Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Windows shaking, floors vibrating - its a Chinook

RAF Chinook low flight passes are quite common over Shadoxhurst. There's always plenty of warning before they fly over the garden, as their blades generate an enormous amount of noise and wall-shaking vibration from many miles away - it's a dramatic experience! The pilots, I feel, are unquestionably brave; these flights are often at night, and I can understand why they need to fly so low - as the view shown, whilst close, is over in a very brief second. This pic was taken at a modest 300 mm and the Chinook crossed straight over the garden. Sat underneath the Chinook flight path, we are sadly reminded (if ever it was needed), that the majority of these RAF machines are operating thousands of miles away in Afghanistan fighting in a real war. And a war probably without an end it sight.

First winter Blackbird and Robin

Walking down the garden, all 150 feet of it, I flushed 16 Blackbirds in total. They are to be found foraging around the pond edges and leaf litter and hedges. Most are rather shabby looking first winter birds - this distinctive bird was gorging on the Blackthorn Sloe berries in the company of many other Blackbirds. My guess is that we have had an influx of immigrant birds from Europe - there are many 'new' Robins around too. As autumn advances, it shouldn't be too long before we receive the first Fieldfares and Redwings

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Autumn Song Thrush and Blue Tit

There are three individual, Song Thrushes (one adult 2 juveniles) to be seen around the garden at the moment. They're shy and their presence is often given away just by their 'seep' call as they fly around the garden and pastures beyond. Doubtless they are struggling to find slugs and snails - such is the dryness and hardness of the ground, but for now, this moulting first winter bird seems quite happy feeding in the Sloe berries in the Blackthorn.

Blue Tits seem to be be omnipresent in the autumn garden, happy foraging in the undergrowth and Lillies by the pond, as they are in the Spruce and Dog Rose further down the garden.

Garden nuptial Hornets

The back of the garden is a very pleasant place to be at the moment. There's plenty of dappled sunshine finding its way through the Sallow and Blackthorn which run along the garden boundaries. The ponds are clear and still, with just a few flowers of Watermint and much overhanging dead Agrimony, Loosestrife and Willowherb. This is presently favoured by Hornets (vespa crabro) linneaus that are present in some numbers as you walk down the garden. Some appear to be resting and sun basking, whilst many others are constantly quarrying branches and leaves for what I thought was for prey (such as butterflies and flies). I now realise that these were the nupital flights of the males and the virgin queen Hornets.

Today I watched two Hornets appear to clash together and then fall to the ground. They were later to be joined by a third. It was easy to see that the bottom wasp was a larger female (queen) and was mating with one or both of the two males lodged on her back. I took a few pictures with macro (sadly, quite poor) for about 10 minutes before they separated and departed back into the canopy. If successful, the fertilised female will, at some stage, hibernate over the winter and the hapless males will die as autumn advances. Hornets are a common site in our garden, doubtless moving from neighbouring colonies in Orlestone forest. I'd hoped the pictures would be better, but you can clearly see size and structural differences between the Queen and worker faces.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Indian Summer continues

It's nearly October, and our sunny, cloudless blue-sky days continue. The garden seems full of birds - up to 20 goldfinches, 3-4 Nuthatches, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs at the bottom of the garden in the Blackthorn. Robins are in song defining territories, and there are just a few Blackbirds and Song thrushes around waiting to be joined by winter migrants. At the ponds, Ruddy darter, Common Darter, Southern Hawker and Migrant Hawker are resident and ovi-positing. Overhead too, a mixed flock of Swallows and House Martins seem in no rush to move on. I can remember just one evening's rain over the whole of the summer and the ground is still rock hard. It'll be a drought next spring if this should continue.

Migrant Hawker on Dog Rose

Chiffchaff in Blackthorn

Goldcrests on a spider hunt in the Spruce

Coal Tit feeding on Norwegian Spruce pine seed

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Marsh harrier 2nd Shadoxhurst record

This morning from the bedroom window a Marsh Harrier lazily soared over our garden heading North (to the Oare Marshes and beyond). No time for a picture on this one (unlike the Red Kite we saw in the spring). We saw it silhouetted against a bright blue sky so it was difficult to age or sex - so just simply a Marsh harrier. The last one I saw over the village may have been more than 5 years ago, so I still count this is a bird to remember.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

September and summer is still here.

House sparrows are taking an interest in the Rose Hips

Chiffchaffs moving south like to linger and stock-up in the pond edge foliage

Commas can't resist energy boosting Blackberries

Close-up of Rose hip - not what most gardeners wish to see!

Wood pigeon leaving nest site for more stick nest building material.

The second week of September, and our long hot summer still continues. Our Boys have just gone back to school, so I've had no time for blog stuff for some time. Looking back over the summer, down here in the South East, its been a generally very good sunny and dry summer. At the moment, its blue skies daily and temps in the high seventies. Only the sun setting at 7.3o pm gives away that Autumn is nearly here.

There are still plenty of Swallows and House Martins around and the local Hobbies are never far away to. Migrant Hawker dragonflies are ever present in the garden as are Hornets, both making the most of the late summer sun. As to, are Butterflies such as Red Admiral, Comma and Painted Lady, all are common visitors to the bramble fruit. At night there are 2 Pipistrelle bats patrolling the garden.
We have another pair of Wood pidgeons nest building close to the house. Will they get as far as a clutch of eggs, lets wait and see.