Thursday 31 May 2018

Lesvos Day 7: 27th April 2018

Day 7: 27th April: 

A quick look at the trio of Gull-billed Terns at Stilt Corner on the salt pans and then we were off towards Dipi Larsou for a change of scenery. Two Squacco stalked along the river where Mullet leapt and a Black Stork left, having obviously had his fill. 

Dipi Larsou

Dipi Larsou and the Gulf of Geras

It was already too warm to be in the open so I headed for the River Evergetoulas Kara where, like many island rivers it had obviously taken a pounding during the winter and then been mechanically worked to get it flowing again. As such it was dragonfly poor with just a couple of Beautiful Demoiselle and some Small Pincertail were noted and a Blackcap sunbathed after having had a good bath.

River Evergetoulas Kara

River Evergetoulas Kara


Small Pincertail
Small Skimmer
Oriental Hornet
From here we parked in the lower part of Agiosos and walked up through the town to get access to the chestnut woodland. Eastern Bonelli's Warblers chip trilled and Robin, Wren, Hawfinch and Song Thrush were all new for the trip. It was otherwise quiet with none of the funny singing local Chiffchaffs once again and even the flowers alongside the now concrete path were very poor with just the Dragon Lilies showing flower. 

There were plenty of insects though and I was in hoverfly heaven. Some species were familiar like Myathropa florea, Episyrphus balteatus and Volucella zonaria but there were at least two small Eristalis species as well as a weird looking dark winged beast that I have now identified as Merodon velox.  

Myathropa florea

Merodon velox

Volucella zonaria

There were numerous small bees and Potter Wasps and a huge fly that seems to more closely fit a Tabanid. It was bigger than a V.zonaria! A couple of Cardinal glided around along with Green Underside Blues and many Red Admirals.  Balkan Green Lizards and Snake Eyed Lizards scurried up the bank sides and Marsh Frogs belched from an irrigation water tank. 

A tabanid - Phil has done some digging and found that

Therioplectes sp is most likely

Speckled type Bush Cricket

Hemipenthes morio

Green Underside Blue

Verbascum sp

Roman Snail

Below the small homestead about half a mile up the track was a curious black mass in the channel at the side of the path. It was comprised of the corpses of thousands of flies – mostly Green and Bluebottles. I had to have a closer look and amongst them were not only other flies scavenging on the deceased but several ribbed carrion beetles that I think are Thanatophilus sinuatus. However there was another wondrous beast amongst them which I have yet to pin down although I think it is related to the Rove or Carrion beetles.

Unknown rove-type beetle

Thanatophilus sinuatus or similar

From here we wended our way through the sultry scented pine woods down to my usual lunch stop at Mikri Limni where a short wander towards the overgrown pool to look for dragonflies was interrupted by an unfamiliar croaking...

Mikri Limni
  I looked around and there it was... the glowing turquoise of a Roller sat up on the roadside wires but I had left the crew at the car and so legged it like some deranged black vested lobster back through the pines to the car, quietly shouting at them to drop everything and follow me! Thankfully it stayed put and then went for a fly about, alighting on various high vantage points from which to sallie forth after large insects. 


Roller Despair turned to Roller Happiness in the flash of a wing. Mistle Thrush, two Red-backed Shrikes and three Whinchats were around the clearing and a trio of Black Storks circled overhead.

Robust Spreadwing - Lestes dryas
As we were ambling back to the car I discovered a circular golf ball sized hole in the ground with a silken wall around the edge. I knew from past visits what lurked down the hole and a delicate investigation with a small stick saw it dragged quickly out of my hand. Orange jaws and stripy legs retreated back into the depths and although I never managed to encourage her to come out and say hello, I did get my best idea of what she looked like.  

We have always suspected that lurking down there is the original Tarantula (but not related to the current family) and so I was delighted to discover images of what appears to be this species out of her hole in Spain a few weeks ago. I am hoping that Stephen Knapp does not mind me using his images of the imposing Lycosa tarantula. 

Lycosa tarantula by Stephen Knapp

Lycosa tarantula by Stephen Knapp

A siesta was required till the heat of the afternoon had passed which included the first dip in the Pela pool followed by rescuing a Snake-eyed Skink from my shower tray.

Snake-eyed Skink

Snake-eyed Skink

A final circuit of the pans gave Dave and Margaret superb views of a male Red-footed Falcon catching insects above our heads showing off those red trousers to great effect.

Red-footed Falcon

There was a good spread of waders, low flying Black Storks, singing Crested Larks, Black-headed and Corn Buntings and even some Flamingos had a fly round. 

Black Stork

Black Headed Bunting

Crested Lark

Southern Eggar moth cat - I think

The Long-legged Buzzard was on his favourite telegraph pole and 14 elegant White-winged Black Terns and 30 croaking Gull-billeds spiralling above us was a fitting way to sign off their first ever week on this wondrous island. 

Long-legged Buzzard

Gull-billed Terns

Monday 28 May 2018

Bank Holiday Delights

RSPB Rainham Marshes 27th-28th May 2018 

It is nice to have so much to write about at work at the moment and as spring draws to a close and the emphasis moves over to breeding success and the wondrousness of insects it is rewarding to snatch a few minutes here and there to absorb the marvels around you.

The great storm of Saturday evening prompted an early start yesterday and a yomp down to Aveley Bay to see the last remnants of Arctic bound migration in action. Twenty-one spangled Grey Plovers – most in their best tuxedos were dotted around the mud along with 51 rotund Ringed Plovers, 11 chequerboard Sanderling and a very pale Dunlin with a restricted black belly patch. A pristine sum plum Turnstone flicked seaweed on the rocks and three Avocet and a couple of Oystercatchers were noted along with our resident Redshanks. 

Some of the Grey Plover flock

Grey Plover - Andy Reid

And a great videon from Pat Hart here

A glance behind revealed a Spoonbill on the History Fields but I could see no black and suspected that it was a new adult.  Our Marsh Harriers were getting a serious hammering from the Redshanks and Lapwings and every Carrion Crow and Magpie but not Rook was given similar short shrift.

Quality Spoonbill

The rest of the day was largely spent on the riverwall opposite the centre engaging with the public using our path with able assistance from Sim, Robyn, Amy and my eyes on the sky Pat, Ruth and Phil. By the end of proceedings we had notched up a nice round 90 species including a few additional Grey plovers, Turnstone and Dunlin, five Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, Ruff, several gleaming Med Gulls, sooty Black Terns, Yellow Wagtail, dashing Hobbies and even the Raven.

Today I repeated my early visited but with clear skies and no rain there was un-surprisingly a dearth of waders in Aveley Bay although two Sanderling did appear from nowhere. Fifteen Ringed Plover and a Dunlin left quickly and headed high and north into the hazy blue while Shelducks chaperoned three broods.

 And another Pat Hart video...

The Spoonbill was still dozing on the History Pool and photos confirm it to be a new adult as I suspected.  Hobbies and Cuckoos zipped around but it was ornithologically quieter than Sunday.  

Spoonbill - Phil Wallace

Hobby - Les Andrews

A short pop down to the woodland allowed me to find several more of the smart little hover with the big nose – Anasimyia lineata - that I first found on Tuesday along with Myathropa florea, Eristalis arbustorum, Xanthogramma pedissequum, Tropidia scita and some Parhelophilus on the now very fragrant Dogwood. Phil Collins has successfully identified one of the males as P. versicolor (the one without the stray hair tuft!) so we now just have to confirm whether  we have his tufted compatriot P.frutetorum!

Anasimyia lineata

Anasimyia lineata - not sure how i have missed this species here before

Broad-bodied Chasers dashed around the Cordite and Hairy Hawkers and three Damsel species were around the woodland bridge where I also saw Neoascia interrupta (making 25 species this week) – a really tiny hover – and a not so tiny Grass Snake that sinuously slithered through the weeds.

I did not linger long out as it was seriously hot and humid and was not expecting to have Ian Bradshaw calmly announce at just before five that he had seen a male Mandarin out on the marsh.  He seemed genuinely surprised at my wide eyed look and vaguely twitching limbs...

Now, I have a bit of history with this species on the reserve. There have only ever been two records and the last was on the 12th March 2009 – which was perversely the last day off sick that I had. I was phoned about the bird and then disseminated the news, ensuring that all the locals connected. It was gone the next day and so nine years later I was somewhat keen to connect with this drake.

But where was it? From the Butts Hide of course and so at 5pm as we closed up I picked up my gear and headed back out into the heat for a full circuit with the hope of a reserve life tick at the end of it.

The birding gods were kind and a quick scan from the Butts Hide revealed this drake snoozing in the lush grass and although I could only see its head and an orange sail I was a very happy bunny.

Mandarin - exciting isn't it?

Happy Bunny

My quick walk provided me with five broods of Shoveler, two of Pochard and Great Crested Grebe and a plethora of Mallard, Coot and goose broods indicating that a very good breeding season is underway.

Great Crested Grebe family

Pochard family

The male Marsh Harrier was once again taking a beating from over forty frantic waders and a Water Rail became the 101st species for the three days of the Bank Holiday.

Time for a cold beer I think...