Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to birds

I've quite enjoyed turning my hand to some other subjects in recent weeks, but it was good to be back on the bird trail with a trip to Slimbridge.
Last year I had a good moan about the summer weather. I know this year has been pretty wet too, but from my perspective the weekends have been better, and the rain has largely been more showery than continuous.
Slimbridge isn't the best place for photography. Most of the hides are a bit distant from the birds, or face into the sun for large parts of the day, but the hides on the Holden walkway are a better bet. The aim yesterday was to try for some pics of green sandpiper, but only one was on the pool, and for a long time it seemed happy to wander the far banks. There was a brief flurry of excitement when it took to the air and headed broadly in our direction, but it came down to a small island, well out, and had a preen. And then a stand.
Then it flew back to the far bank.
Eventually it strolled across the shallow water to the channel in front of the hide. The barbed wire fence did cause some problems (I ask you - why a barbed wire fence across the nearest water to the hide?), but the cloud even more. This could have been a lovely close up. As it is no amount of tweaking can give it that sunshine glow. Of course after it walked away again the sun appeared enabling a shot of .............. the black-tailed godwits. At first I thought this one was exercising, but then, as the cloud cover rolled back in, I realised it was doing a rain dance.


But, good things come to those who wait (and I can assure you we waited). The green sandpiper did reappear, and in some sun. In my eagerness I didn't even let it clear the reeds before I was grabbing some shots (the BTG was still dancing you see - get something in the can). Then a second appeared, but you can only focus on one at a time!
As always a few better quality versions and a few more pics in the 'latest pictures' web album HERE

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Eye of the Beholder

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Below are a range (I know, too many) of recent pictures from Rich Cornock's field, my garden and the surrounding lanes. I'll leave you to decide which are the beauties, which the beasts!

As always better quality versions of these pictures, and some others (yes more), on the web albums HERE . Look in the latest pictures album and use the slideshow feature for best views.

Common fumitory with dew - a low growing plant I've never really noticed until this year.

Corn marigold

Scentless mayweed

Creeping thistle and sawfly sp.

Meadow grasshopper (the male has long wings, the female shorter)

Field grasshopper

Long winged conehead (antennae are a fair length too!)

Common blue

Small tortoiseshell

Painted lady

Speckled wood

Large white

Mint moth (apparently) - Pyrausta aurata

Graphomyia maculata

Tachina fera

Tachina grossa

Phasia hemiptera (?)

Unidentified fly (but a cutie)


Brown lipped snail (?)

Ladybird in wild carrot seedhead

Scorpion fly - at last some pictures with at least a semblance of focus. The male shows where the name comes from , but I was intrigued to note on the last shot that the 'sting' opens into 3 component parts. This is a favourite of mine, but I'm sure not to everyone's taste. The head looks a bit like something Tim Burton might use for a nightmare horse head.

Not sure what form of bee this is, it all seemed to be white. It did look nice against the mix of colours from the corn- and sunflowers.

Rich's field in the dawn light.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Field of Dreams 2

There is no doubt that spending time with your subject leads to better photographs. You find out where and when to be there. Rich Cornock's field (see last post) came to my attention because of reports of nesting barn owls, and sure enough there was a nest box and 4 young. I hoped to get some shots of the adults hunting over Rich's field, but I understand they often don't hunt next to the nest site, and the adults never seemed to appear in the daytime - not like those Norfolk birds I keep seeing photos of! So I've been thwarted in that regard, despite quite a lot of hours trying. You could see the young sitting on the nestbox from across the field though - a lovely sight. Sadly the when to be there was after dark with an infra-red camera, and the where was somewhere else!

I dreamed of getting a picture like this, but that's a job for a hawk and owl centre I guess!

But ............ they've all fledged now, and walking past the woods the other day I was thrilled to see this bird in an oak tree. Brilliant.Rich has put up some more nestboxes in the area, so hopefully now the young have dispersed they may set up their own territories nearby.
In the recent couple of years he's also had nesting kestrels and green woodpecker, as well as the usual tits, etc.
I'm now eagerly awaiting the arrival of the winter finch flocks - last year they included both siskin and brambling, neither of which I've got a decent picture of. Fingers crossed. I did see this blackcap though ......
and a surprisingly accommodating wren.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Field of Dreams

Every so often you meet someone who inspires you, and Rich Cornock falls squarely into that category for me. He loves wildlife, but instead of just sitting back and looking he and his wife Nic make it happen.
They've rented a field from the Council, with an agreement that the main area in the centre will be an organic (ie untreated) hay crop. This currently looks fabulous, especially in the early morning or evening light, with clover and corn marigolds providing points of colour and sorrel, hogweed and cow parsley punctuating the sparkling seedheads.

Wild carrot

Common sorrel

Around 3 margins there are some small stands of native trees with longer 4-10 metre strips of sacrificial seed crops for the birds - I recognised borage, phacelia and sunflowers for starters, but there was also quinoa, chicory, buckwheat and others I forget. A few cornflowers have self seeded. The 4th side is left for wildflowers, a small pond and a narrow area of established woodland.

If you know the film Field of Dreams you may remember the phrase "If you build it they will come". Too true - because the wildlife is everywhere. Even now there are small flocks of goldfinch and greenfinch using the seed margins. Rabbits graze the paths, ducking as a buzzard flies over. Iron sheets have attracted grass snake as well as the ubiquitous voles. Insects abound stretching my limited identification skills past breaking point (again):
Rhagonya fulva (the bonking beetle) were everywhere

Why bonking beetle?
Small skipper (I think - skippers can be a bit tricky for me)
Large, small and green veined white abound, with speckled wood on the wood margins. Also peacock, small copper and common blue - but they all evaded the lens.
Large white

Small white

Green veined white

Speckled wood

Small heath (I think) - with dew. 1 drop forms a tear - you'll need to view the web album!

Gate keeper - 2 spots in the scent scale area

Meadow brown - 1 spot - (female, then male, then a male in flight with a Helophilus hoverfly)

Helophilus sp

Unknown hoverfly sp Scaeva pyrastri

Melanostoma (?) hoverfly sp. with a fabulous metallic thorax

Lacewing (with a little added colour to try and boost the lace!)

Unidentified sawfly sp.

Meadow grasshopper
At first I had this down as a damsel bug, but I don't think that's right. Just wouldn't stop moving! [Subsequently identified as Miridius quadrivirgatus - thanks to a brilliant bug website with much better pictures than this -]
My old favourite; greenbottle
Flesh fly (how can something this pretty have a name like that? Just look at that checkerboard abdomen)

According to my books this could be called the black form of the large red slug, or the black slug. Anyway it's black with some red. And big.
In many ways it's not fair to talk of dreams here, because he and Nic have done it. No doubt there is more to come over the next few years - perhaps even realising the wider dream of a network of similar 'micro-reserves'. Hell it's even got Kay and I talking about doing something, although we can be better at the talking than the doing!
And there's more come here about Rich's field when we look at the birds ......... but that's a tale for another day.

Read more about Rich and Nic's work on their websites HERE and HERE

The insect pictures in particular look much better at larger size -
check the 'latest pictures' web album HERE and use the slideshow.