Sunday, 26 February 2012

An Exciting Day

We’ll I have adders 3 miles from my front door, for some people that would be horrific for me that is very exciting. A visit to the site and I find 2 male adders basking in the glorious sunshine today.
Tricky, how much do I give away as most people, and I don’t understand why, don’t like snakes. Okay maybe I do understand why but fear of snakes is a bit like fear of sharks, you have more chance of being hit on the head by a coconut than being bitten by a shark….I think it’s the press that have a fear of snakes and sharks and people that read newspapers get drawn into the unnecessary and overblown hype.
Anyway the site is a tangle of bramble, dogwood, hawthorn and silver birch.
This lovely brown and black male was coiled up taking in a few rays near to some refugia.
I was concentrating on this male so much that I nearly missed another male doing the same i.e. basking, not concentrating on the other male, in the dead grass about 5 feet from me.
After increasing their body temperatures, both snakes moved off and i managed to get a back of the head shot of the first male, useful for future id’s of individuals.
Thanks must go to Greenie for pointing out my id error with regard to the first adder which I thought was a female but is in fact a male. A rule of thumb which is generally about 90% true is that the zigzag pattern in a male is black and in a female is brown.
Don’t be afraid of snakes, certainly in the UK. Adders just want to get on with their lives, just like you and me. They will not hurt you as long as you respect them and don’t go doing something silly like trying to get too close or attempting to pick them up. I’m hoping that having adders in the area also means a healthy population of small mammals which are a preferred prey item.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Winter or Spring?

Back on the 5th Feb it looked like this.


Then 20 days later, so we are still in February, we have a beautiful almost windless, blue sky day with temperatures in excess of 10°C. It was so lovely in my back garden that I got the garden furniture out and enjoyed a cuppa in the sunshine. If only I felt better from this bloomin flu/cold thing that I cannot seem to shake off. Still a quick look around the garden produced a few surprises. At least 20, 7 spot ladybirds had emerged and spring was definitely in the air as I found a pair coupled.


A couple of hoverfly species were also around in numbers, not just singles.

Episerphus balteatus or marmalade hoverfly12_02_25_garden_episerphus_balteatus_027

Eristalis tenax, the drone fly.12_02_25_garden_eristalis_tenax_021

Green Shieldbug, in the winter they go a dark reddish-brown.12_02_25_garden_green_shieldbug_032 

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Bad Omen Or Just A Sign Of The Times

A beautiful sunny day today. Noticed in the garden a hoverfly Eristalis tenax feeding amongst open flowers of winter acconite. Otherwise still recovering from a week of illness.

And finally… Development

When I lived in Hampshire and went to secondary school, so I was about 13 or 14, I decided to have a go at the Duke Of Edinburgh award scheme. I decided that I would record the birdlife of a nearby woodland and scrub area that my parents and I had walked through many times whilst I was younger with our family dogs. My initial visits allowed me to start recording linnets and yellowhammers and I made notes not only on where I saw the birds but their behaviours even down to what direction they were flying in. The area consisted of pockets of mature oak woodland, a small stream that had water voles living in it, a rough wet marshy meadow with grazing cattle and probably orchids and then areas of gorse scrub. On my third visit to the area I was left devastated as it had turned into a construction site and had been earmarked for a huge housing development. The gorse scrub was gone, the wet meadow was wrecked and fences were being erected around the woodland pockets as The Woodland Trust had managed to save them. I remember getting home and being in a terrible state and needless to say I gave up the attempt to get my Duke Of Edinburgh award. This was undoubtedly my first personal experience, and a bad one, to the world of development and the impacts it has on the environment.

These days when I visit my mum who still lives in the area, even more of the surrounding countryside has been turned into housing estates the wet meadows are now tidied grass fields where dog walkers roam. The populations of deer have been road killed and the water voles no more.

When I moved to Longfield in Kent, I managed to get involved in an environmental impact survey on the proposal to build a new school in Longfield and a housing development in the grounds of the old school. Whilst the survey did not come up with anything that important for birdlife, there were indications that the area was good for reptiles and badgers. The development went ahead, the new school has been built and the housing development has started, I doubt the badgers and reptiles will survive the onslaught.

I started to visit the Isle of Grain with some regularity only to have this wonderfully rich wildlife area put under threat as a potential site for a new international airport.

Today I went to a local area that I had not visited before, it is called Darenth Woods or actually the old site of the Mabledon Hospital. A brownfield site and an area used for recreation by many local folks, football, toy motorbikes, guys collecting silver birch twigs for flower arranging, me looking for wildlfe and dog walkers. The area looks great for insects, reptiles, mammals and possibly orchids and maybe even Watling Street Thistle that occurs just the other side of the A2. So the first folks that I speak to mention a plan to build a crematorium there, I cannot believe it!

Am I a bad omen or is it just a sign of the times that in our small crowded country, it doesn'’t matter whether brownfield or greenfield, all sites are under increasingly significant development pressure, where will it all end?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Making Tracks

With c. 4-5inches of snow falling during the night it was worth getting out locally to see what evidence of mammals could be seen in the nearby area. Fox and rabbit tracks were certainly in evidence and it was surprising to also find badger tracks as well as a fresh latrine. I would have expected badgers to remain underground given the cold and snow. Birdwise a bullfinch calling at Longfield Chalk Bank, 34 meadow pipits around Pinden Quarry and 32 Skylarks and 41 golden plover over Churchdown Wood.

The lack of wind provided the usual magical snowfall experience.


Churchdown Wood. The same spot looking southeast (above) and northwest (below), given that I thought the snow showers were coming from the northeast it’s odd that the snow is sticking to the southern aspect of the tree trunks.


Churchdown Wood.


Looks like cotton wool rather than clumps of snow.


Fox tracks, scrambling up the side of a bank.


Longfield Chalk Bank KWT reserve.


Tangle of tree branches.


The small meadow that is Longfield Chalk Bank.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Seal Of Approval

Left home with Neil Tew thjs morning and the outside temperature reading – 5°C for Sandwich to rendezvous with Jon Bramley and Jason Armstrong to travel the river Stour and hopefully see some seals. We were the only 4 souls on the boat apart from Colin the captain who kept up an interesting running commentary of the history of the waterway and was a capable wildlife observer. Needless to say it was bloomin cold even though there was very little breeze, thankfully!



To be honest we were not expecting to see many seals hauled out on the usual sandbar as the temperature of the water was warmer than the land but as we neared the spot a group of 22 common seals came into view giving cracking views and a great photographic opportunity. Unfortunately for me at the critical moment I had to attend a voice conference for work and handed my camera to Jason who managed to grab these great shots. Jason is the person missing from the above photo.

If you are interested in going on a trip then please visit


Smiley faces.




Typical dog like face of the common seal, sometimes also called the harbour seal.


Great bannana posture almost reminiscent of Blyth’s Reed Warbler for those in the know.


This seal was probably a visitor from Essex where some of the haulouts have iron deposits laying on the surface which are picked up on the pelt giving this lovely tan colour.