Archive | December 2016

Season’s Greetings to All

once-upon-a-time

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Harbour today

Occasional notes of divers and a handful of Great-crested grebes offshore, although generally seeming quiet with the continuing mild weather.

 

Aphrosylus

A small fly that often appears skittering about on the groynes I had assumed was one of the kelp flies and I had made a mental note to eventually try to identify it. However, during the autumn I took some photographs and after consultation discovered that they are a species of Dolichopodidae, a Family with many species I have previously associated with freshwater habitats. The genus is Aphrosylus and there are two species sufficiently large to be considered, A. celtiber and A. raptor. They must be robust and also resilient to saltwater and I noticed one on the beach today.

The males have an astonishing ability to flash bright silver light from their palps, situated below the face, as they scurry suddenly along the surface in sunlight. These flies have an ecological relationship with barnacles and the Acorn Barnacle is widespread here.

18 Ton Caterpillar

..not the offspring of an unusually large butterfly, but the bulldozer tractor on Hastings Beach today infilling and levelling shingle over the new sea defence wall.

Yesterday 80 Brent geese passed eastwards, and today I noted another 39, and 2 west. Their wintering habitats are being influenced by climate change which means the Eel Grass they feed on grows earlier and later, so the geese are moving about in a new pattern.

The sea has been breaking down the shingle bar. Today I saw a dead adult Gannet washed into one of the temporary pools. Would the corpse be covered by shingle, I wondered briefly, eventually becoming fossilised. There was a lot of new debris along the high tide mark including large feathers. The Gannets must be exposed to danger when they make their plunge-dives into the sea for prey, as they may accidentally strike some of the rubbish which floats just below the surface.

On the 12th I counted 84 Gannets passing east. Almost all are now adults as the immatures tend to migrate further south for the winter.

On the top fields of HCP Snipe and Reed buntings were joined by a small party of Skylarks.

Winter Heliotrope casts a vanilla fragrance now along mown banks by St Leonards Gardens.

 

Crows and gulls

Fifteen or more Carrion crows are on St Leonards beach at any one time during the day now. They certainly spend a lot of time feeding on Mussels but will also eat carrion such as dead feral pigeon. Yesterday many of the gulls seemed to have departed, yet along the Hastings shore some well-fed parties were to be found on the new shingle bar and at the harbour. Whiting have been coming close in for some while now, although Mackerel too which are no longer just a summer fish. and I saw a gull kill and eat one on the beach recently. Much feeding however is from the fishing boats offshore.

There were Great black-backed gulls and Herring gulls in a variety of plumages.

 

Pictures

The vanity of the picture has encouraged me to get a new camera, perhaps to try and compete for better photo trophies with the ‘wildlife’ photographers who have overwhelmed the naturalist with the ever deepening technology at their disposal, consigning the notebook and pencil to oblivion. But I found the new machine irksome today, taking up the space I usually have for binoculars, and listening and watching. Instead, I found myself grappling with the technical specifications of the camera, it’s larger size and complexity of function, threatening to reverse the previous arrangement and leave me as the appendage of the machine. After two hours I had scarcely used my binoculars and had not seen that many birds. I had taken over a hundred photos, almost all useless.

The highlight was a drake Pochard in one of Alexandra park’s ornamental ponds. One picture was sufficiently in focus, but even then the detail is no better than what I would have got from my Mini Lumix… as to the small birds, I failed to get Robin, Great tit and Blackbird so my chances with the flightier species is going to be very poor.

The new camera is cheap – hence the purchase – but I am hoping I can improve my use of it to get some more defined and focussed outcomes.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Along the shore

 

A fresh but chilling ENE breeze this afternoon as the sun drops quickly down. Herring gulls on a breakwater watch as a rough swell washes over the submerged ledges at high tide. Unprotected and exposed constantly to the elements, facing the wind as always, the young birds strain forward while older and adult birds join them. The adults have experienced a freezing winter here but many immatures have only known the milder recent winters.

All along the beach anglers take part in one of the early winter fishing competitions.

Notes

After the recent gales a combination of tides and easterly winds has been responsible, so I have been told, for the appearance of a prominent shingle bar all along the beach which appeared almost overnight. I wonder if this is the beginning of the redistribution of shingle naturally onto the scoured surfaces. Above the bar there are often small pools of seawater.

The promenade at Hastings is being reinforced by a new, higher diagonal breakwater of Norwegian granite which is being brought in by barge.

On the fields this morning at HCP. Reed buntings quite widespread on the margins and numbers of Snipe and Continental Song thrushes about.