Saturday 1 August 2015

A Long Stint...

A long stint (not Long-toed) at work with ten days front of house and little chance for escape other than brief wanders down into the gardens but there is always something to see at RSPB Rainham Marshes even if I do not get out on the trails for a circuit. 

Clouds brooding...

The wet and windy Friday before last (24th) did not bring anything up river bar a few Arctic Terns and my first Sandwich Tern of the season but the pale Pomarine Skua that barrelled over the saltmarsh after a gull was very much unexpected. Any Skua is possible but we usually only get Arctics so this brute was very much appreciated before it flew inland, circled over Purfleet and then headed due north. Waders have been dropping in and I saw Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwits and Whimbrel most days and hopefully we can now keep Purfleet Scrape wet and lower the waters on the problematic Aveley Pools to entice something down of a slightly higher calibre!

Whimbrel - thanks to Russ Sherriff for this great shot from the foreshore

The herb and dry beds on the garden continue to attract plenty of insects and the wall of vegetation was keeping the temperature up on an otherwise chilly few days. Some hoverating produced my first Volucella inanis of the year on the Marjoram and the numbers of migrant Episyrphus balteatus have increased along with few newly arrived Scaeva pyrastri.

Volucella inanis
A very large female Tabanus autumnalis horsefly watched me from the picnic bench and the Budleia is now attracting many Comma, Peacock, Red Admiral and Whites. Oh for another Monarch...

Tabanus autumnalis

I am still learning my Bumbles and with the help of Jerry Hoare I am getting better and more confident. I am seeing more male Bombus leucorum (White-tailed BB) now and my good deed on Thursday was rescuing a very poorly little chap from the floor of the centre where after a nice drink of sugary warm water, whirred those wings into action and headed back hopefully to his colony.  He was long faced and multi banded and became my tenth species around the visitors centre in the last couple of weeks. Nothing rare, but my first definite Bombus hortorum (Garden BB) this year.

Bombus leucorum
Bombus hortorum

The garden cane cluster boxes I put up for bees are being well used with the big fat Megachile Leaf Cutters taking the bigger holes and the smaller Red and Blue Osmia Mason species taking the smaller ports! I am not sure on the species of Megachile yet but wondering if it could be M. maritima?  

Magachile in action
The psychotic male Wool Carder Bees are still defending their Black Horehound and Lemon Balm territory with body bumps and the slightly dog poo scent from all the mint is attracting countless Greenbottles (I will leave them as that for the time being).


Back at home the Marsh Sow Thistles that I kindly agreed to look after have now topped out at just over eight foot tall and are coming into bloom.  As we cannot home them on the reserve I am looking for a good home for these two incredibly rare plants.  I will be collecting the seed to try and grow my own. It must have looked a fine sight when it grew commonly in damp ditch margins across the south before becoming extinct not too many years ago.  If anyone would like to come down to Strood and have a look just let me know. 

Marsh Sow Thistle

I have not seen a Jersey Tiger in my garden yet this year but I found one at work on Wednesday and it seems to be another good year with many other people reporting this spreading species.  

Jersey Tiger

I also tried to take some arty flowery type shots in the Wildlife garden for my One A Week photo competition but they were pants. Annie then found this wonderful, green eyed Picture Winged Fly engaging in a semaphore competition seemingly with itself while perched on a Rosa rugosa hip. Eyes apart suggest a female but I did not know they partook in the wing waving!  I will update this with a name once I have let Phil Collins loose on it!

Wasp Spiders are still doing superbly and Clive 'Waspy' Watts has found several hundred on site now. I was quite pleased with this shot of a female with two brave or foolish suitors in attendance.
To boldly go...

So, we get to a weekend... a day off and for something different we head north of the Thames once again but I manage to (largely) avoid work and headed east to RHS Hyde Hall for the flower show for a perambulation with Mum and Dad. It was a tad busy but the sun was shining and the sky, blue and lunch was taken sur l’herbe by the lake with patrolling Emperors and Black-tailed Skimmers, hovering Azure Damsels and the odd Common Darter, one of which though Andrea’s foot was a good look out... Oh and more Wasps than I care to imagine. We were all very good and shared lunch with them allowing them to sup on some lemonade and to chew off and roll up little balls of chicken before departing which is far preferable to eating one. 

Black-tailed Skimmer

The journey home required an accidental deviation into Wat Tyler CP to have a look for the Blue Eyed Hawkers that Neil Phillips had once again found at this most regular of UK sites.  As I suspected the place was heaving with South Essex life and once I had waded my way through the energetic and vociferous picnickers and their adorable offspring, pets, sports paraphernalia and nefarious hangers on I made it to the Lesser Reedmace (please do not call it Bulrush) choked ponds towards the marina. 


I had made an effort to blend in with the general throng in shorts, a fetching vest and sandals and thus therefore attracted little attention although I am not sure what this says about me... anyway, the others present were bedecked in full ‘wildlife watching battle gear’; khakied up to the eyeballs, no exposed fleshy areas, Tilley hat, gillet and walking boots and as such were drawing the expected but unjustified stares and comments from the ‘normal’ country park clientele...

Thankfully it did not take too long for me to find a smart male Blue Eyed (Aeshna affinis) as it stopped to scan the area from the adjacent hedge. A cracking beast and my first since seeing one at Rainham while watching the Baillon’s Crake back in September 2013....  Southern and my first Migrant Hawker of the year were also seen and after a quick chat with Andrew Cox I beat a hasty retreat and happily headed for home!

Tomorrow will be a day spent on the garden attending to my rampant hedge and I am ever hopeful that I will one day add Red Kite to my house list!

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