Sunday, July 22, 2007

Orchard Pool

Last weekend I got caught out by the weather. The weather forecast was for a better morning and then rain in the afternoon. I woke to cloudy skies and a cool breeze. I suppose given the last few weeks this could be construed as better weather, but it wasn't what I had in mind. Having finally bought a DSLR camera body (but no lenses yet) I had arranged to meet Chris and try one of his before deciding whether to buy a prime lens - or to use that same money to buy a new car!! Ok, not quite but a couple of grand does make you want to get it right.

We went over the water to Severnside in the hope of some gulls to try flight shots, but the few birds that were around were firmly rooted to the ground, other than some house martins that were going so fast in the wind that I doubt I could have laid a lens on them.

Disappointed we decided to head for a local pond - the orchard pool. I'd often seen it mentioned on the severnside birds website, but hadn't known where it was. Turned out to be a pleasant enough spot to while away a few hours, try some shots with a lens ........... and get sunburnt as the sun came out and stayed out for the day. Another lesson learned was to pack my polarising filter, but who expects sun in July?

Other than a green woodpecker that kept it's distance there weren't many birds around, but there were some wild flowers and insects. [I'm trying my best with insects and some flowers to get the naming right, but bear with me if I get it wrong - and please let me know via the comments so that I can learn. I may also start taking some plant field guides with me, but you end up carting so much stuff]

Musk mallow

musk mallow and Oedemera nobilis

Wild carrot and Ichneumon suspiciosus

(I have previously lamented my ability to tell umbellifer flowers apart,
but the key to the wild carrot is the red or purple flower in the centre -
at least I can get one right.)

Green shield bug on an umbellifer seedhead (hogweed?)


Meadow cranesbill

Greater knapweed

Great willowherb

Lady's bedstraw

(an interesting plant historically - it used to be used for stuffing mattresses,
said to smell of new mown hay as it dries)

The next plant really threw me for a little while - the shape was familiar, but were these fabulous rich burgundy structures flowers?

Then I found a younger plant and realised they were just the empty calyces of a flower related to one we grow in the garden ...........

Self-heal (Prunella)

The Cinnabar - moth caterpillar


(Apologies for the grass blade - I even considered trying to photoshop it out,
but this is never going to be more than a record snap, so I didn't waste the time!)

Common carpet

This next insect has beaten my best efforts to identify it from my couple of books at home, but it was quite striking - so if you know please let me know!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Home turf

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the jay kept coming, but remained twitchy and elusive, so no better snaps. Generally been quite quiet on the bird front. One of the sparrow terrace nest boxes is now on it's third brood, never had more than two before. The main aim of the male seems to be getting a female in the box - I presume it's been the same pair all through, but wouldn't know, and each time he has gone back to trying to attract a female, so maybe it isn't.

Last year my dwarf pampas grass flowered for the first time. Days later the stems were stripped. This year I found out why. The sparrows have been stripping them. Saw one removing one of the few the remaining flowers from an upstairs back window. When it flew off I went to the front of the house on a hunch and sure enough dad arrived with some more nest material!

Our squirrel is still coming, but refuses to use the squirrel feeder stacked with peanuts, preferring instead to trash the sunflower seed feeders.
After the damselflies we finally had a dragonfly in the shape of this common darter........

and there have been a range of other insects, spiders, bugs around............

a sloe bug

mullein moth caterpillar

Misumena valia (crab spider)
Araniella curcurbitina
(actually this is an archive picture - but the one above reminded me
to dig it out because I like the colour contrasts!)
And finally we come to the red beetle/bug section. The next picture is rubbish but I wanted to include a snap of my red beetle public enemy number one. I'm generally fairly tolerant of garden pests, but when found I'm afraid this immigrant doesn't last long enough for decent photos to be taken!
Lily beetle
The next was an oddity which I think I've correctly identified, although I don't know exactly which member of the family it is. It was certainly quite striking.
Eurydema spp.
Lastly we come to a beetle I always knew as the soldier beetle. Apparently there's more than one type, but this is a soldier beetle, contrasting quite nicely with the blue sea holly.
Rhagonycha fulva
According to the recent Nature's Calendar series on t.v. they are known as bonking beetles, but it struck me that this must be a 'new' name - hardly something from folklore. According to the OED the use of 'bonk' to mean sexual intercourse was first recorded in 1975, so it must have taken a few years to reach beetles! That said the shots below from a couple of local venues do show how they got the name.
on eryngium

on achillea (yarrow)

on ................... another umbellifer
(Is it only me who struggles to tell one umbellifer from another?)

Newport Wetlands

Time to catch up! Partly due to the weather, but also this being the quiet time for birds I haven't posted for a while, but I have still been taking some shots. A trip to Uskmouth revealed that the visitor centre is coming along by leaps and bounds. I think it will look quite good, especially if they do replant the hedge along the ditch that was ripped out.

Fortunately the hedge on the other side of the path was left alone, and the whitethroats have again fledged successfully.

At last I found a different orchid, this time a common spotted, albeit one that was going over.

Whilst grovelling around on my hands and knees a couple of weeks ago I found this caterpillar, which I think is a 6 spot burnet moth - adult picture below, taken last week on severnside.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Tidemarks, starlings and a Mr Magoo dove

As I was going to a meeting in York on the Monday the plan for last weekend was a trip up to stay with Kay's folks in Treeton, South Yorkshire. Treeton was one of the villages partly affected by the floods last week, although fortunately Kay's family (and much of the village) is on a hill. Treeton was also one of the villages threatened by the leaking dam at Ulley, so we ditched the original plan and waited to assess the rainfall before travelling up on the Sunday.

[Since I posted this there has been aprogramme on radio 4 about the dam and country park at Ulley, one of my old fishing haunts - if you're interested you can hear it again on ].

This scuppered my original plan for a trip to try and get some close views of bearded tits at Blacktoft. Still there will be another time. I couldn't resist a quick trip half a mile down the road to Catcliffe - for those who saw it this was the village where most of the camera crews seemed to be during the floods - the one where the pub was 6 feet underwater.

Surprisingly there wasn't that much to see in the village itself. There were a few skips full of ruined furniture, but not the mess I expected, although clearly the inside of many houses was trashed.

The support teams were still out (I felt a bit voyeuristic so I didn't take other pictures), but most of the evidence for the flooding was a bit back up the road.

Catcliffe Flash is a lake that has featured in the blog before. The layby overlooking it is usually 7 or 8 feet above water level.

This time if you looked at the other side of the road you could see a clear 'tidemark' on the vegetation where the water had been at least 4 feet up - making it 12 feet above normal levels

Thankfully the forecast follow-up rain never came and we had a relatively dry couple of days.

In wildlife terms I was limited to a few shots from the house. A large group of adult and juvenile starlings were making the most of the food.

Meanwhile a ghostly imprint (we suspect a collared dove) showed that stick-on pictures to deter the birds from flying into glass are not always that successful!

There was no sign of the dove so we presume there was a happy ending - unless the sparrowhawk that may well have been the cause seized it's chance!