Monday 22 March 2021

Green Urban Birding - The Hoo Loop - 22nd March 2021

So I will start off my thanking all those people who messaged good luck for my first day back at work today but as with all these things there was a slight change in plan and tomorrow suddenly becomes my first actual on the reserve day.  I will take those wishes with me tomorrow!

This gave me the opportunity for a big walk in potentially blue skies so I headed out through town at about 9am and then up towards Frindsbury All Saints only to be greeted by a singing male Firecrest in the Ivy covered trees in Banks Road where unsurprisingly a female was in tow.  I was quite self conscious standing there on a busy road trying my best to take some pictures as the cars whizzed by.  They loved the fence line and at time came within two feet of where I was peering through!  It has certainly been a Firecrest year so far for me locally.




I cut through the graveyard where the Primroses and Daffs were blooming and then down the lane where I encountered some nice Sweet Violet patches and Periwinkle flowers while an obliging Small White was resting out of the light breeze as it had yet to warm up properly.


Sweet Violets

Sweet Violets

Swelling Horse Chestnut bud

Small White


Down by the main road I discovered a huge patch of Common Whitlowgrass. I crossed the road and found more on the other side as well as some equally low growing Danish Scurvygrass.

Common Whitlowgrass

Common Whitlowgrass

Common Whitlowgrass

Danish Scurvygrass.

Danish Scurvygrass.

Two Carrion Crows were very adeptly collecting nest material by stripping the long fibres from a piece of Old Man’s Beard lying in the path and Grey and Pied Wagtails could be heard in the Temple Hill STW where I could hear at least two Chiffchaffs and a Song Thrush singing.

Carrion Crows

A pair of Great Crested Grebes, male Pochard and three Tufted Ducks were on Gundolph Pool as I made my way up into Lower Upnor.  The mini Holm Oaks by the path were riddled with Ectodemia heringella mines and I got my first chance to look at flowering Sallow but there were only a couple of Buff-tails and some Honey Bees in attendance.


I discovered my first flowering Green Alkanet and Alexanders of the year on the verge before venturing along the beach where the tide, as usual, way out.   


Green Alkanet


I heard a big Sallow tree almost before I saw it as it quite literally thrumming with Honey Bees and you could lose yourself in the mesmerising drone as they collected pollen from the yellow flowers.

With Honey Bee


There were a few Buff-tails too and several Andrena flavipes as well as some smaller species that always leaving me guessing.  I was hoping for a few Hoverflies and they did not disappoint with a single dark female Meliscaeva auricollis and two male Eristalinus aeneus – the latter the first of the year.

Meliscaeva auricollis and a Wolf

Eristalinus aeneus

Eristalinus aeneus

Buff-tailed Bumblebee - Bombus terrestris

Andrena minutula agg

Yellow-legged Mining Bee - Andrena flavipes

I was hoping that the warming sun would give me a few more Bees in the exposed sand banks as I walked along and I was not disappointed with Anthophora plumipes, Andrena flavipes and trimmerana found but the real surprise was the Hummigbird Hawkmoth that zipped around in front of the main bee bank for a while before zooming off at hyperspeed!  I am not sure if I have ever had one this early in the season before.

Andrena trimmerana

Andrena flavipes

Anthophora plumipes


Hummigbird Hawkmoth

Early Forget-me-not I think

And yes, a Polystyrene Tortoise head from random beach litter...

I wiggled through the Hoos Ness Marinas before rejoining the river wall.  The sun was now fully out just like the pesky tide and so I sat down for a coffee and scanned the mud.  The Brent Geese were still around with about 400 moving to and fro way out on the edge but there were almost no waders bar a few Curlew and Oystercatchers so I just enjoyed the view and rested my feet for a while.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

A male Brimstone was tracked from way out across the estuary as it moved steadily west and there were plenty of small flies dancing around to become food for the hopefully incoming migrants.

Buzzards were up high mewing and I watched one in full roller coaster mode and had it in my mind to keep an eye open for any bigger birds what with White-tailed Eagle and Crane in the north of the county. 


A message on our local WhatsApp group from Andy M in Rainham (the Kentish one) alerted me to look up again as he had had an Eagle over his house which was technically straight across the estuary from where I was standing.  I phoned him and he said going east – the other way.  I scanned around and within a couple of minutes picked up a huge dot circling way up in the blue. It was huge and rectangular and I swapped to camera to try and get some shots but it was just too far away and too high and in the blue and I was rubbish blah blah and I soon lost it above the power station. I put out the news of White-tailed Eagle in the hope it would be seen better.

The short story from here on in is that the images Andy’s bird did not look right for a WTE leaving us all to start going down the super rare eagle route but as it turned out it was a very high flying – very eaglely looking Harris’ Hawk that was also picked up in Chatham which confirmed the identity.  Even though I know that is what Andy saw I still look at those pics and can see how it screamed eagle. As for what I saw?  Well, it probably was a WTE but I am prepared to let that one get away as I can honestly say that from my views it may well have actually been the proverbial Flying Barn Door. With the continued increase in records from the IoW reintroduction programme and continental wanderers I hope one day to find my own down south.

There were no Wheatears on the paddocks with just two sheepish looking Skylarks but the local Buzzards were putting on a fine low level performance and Water Rails kipped from the reed edges.  A male Kestrel put on a great show for me and caught a couple of inverts of some description which it quickly despatched.


Common Buzzard



I came back through Hoo but saw little until I reached the cottages up the hill where the Alexanders had Honey Bees and Andrena flavipes in attendance as well as quite a few Calliphora, several Yellow Dung Flies and amazingly at least three more Gonia picea. I was even able to watch some amazing wing waving dance action by the male before he was allowed in to consummate the end of his performance!

Yellow Dung Fly - Scathophaga stercoraria

Gonia picea

Gonia picea - the dance of love!

A large group of Carrion Crows were poking around in a bare field and I could hear the odd Chiffchaff off in the copses but of my Little Owls there was no sign.


I was trying to not get distracted by all the calls regarding Eaglegate and to be honest the next bit of the walk was a little blurry before I re-entered the woods above Upnor.

I slowly checked the Celandine blooms for insects and was rewarded with only my second ever Cheilosia grossa (a hairy ginger fly!), a male Eupeodes that I suspect may be E. luniger as the lunate spots do not meet the sides of the abdomen and a bizarrely marked female Episyrphus balteatus that threw me until I got some online advice.

Episyrphus balteatus

Eupeodes luniger ?

Cheilosia grossa

Lesser Celandine

I did wonder if from the shape that this was a Protcalliphora?

Unknown Bee

Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock were all seen between the trees and I almost got run into by a Mad March Rabbit careening wildly around the woodland floor!

Ectodemia heringella moth leaf mines on Holm Oak - again

Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were vocal and the local Jackdaws got me onto a circling female Sparrowhawk above the canopy.  Stock Doves were serenading and I could hear Med Gulls up high above me somewhere.

I retraced my steps through Upnor and then onto the inland path around Temple Hill.  No Firecrests here this time but another new spot for Phyllonorycter leucographella in the village and a male Pheasant strutted across a field. 

Phyllonorycter leucographella

Andrena trimmerana

I crossed back up towards Frindsbury All Saints and then down Donkey Hill to the Medway where an four Oystercatchers were on the foreshore and Cormorants loafed on the submarine buoy. I checked the waste land for Little Ringed Plovers but as usual had to be happy with a few Black-headed Gulls and two scuttling Pied Wagtails. 

Pied Wagtail


Woodpig eons in love


It was now a straight run back down Canal Street and through Strood to home passing one of the more salubrious eating establishments that they town has to offer...



  1. The Bee in my garden yesterday looked just like your first Andrena scotica? I thought Andrena bucephala but Bees are a complete mystery to me. Congratulations on the Hawkmoth and also I hope it all goes well at Rainham on your return. Good to see that the Insects are starting to show. Lawrence

  2. Brilliant as usual. Enjoy your work tomorrow!

  3. Brilliant as usual. Enjoy your work tomorrow!