Jan 10thField Trip: Cliffe Pools RSPB Reserve
A pleasant if unremarkable first Field Trip of the new year. Typical weather for Januaury: on arrival it was cold and cloudy, following some overnight rain, while during our visit the clouds lifted to give a sunny (though still cold and windy) end to the trip.
Seven members braved a very blustery morning with the strong south-westerly wind gusting up to 50kmh-1 and a sharp squally shower thrown in. Mostly birding. However, setting off along the first track between the pools, we noted lots of Old Man's Beard seed heads plus even more copious growth of Alexanders. Alexander's Rust was galling many leaves. A Buff-tailed Bumblebee was observed on the ground hiding from the wind.
The birds kept their heads down too, with ducks and waders sheltering under the banks and almost no small birds evident at all. Our route passed between the Conoco pools then back past Flamingo Pool and Radar Pool. The latter provided the best results with flocks of over 1000 Wigeon and Lapwing (plus a solitary Golden Plover), 20+ Pintail and three Goldeneye.
Three species, all Asteraceae, were seen in flower during the morning: Dandelion, Hawkweed and Bristly Oxtongue.
Given the conditions and relative scarcity of wildlife, we decided to call it a day at 12-30, somewhat earlier than advertised, in favour of finding a bit of lunch...
At the beginning of the walk on the track between two pools we saw Old Man’s Beard and Alexanders. The gall, Alexanders Rust, was observed on some of the leaves. A buff-tailed Bumble bee was observed on the ground keeping out of the wind.
|Bird List p.2
|- Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)|
|- Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)|
|- Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)|
|- Common Gull (Larus canus)|
|- Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)|
|- Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)|
|- Stock Dove (Columba oenas)|
|- Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)|
|- Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)|
|- Robin (Erithacus rubecula)|
|- Blackbird (Turdus merula)|
|- Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)|
|- Magpie (Pica pica)|
|- Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)|
|- Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)|
|- Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)|
|- Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)|
|+ Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)|
|Bird List p.1
|- Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)|
|- Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)|
|- Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)|
|- Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)|
|- Greylag Goose (Anser anser)|
|- Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)|
|- Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)|
|- Pintail (Anas acuta)|
|- Shoveler (Anas clypeata)|
|- Wigeon (Anas penelope)|
|- Teal (Anas crecca)|
|- Pochard (Aythya ferina)|
|- Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)|
|- Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)|
|- Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)|
|- Coot (Fulica atra)|
|- Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)|
|- Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)|
|- Redshank (Tringa totanus)|
Feb 6thShort-haired Bumblebee Project
Nikki had already spoken to us in December 2013 about the Short-haired Bumblebee reintroduction programme centred around Dungeness. This was another thoroughly enjoyable evening in much the same vein. Not merely a programme update, her presentation incorporated some excellent new material too; indeed, for several attendees the concensus was that this talk was even more interesting than the first!
After a short recap of the whole project, we learned of the latest survey results. Though the most-recent years showed fluctuations due to different summer temperatures and amounts of rain, the general results continued to be very encouraging - for lots of other bee and bumblebee species as well as the Short-haired Bumblebee.
However, like plenty of other folk, I found some of the background digressions equally fascinating... I particularly liked a couple of them.
In many areas, gardens are important for bees and bumblebees. This evening's talk included a section on gardening for bees - the sorts of nectar plants they need at different times and what they require in the way of homes or nest sites. The latter covered general gardening approaches to leave them suitable habitat as well as a discussion on the merits (or otherwise!) of various commercially-available products.
Nikki also discussed the evolution of hymenoptera in general - with particular emphasis on bees, of course! For me, this was perhaps the highlight of the whole evening. I'll certainly be making a note of her next visit (fingers crossed) in my diary!
Apr 11thField Trip: Foots Cray Meadows
Eleven people braved the weather to join at least part of this walk. It was unfortunate that the weather was not good at the start and a couple of potential new junior members were taken home early.
Thankfully it did brighten up later and we had some fine sightings of a number of birds as well as a few plants in flower to maintain the botanical interest - for the botanist we had Red and White Dead-nettles coming into flower and good displays from Primroses, Forget-me-nots, Daisies, Lesser Celandine, Spring Squill and “Good-Friday Grass” or Field Wood-rush, Luzula campestris. There were also a number of catkins out on some of the trees including the willows and alders, and flowers on the Sycamore.
For the zoologists things started to look very good towards the end of the walk although we did enjoy good views of a number of Chub in the river near the start. We managed most of the usual suspects like Robins, Blackbirds, Wrens, Song Thrushes, Parakeets, Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves, Stock Doves, Jackdaws, Crows, Magpies and Jays with Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits. The lake had Mallard, Tufted Ducks, a feral white duck, Moorhens, Coots and a male swan on it. There had, until recently, been a number of last year’s cygnets but these had now been driven off by the male as the female was on a nest brooding the next clutch of eggs.
When the sun came out we were blessed with a number of better sightings and some close encounters. The Kestrel hiding in a hole in a tree was a very good spot but it was closely followed by a pair of Nuthatches plastering mud around the hole to a nest site to make it more secure for their brood. Just before we were due to leave we found a number of Treecreepers. At first a pair seemed happy feeding and we watched these for a while.
We then moved on but suddenly a pair of Treecreepers tumbled down through the air just a few feet away from us. Presumably a second male had just made an appearance and there was quite a fight going on.
When they had sorted themselves out we were finally given a close-quarters serenade from a Blackcap. One lucky dog walker got to see this using my 'scope, giving probably her first ever real view of this lovely little songbird and she seemed quite taken by this!
Our thanks must once again go to Tony for organising a lovely morning out.