Thursday, 12 July 2012

Turtle Doves - one month in the garden

Turtle Dove pair, Shadoxhurst, Kent, June 2012
On a gloomy wet day exactly a month ago, a pair of Turtle Doves dropped down onto the lawn to join our local Wood pigeons, Collared Doves and finches for some loose bird seed - (coincidentally bought the same day).  That such a scarce bird would visit our garden seemed incredulous at the time.

Since then we've put plenty more seed down to entice them back again, and we've not been disappointed, with the birds making 3 to 4 visits a day. Turtle Doves, just like their commoner cousins can't resist a crop full of seed!

Like Collared Doves, if you can sit still in the garden (on those rare days when you can), the Turtle Doves will join you, and forage around the lawn, all be it at an arm's length. They are easily flushed though, a reflection on a window, a mad teenager zooming up and down on a mountain bike, any activity in a neighbours' garden, all will keep the birds away.

In the garden, they look half the size of a Wood Pigeon and significantly smaller than the Collared Doves too.  They prefer to stay in shade and dappled light and feed with their bodies low and horizontal to the ground.

As the weeks have gone by, we've been expecting great things from our star Doves, as we believe they're breeding not too far away. When the birds first appeared they were always close together, following each other around the lawn, and if disturbed, both flying away very close to each other too.

After the fourth day visit, the birds were shamelessly mating on the lawn in the same fashion as your typical feral pigeon does in the town park! Following that day, for two weeks, the birds have been alternating time in the garden to feed up on seed.

For the last week, both birds have again occasionally visited together, leading us to think that perhaps that there are some fledglings not too far away. Could it be possible that we will have a family of Turtle Doves together in the garden - perhaps the coming week will have the answer.

Slightly Bluish Crown - identifies the male bird (above and 2 images below)

The female bird has a browner plumage and a yellow tip on the bill - otherwise its hard to separate the two birds

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Marbled White Butterfly - in evening summer light

 Marbled Whites do not have a particularly long summer life on the wing, so with poor weather predicted for the week ahead, and still feeling inspired by the Wild flowers, and the evening light (after heavy showers) I decided on a quick late visit back to Orlestone forest.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Marbled Whites & Small Skippers - sun basking in Orlestone

In contrast to record-breaking rain over much of the UK, down here in South Kent, we've had a touch of summer including some hot humid weather with hours of sunshine lasting long enough to almost forget how bad the weather has been.
Such weather has allowed some of our Butterflies to have been able to put on a good show, in particular, the very beautiful Marbled White. Just on the edge of the village in flower-rich hay fields backing onto Orlestone forest, we've found a favored field for a large number of Marbled Whites to sun-bath the afternoon and then the evenings away.
Reference guides show the female Marbled White as having a cream tinge to to the underwing, and thats dificult to see in these images as the light was warm and low in the sky at the time, however the bottom butterfly does look more strikingly marked so we can assume this is the male.

Marbled Whites,  Orlestone Forest 7.30pm  July 6th

The same fields had good numbers of Meadow Brown Butterflies and just a few exquisite Small Skippers (pictured below). Returning back to the same fields this morning, and it was a different scenario, still warm but damp and overcast to. In fact the only insects to see and feel where Mosquitos. Back in Birchett Woods, a Lesser Spotted woodpecker was calling against a surprisingly strong chorus of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and Blackcap. A family party of Bullfinches was also present.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The lid on local Nightjars

My lads, now15 and 13, through semi-forced bird and wildlife watching, have grown up with a good knowledge of wildlife sights and sounds they'll never forget. For now though, they don't really join me on plods around Orlestone forest, unless it involves taking a mountain bike. But, it's not a problem, they spotted the Kites back in May, they know the call of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a purring Turtle Dove, and the churring call of the Nightjar.

The Nightjar once heard never forgotten, is a bird we used to take our boys down to Orlestone forest in their toddler years right-up to 2008 to see and hear. Then, a quick walk along the trails of Birchett Wood or just a short stop in Fags Wood car park would guarantee Nightjars. But now I've not heard one for three years. I could just be unlucky, but it feels to me like they've gone.
 Last night, in still muggy air, no Nightjars at all in the forest, and that would have been my fifth visit this year. Orlestone forest has benefited from some expansive spruce-fellling in recent years so certainly there is plenty of new habitat for them to recolonise. On the plus side, young Tawney Owls where calling across the forest, so there's evidence of a good breeding year for them at least.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Breeding Green Woodpeckers and Buzzard news

Probably with another week of hole confinement to endure, a family of Green Woodpeckers are being raised in Orlestone Forest. With a patchwork of Woodland, sheep pasture and grassland, Green Woodpeckers may well be our commonest Woodpecker in the Shadoxhurst/Woodchurch area.

Close-by, in woodland I've surveyed countless times throughout the spring, a thriving family of Buzzards finally made their presence known, and judging by their activity last weekend, may well now have left the nest.