Sunday 31 August 2008

30 August 2008 - Scilly Isles

Day one of this short trip to Scilly. Team Intrepid (the Good Lady Wiff, Old Father Time and my good self) arrived in plenty of time to gather provisions and then for me to head out on one of the mini evening pelagics. Joining the locals at 4.30pm, the weather was really calm and even if that hoped-for White-faced petrel didn't turn up - surely it was going to be a good opportunity to snap a few cetaceans - or citations, as Doug calls em.

Only a mile out of Hugh Town harbour and I picked up a cetacean spp a couple of hundred yards in front - it then became apparent that we were indeed watching a whale species. An amazingly close encounter of under 20 yards had me suggesting Humpback - definately different from the usual Fin, Mankes that I've seen off the islands.

The ID was doubtful until a good view of the underside of the tail gleamed back white in the afternoon sun - this really was starting to look like the Humpbacks we'd seen in Antarctica a couple of years ago.

And then, just to ensure that we'd got the ID correct, the whale did what whales don't usually do - it lept out of the water to show us its flippers, tail, the whole flippin lot. Amazing!

We had the beast on show on and off for 45 minutes, during which time it breeched twice and generally performed superbly.For the observers on the boat the adrenalin maintained at high enough levels that we were all still buzzing from the experience several hours later when we arrived back at Hugh Town harbour.

As for other stuff seen - who cares? We certainly didn't. OK, a Sooty Shearwater, several Manx and Stormies, couple of Black Terns, etc - and a damn great Humpback Whale!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday 27 August 2008

27 August 2008 - East Malling and Downe, Kent

Now, recently I've posted a few Ladybird pictures - some of them have even been in focus ("Which makes a change", I hear you shout). But just as the easy ones were getting very difficult for me, today, life got even more difficult. Now I reckon this little beastie is a Pine Ladybird. What it on a pine tree? What it b... f... s.... f.. b...!
But, never mind, I hadn't realised things could get more difficult until this yellow none-spotted ladybird walked in to camera shot - and this little b... f... s... f... b... was on a conifer - surely it can't also be a Pine Ladybird!

Speckled Wood - you just can't stop taking picture off em when they pose like this.

Nipplewort - to you to, Madam.

Yellow Cruciferae thing.

And then, the very helpful Ali Riggs emailed through some directions for Serotine Bat.... Such good info was too... er.. good, not to act on it. So 90 minutes later the Bearded One and I were heading towards Downe on something of a wild bat chase. Despite using the very detailed directions, we found the wrong golf course with the wrong footpath with the wrong building....
After being accosted by locals for acting 'wierd', we were sent to the other side of Downe to the correct road and farm house.
Within 10mins of arrival a huge Monster of a bat departed the building and flew directly over head - brilliant. Thanks Ali!

Upon leaving the site a Common Toad, so appauled at my Surrey Heath Toad being the first one I'd ever photographed, duly put in an appearance for the camera.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

26 August 2008 - East Malling

A quick lunchtime wander found me staring at these bright orange little fungi.

Now quite which little orange fungi it is - I don't know, but hopefully Greenie will post soon....
Scutellinia umbrarum - Thanks Greenie!

Green Sheild Bug - I assume, but was surprised to see masses of them on the herbage. None of these seemed to be adults - and some of them seemed very wee indeed.

My ladybird ID hasn't come along a lot recently, but now understand it's a 14-spot.

And the less said about my Spid ID, the better...
And thanks again to Greenie for the Garden Spid ID - I must get the Spid book out more...

Monday 25 August 2008

25 August 2008 - Elmley

A morning visit to Elmley RSPB produced sheds loads of Marsh Harriers in cluding this juvenile bird that seemingly took great delight in moving sticks from one place to another.

This young/female also in attendance and welcoming visitors to the reserve.

Loads of Common Darters in the mini woodland - several of them doing their best to look like Ruddy Darters,but from the yellow on the side of the thorax, not black legs, etc, I reckoned I hadn't actually seen any Ruddies all day - Darter or Duck!!!

This Migrant Hawker tried to pose - but unfortunately a bit too high in the bush, resulting in the overly bright background.

Several Brown Argus also in the woodland, trying to take shelter in the strong wind.

Plenty of Curlews on teh reserve, all cleverly staying just out of photo reach.

The Elmley Spid... I really must take the tripod out to get some decent Spid pics - though in today's wind, I suspect that the challenge of an 'in focus' image would still have been too great!

Immature Goldfinch - looking rather smug about something.

Sunday 24 August 2008

23 August 2008 - Surrey Heaths

With an evening visit to Portsmouth on the cards, the Good Lady Wiff persuaded me to stop en route and attempt to find reptiles on the Surrey Heaths.

Suffice to say that our reptile hunting wasn't overly successful, though a count of several yound Common Lizards, 3x Slow worms and an Adder wasn't bad - but it also wasn't our target species (Smooth Snake & Sand Lizard). Oh, well.

My first photo of a Common Toad was an unexpected highlight...

Better was this female Bog Cricket. Possibly a new Orthoptera for me - I really must jump to it and count the spacies I've seen.

Possible Leopard Slug - but possibly not.
Fox Moth caterpillar - several seen on the heaths.

Devil's Matches - and very many thanks to Greenie for saving my blushes and pointing out that this is a litchen and not a fungi at all.

Common Earth-ball (Scleroderma citrinum)

Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus)

Probable - Bay boletus (Boletus badius)
And I'm very grateful to Greenie for all these latter corrections to my misidentifications. I seems just as well that I hadn't started to eat many of the above (or given them to The Good Lady Wiff for that matter...) - though this last Boletus may have been a missed opportunity for a free meal.

21 August 2008 - East Malling

A day of not being able to identify much (again).

This wee beetle being start of non-identifications.

And then this sawfly.

And then this fly.

Finally, this Speckled Wood did its best to boost my morale - if only it had been a better specimen.

Monday 18 August 2008

18 August 2008 - East Malling

Little of note after yesterday's excitements. A lunchtime wander round the site produced three Garden Carpet moths - of which this was the brightest individual (it had an IQ of.. ).

Armed with my copy of 'Spids of Britain and Northern Europe', I thought I'd try and identify a few individuals. The first one I photographed bears no resemblance of any spid in my spid book and is therefore, without any shadow of a doubt, a new species to science - well dome me! Alternatively, of course, one could conclude that I'm crap at spids - any help in identifying this one would be much appreciated (I can't even get to a genus level).

17 August 2008 - Burham Down and then...

What to do? Attempt Sand Lizards in cool weather in Surrey or something a little closer to home. Forgoing a trip to the Surrey heaths, The Bearded One and I met up on Sunday morning. We knew there was a Valley of Visions Dormouse walk on at Burham Down - but we hadn't booked on this 'Booking Essential' trip and we didn't know where to meet up.

Undaunted by such minor failings in our plan, we opted for the Blue Bell Hill car park - and there, in glorious monotone, a Kent Wildlife Trust Landrover, complete with warden Steve, all ready to go on a Dormouse walk.

Yes - we could join in... marvellous
A guided walk around various parts of Burham Down, talking about copising, etc, was excellent whilst a visit to the nest box scheme produced one male and a female with young. The male was duly weighed and recorded.

Only down side of the day was the pillock who, on being shown one Buzzard at close range, then pointed to four distant gulls circling over the lakes in the medway valley and declared, "Four more Buzzards"!!!!!! One of these gulls was even a flippin adult! Now you might think I'm being rather harsh with my comments - but when corrected (by a few of us) he still insisted he was right and that everyone else was wrong.... and we were very polite about the whole 'eposode'.

Definately a smart little chap.

And my 48th species of mammal in the UK (I think).

It was after a pub lunch and whilst on stroll along the Pilgrim's Way that day really went Pete Tong. Mega-alert on the pager, Audouin's Gull at Chapel St Leonard's, Lincolnshire.

Now, I must be the only Kent based birder that needs Audouin's Gull - having missed the first one due to a birding trip to Equador. I had phoned The Bearded One from Madrid, on my way home, to see if there was anything about, to receive the reply, "Not any more", and then to be told about the Dungeness bird.

And if that wasn't bad enough, even the Dunge bird wasn't my first attempt at Audouin's Gull - Doug and I had headed to Montrose several years ago on a rumour that turned out to be nuffin!

And if that wasn't bad enough, I dipped the Yorkshire bird by an hour.

And if that wasn't bad enough, I dipped the second Dunge bird by thirty minutes.

And if that wasn't bad enough, I then, in classic 'bad-Audouin's-luck-style', missed the Dorset bird by under one second - the bloke was looking down his scope at it, he beckoned me over, he looked at it again, "Yes, still there", he leant back, I leant forward, a nearby car back-fired and all the f...f...f...gulls flew - never to be seen again.

Now, half way round a walk , somewhere along the Pilgrim's Way wasn't ideal with a wife who's nearly 7 months pregnant - but I shall be eternally grateful to her heading back to the car as quickly as possible and probably overdoing things as she did.

Just after 4.30pm, and fully ladden with loads of office work to do the following day, I drove the car out of the parking bay, filled the car with fuel and headed north. The sat nav said ETA = 8.25pm... The pager said, 'negative news' followed by 'negative news'...

A 'positive' drive found me in the car park at Chapel St Leonards at 7.30pm, a walk up the steps found me alongside Lee Gregory, Matthews Deans and a mass of Lincs birders. Knowing my past experience of Audouin's, Lee declared that the bird wouldn't show this evening and the others duly headed off for chips.

20 minutes on and a few local birders had picked up a distant gull on the sea - as it drifted closer and closer it became more and apparent that I was looking at my first UK Audouin's Gull. Many birders were struggling to get on to the bird (those gathering chips were finding it impossible). Drifting in a southerly we were surely heading for an excellent 'swim past' (the lazy bird equivalent of a fly-past'), but, just as all the salient features had been noted, this little b...b...b...bird had other ideas and duly flew up and directly out to sea. The chip hunters ran back and just saw the bird distantly as it tried to look like any other distant gull.

The 180 mile return drive was completed at a slightly more sedate pace, with my bed eventually bumping in to me at around 12.30am.

521 species in the UK - nice.

Thursday 14 August 2008

14 August 2008 - East Malling & Larkfield Lakes

With rain at lunchtime, little opportunity to take any snaps until after work - and then only a quick sprint which provided scant reward apart this aging Red Admiral.

Had a wander around the lakes just to frighten the locals and take a few midnight shots of t moon on this very still evening.
Finally resorted to adding constellations to the list of images by attempting The Plough. You try and work it out!

Wednesday 13 August 2008

13 August 2008 - Work

With heavy rain at lunchtime The Good Lady Wiff and I were reduced to a quick walk after work, just to stretch our legs. A search of the trees produced this Dark Spinach - though quite where this name originates, I know not.

Apart from the Tawny Owl up in the usual tree, the only other fauna seen was this mayfly species, possibly Centroptilum luteolum.

Any guidance on the accuracy of the identification of these two snaps would be appreciated. Though many may consider that mini-moths and mayflies are less interesting than watching paint dry.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

12 August 2008 - Work and Larkfield Lakes

A wander round the tree trunks at work produced little of note (bark isn't that interesting) apart from this Grey Dagger. I say Grey Dagger, as opposed to Dark Dagger, owing to the similarity of this individual to the illustration in the Lewington moth book. Now truth be told, the two species can only be separated with any degree of certainty by close examination of the male genitalia (the moth's, of course!). As East Malling has an ancient by-law preventing such perverted activities, I left it it alone... but it still looks like the Grey Dagger.

An evening stroll with The Good Lady Wiff produced a few bat shots - this one my favourite.
"Why only half a bat, Baldie?", I hear you shout. Cos the flippin thing was too low when I pressed the shutter. Would have been a great picture - as it is, I have a naff picture instead!

This chap is OK, but not nearly as good as the other two nearly were.