joint run Council and KWT gardening for wildlife scheme and have been successful in winning a highly commended and two silver awards for my efforts. This year was the icing on the cake as I managed to get a gold award, I am so pleased and I have volunteered to be a garden assessor next year.

Also this week I received an award from the KWT for two photos that I entered in their wildlife photography competition. I was 'amazed' that I won first and third prize in the flora category with the following entries as it was all very spur of the moment.

1st Prize Winner in the Flora Category - Ox eye Daises at Yockletts Bank

3rd Prize Winner in the Flora Category - Bee Orchid Queendown Warren

Sunday, 26 October 2008

West Hythe - Military Canal

Couldn't resist going to try and see the Green Heron that had been seen at the dam on the military canal near West Hythe today and given it was raining and an otherwise gloomy day it was a good move as Lisa and I had an albeit wet but enjoyable time. Seems it has probably been in the area for at least 4 days according to some of the local dog walkers and has been seen walking about on the path that goes over the dam!
On arrival there wasn't much point in trying to get into the overflowing car park so we eventually managed to find a spot along the road running through the village although I think tempers of other motorists appeared to be strained as you had to weave in and out of the parked cars to make your way through. We then made our way back to the car park and along the track to the dam where in the heavy rain there were around 40 people admiring a very confiding bird that was oblivious to the small throng and concentrating on catching a morsal or two. Photography was a challenge in the driving rain but it had to be attempted and i'm pleased with these two snatched shots. Let's hope it stays around for a while and can be enjoyed in better weather.
Green Heron

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Longfield Gallops

I didn't go very far from home today and really just felt like going for a short walk. So I ended up in fields just north of Longfield called the gallops to discover that there was a finch movement happening. Small groups of chaffinches were migrating west using the predominently westerly wind to give them the lift needed for easier and efficient flight. The birds seemed to be using two small valleys to migrate along and i've tried to indicate their flightpaths on the map below. One was just south of Southfleet and the other seemed to be along the north ridge above Longfield.
The totals for my hour watch between 12:48 and 13:38 were chaffinch 191w, brambling 1w, skylark 21w and 31 in the fields, starling 155w and around 250 to the west of Longfield, 1 large female sparrowhawk, 1 reed bunting and 9 corn buntings. I know that migration can start at any time during the day but I did wonder what my totals might have been had I been able to get out earlier. Still it is great to know that a few steps from my door I can see migration in action. It was a shame I couldn't get there during the recent thrush movement last weekend as I did see 70 fieldfares and 20 redwings go over my garden early in the morning.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Queendown Warren

Having looked for adders at Queendown Warren on Sunday in the late afternoon sunshine and failed, I thought I'd give it another go today in the lovely morning sunshine, however I still failed to find any. I did manage to see some there in October 2006 and I think these were my first adder sightings ever. As I wasn't blogging then i've posted a couple of photos from that time.

Adder Male

Adder Female

A nice cheeky herd of Exmoor ponies, have been at Queendown for a while now and it will be interesting to see the difference the grazing will make to the reserve as there is now also a small herd of cattle grazing on the main orchid bank. A few birds around, siskin flying over, bullfinch and a few goldcrests, 6 or so. Still the odd meadow brown on the wing along with singles of red admiral and small copper.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Isle Of Grain

I've been out of the country for a while enjoying a holiday in Madagascar of which i'll be posting a 'knol' soon with a link to it from this blog. Whilst this weather may not be good for finding birds in north Kent it certainly is very pleasant to wander about in and I found myself at Grain this morning. There were unexpectededly good numbers of butterflies still on the wing. At one time I had 5 red admirals enjoying the nectar of a mature ivy along with several small whites and small coppers. My list for 3 hours of slow wandering was:
Red admiral 6, wall 1, small copper 3, small white 6, large white 1, migrant hawker 5, common darter 20, brent goose 24 flying into the swale, goldcrest 6, chiffchaff 4, med gull 1 ad wint, swallow 22s, house martin 2 s, siskin 3, blackcap 2, redpoll 2, little egret 4, stonechat 2 and whinchat 1.
It was also good to see that the outflow from Grain power station was in operation. In the past at the right time of year this has attracted feeding terns and associated skuas, i'm hoping that it isn't just a one off.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Longfield - Moths

Competing against a full moon last night the mv trap managed to hold, angle shades 1, willow beauty 1, lesser yellow underwing 5, large yellow underwing 1, turnip moth 1, square spot rustic 2, setaceaous hebrew character 2, rustic 3 and pale mottled willow1.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Isle Of Grain

What a beautiful afternoon and on the back of a fan-tailed warbler in north Kent and a honey buzzard movement along the English east coast I decide to visit Grain for a nose around. There were still some migrants lurking amongst the scrub namely, 6 blackcaps, 5 chiffchaffs and a goldcrest. The group of swallows that had been building up during my last visits seemed to have cleared out and despite a honey buzzard being seen flying south toward Kent from Wakering Stairs in Essex and another seen flying west over RSPB Rainham Marsh, I didn't see any, incompetence on my part, almost certainly :-). It didn't really matter as the invertebrates stole the show for me. Migrant hawkers, common darters, holly blues, common blues, small and large whites, small heaths, meadow browns, red admirals and several fresh comma's were taking full advantage of the glorious weather. I couldn't resist the following photos.
There were a number of holly blues on the wing along with plenty of competing common blues although they were mostly tustling with small heaths. The holly blues preferring the comparative peace of the upper foliage layers.

There are usually a few little egrets feeding on the shoreline as the tide goes out.

Migrant hawkers were very much in evidence in some places occuring in small swarms. The males are just great with their lovely blue markings.

Common darters were also around in good numbers and I'm particularly pleased with this shot. If common darters ate blackberries you might think it was saying 'hands off, this one is mine',

Common Darter

Almost destroyed this web but managed to see the wasp spider at the last minute. In my opinion Britains most beautiful spider, what a cracking beastie.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Longfield - Moths

And competing with the near full moon, in the moth trap last night were lesser yellow underwing 6, clay triple lines 1, angle shades 1, pale mottled willow 2, garden carpet 1, large yellow underwing 6, square spot rustic 2, setaceaous hebrew character 3, common wainscott 1, the snout 1 and rustic 2.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Isle Of Grain

For the last two days I have been visiting Grain and looking for any migrants that might come my way. When I used to live in Hoo St. Werburgh, this site was only 6 miles up the road but at the time I was birding with a crew who were concentrating on the north Kent coast at Reculver and generally having a good time of it. Now Grain is 20 miles away from Longfield and the closest bit of good coastal scrub within easy reach so I may end up going there a few more times during the autumn. Wandering around I reminded myself just how good the remaining habitat looks and with it so close to the estuary it is with little wonder that a few good birds have been seen in the past. One thing that did occur to me as I wandered about was that I didn't meet any other birders. Surely if this had been the north Norfolk coast as opposed to the north Kent coast I would have bumped into maybe half a dozen other people out looking for birds. So it got me thinking (and not for the first time), does Kent just have less birders than Norfolk? If not where are they and what are they doing, with habitat this good there must be something to see and find? When myself and crew birded the Reculver area we were so competitive that 'ridiculously' we matched our patch against anywhere else in the country, including the Scillies and Fair Isle, whilst being a laugh it kept us going and kept us out in the field longer as we always felt that there might be just something to look at if we took anther last scan or just stayed that extra 5 minutes.
Anyway, over the two days, just what did I see. Well to be honest not that many birds. A smattering of migrants including 2 wheaters and a couple lesser whitethroats also a couple of small groups of whitethroats which were probably local birds. Over the past two days though a hobby has been flying around the more mature scrub area feeding on the abundance of dragonflies, both migrant hawkers and common darters.

This is the moat area, a heavily overgrown ditch just oozing with migrant potential. Look how close it is to the shore. In past years I believe that both dusky and bonellis warblers have been seen here.

Behind the moat you have this area of scrub.

Then looking south into the Medway you start to get some more mature trees and more scrub. This was the area that the hobby was feeding in and in the past has been good for yellow-browed and pallas's warblers.

Well, i'll be trying to visit Grain during September and October. I cannot really call it a patch but definitely a good place to wander about in at this time of year as you never know just what might turn up.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Isle Of Grain

There just had to be some bird migration going on today, south/south easterly winds and rain. I headed of to Grain in the north west of Kent and bordering onto the Thames estuary, in the hope that I might bump into something. The area has changed a bit since I was last there, much more work going on in the power station compounds and they seem to have cleared a lot of the scrub and replaced it with gas towers! Still I headed off to the area where the sand extraction works was only to find it had gone but there was a digger working in the area so I couldn't investigate further. However the north facing beach area still looked good for migrants and this was where I saw 3 wheatears feeding amongst the WWII dragons teeth, tank traps.

There were also a couple of whitethroats in amongst the scrubby areas and 3 blackcaps near where the old sand extraction works used to be. In the past that area has been good for grass snakes but not on a day like today. The tide was well out but there was a pleasing group of 12 black-tailed godwits in-close that seemed content and remained there during my visit. A few showers started and then the rain became heavier so I changed tactics and started to pick some blackberries. Here is hoping for some good crumble over the weekend!

Friday, 29 August 2008

Longfield - Moths

An interesting night in the moth trap but probably not if you are a moth. On opening up the trap this morning there must have been around 1000 small brown beetles in amongst all the egg boxes. Not sure what species they are but as I started to empty the trap they started to fly off and disperse. A good catch of moths as well both in and around the trap. White point 4, angle shades 2m brimstone 1, small emerald 1, rustic 2, mouse 3, large yellow underwing 10, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing 3, lesser yellow underwing 2, square spot rustic 2, old lady 2, pale mottled willow 2, setaceaous hebrew character 1, thistle ermine 1, swallow prominent 1, the snout 1, cabbage moth 1, vines rustic 1 and tawny barred angle 1.

Thistle Ermine, a member of the Pyralid family and micro group of moths.

A couple of the many small beetles that had been attracted to the light trap overnight.

Weevils look amazing and very alien, this little chap was on the rim of the trap.

Another non moth caught in the trap overnight was this lovely wasp of the Ichneumon family

You have to look all around the trap to try and find those creatures that have been attracted but never quite made it by going inside. This morning I found two moths in my pond both of which I fished out and i'm happy to say are alive and well and the most beautiful moth of the night the swallow prominent was lurking in the shadows amongst the ivy behind my trap and almost got missed, clever thing. Very pleased with the 4 white points, hopefully this means that migration is well underway not only for moths but also for birds.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Longfield - Moths

In the moth trap last night were lesser broad bordered yellow underwing 12, square spot rustic 4, ruby tiger 1, spectacle 1, brimstone 1, flame shoulder 1, common rustic 2, lesser yellow underwing 1, garden carpet 1, rustic 2, large yellow underwing 6, staw underwing 1, white point 1, pale mottled willow 1. setaceous hebrew character 1, old lady 1 and an angle shades.
I then headed off down to Reculver for a wander where I heard that one of the local birders had caught 2 convolvulus hawk moths overnight, very nice, maybe in my garden one day.

Ruby Tiger

White Point, an immigrant and possible local breeder in the south of the UK. A good catch for my inland garden site.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Shorne Marshes

Apparently it's Thames marine mammal watch weekend although I cannot say it is the most heavily advertised event, I only knew because Lisa my wife caught a brief announcement on the London news on Friday. So it had to be a good time to see harbour porpoise on the Thames especially as there is not that much wind today. I'm pleased to announce that this trip to Shorne marshes has managed to maintain my 100% dip rate on trying to see any marine mammals from the fort shoreline. Still i'm not that downhearted, i'll keep trying as you never know. I only walked down the tarred road from the business park east of Shorne to the fort and back but had some nice wildlife encounters and a bit of photography fun.
A few marsh frogs were in evidence, mostly keeping quiet except when I went too close to the dyke edges and then they leapt from the bank into the ditch making some great plop! sounds.

I then managed to see 2 grass snakes in the water of one ditch, the first I have managed to catch up with this year, too quick for any photos though.
In my few visits to Shorne I had never noticed just quite how many pylons there were in the vicinity of the marshes.

A few butterflies were managing to make the most of the odd sunny spell, including red admiral, small white, gatekeeper, common blue, comma and this holly blue. When I first saw it sheltering on a bramble I fired off a couple of photos with my 300mm x 1.4 lens and then thought just how close could I go maybe with my 60mm macro. As the sun was behind some clouds I don't think it wanted to fly as I managed to get so close I couldn't focus.....

I think the holly blue had the last laugh though as I must have been a bit of an odd site to any passer by (and a few people did) with my head stuck into the adjoining prickly hawthorn bush.

You know autumn migration is happening when you start to see birds out of habitat and this 1st year reed warbler was no exception, looking for food amongst the branches of a hawthorn. A nice fresh individual.

Friday, 22 August 2008

KWT - Sevenoaks Reserve

A friend of mine informed me that some of my photos are on display at the reserve centre and as this was news to me I wanted to go and take a look. Unfortunately the centre is shut on a Friday so I went for a wander around as I hadn't visited the site before. What a great place, loads of little nooks and crannies crammed with dragonflies and damselflies, chiffs and willow warblers calling, blackcaps tacking some lovely great crested grebes and at least 5 kingfishers. Couldn't resist the following piccies.
Came across a group of 4 kingfishers one of which posed long enough for a lucky shot. This is a male due to the all black bill, the females have a red base.

There were some great spots for dragonflies and damselflies and I tried in vain to get some flight shots but managed to find this resting brown hawker.

There were a number of young great crested grebes around at various ages all with attentive parents. I just love the way this youngster is hitching a ride from mum/dad, just so cute.

Longfield - Moths

A surprisingly good night in the moth trap with brimstone 2, mouse moth 1, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing 12, scarce footman 1, straw underwing 4, Agriphila geniculea 2, common rustic 1, willow beauty 1, large yellow underwing 5, garden carpet 2, square-spot rustuc 1, rustic 1, flame shoulder 1, turnip moth 1, lesser yellow underwing 1, orange swift 1 and pale mottled willow 1.
Square-spot Rustic

Orange Swift

Garden Carpet

Scarce Footman

Actually not that scarce but more a coastal speciality so I'm really pleased to have caught this in Longfield. It holds its wings tightly to its body curving them around its abdomen, another good feature is the broad pale line across the end of the forewing. For comparison I caught a common footman on the 20th June, if you check out the blog for that day.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Longfield - Moths

I've been out of the county a little bit recently. First across the Bay of Biscay guiding for the Company of Whales and it was a bit rough in fact gusting force 7 with a 4 metre swell which made it hard to find whales and dolphins. Over 3 days and with perseverance we managed to see 8 species of cetacean which was great including 3 breaching beaked whales. Then over to Essex to lead some wildlife walks for the Forestry Commission and Thames Chase at a place called Davey Down which went very well and I find good fun to do, especially when the weather is good.
So it was good to get back to Kent and get the moth trap running on Friday. An overnight effort with the mv trap produced straw dot 1, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing 2, bright-line brown eye 1, pale mottled willow 2, straw underwing 2 and brimstone 1.

Straw Dot, this is a macro moth but could be mistaken for a pyralid type at first glance.

Straw Underwing