Sunday 30 September 2018

Beluga Whale 25+29 September 2018, Gravesend, Kent

New mammals are few are far between, for me, these days so news around mid-day (25 Sept) of a Beluga Whale in Kent sounded too good to be true. Amazingly, however, the news was far from duff and subsequent messages seemed to confirm that this arctic cetacean was seemingly settled in a stretch of the river Thames near Gravesend - just 25 minutes from the office.

As occasionally working day involved some important guests and as the 'host' I could hardly depart. Thankfully, my guests decided to head back to London half an hour earlier than expected allowing me to take a slightly extended lunch break at 3pm.

Joined by Adrian Harris, the miles were soon being eaten up as we progressed 'quite positively' towards our chosen quarry. Whilst the sat nav seemed to be taking the correct route to the ideal parking location, our path was also being guided by BBC and Sky News helicopters. They were already in the air broadcasting the news to the masses.

The Beluga showed occasionally about two-thirds out across the Thames - amazing to see this white vagrant so close to home. I was back in the office at 5:10pm - nice!

29 September: With such a rare whale hanging in and seemingly looking fit and well, a return trip on the Saturday seemed a great opportunity for even better views. And so at 1pm, the Newham clan were all on the edge of the Thames trying to find the best vantage point from which to provide junior clan members with their first views of a whale.

The whale had moved upriver from Tuesday's sighting and was now just offshore from the Gravesend Sailing Club. Half the distance from earlier viewings, the resulting record shots are still hardly the stuff of the BBC Wildlife Photograph of the Year Awards! Not even sure I shall enter of them for the 2019 Countryfile Calendar...

Beluga Whale 29/9/18 Gravesend, Kent
Beluga Whale 29/9/18 Gravesend, Kent
Beluga Whale 29/9/18 Gravesend, Kent
Beluga Whale 29/9/18 Gravesend, Kent
And a Little Egret - just adding a little whiteness to the day...

Saturday 8 September 2018

Wasp Spiders, Grain, Kent. 8/9/18

Made a quick visit with Max to salt-marshes near Grain, Kent. Our quarry was some of the wonderful female Wasp Spiders that can be found in the low-growing vegetation. Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of wind which hampered much photography.

These beasts, first recorded in the UK in the 1920s are now found across much of southern England.

Wasp Spider, Grain, 8/9/18

Thursday 6 September 2018

Box-tree Moth, Larkfield, Kent: 5 Sept 2018

Found my first Box-tree Moth yesterday which had been attracted to an outside light felt switched on. A stunning big micro moff - just a shame it is causing so much trouble by eating box plants (Buxus sempervirens) in people's gardens.
Box-tree Moth, Larkfield, Kent, 5/9/18

Box-tree Moth wing - not quite as black and white as it first appears

Wednesday 5 September 2018

American Black Tern - 26 August 2018, Dungeness, Kent

I was only three days in to my family holiday on Scilly (Tuesday 21 Aug) when Stephen Message found a juvenile American Black Tern at Dungeness - not heading home until the Sunday I was surely set to miss yet another ABT in the UK.

As the days passed the tern hung in. Would I: wouldn't I?

Coming off Scilly on the Saturday, we fitted in a quick trip to an old house somewhere in Cornwall, owned by the National Trust. Staying overnight with the hope of visiting another relic the following morning our 'dream' was dashed with naff weather. Leaving Cornwall just before 9am, we set out... When it became apparent that we would get home at 1:30pm, Jenny started having ideas of decorating (wallpapering) Yasmine's bedroom before nightfall. I had other ideas...

Dropping the family off and evening emptying the truck and doing a Tesco shop, I departed home at 3pm in the hope that traffic and RSPB closing times were on my side.

Entering the visitor centre at 3.55pm, I sat down next to a chap scanning birds through a very wet window. It was Stephen Message - the perfect person to refind the bird...

As it was, I picked up the bird flying the other side of the pit - a surprisingly distinctive bird amongst the many Black Terns. Stephen confirmed my ID and the rest, as they say, is history.

And if you follow UK400 listing rules, this was the 550th species in the UK for me (518 BOU, I think!).

American Black Tern in naff viewing conditions, Dungeness, Kent, 26 August 2018

American Black Tern (left) with Black Tern (right) - photo Mike Buckland, Travels with Birds

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Some Scilly Macro Moths - 18-25 Aug 2018

Managed to fit a little sugaring in to my family holiday on Scilly this year. Spent two nights in windy conditions not finding Black-banded on Penninis and then a stiller evening in Carreg Dhu Garden.

White-speck (a dark one), Penninis, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly
White-speck (as above) 
White-speck (as above)
Angle Shades (left) and White-speck (right)
Dark Sword Grass (a nice dark one)
Red Underwing, Tesco Abbey Gardens, Tresco (also found another in Carreg Dhu Garden)
Mullein Wave
Angle Shades
Yellow-tail (masses of them on the footpath out to Penninis)
Small Blood-vein
Ruby Tiger
Yellow Shell (a nice bald one!)
Small Fan-footed Wave

Some Scilly Micro Moths - 18-25 August 2018

Whilst on the Isles of Scilly I managed to escape on a couple of evenings to shine a torch around and net a few moffs. Of the few that I caught, there were probably a couple that I hadn't seen before.

Thiodia citrana (perhaps)

Who knows? Agriphila geniculea perhaps?

Anania fuscalis perhaps?

Saturday 1 September 2018

20 August 2018 - Pelagic of the Isles of Scilly

Took an evening pelagic out with Joe Pender on the Sapphire. Good to see some of the local boys out on the waves again. The different factor for pelagics off Scilly these days is the presence of Atlantic Blue-fin Tuna. These huge fish (up to 3m) drive fry to the surface - this initially attracts Gannets and then other seabirds join in. The resulting feeding frenzy is a spectacle not expected off the UK coastline.
Seeing the splashes of the Tuna and diving Gannets ahead...
Lots of activity...
Atlantic Blue-fin Tuna
Thousands of fry driven up to the surface...
Storm Petrel
Great Shearwater
Adult Sabine's Gull
Adult Sabine's Gull
Great Skua
Sooty Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Wilson's Petrel (upper carpal bar and wing moult)
Wilson's Petrel (toe projection)
Wilson's Petrel (band)

Lots of seabirds!
Spur Dog (a small shark of the dogfish family)
And when the frenzy ends - just a pile of Gannets are left...