Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Heavy rain at each end of the day didn't help the search for that something special.

Mind you the number of Whitethroats returning seems rather special, especially when you consider the terrible crash in their population in 1968 and 1969, when it fell to 10% of the previous level. Much of the ground has been recovered, although the limiting factor now is more likely to be habitat loss in farm land rather than the drought in the Zahel region that caused the original loses.

It's good to see Swifts back, although there are only a few at the moment, perhaps when their numbers increase I'll manage a respectable photograph.

I did take a look at the under-cliff at Kingsdown, hoping to see the House Martins that breed there nest building. There were three or four around but I saw no signs of any activity at the nest sites. This little colony is one of the few around that use the original habitat of nesting under ledges on cliffs. They only expanded when man made structures offered them a greatly increased number of sites.

The forecast for the wind to swing round to south east encouraged a couple of hours sea watching with Jack, and that was more or less what we did. Watch the sea. We did have one Arctic Skua and one distant Diver that looked big with quite a lot of foot sticking out the back, like a Great Northern, but it was too distant to be certain. Just before we left I picked up some activity quite a way out and we watched a group of gulls mobbing a small bird of prey. It soon became apparent that it was a falcon, and we guessed that it would be a Hobby, but then the tail looked too long. In the end it got to the shore and over the cliffs revealing itself to be a Common Kestrel, quite a disappointment, but why was it out there?

Mothing. Just a few moths, but two new for the year, a couple of Flame Shoulders and a Shoulder Stripe (above). Shoulder stripes are in the family Geometridae and most have wonderful patterns of lines and waves that would would be a credit to any abstract artist. Talking of artists, I just got my copy of a new book called a Guide to Garden Wildlife. It is a superb new guide to the full range of wildlife in your garden, from Blue Tits to bumblebees and Hedgehogs to Hawkmoths. Illustrated by Richard Lewington, who is one of the finest natural history artists in Europe, and my favourite illustrator of insects, with the birds by his brother, Ian, one of our most respected bird artists.

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