Monday, 19 December 2011

Your Christmas Card 2011

Thank you for following this blog in 2011

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Nature Diary December 2011


The first semblance of winter has been a drop in temperature to single figures, but the prevailing wind that has been blowing for the last couple of weeks is a more decisive issue in feeling the cold. In the depth of the woods however, one is largely insulated from this effect and a lovely sunny spell this morning and through lunchtime was a tonic. The bird feeder is doing its job with a small group of great and blue titmice buzzing back and forth to feed on the black sunflower seeds. The delight of the day was undoubtedly the dozen strong group of long tailed tits foraging for food on the bare branch twigs a few feet above my head. The black spot, was clearing up dog shit bags that had been thrown high into the blackthorn bushes by the swing gate to the Rookery. I can understand the trash strewn by the students walking to the car park, they are too stupid to care about Nature, but flinging bags of shit into the bushes - incomprehensible.


A slight diversion, but wildlife of a sort.


The last day of the year, temperatures mild, wild birds modestly active at the feeders. The hide is now installed and camouflaged, a nice variety of birds are visiting. All that is needed now is some nice pictures.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Nature Diary November 2011

There are aliens in our woods!

A gradual evolution in colour renders the mature fungus orange.

Two forms of the calvatia excpuliformis

Much of early November had been spent attending to pecuniary matters, but finally I got my head out from under the dark financial clouds and made a few refreshing visits to Hayes, via the common and woods.

Where the month had started dry, the arrival of rain and then a return to warmth, suddenly stimulated the growth of fungi and by the the third week in the month, the woods were festooned with the tiny red headed balls of the fly agaric. Blewetts, though were most prolific in the dank leaves of the coppice, but in the dryer parts, so too were field mushrooms, contrasted with the sole appearance of an elegantly small shaggy cap. Disguised among the newly fallen leaves, a group of brown puff balls seem to have grown to an enormous size - starting up, as large as a child's fist and as long as a forearm in strange distorted forms.

The branches of blackthorn and hawthorn, now free of leaves, stand out with hundreds of small round berries. Deprived of moisture, this is no swollen harvest, but because of the wonderful blossom set, this phenomenon of miniature fruits is compensated by sheer numbers and enough for any amount of birds or fat squirrels.

28th November

Biking out of the far exit to Norman Park by the track, I came across a beautiful group of pristine parasol mushrooms. The turn in the weather might be too much for this late show of fungi, but Westerly winds still prevail and the heating will remain off until the wind switches around to the North East.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Nature Diary October 2011

1st October 2011

More by sound than by sight, and with a great deal of urgent fuss, our nights are being disturbed - not by the reveling vandals on an overnight stint, but by a very noisy Tawny Owl. Whether the arrival of the owl is coincident to the warm weather, or coincident to other factors is a mystery at this time. Why is it here now and not before and if it is setting up a territory, what is the attraction. Is it seeking certain prey, is nesting in the locality a possibility?

5th October

The hot weather has receded back to the continent and the trees are shedding leaves in an abnormally rapid way. I surmise that the sudden drop in temperature and the dessication from the mini Indian Summer is responsible. wandering through the allotment, I came upon the day's only butterfly; a speckled wood caught in a web. Remarkably it was alive and after untwining it from the spiders threads, I put in a laurel bush, from where it took flight on the prevailing gusty breeze.

9th October 2011

The weather has retained some of its summer character with with warm conditions but with a strong prevailing wind. Nevertheless, on a trip to the National Trust acerage at Petts Wood I saw a rather scruffy peacock taking the afternoon sun. Little fungi activity though after such a long period in which rainfall has been very limited.

14th October 2011

The last few days have been typically autumnal, though many trees. including the birch outside my window, have hung on to their leaves in wonderful fashion. Nothing has been typical about this years climate - record spring warmth, summer rain and an Indian summer period to break all records. Where it leaves the wildlife is open to conjecture, but I suspect that there is an agency at work beyond so called Global Warming that is adding an element of instrumental consciousness to the natural patterns of the past.

15th October 2011

A charm of goldfinches adorned my roof at eight. They were taking the first rays of the sun and flew to the birch on my showing at the window. I was preparing my very early morning start - an event, on this occasion prompted by an invitation to walk a dog, which soon found me, on this crisp autumn morning, walking across a frosty meadow towards an old friend, The River Cray. I was among the first to arrive, but the area soon started to fill up with dog walkers. The enchanting sight of a local river, with normal levels of water flowing, was a treat. Following directions from my absent friend (car problems), I walked towards a quieter spot along the bank. The mist hung low in the more open stretches of the river in a delicate grey haze. the natives were not at all as I had found them before (1970's) and it was smiles and hello's all round from the first few dog walkers I encountered. At the iron bridge, to which I had been directed, I saw a lovely sight, not the kingfishers I had been told of, but a grey wagtail delicately feeding among the sticks and leaf debris of the shallow flowing river. I also disturbed an egret on the way back - it was perched in the middle canopy overlooking the river.

And finally to round off the day, my butterfly report: one Speckled Wood and one male Holly Blue emergent prospecting the oak tree line inside the field near the college bus stop, looking for one of these.

Holly blue female - spring

Another bright morning down by the Cray River, where I finally saw the kingfisher. Again the people out with their dogs was the biggest deterrent to more footage, but I was not so upset and had to accept this was how it was, but the banality of the conversations I overheard was confirmation of my worst fears about people.

The month ended in a haze of mist and bright sunshine, just as it had begun with my pursuing of the kingfisher on the river Cray at North Cray Meadow. As it had been at the start, so it was at the end, lots of sights, but none of the sedentary bird. The compensation was a chapter and verse experience of the grey wagtail - filmed for minutes on end, delightfully hopping and dipping across the top of the Five Arches weir and on other parts of the sunlit river.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Nature Diary September 2011

Nature breathes a sigh as the kids slowly wind their way towards a new school term. Forgotten are their woodland forays and so too my reticence of a cool cloudy August. The hottest spring and the coolest summer, how could it be otherwise. In the coppice; the acrid smell of stinkhorn fungi combine to make a memorable day, with the wonderful sight of a family of four deer browsing among the burnt coppiced chestnut. The red admiral is notable by its faded markings and ragged wings, also the speckled wood and the small white, but otherwise, it is mainly the forest birds, that are most busy, secreting stores of the abundant harvest of late summer - ahead of the approaching winter. Later in the day, on a further foray to Hayes, I saw the unexpected sight of a pair of green veined white butterflies mating.

8th September 2011

The sun has returned to remind us that it is not quite autumn, though the unexpected sight of a giant puffball, kicked apart in pieces, reminds us too that it cannot be far away and that other species of fungi will soon follow to adorn our woods.

The violent act of destruction also reminds us how deeply rooted are the primitive fears that are passed generation to generation, that fungi can spell death. Yet did they but know it, the magic, that is so often confused with the spirit in religions worldwide, owes its origins to hallucinogenic fungi and in particular the little red man; the fly agaric.

15th September

Warm sunny conditions have returned and with it a few butterflies. Cycling through the woods by Gumping Road, a speckled wood flew out to greet Gemma and I and later in Chatterton Road there was an overflying Vanessid heading South. The Jay and the nuthatch were most busy in the woods, with the autumn harvest of acorns, that this year prolifically hang in great bunches from the sagging boughs of still green oaks.

22th September

Warm sunny conditions have returned after a cooler cloudy spell of weather. There is still a hint of summer, but the butterflies are scarce, a remaining red admiral, a small white and a few speckled woods. Fruit laden boughs betoken the amazing spring, where blossom set was universally sucessful, but even the bramble has much fruit this year.

An appeal was broadcast on national radio this morning, warning of the threat to greenfinches and chaffinches of a virus that has been circulating in the UK since 2005 that has restricted the two bird species. The public are being asked to supply information if they notice sick birds. My experience is that numbers fell prior to 2010, but have picked up since - this might be temporary.

23rd September

A change of venue took me into the eighty eight acre National Trust woodland at Petts Wood. The woods are a short bike ride away and have always yielded wonderful fungi. This morning I saw the first prime fly agarics, though there were no stinkhorns that I could detect. Amanita citrina and St Georges mushrooms were also on show, but all the fungi I saw were fairly small.

25th September

A walk through the chestnut coppice at Hayes George Lane yielded several tantalizing areas in which the acrid smell of the stinkhorn lingered on the moving breeze. a few vanessids are still about - flying above head height, but mostly it is speckled woods that can be seen.

At dusk. the little owl was seen back on sentry duty in the allotment, maybe drawn from a more concealed perch to harass its arch enemy the fox, and giving off long piercing cries of anxiety and aggression at the furry intruder.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Nature Diary August 2011

Wow! Wow! Wow, that is how I feel about another stunning first. If fieldwork teaches us anything, it is not to make assumptions, which is why I was in bewilderment at the sight of a very, very pale blue butterfly flying on Brook Wood Common, just beyond the isolated oaks. It was 5.15 p.m, the heat of the day was subsiding and the butterfly only fluttered a few yards before resting. Wings closed in the rank herbage, where horseshoe vetch was sprouting up, it was unmistakably a male CHALK HILL BLUE. Like the isolated orchid before, it shows that the area can play host to chalk downland species, but quite how I do not know. The nearest colony to my knowledge is in Shoreham, but there are also colonies in nearby Woldingham, Surrey. The tendency for colonial butterflies to peak in any given locality and therefore discharge members to the wind, is an interesting phenomenon. In all the cases of vagrant butterflies that I have recorded, there has been a Northerly progression (dark green fritillary at Ruxley 1978) - as with the more recognised migrants from abroad. On the 15th July the S. W. winds picked up to 15mph on the tail of an anti cyclone. This might just have been the conditions necessary to get a butterfly moving. The strong colonial bond that is generated between certain butterflies is almost certainly a product of pheromones. It is not unlikely that any given colony reaching a peak density will produce the occasional sport, or it might simply be that the butterfly was confused by gusting wind conditions. Similarly, but in a more generalised way, I have had local sighting reports of the Jersey Tiger, a moth I saw while in the West country in July - not far from its heartland in Devon. Its appearance on the South coast of the UK is consistent with a northerly movement across the channel, but how and why it is turning up so numerously in suburban London is open to speculation.

speckled wood (abundant)
hedge brown (abundant)
meadow brown (declining)
small heath (scarce)
large white
small white
purple hairstreak (numerous-widespread)
common blue (increasing)
chalk hill blue (single M)
holly blue (single) 8.8.2011
peacock (scarce)
comma (numerous)
red admiral (numerous)
small/essex skipper (numerous)
large skipper (declining)

Butterfly status at the start of August.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Nature Diary July 2011

1.7.2011 - 5.7.2011

An early morning foray at seven into the clearing, after a rather barren spell in the allotment looking for owls, gave a rich reward, which was the sight of a relatively sedentary purple hairstreak on the low branches and plants surrounding the small oak - where I set up my hide last winter. It leads me to suspect the purple hairstreak is far more prevalent and widespread than I first thought.


The month turned on the hottest day of the year so far, but by the 5th, rain had set in from the West, where I had been working and where I saw my first Jersey Tiger for a few years. The owls are out of the nest and a single well fledged young owl is being fed by the adult female from familiar perching posts around the allotment and in the host tree. The fate of the other owl is subject to speculation, but it was ready to fly a few days prior to my return to filming. Like much of the footage this year, including the mating sessions I filmed in Spring, this rather long unedited clip was shot in the gathering gloom of nightfall, something older video cameras were simply unable to do.

The weather is swinging from hot to cold and then back again. Last night was wet and cold with few flying insects, but today has been a mixture of rain, clouds and warm sun, with a strong blustery wind from the West.

The purple hairstreak colony is my current preoccupation and seems to stretch throughout the woods, wherever there are oaks clumped together in small groups.

Meadow Brown
Red admiral
Large skipper
Small skipper

White Admiral France

7th July

A trip to George Lane proved very worthwhile in determining the extent of the purple hairstreak colony, which stretches the whole extent of The Rooker Estate from Norman Park to George Lane. No doubt its prevalence on Hayes Common, as recorded in the nineteen eighties and before, means that the butterfly is common throughout the entire oak wooded area. The white admiral put in a fleeting appearance in the semi cleared ride I worked on in the winter that is diagonally across the sweet chestnut coppice. I also came into contact with the Bromley butterfly recorder for Well Wood, who spoke of seeing the white admiral more numerously last year. He also explained that there had been an attempt to create rides through the woods with a view to encouraging the white admiral. He also observed that the white admiral had been on the wing in the woods from the third week in June this year - more or less as expected for such an advanced Spring and Summer and consistent with most other species.

This what Chalmers Hunt said in 1960: The white admiral has spread throughout the county in the last thirty years, reaching a peak in about 1954. It was present in Joydens Wood then and later in the early 1970's, when I recorded it - there is no reason to think it was not also present in Bromley, though the earliest contemporary records are from about ten years ago.

Butterflies seen today:

Meadow Brown
Large White
Red Admiral
White Admiral
Purple Hairstreak
Large Skipper
Small Skipper

Evening: The wet blustery conditions finally subsided into a calm evening and as a luminous twilight descended under a bright moon, the adult owl was once again coaching the remaining owlet in perching and flying skills. The owlet was supplicating and bobbing for food, but with little effect and at one point the adult almost dive bombed the young bird to get it off its safe perch in the larger oak tree.

9-11 July

Am in the grip of summer flu, but have managed to keep tabs on the owls and have also done some work on the Purple Hairstreak and White Admiral, the former now appearing everywhere and the white admiral still sparce and confined to the chestnut coppice. A couple of mornings ago I did a four a.m stint and witnessed a small drama between the sentry little owl and a fox. the bird flew to a perch twenty meters away and blasted out a series of alarm calls - a sharp repeated tuc, until the danger had cleared. It is obvious that the ground feeding habits of the little owl predispose it to fox predation, hence the alarm.


Meadow Brown
Hedge Brown
Speckled Wood
Green veined white
Red admiral
White Admiral ( last week in June)
Small Copper
Purple Hairstreak
Large Skipper
Small Skipper

20 July 2011

A steady light rain swirled around the allotment in the gathering gloom of twilight. The sentry owl sat sheltered but alert in the smaller of the two oaks in one of the many cavities that have developed over the years. I observed from the comfort of Andrew and Peter's shed, sitting on the car seat that the boys have installed. On my departure the sentry owl flew to the horse chestnut and this was shortly followed by another, which on observation I realised was the young owl, now free of its furry cap and demonstrating the white V of the adult owls.

25/27 July 2011

The butterfly and moth populations are finally being affected by the hot weather and are appearing in more profound levels than the colder wetter days of the previous weeks. I was twice in contact with a very large Noctuid, probably an old lady moth, which was on the wing around the entrance to the allotment and yesterday, during our charity day, a purple hairstreak turned up on the door frame. The owls are still active in the allotment. Last night, the 26th, the young bird was harassing the adult for food with very little effect, as the adult was flying from perch to perch each time the young bird approached. It is a hard lesson, but there were several large moths on the wing and a few beetles, though I have not been able to observe what the latest diet is.

A morning visit in the cloudy condition today showed just how much things have advanced since last week. The wild flowers in the clearing are shoulder high, with commas and hedge browns feeding from the abundant thistle heads. A purple hairstreak tumbled into the grasses at my feet, taking liquid from the still damp herbage before fluttering off.

teazle head - a good sign for winter and goldfinches

Distribution for the purple hairstreak butterfly:

30th July 2011

The local fields and woods are alive now with invertebrate life. The white admiral was out of sight on my transect today, but more and more oaks have revealed populations of the purple hairstreak, the common blue is now back on the wing in its second annual phase.

speckled wood (abundant)
hedge brown (abundant)
meadow brown (declining)
ringlet (declining)
small heath (scarce)
large white
small white
brimstone (scarce)
purple hairstreak (numerous-widespread)
common blue (increasing)
small copper (scarce)
holly blue (scarce)
white admiral (scarce)
small tortoiseshell (scarce)
peacock (scarce)
comma (numerous)
red admiral (numerous)
small/essex skipper (numerous)
large skipper (declining)

Butterfly status at the end of July

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Nature Diary: June 2011

Ist June 2011

2.30-4.30 p.m A bright fresh day heralded yet another image of an imago on the first day of the month. This time it was a hawker dragonfly I found concealed among grasses, as the incoming weather front brought high cloud cover, finally concealing the evening sun and rendering the many fresh insects inactive.

2-4th June

The little owls have become very active, with frequent nest visits by the male, foraging for food from an area in and to the North of the allotment. Stag beetles became active on the 2nd and although they form a very important dietary component for the little owl at this critical time, I cannot verify particularly that they were being taken and fed to the young. The moon rose in it first phase in the West shortly after the sun had set, the thin sliver of light only serving to emphasize the unseen fullness of the disc.

3rd June

1.00 p.m A longer transect around the fields West of George Lane brought me into contact with numerous meadow brown butterflies. The butterflies were concentrated into small sheltered areas that were out of the prevailing wind, with population densities of these freshly emerged insects running into scores. No sign of the white admiral yet.
I had my first sight of the small heath for some time, a group flew by in a courting chase - will need to confirm this. But surprise of the day was the sight of a singing skylark.

Meadow Brown
Small Heath
Large Skipper
Small White

5th June

The weather has finally changed and we have had a whole day of concerted rain. My sunflower plants are growing strongly and the tadpoles have finally turned into froglets.

6th June

8.30-9.30 pm The rain has spurred a flurry of activity. Last night I sat in the allotment until late and the male owl kept me company the whole time, floating to and from the nest on silent wings with food for the developing young. The overcast evening was perfect for invertebrates and before too long a bat put in an appearance, perfectly outlined against the sky as it zig zagged across the allotment in the extended twilight.

7th June

11.15 a.m A long transect trip took me through the now damp woods to George Lane, where I saw a newly emerged comma among the flurry of meadow browns in the bramble at the field entrance. Later in the same area I saw two small tortoiseshells.

Meadow Brown
Small White
Small Tortoiseshell
Large Skipper
Small white

8th June

A night in the allotment after the rain (and the amazing rain bow that spanned the Southern sky) was prelude to the contradiction to my previous observations that the little owl will only take worms by day. Though it was hardly dark at ten and clear enough to see the outline and some detail, through the camera, of the owl and the worms that were being carried back from the overgrown garden to the nest site. So, not a complete contradiction, but an indication that the owl must use sound as much as sight in finding its wormy prey.

9th June

Early, after sitting in the woods South of the tree where the little owl is nesting and on my return home, I came upon a chiff chaff building at the very entrance to Elmfield. I can only assume it is a second nest.

12th June

The weekend was a washout with cold conditions and much rain. Fortunately these conditions prevailed for just one day passing quickly leaving the plants refreshed and supplied with much needed water.

13th June

A walk up to the trout lake yielded a surprise, the stormy wet conditions had blown what I thought was a stray tern inland and across my path, (which is actually nesting on the trout lake) - it had I believe been fishing in the Rookery lake. It coincided with the find of a blackcaps nest on the edge of the nettle clearing and the lovely sight of a pair of gold crests as well. The loss of my keys made my stay in the allotment longer than I might have preferred, but the sight of the little owls swooping across the allotment was a pleasure and so was the sight of so many moths including what was probably an ermine moth.

14th June

A walk through the complete transect up to George Lane confirmed the existence of the small heath in the large field where the skylarks had been.

Meadow Brown
Small Heath
Speckled Wood
Small White
Large Skipper

15th June

To start, an overcast humid evening in the allotment with the little owls, saw a hatch of cockchafers and the male little owl flying around the flanking limes on the park boundary. Later, as the sky cleared, the activity slowed, but the clear sky and extra light gave the long evening an extension, which allowed me to observe the owls well after ten o'clock with reasonable, but diminishing clarity. The main diet was insect based, with no evidence of the worm predation seen on previous nights.

18th June

The weather has been very changeable for June with prolonged periods of rain. This has all added to the mix so far as the natural world is concerned, with the discovery by David of a purple hairstreak male, that appears to have been displaced from an oak in North Bromley/Fosters Park by the gale like winds, and the little owl digging worms at night from the overgrown garden in Normans Park due to the absence of flying insects at nightfall.

In the bursts of warm sunshine there has been a flourish of butterflies, including the first of the ringlets, now flying with the numerous meadow browns and large skippers in the woody clearings near the stream and beyond in the hay meadow at George Lane.

Speckled Wood
Meadow Brown
Small Heath
Ringlet (oak clearing by stream)
Small White
Large White (clearing)
Purple Hairstreak (North Bromley/Fosters Park)
Large Skipper

little owl film

20th June

Evening came early, with the incessant rain of the afternoon slowly clearing to the East, leaving a glowering sky of dark clouds and sporadic showers. I got to the woods at about nine, just in time to catch a first glimpse of the two young fledgelings that the adult little owls had so assiduously raised over the past months. The owlets were in turns peering out of the tight nest hole in urgent expectation of a feed. The rain had been a godsend for the owls, as the evening was yielding a high level of insect activity, not least, the mosquitoes in my hide. Feeding went on in the dark and overcast conditions long after I left at about ten with the light impossible, but I got some great clips of the frantic activity, where now two adults were feeding the young, so marked in contrast to what had gone before on previous evenings, where the cold clear skies had slowed down progress to a snails pace.

21st June

Altogether a different night from the 20th, with clear skies and not cold temperatures welcoming the solstice, though the gusting West wind had returned and was now blowing through the trees above my head in a most concerted fashion. The little owl young gave a brief appearance in hopes of a meal, but feeding did not commence for a short while, when both adult birds came in with relays of insects. Starting earlier, I was able to establish myself and got some earlier footage at respectable camera sensitivity ratings of about 1250 ISO. The distance and seclusion of the hide in the undergrowth made my presence completely secretive and the owls carried on their crepuscular activity oblivious to everything but the task in hand. Even the calls of the foxes were ignored as the larger brown female and the smaller greyer male flew back and forth until dark.

29th June

The weather has returned to the status of flaming June after a damned grey day on the 28th in which it became as damp and cold as March and put an end to the mini heat wave.

Ringlets and purple hairstreaks are now on the wing in good supply and I managed to get a reasonable shot of the latter, though only by using an extreme telephoto. The male owl was in the oak in its sentry position, so I assume the young and sitting female still need protection in their nest hole by their steadfast guardian.

Ringlet 40+ various woody margins
Meadow Brown 20+ meadow + wood clearing
Small white (second) (3+)
Small Tortoiseshell (1) allotment
Comma (2)
Red Admiral (2)
Purple hairstreaks 10+ oak clearing
Small skipper
Large skipper

purple hairstreak

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Nature Diary: May 2011

Libellula Depressa (f) 2.5.2011 clearing

Week 18

1st May 2011 - a late morning start at 9.00 after a late night. The weather is continuing, the East winds keeping the Atlantic systems carrying rain well to the West of London. The long tailed tits are feeding young and talking a heavy toll on the larvae from the trees along the woodland edge to the common beyond the allotment. Venturing into the woods by the direct route, I disturbed a deer, but this time a male feeding in the hollow at the eastern edge of the clearing. This morning I was taken as much by surprise as the deer and missed filming it as it elegantly hopped into cover - a lovely experience. I had an intuition to get the camera set up on the tripod, but I had business with the wren's nest, which I approached by the ditch. I was surprised the bird was sitting, because, by estimation, there are only five eggs in the nest. After a brief spell, the bird fluttered off into the undergrowth and I made my retreat. Rounding the edge of the clearing by the willow tree I saw the deer again, in exactly the spot I had filmed the female three weeks before. It did not wait around despite my evasive tactics and had long gone by the time I had set up.
The blackbird was off the nest and the young dormant, but I saw a pair of chiff chaffs mating and assume they are the pair from the East end of the clearing, who have now shifted nest sites, but that is conjecture, because there are a number of leaf warblers in and around the clearing.

In previous years on this day:

Brimstone (m - f) 1977 1980 1984 1985 1986 1994
Small white 1984 1985 1986 1994
Large white 1984
Orange Tip (f) 1994
Green Veined white 1985 1994
Peacock 1984 1985 1994
Small Tortoiseshell 1984 1985 1986 1994
Red Admiral 1994
Comma 1985
Holly Blue 1985
Green Hairstreak 1984 1994
Grizzled Skipper 1994

1984 Working at a thrush nest in the Upper Meadow, Shoreham, I had a weasel scramble through the base of the hide. I reflected that sitting in the quiet woods is a wonderful tonic and redolent of my 2011 activities

1994 Walking up from the farm to Preston Hill, I saw that the bluebells were giving a fine show. Passing back by my favourite downland bank, overlooking the Upper Austin Lodge Golf Range, I found a small colony of green hairstreaks and one of grizzled skippers.

2nd May 2011 Windy and Sunny 14C

Morning went as planned filming the feeding exploits of the long tailed titmice again, this time from a different point of view. The public nature of the setup put me in touch with two new contacts, Colin and Hugh, both excellently informed bird watchers.
Afternoon was spent in the clearing where I was filming and photographing a Libellula Depressa female dragonfly (top), using the most unlikely camera setup I could ever have imagined (500mm f4.5 plus 1.4 converter). On the way back I saw a magpie around the tits nest - so far the nests in the clearing are still intact.

On this day in previous years

Speckled Wood 1989
Orange tip 1989
Large white 1989 ???
Brimstone (mf) 1989
Peacock 1977
Small Tortoiseshell 1989
Grizzled Skipper (2-5) 1994
Green Hairstreak (2-5) 1994

Moths Yellow Shell 1994

Orchids Fly Orchid, Bee Orchid (UAL over golf range) 1994

1989 This was the first day after leaving Illustrations, that I was able to get out and about on the downland banks above the cottage at Lower Austin Lodge Farm, Eynsford. I felt a great sense of relief, not merely because of giving up my job, but because the winter was over and the late snows had receded. Natures reaction to having been put in the freezer is explosive - spring can vary by a month quite easily.

1994 Follows weather pattern of 1989 after snows of April an explosion of growth.

3rd May 2011 Windy and Sunny 14C

Afternoon in the clearing - the blackbird young are out of the nest and sheltering in the blackthorn thicket. The collar doves are still together and the nests of the song thrush and blackcap are intact. I saw a male bullfinch flying into the thicket along the park, confirming the idea of an active nest site there. The chiff chaff's are almost certainly nesting with the male calling from the denuded oak tops and the Libellula is still in the clearing. The great titmice are back and forth and the young are bulging from the nest along the fence.

4th May 2011 Windy and Sunny 14C

Early morning, arose to find a light frost had affected some of the plants in the allotment, the first for a month. The owls are still incubating the eggs, but there was plenty of action with the long tailed titmice and also a nest box full of blue tits. I put the nest box on the back of the shed from where it had been discarded and like the other boxes on the allotment it was taken advantage of by a pair from the small army of blue titmice around the allotment. There is a family of greenfinches feeding together by the allotment gate.

click to enlarge - thanks to google maps

5 May 2011 Sunny Warm Southerly 20C

Notably warmer with some promise of rain after this prolonged dry spell - winds switched to southerly. Blackbirds clear of the nest. Long tailed tits in the fence still feeding young. Hobby (unverified) chasing martins or swallows over horse field. Sparrow Hawk in clearing. Wren singing, chiff chaffs moved from original site, blackcap and songthrush still sitting.

Previous years on this day

1984 Adders mating (Upper Meadow Shoreham)


small white 1983,
green veined white 1983, 1987
large white 1983
Orange tip 1988, 1989
Holly blue 1989, 2011

6 May 2011 Sunny Warm Southerly breeze 20C

6.00 start, and without leaving home saw a mangy limping fox looking for food scraps over the road and a pair of prime goldfinches on the fence. Quiet in the clearing, songthrush sitting fast and blackcap as well, male wren is singing as is blackcap, hedge accentor, and chiff chaff over towards the westerly edge of the clearing.

Previous years on this day

1986 hedge accentors completed nesting at Shoreham and Song thrush still sitting on eggs (as is the bird in the clearing). Cowslips doing well in Upper Meadow (as they were at Stanstead yesterday)

Small white 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987
Green veined white 1978, 1980, 1985
Brimstone m 1980, 1985, 1986
Orange tip 1980, 1985
Holly blue 1989, 2011
Small tortoiseshell 1978
Comma 1980
Peacock 1980, 1985,
Green hairstreak 1985 (Upper Meadow)

7th May

A round trip of the nest sites and to beyond the stream brought me into close contact with the male deer and another encounter this side - East of the stream, both animals were, like myself, in the depths of the thicket. The allotment was damp after the first notable rain since Good Friday and there was a brown argus imago just near the Southerly edge, the first this year.

8th May

A fresh start after the overnight rain - woods beautiful and vibrant. Song thrush still in the early stages of feeding fledglings. Blackcap sitting firm, chiff chaff singing in the west of the clearing, where I presume the birds have rebuilt and the female has laid. Got a lovely present from Lilly of 11+1 daisies in a pot. A single male common blue on the wing in the allotment with the brown argus.

common blue m

see my butterfly study

10th May

Woodland activity was high with lots of young birds being fed out of the nest. songthrush and blackcap still sitting fast.

Common Blue males in allotment with Brown Argus.

15th May

Colder period - still very little rain.

Songthrush young now absent, presumed flown (no sign of predation) confirmed by a much darkened and infertile egg remaining in the empty nest. Wren in shed feeding young, but wren in clearing still incubating on the 13th. Blackcap feeding young - chiff chaff male still calling around the clearing.

Many carpet moths and other geometers. Damsel flies in profusion.

week 19: speckled wood, small white, orange tip, brimstone, common blue, brown argus.

16th May

The day started blustery, not ideal conditions for film, least of all when using a 500mm telephoto. I started at about nine and sat through until lunchtime or just before, about twenty feet away from the wrens feeding their young. The nest is in a top corner of an open porch next to a shed, so as public as can be. The birds were undeterred by me, if a little reticent at first and I got a nice sequence of the birds coming and going.

small white

17th May

Another two hours with the wrens again revealed a diversity of insects being fed to the young in the shed nest. The wrens in the woods look as if they have hatched their young. The blackcap young are now out of the nest in the blackthorn thicket and being fed in the bushes by the adult birds. This is the last of the five nests in the small area and is represents a high success rate.

22 May 2011

A beautiful evening, but a small tragedy - the wrens nest, in the woods along the perimeter, was predated. The lining and its contents having been dragged from below by perhaps a rat - a squirrel would almost certainly have made more of a mess. This is the last of the spring nests that I found in the clearing - it was at least a week or two behind the wren in the shed in terms of incubation.

The park was a mess of strewn bottles and McDonald's bags, which I did my best to clear away. It reminds me of modern art, shitting upon objective aesthetic standards - an impotent childish rebellion against a God that cares nothing for their fate.

24th May

5.00 p.m Libellula still present in clearing, though the first sight for several days. Chiff chaff and black caps still calling, as were chaffinches, the dense foliage masking the obvious activity birdlife activity more hard to determine precisely.

25th May

An early start at 5 a.m to observe the little owls. The male was in the allotment around one of the central plots, (the midwife's), possibly feeding on the ground, but its activity was scant, relative to all the visits the oak was getting. This ranged from the mandarins courting, blue tits feeding and through to a lovely green woodpecker and pesky pigeons looking for nest sites in the oaks many cavities. The allotment was alive from about seven when the sun really arrived to bathe everything with yellow light and place the shadows in extremes of reflected sky blue. The wrens were feeding frantically, at the rate of two visits every four minutes, but all manner of other garden birds were there foraging and to cap it all, I found a newly emergent small tortoiseshell on Dennis's plot.

Later through Rookery Woods I came across, several very early newly emerged butterflies: speckled wood, large skippers, meadow Brown, brimstone, to go with the earlier small tortoiseshell. Everything is so dry, with the stream a pedestrian channel of large muddy puddles.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Nature Diary: April 2011

April 30th 2011
The final day of April saw the unseasonably warm weather finally come to an end, with Easterly winds sweeping in to the South. The warm weather has done its work and there were invertebrates on a scale that I cannot remember before. The longtailed titmice pair nesting in the fence were busily supplying food to their young, mostly in the form of second instar moth caterpillars. The collard dove fledglings are still present near the nest and the blackbird young are bursting out of their nest, with the male doing much of the morning feeding. The blackcap is now sitting on five eggs in her her fourth or fifth day of incubation, as is the songthrush. The wren however had only two eggs when I last looked, two days ago, so has a long route to go. The indeterminate outcome of the chiffchaff nest is still a mystery - there was no nest, but a bunch of feathered lining set in grasses. Apparently the sight of the swift this morning was not my imagination!

Nature Diary: March 2011

Nature Diary: February 2011

1st February 2011:
A walk to the stream in Norman Park, Bromley Common was against my inclinations, but the damp cold morning rewarded me with a lovely sight of a pair of goldcrests flitting in the thicket beyond the stream and weeping willow tree that the treecreepers nested in last year. There was a noticeable difference in the two birds appearance - the male bird appeared half again more contrasted in its markings. The two birds were in no rush to move on and went from branch to low branch, picking all the way at real or imaginary insects with their fine bills. After a minute or so another bird came to my notice. It was unmistakably a nuthatch and it had what appeared to be a peanut in its bill. This observation was confirmed when I later saw the nuthatch around the feeder that I set up further into the woods. There were a good selection of birds on the feeder including a coal tit and a greater spotted (pied) woodpecker.

Nature Diary: January 2011

In This Month In Previous Years:

January 2nd 1983 Mottled Umber (m) Saint Mary Cray - services display lights
The mottled umber moth is one of the UK's autumn/winter emergents and can be found almost anywhere that its varied food plant is to be found - birch. blackthorn, hazel, rose and honeysuckle, being the most prominent.

January 11th 1991 Pale Tussock (Eynsford, Lower Austin Lodge Cottage)
Something of a freak emergence, this moth is not due until May, but had perhaps pupated in the cottage. The moth larvae feeds on hop (Hop Dog), oak and birch and the imago normally emerges in May.

January 20th: Pale Brindled Beauty Moth (Sevenoaks Way - Prunus)
The pale brindled beauty moth is one of the UK's earliest emergents. The female is flightless and like the male emerges from a subterranean pupal chamber, resting on the tree awaiting the males attentions.

January 20th: Red Admiral (Rookery-coppiced area)
January 22nd: Red Admiral (Bromley Common - veterinary clinic wall) The Red Admiral is a migrant to the UK, but in warmer winters it has the capacity to overwinter.

1982 January 31st: (Mild weather after substantial snow) Dotted Border Pale Brindled Beauty
Mottled Umber