Thursday, 1 September 2011


Well that's August gone, a bit of a damp squib if you ask me. Lets hope September continues as it has started, i'm not holding my breath though because i've just seen the forecast for the weekend and it ain't pretty, not here at least.
Anyway, today I started the month down the lakes hoping to get the September list off to a good start and this is how it went.
I scooted around Brooklands lake without stopping because the noise and stench from the mill was shrouding the lake like a poisonous blanket. There's nothing new in that but sometimes it just seems worse than ever. So my first stop was the south east corner of the sunken marsh, the corner with the pylon and the view of the river. And it was a good view because there were five Lapwings along the freshly exposed mudbank, along with the ever dependable Herons, a few Mallards, assorted Gulls and a Common Sandpiper that flickered from the far bank to the near bank, almost under my radar, a little way upstream. I haven't seen a Kestrel here for some time so I was pleased to see one today, hunting in earnest over the sunken marsh. The second raptor of the morning also turned up soon after, a Sparrowhawk which glided lazily over the river, prompting panic and urgent alarm calls from the Lapwings.

I moved on to the mound aka the raptor viewpoint and on the way I heard Cetti's Warblers and Water Rail calling from their hiding places in the marsh, birds of a feather with their skulking habits. From the slightly raised vantage point of the mound I added a Stock Dove and also watched a flock of 18 more Lapwings as they flapped lazily downstream in loose formation.
By now the sun was properly up and insects of the wing and the undergrowth came out to make the most of it, like the Roesel's Bush Cricket above and the two Dock leaf bugs below.

They were also joined by a Common Blue damselfly..........................

..........and also by a Long Winged Conehead Cricket, below.

Getting back to the birds, I must have heard half a dozen Chiffchaffs singing their ' chiff-chaff ' song. Young birds practicing or adult birds reminiscing? Either way it was an odd contrast to the inescapable Autumn feel to the day. Green Woodpeckers were also in good voice and Goldfinches, Blackcaps and Greenfinches also added to the mix.

I kept disturbing resting dragonflies from their morning perches in the undergrowth, the dry rustle of their wings as they took off was usually the first I knew of their presence, too late to get a picture. But eventually I spotted a Brown Hawker before it spotted me and I managed to get a picture, for me it's not the most appealing dragon but it's a super creature nonetheless.

The sunny, warm edge of Abbey Mead lake is usually a good place to find dragons and damsels but as I arrived the sun disappeared behind the clouds and the picture altered immediately. I only managed to locate a perched Common Darter, below. However a couple of Jays and a fly through Hobby which almost skimmed the surface of the lake, like myself hunting for dragons, was ample consolation.

Apart from a small flock of Long-tailed Tits, some Starlings and at last, a Song Thrush, the east scrub was virtually a no fly zone. A brief spell lifting refugia also disappointed with just a single Slow Worm and very brief views of a couple of Common Lizards for my efforts.
But in the west scrub, in a small, undisturbed clearing I spotted this superb Grass Snake, it was the bigger side of eighteen inches in length and luckily it hadn't spotted me.

I slowly knelt down onto my knees as it crossed my path from right to left, and then turned and came straight towards me, eventually stopping about three feet away from me. I stayed still while he flicked his tongue and presumably sensed my presence before turning and slipping away unhurriedly into the longer undergrowth.

It was a fantastic encounter of the close kind and i'm pleased I got a couple of reasonable pictures before it became too close to focus on. I did wonder what I would have done if it had carried on another few feet, I think I would have drawn the line at having it slither up my trouser leg!
Having dusted myself off and regained my composure I popped into Streamside lake to see if the Kingfisher was around and within a couple of minutes was treated to a traditional, low level flypast. The perfect antidote to the previous few minutes excitement.

The last creature to fall under my overworked lens today were these two Migrant Hawkers. Both of them were found perched at low level soaking up the late morning sun and seemed in no hurry to fly from my careful approach.

I finally found myself standing opposite the small wood that leads down to the river. Should I again brave the tall stinging nettles to get there and if I did would it be worth my while? Well I stung my legs and I stung my arms and I even stung my chin, and was it worth it? Two Mallards, one Swallow and the Whooper Swan, who was waddling in the mud on the far bank was all I got for my troubles. But as it happens the Swallow took my count for the day/month to 40 species so it was really and i'm sure my legs will stop stinging eventually..........


Marianne said...

Good start to the new month, Phil. What a great moment with the Grass Snake!

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Certainly a great start for the month with the birds .
Love that head-on Grass Snake shot .
You did well with the dragons too , must have been sheltered , they just got blown past at Elmley .
Great shots throughout .

Warren Baker said...

Great Snakey shots Phil, 40 species for the day is a good start, you should get 70 this month easy enough.........if you get out early :-)

Alan Pavey said...

That Grass Snake encounter sounds great with photos to match :-)