Archive for March, 2008

31st March 2008, Monday

Tiny things

There is a whole world of small plants and animals that is easily overlooked. Many are worthy of a closer look and there are several things that might help; try using a magnifying glass or your binoculars the wrong way round (both your eye and the object must be very close to the lenses) or close focusing glasses, or a close focusing camera. The animal below is the Black Millipede, Tachypodoiulus niger, about 30mm. long, I found in my store of firewood. It has about 160 legs – each segment has two pairs and in the photo you can see the wave of movement required to walk!

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31st March 2008, Monday

News from RSPB Dungeness

The first sedge warblers of the year were heard this morning at the Hanson-ARC site and Christmas Dell. Yesterday brought the first yellow wagtail, a lone swallow over the ARC pit, a firecrest near the willow trail and a black redstart near the Water Tower. Other highlights over the weekend included a little gull at Denge Marsh, water pipit from Firth hide and the long-staying Slavonian grebe (well on its way to summer plumage) close to Scott hide.

31st March 2008, Monday

Pett Level

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First thing, evidence of successful Collared Dove nesting (up to a point) was provided by a scattering of squab’s feathers on our doormat.
Then, from the kitchen window, I saw a Buzzard circling northwards. I saw one last Sunday as well, my eye drawn to it on that occasion by the anxious upward glances of a grounded Peregrine which had just been persuaded to relinquish a living Teal by two public-spirited Crows.
There are still several hundred Common Scoters on the sea, but very few GC Grebes. Once the Scoters were flying, Pete & I were able to pick out the white wing-patches of a couple of Velvets.
There were two unexpected birds at the Pools. The first was a Pheasant, not a scarce species in the area but rarely seen out here on the marsh. In fact this may have been a new species for TQ91 C!
The second was a Jack Snipe which fluttered up and settled again under the bank nearest to the road. We hoped it might fly up again as a cavalcade of death-defying horse-riders passed, but typically it stayed put. Years ago, this secretive species used to turn up at Pett Level on quite a regular basis. Nowadays, there’s a lot more suitable habitat in which it can remain unseen.
Lastly, a pair of Ravens passed over northwards.

30th March 2008, Sunday

Hastings Country Park (TQ81K)

SOS outing Saturday 29th March 2008
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Late March isn’t the best time for birds in the Country Park Local Nature Reserve, and some areas were too exposed to the strong southerly winds, so the group of 8 concentrated on the Quarry and sheltered gills where birds could be more easily located by sound and then watched in comfort.

Even without too many birds, there’s plenty to see at Hastings Country Park in terms of the extensive management work aimed at enriching the terrain for wildlife. We looked at areas which have been scraped to expose sand for invertebrates and reptiles, at enclosures formerly dominated by Bracken, now grazed by Highland Cattle, at rough grassland grazed by Exmoor ponies and at the huge strips of birdfood which have been so successful at sustaining winter populations of buntings (no sign of them, of course). Read the rest of this entry »

30th March 2008, Sunday

Spring Invertebrates

Despite the still cold wind, a search of sheltered spots at Lime Kiln found a range of active invertebrates. The door and window frames and wood piles held several immature Zebra Jumping Spider (below) cruising for prey, while the longer grass held numerous Nursery Web Spider and one or two Crab Spiders, the latter presenting quite a sinister aspect with their long spiny fore legs spead wide in anticipation of some hapless fly. Several hoverflies are on the wing at the moment including the familiar Drone Fly and Marmalade Hoverfly, while something of a surprise was a Common Bee-fly feeding on Polyanthus. As the name suggests, this is the commonest species of Bee-fly in Britain as a whole, though in the Rye Harbour area records of this species are outnumbered by those of the Dotted Bee-fly (see here), nationally a much rarer species.
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29th March 2008, Saturday

Fox hunting

This morning I was watching the Cormorants nesting near the hide at Castle Water. Then I noticed a Magpie mobbing nearby, and a Fox appeared in the tussocky grassland. It was listening and then pouncing on voles(?) and caught a couple. I managed to photograph one of the leaps…

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29th March 2008, Saturday

Slow-worm – garden records requested

The slow-worm has recently been added to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan  as a priority species because of concerns about its status. It is a secretive animal and records are being requested to shed a little more light on its status in garden habitats. There is a strong chance one could be living near you!  If you see one in your garden record the animal here, but if you see the animal specifically in a compost heap record it here.

Female slow-worm 

Our corner of the world should be a key area for this reptile so if you see one please submit the records.

29th March 2008, Saturday

Rye Harbour

A return to form at Ternery pool this morning, 138 Mediterranean Gull, 155 Sandwich Tern and at least 1000 Black-headed Gull created lots of noise and activity. A Little Ringed Plover and 7 Avocet were present on the new pools on Harbour Farm. From the viewpoint at Castle Water several Sedge Warbler were in song and two Egyptian Geese were unusual visitors.

28th March 2008, Friday

Beach Reserve

Two Common Seals hauled out on the sand at the River Mouth was the only highlight from a miserable morning on the Beach Reserve. One of the seals has a green tag on the hind flipper, which you can just make out in the picture below.

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27th March 2008, Thursday

Winchelsea Rookery

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Clusters of nests are distributed at several points around the Antiente Towne and most are easily seen from public roads and footpaths. Together, they constitute the biggest rookery in Sussex, with about 350 nests. This morning, I counted a mere 326, but quite a few of these were in the very first stages of construction. New nests appear into April until unfolding leaves conceal latecomers.
Probably the best way to enjoy this spectacle is from the footpath which runs along the E side of the Royal Military Canal. You can see well from this distance but don’t disturb the birds and are free from traffic noise. In addition, there are birds along the canal – this morning Little Egret, Grey Wagtail and a parachuting Meadow Pipit.
There is plenty of natural noise. Rooks of course, hoarse but sociable, Jackdaws and the usual contingent of small songbirds, their chorus bouncing off the sunny slope where Bluebells have been open for 10 days already.
In among these sounds are others made by Pheasants, woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Mistle Thrushes and throbbing Stock Doves. Overhead passes a stream of yelping Med Gulls, the sun glowing through their white wings.
The occasional croak betrays the presence of between 4 & 7 pairs of Herons, standing on their massive nests high in the branches.
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