Indifferent weather, a certain amount of lethargy and an impending house move are three reasons (excuses) for not getting out very much again this week. But tuesday I did get down to Oare marshes with Alan and thankfully the forecasted rain didn't materialise. Neither did the sun though.
After parking in the deserted car park we ambled up the road to join the track that leads to the east flood hide, where we made ourselves comfortable and surveyed the not too shabby array of waders and waterfowl on offer. The flood was busy with loafing and preening birds all waiting for the full tide to ebb and expose the mud, glorious mud and all of its tasty inhabitants.
For me the stars of the show were the hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits (click on the picture above) whose warm, chestnut red summer plumage looked brilliant despite the lack of light. Dozens of Avocets preened and fed in two separate flocks on the water, while the small islands were adorned with black bellied Golden Plover and their Lapwing cousins. Four or five Dunlins, two sleepy Greenshanks, a couple of ever noisy Oystercatchers, two Ruffs and a family of Mum and six Pochard chicks joined the usual Coots, Moorhens, Mute Swans and Mallards to complete a busy, ever changing picture. Watching the amorous antics of a crimson chested male Linnet in front of the hide made us wonder if a late brood was on the cards and we also saw two Bearded Tits making unusually long flights over the open water, which makes a change from the usual briefest of glimpses in the reeds.
A caffeine induced energy spike and the dangling carrot of lunch prompted us to head around to the sea watching hide. The only dragonfly seen on the way was this dark legged, therefore probable Ruddy Darter above, who looked very new and wisely kept low in the grass, waiting for the big yellow energy bar in the sky to make an appearance. In the fields behind, an adult and a juvenile Green Woodpecker perched on adjacent fence posts along with Pied Wagtails and the humble House Sparrows.
A new perspective on the east flood revealed a Little Egret and a Grey Heron tucked away in the lee of the islands and also afforded a better view of the Pochard family, not close enough for a picture though.
The foreshore here is covered with Sea Lavender, a lovely sight which in the sun (and in a different year) would no doubt be attended by hundreds of Butterflies. As it was, I only saw a couple of very ragged and worn looking Meadow Browns and a couple of Gatekeepers (below), two species often seen together. The second picture is a male, identified by the dark sex bands across the forewings.
I confess to being even more confused than usual when it comes to white butterflies, i'm not sure if the one above feeding on the clover is a sparsely marked Green-veined or not. I think it is, but i'm sure i'll soon find out!
I know i've posted pictures of Six-spot Burnets recently but i've included this one because it shows the red underside of the hindwing and the bands around the abdomen which I hadn't noticed before.
And so to lunch in the sea watching hide, where there wasn't too much on the still high tide to interrupt the enjoyment of our carrots, sandwiches and coffee. In the middle distance we watched at least half a dozen seals thrashing the surface of the sea and sometimes launching themselves out of it. I've no idea why they were doing it but as the tide gradually dropped an area of shallow water was revealed and they eventually were left high and dry, presumably a usual basking spot for them. The only other episode of note was the arrival of a flock of thirty noisy Whimbrels who arrived to feed on the freshly exposed mud as the tide dropped quickly away.
On thursday morning Carol had to go away for a stretch , not prison, Yoga! The sun was shining so I headed for Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve for a couple of hours. Of course Sod's Law ensured that as I pulled into the car park the sun disappeared and didn't return. I didn't really go for the bird life, I thought I might get some dragonfly pictures. But all I found was the web covered exuvia above and the female Brown Hawker below which was resting in the grass alongside the long lake.
I also found this Grass Snake curled up in the undergrowth by the lake's edge. Unfortunately it saw me straight away and slithered off quickly. I noted the spot and continued on my walk to the far end of the reserve. Sure enough the snake was back in its chosen spot when I returned, but this time my softly softly approach worked and I was able to get a couple of undergrowth blurred shots before I returned the compliment and slithered away to leave it in peace.
Then the heavens opened without warning and I was forced to take shelter alongside East lake.The overhanging trees offered some respite and a bit of cover, which enabled me to get a bit closer than usual to the Grey Heron above who was obviously a bit bored and was practising a bit of Olympic log rolling. Watch out for it on telly next week.
While sheltering from the rain I noticed the spider below, which was scurrying back and forth on the surface of the water. Do they have Olympic walking on water too? Anyway, my fascination prompted a picture in the (vain) hope of identifying it. When I looked closer at the shot on the screen I noticed what looked like baby spiders on the reed stem too. Or is that another figment of my fevered imagination? Click on it and see what you think.
Finally, you can't go to Sevenoaks without seeing the Egyptian Geese, so here's a picture of one.