Thursday, 30 May 2013

My Favourite Hobby

Last Saturday my mum and I decided to drive down to Grove Ferry and take advantage of the sunny weather. The last time we went there we didn't stay long and made it to one hide absolutely drenched, so this time we took no chances and wore rain macs, jumpers and walking boots. Very unnecessary it turned out! We took a picnic which we actually ate before we went walking because we couldn't be bothered carrying it around! Fed and watered, we set off. We took a circular route which led us along by the river Stour where there was an abundance of life! There were a few mallards strutting their stuff, and asserting dominance. They are such beautiful birds and ones which aren't appreciated enough! The photo below of the drake is okay, I would have preferred the full reflection to have been captured but I didn't have time to think about that. As with most of my photos at the moment, there is always room for improvement, but you have to start somewhere!!

Drake mallard
 Also along by the river we saw quite a few peacock butterflies and the one in the image below was quite accommodating. We also saw a damselfly that we hadn't encountered before. After consulting an insect guide we believe it was either a banded demoiselle or a beautiful demoiselle but couldn't say for sure because it floated off too quickly for a record photo.
Peacock butterfly

Peacock on a nettle
All along the river we had heard birds singing, calling and just generally filling our ears with delightful sounds. We caught a glimpse of a small slim warbler type and thought it could have been a willow warbler, but it didn't stop for long. Further up river and near Tower hide we watched the bird shown below flitting amongst reeds, trees ad bushes. If anyone would like to identify it for me that would be great! We think probably willow warbler due to its yellow stripe above the eye and quite long wings? But its legs appear darker so chiff chaff maybe? Or neither?! It wasn't calling like a chiff chaff but I'm not great at IDing through calls! Anyway please do comment below if you know! 

Chiffchaff or willow warbler or neither? Clear yellow stripe above the eye and dark stripe through the eye points more towards willow warb? However quite dark legs, maybe just in shadow?

Chiffchaff or willow warbler or neither?!

Chiffchaff? Willow warbler??
 In addition to the glorious bird song surrounding us, the marsh frogs also let us know they were all around us. A sound which transports me back to my Gramps' house near Tenterden where you couldn't escape the wonderful noise they make. He had ponds in his garden and I used to love finding the baby frogs which had just developed from tadpoles. I miss those days!

Spot the marsh frog
We reached Tower hide and had a brief sit down in there and watched over the lake where swifts were skimming across the surface of the water, where there was a bounty of insects! We came out of the hide and were admiring the myriad of swifts when we noticed a bird of prey, a little swift-like in flight. We saw it twist and turn and catch something mid-air. Possibly a dragonfly! As we knew this was a Hobby we were watching! We had seen them a couple of times before, but in passing. This was seeing one on a whole new level! Not only was this our finest sighting yet, but there were lots of them! We noticed one perched on a tree branch in the distance and several more performing in the same manner. It was FANTASTIC! Similarly to swifts, they are quick and difficult to photograph so I am pretty happy with the images I captured on this walk as first attempts!


Common blue damselfly (probably hobby fodder!)
 This area is well known for the high prevalence of harriers. A couple of years ago we went along on one of the local RSPB walks at Stodmarsh at dusk to witness them coming into roost which was a wonderful sight. They are always a pleasure to watch and it was great to see the contrast in size between them, the hobbys and the swifts!

Marsh harrier

Walking through the wooded area we again heard lots of warbler song. It was SO loud and it was great to see this little blackcap amongst the foliage and put a bird to the song! Not the greatest photo but my first of a blackcap so thought I would include it.

Male blackcap

We stopped at a hide and watched a family of coots paddling around the lily pads. Coot chicks are funny things, they look more like they should be moorhen chicks, in my opinion! We also watched a mute swan sitting on its nest, carefully rearranging parts and making itself comfortable. Besides these, there were a couple of gadwall and a few greylag geese, but not much else.

Coot and some of its chicks

All the coot chicks

Mute swan


Our final stretch of the walk provided us with some better views of marsh frogs, which helpfully plopped into the water as we walked past. We got excited thinking it may have been a water vole, but when we looked closely at the water we realised it was indeed a froggy! Not that we were complaining, it is lovely to see so many marsh frogs around!

We stopped briefly at one last hide (I can't remember the names of them!) before we had to get home in time for me to go to work. We observed this pair of common terns wandering about on this jetty-like area, scuffling around and looking like they were settling down for the rest of the afternoon. The mallards ignored them completely.
Common terns and a couple of mallards

Common terns
 Just before we reached the car, I took one last snap of this Jackdaw amongst the grass and multitude of buttercups.

So there we have it, a glorious afternoon that I wont forget in a hurry! Unfortunately I had to dash back for work, but at least we had enjoyed the sunshine and birds for some of the day!

May has been a great month for me! I hope June brings some warm and sunny weather and equally lots more wildlife and nature!

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read and comment on my blog :) and if you know what the warbler is please let me know!


  1. Looks like there was plenty to see, nice read and some great shots.

  2. I can't believe that's your first attempt at photogrsphing Hobbies Lou! They are VERY good, visiting places like Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry you're going to get plenty more attempts and you got the hardest part, keeping them in the viewfinder.
    The warbler is definately a chiffchaff or willow warbler, since they're paired up with females by now they won't call too much except contact/warning calls etc. I'm going out on a limb and going to say Chiff-Chaff. But I have to say I'm only 80% certain on that. Not very helpful..sorry

    1. Thank you Douglas :) I had some practice on the swifts! They were flying pretty close so were very kind to me! I was happy that some were at least in focus! Thanks for your advice on the warbler :)

  3. That looked like a very enjoyable visit Lou and you saw lots of interesting things and took some lovely photos. Beautiful ones of the Peacock Butterfly and a great action capture of the Mallard. I too think you probably have a Chiffchaff but it's always very difficult to be sure. Lovely to see the Marsh Frogs too, we don't have those in this area at all. I agree with Douglas about the Hobby photos also, they are very good!

  4. I meant to ask if you were sure about the Blackcap, it didn't look quite right to me and I wondered about Reed Bunting....maybe it was the shadows though.

    1. Thank you for your comments :)Glad that there is agreement on the warbler! It was a blackcap, I was watching it for a while before I got the photo and just snapped that at the last minute. It was singing like a blackcap too :) I hope you have a lovely weekend!