Tuesday 30 June 2020

What happened to summer? 29th June 2020

I ventured back into the home county yesterday but misjudged the weather and although it did not rain, I was not expecting the continuous buffeting from the south westerly gale and leaden skies.
However I persevered and made it to Maldon for a walk along the Chelmer up to Beeleigh Weir and back. It was very cool and I was not overly surprised by the lack of insect life.  I did manage to find Red-eyed, Azure and Blue-tailed Damsels but nothing bigger at all.

Azure Damselfly

Red-eyed Damselfly

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Eristalis tenax, pertinax and arbustorum were on the Hogweed heads along with a few Episyrphus balteatus and a few Greenbottles but nothing more and I saw not one butterfly.

Eristalis pertinax

Eristalis pertinax

The riverside was verdant and some blooms were new for the season for me with Great Willowherb, Purple Loosestrife, Meadowsweet and Hemp Agrimony all out but insectless while Yellow Water Lilies were at various stages of pre, present and post flowering.

Great Willowherb


Hemp Agrimony

Purple Loosestrife and Episyrphus balteatus
Yellow Water lily
The tide was completely out at the weir and a solitary Common Tern patrolled the river.

Woodpigeon down for a drink


After a leisurely lunch in the car, as it was too cold to sit by the river, I headed reluctantly north to Abberton Reservoir. Unsurprisingly, I was the only nutter on the Layer Breton causeway trying to stand up against the cross wind.

Two female Goldeneyes dived with the moulting Tufties just a short way out amongst the flotilla of Canada Geese while swarms of Sand Martins followed each other round as if connected by an invisible rubber band.

Egyptian Geese are now a permenant feature here



But it was all about the Swifts with thousands scattered across the reservoir as far as you could see. It was far too windy to do any serious scanning for anything abnormal so I concentrated on trying to takes some shots as they hurtled low over the road and my head, turning ludicrously sharp circles and switchbacks with mouths agape for anything caught in the swirling air.

All the specks are Swifts...
Common Swifts - all single shot mode with the Sony RX10 mkIV. And who says you can't take flightshots with a Bridge camera?

After forty-odd years of birding this spectacle never ceases to make me smile.

From here I had a quick check of the Layer de la Haye before aborting mission and slowly wending my way back south passing two singing male Corn Buntings on the roadside just before Goldhanger.

I dropped in at a couple of garden centres before getting to Canvey and deciding that it would be pointless to even go and look for ditch damsels and so left, content with two tussling juvenile Peregrines and a host of Med Gulls.

Sunday 28 June 2020

A Kentish Circuit 28th June 2020

The morning did not go quite according to plan and so via a wiggly coastal town road I ended up parked up at Bockhill on top of the White Cliffs.  The car park was suspiciously empty but I suspect that the howling westerly wind may have had to do with peoples reluctance to venture to the coast.  

It was not actually cold but compared to a few days ago it would certainly have been described as bracing.  I knew that I was too early for the proper summer butterflies, being in between broods, but still had a pleasant walk in both directions.  The view towards St Margarets and its lighthouse was superb and brought back memories of the breeding colony of summer Marsh Warblers in the nettle and willowherb hollows, of seeing Peregrines and raven backs on the chalk and of an Alpine Accentor grovelling around a field edge for a few minutes way back on the 6th May 2000.

St Margarets lighthouse

There were no tumbling corvids or stooping falcons this time; just some windblown Herring Gulls and speedy windsurfers way below.

I spooked a couple of tatty Marbled Whites from the flowers as I walked back and headed for the other side and the view north back up to the cliffs at Ramsgate in the distance.   


Pyramidal Orchids (again!)

Marbled White

Looking towards Kingsdown - a windblown bonus Meadow Pipit

There was quite a bit of Wild Carrot, clumps of Scabious and Greater Knapweed and Kidney Vetch and I tried hard to get pictures of the insects that were concentrating on the carrot heads.

Greater Knapweed

Greater Knapweed

There were many of what looked like a small skinny very spiky Rhinophoridae, several Sphaerophoria scripta, Scaeva pyrastri, Eristalis tenax and nemorum, a few meaty Flesh Flies and a couple of interesting wasps whose identity I have had confirmed.

Wild Carrot


Sphaerophoria scripta

Sphaerophoria scripta

Sphaerophoria scripta

Crabro cribrarius

Crabro cribrarius

Ichneumon sarcitorius

Ichneumon sarcitorius

Meadow Pipits and Skylarks sang and one of the former gave up trying to parachute and sang hunkered down on his post where I noticed that he had a Flower Piercer bill!

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Flowerpiecer

Yellowhammers were somewhere beyond the poppy field and the song was getting blown across as I battled my way back to the car.

Carrion Crow

Lunch was had at Oare Marshes followed by a chat with a Kentish Rainham regular while watching summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets in the shallows. A first summer Little Gull was cute but no substitute for the absent Bonaparte’s Gull.

Black-tailed Godwits

Black-tailed Godwit and Common Tern

Black-tailed Godwits, Black-headed and Little Gull

Little Egret and Swifts

A young male Marsh Harrier was having no trouble hunting into the ever stiffening wind and two Yellow Wagtails blew over as I walked down to the river where there was quite literally nothing on the mud at all so I amused myself with taking pictures of a large yacht leaning heavily as it tacked up the Swale.

Happy gulls after a fishing boat cast offs

Time for home and an afternoon kip.