139/365 Common and blue

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The colour of the day at Cosmeston today was blue: not only did I find numerous Common blue butterflies (I stopped counting at 25) but I also spotted several Common blue damselflies. And here they are …

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A pristine male Common blue butterfly

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A no-less-pristine but not as blue Common blue female

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A male Common blue damselfly

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Don’t be fooled by the colour differences here – mature female Common blue damselflies can take three different colour forms: blue, brown (a yellowy orange) and the typical form, which is greenish.

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And, just to confuse things, the males are usually a pinkish-purple when they first emerge and take a few days to acquire their true blue colouring. You can, however, tell they’re males by the solid blue colour of their two bottom abdominal segments.

137/365 Redgies

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One of our frequent challenges during our Kent birding trip was to tell apart the song of the Reed and Sedge warblers, and so we nicknamed them ‘Redgies’.

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In fact, I had my ear reasonably well tuned, as I’d spent some time listening to recordings in the previous weeks, as I tried to find these birds in my local area. And, as well as their preferred habitats being slightly different – Reed warblers really do prefer reed beds, while Sedge warblers like scrubby areas near water – they also exhibit different behaviour: the Reed warblers skulk more and I didn’t manage to get a single photo of them, whereas the Sedgies seem to be little exhibitionists, frequently sitting in a prominent position to belt out their song.

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Here, then, are some photos of Sedge warblers from our various locations in Kent.

 

136/365 Egrets

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Little, Great white and Cattle egrets all made it on to our birding lists during our Kent adventure. We had just one Great white, at RSPB Dungeness, and four Cattle egrets, also at Dungeness.

The Little egrets were much more common and widespread, with birds being seen at Oare Marshes, Restharrow Scrape near Sandwich, Rye Harbour in East Sussex, Pegwell Bay and Cliffe Pools.

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135/365 Green hairstreak et al

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I was hoping to see several different butterfly species during our days in Kent but the weather was mostly against us – we had, at various times, gale-force winds, squally rain showers, and batterings of hail, and it was generally quite cool. I was quite hopeful, though, when we arrived at Cliffe Pools on our last day, as the sun came out to play and the paths were mostly enclosed by sheltering trees and low scrub. It was by sheer chance, though, that I managed to spot my first ever Green hairstreaks – two butterflies were swirling around each other, disputing territory, and I immediately realised they were something different.

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Luckily, I kept an eye on them, as their camouflage is so good that they’re incredibly difficult to spot once they’ve landed on a bush.

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Plus, they often do this thing where they angle their wings to one side, presumably to make themselves look even more like a leaf.

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I also saw my first Wall brown butterfly for the year at Cliffe Pools – this was the species I’d seen reports of and was particularly looking for there.

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At the RSPB nature reserve at Dungeness I also saw my first Small copper for 2019.

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And during the rest of our trip we also saw Peacock, Brimstone, Holly blue, and some of the White species – not a lot really but, though I didn’t get the quantity I expected, we certainly saw quality butterflies.

134/365 Bittern

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It’s not every day that you get to photograph a Bittern. We’d heard one booming at Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve but then, the next day, while we were focused on looking for (but failed to see) Tree sparrows at RSPB Dungeness, a Bittern just happened to fly over from a pool on one side of the main road to a pool on the other. Luckily, I had my camera handy, though it’s not the sharpest of photos.

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133/365 Birding on Salisbury Plain

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Yesterday’s Glamorgan Bird Club trip to Salisbury Plain, RSPB Winterbourne Downs and Martin Down National Nature Reserve was amazing. The weather was stunning, the bird sightings were brilliant, as were the butterflies, and, as always, the company was wonderful.

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The views from high on Salisbury Plain were lovely – we even had a distant view of the White Horse, though it was a little disconcerting being so close to the military impact area and to have the serenading of the plentiful skylarks occasionally shattered by the booms of exploding shells. The joy-riding trailbikers and off-roaders weren’t exactly peaceful either.

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Still, we saw some amazing birds – I managed to spot the only Great bustard of the day (you’ll just have to believe me when I say that the head in the centre of the dip in the vegetation in the photo above is definitely a Great bustard!) and we had splendid ’scope sightings of Stone curlews and chicks at Winterbourne – both bird sightings were lifers for me. My best bird photo of the day was the Corn bunting shown below – captured out of the car window as we drove by.

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We also enjoyed some superb butterfly sightings – my first Small blues and Brown Argus for the year, and, finishing on a high, my first ever (two) Marsh fritillaries at Martin Down.

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132/365 Common terns

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190513 common terns (1)

I hadn’t seen any tern species in 2019 until my birding trip to Kent, yet during those five days we saw four species, Common, Little, Sandwich and, incredibly, about 40 Black terns during a detour to the Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire on our way home to Wales.

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All but the Commons were rather distant so here are some photos of Common terns I managed to grab (the photos, not the terns!).

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131/365 Kent: Nightingales

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Hearing Nightingales sing was a first for me on our birding trip to Kent and we heard quite a few birds in a couple of different locations. But, despite ten people standing and staring at the source of their beautiful songs, we struggled to see the actual birds. Sometimes I could see an indistinct object moving behind the foliage; once I caught a good sighting through my binoculars of a head and moving beak through a break in a bush. The only relatively clear sighting I managed to get was at Cliffe Pools, where a bird poked its front end out of a bush for a very short time, before hopping back in to the shadows. Here, then, are a photo of the blurry front of a Nightingale, the bush containing the bird – can you see it?, and a shot of its tail.

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130/365 Nesting update

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While I’ve been away in Kent, the Lesser black-backed gulls that are nesting on a rooftop behind my flat have been busy and one of them is now sitting continuously on the nest, which I assume means they have eggs.

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I’ve just been reading that their average clutch is 3-4 eggs, and both female and male take turns at sitting on the nest. The incubation period takes around 30 days so, if the eggs are viable and they continue with their parental duties, we should expect to sit some chicks poking their heads up in early June. Fingers crossed!

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It’s a bit hard to see the sitting bird so I cropped in on this shot to make it clearer