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!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Hail and Blue Skies

I seem to have a bit of a back log of material for blog posts, mainly because I have been at work the last 3 days and haven't had a chance! Last Thursday I took pup down to Oare Marshes with my Dad. There weren't any people about, which seemed odd at the time. Later on we realised why! Anyway here are a few photos from the walk...

Sedge warbler

Sedge warbler




Black-tailed godwits

 We were enjoying our walk that had already brought quite a few species, when the heavens opened. Not with rain, but indeed with hail. We were transported back to winter in an instant. Freezing cold and soaked. This weather was made slightly more bearable because the swifts and swallows were producing the most fantastic flight display. Hundreds of them. Swooping, gliding, darting, skimming over our heads and over the water. Breath taking!

The storm that we encountered passed on

Beautiful mute swan

After our extremely wet and cold walk, we headed back to my car where I had brought a flask of tea and ginger nut biscuits that Mum had made. Once warmed up, I headed home to dry pup off!

Typically the afternoon's weather was quite the opposite of the morning's. Beautiful sunshine and blue skies!


Pup looking cute with his garden toy

I wonder if he is thinking 'why is she taking more photos of me, just play with me!'
From the earlier rain, many of the flowers and leaves in the garden had perfectly formed raindrops on them, which in the sun glinted like diamonds.

Symmetrical Valerian


Buddleia leaf

'Our' pair of blue tits are being fabulous parents, constantly taking food into the nest box for their cheeping and chirping babies! We would love to have a camera in the nest box for next spring, so I will be saving my pennies!! 
Blue tit with the next insecty snack
Bracken had fun playing in the garden as usual so here I will leave you with a photo of him up the wrong way!

On Saturday we left pup at home and drove to Grove Ferry where we walked a circular route via Stodmarsh. Amazing walk!! Look back soon to see why we had such a fabulous walk!!