Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Hi Queenie

Went to Grain on Sunday to try and get some photos of the shorelark at high tide. A bright but windy day found me wandering up to the small beach that the shorelark seems to prefer to find not a shorelark but a Barry Wright instead.


Barry indicated that there was no sign of the shorelark but instead there was a fine gathering of sanderling, dunlin, turnstone, ringed plover and a purple sand. What cute chaps feeding and resting amongst the seaweed and attractive shoreline rubbish.


Barry managed to get some cracking shots of the purple sand before I arrived after that it became a bit trickier and the best I could manage was it sensibly having a doze albeit with one eye on me!


Barry and I then went our separate ways and as I wandered along the seawall heading further into the Medway a furry blob winged its way toward me and crashed into the grassy bank.


This is a Bombus terrestris or for those of us that struggle with latin names, me included, a buff-tailed bumblebee and a queen to boot.No doubt someone will tell me it is a queen white-tailed bumblebee but in the other photos I have the tip of the abdomen looks buff, honest. B. terrestris is a species that does emerge early in the year and there have already been plenty of sightings this year. There wasn’t much evidence of flowering plants in the near vicinity so whether this queen was going to survive I’m not sure as she certainly looked a bit dazed and was just trying to warm up a little bit. By their very nature though bumblebees being furry have adapted to life in a cold climate and in fact they don’t like really hot days as they overheat and tend to stay below ground level in their nests. Even so Jan 22nd is stretching the bounds of survival for this beastie methinks a few accompanying flowering plants would have been good.

Starting to head for home I checked the Mosco pool to see if the ring-necked duck that has been in the area was on view but once the teal, pochard and tufted ducks took one look at me they decided to leave en mass even though I was on the road a nowhere near them. Still I don’t think it was there.

A phone call from Barry (thank you) later found me joining him at Northward Hill looking at a reasonably close (i.e. in Kent!) juvenile rough-legged buzzard.

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At least in the photos you can make out the tail pattern.

So no shorelark but plenty of good wildlife and some pleasing photos.

And finally…RSPB

A long time ago, I visited the legendary Minsmere RSPB reserve for the first time. Back then, even though I was in my teens I was too old to join the YOC, so I had to pay full RSPB membership (£12) and had to apply to get a permit to visit Minsmere. In those days, I don’t think you could just turn up and get in, or if you did you risked being turned away as the number of daily visitors was restricted. Coming from Hampshire having a pre-paid approved permit allowed me to turn up at the wardens hut get my name checked against a register and off I went with me dad for a day watching rarities such as avocets and marsh harriers. Fast forward a few years and I’m now living in Kent and visiting Elmley a lot. Certainly the RSPB has changed a bit and now you don’t need to apply to visit reserves. I’m getting more aware of the environment and other aspects of the natural world than just birds. I get to know a few RSPB wardens and ask them about reserve management but the RSPB reserves are just there for the birds, not interested in protecting anything else, birds, birds, birds, birds and birds. Seemed a shame to me but hey what did I know and birds were pretty cool. Fast forward a bit more, the RSPB strapline, ‘for birds, for people, for ever’ still implies it’s just for birds but now people are included too, a lot of new reserves with great visitor facilities were appearing. Fast forward to today, who would have thought that the content of Birds magazine would have included so many pictures of other wildlife, even including mammals on the front cover! Who would have thought that the RSPB would have had so much success conserving not just birds but a whole forest eco-system in Sierra Leone, fantastic. I like the RSPB, I’ve supported them for years and they do a brilliant job, some of my best friends work for them, they are a British success story. So why can’t they get it right at Cliffe Pools?

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