Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Worts and all

I couldn't resist a trip back to check on my flycatcher family. The good news was that the adults were actively hunting, and clearly feeding chicks. Sadly the nest hadn't transformed into a good site for photography, and the one or two pictures that were even vaguely usable at low resolution didn't show any insects.
A new perch was in use, and more user friendly for snaps. I won't see the family again now, but hopefully all will go well for them. Judging by the vuvuzela hum of insects in the background there should be plenty of food. (I think I nearly mentioned the world cup there - sorry!).

Nearer home I had to look twice at this bird before realising it was a juvenile bullfinch. A first for me.
One surprise near the flycatchers was what I'm believe is a golden-ringed dragonfly. In my minds eye I had never pictured this as a Forest of Dean species - always thought more of upland areas.
Staying on the insect theme in a meadow near home a common blue damselfly
and in the garden a mullein moth caterpillar had decided to leave the mulleins (verbascum) alone, and was tucking into this figwort (balm leaved?) - not a mullein, but same family - Scrophulariaceae, which sounds more like a disease than anything.
A local woodland hosted centaury
and, I think, hairy St John's wort (happy to be corrected on that one, but it seems the best fit - just not over hairy).
Southern Marsh orchid ....
and pyramidal orchid at Newport wetlands - no sign of any bee orchids. Don't know if I'd missed them or they just hadn't shown up this year.
Also at the wetlands self-heal.

And last but not least back to that local meadow (thanks Paul) for a lovely example of a common spotted orchid.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mine, all mine!

I don't get to spend a lot of time in the field really. It's a bit better at this time of year when I can get in 3 or 4 hours at the weekend before Kay has even stirred, but generally it does mean I tend to pick up a lot of the birds I snap from internet reports (often passing comments) or from tip-offs from friends like Chris Grady (see links to right for an increasingly impressive collection).

However I do find my own birds and this year I have been really pleased to track down a spotted flycatcher nest, as mentioned in a previous post. On Sunday there was a nip in the air despite the sun, and one bird was mainly on the nest - I'm not sure it would still be incubating, but there wasn't an awful lot of feeding activity going on. I did find a feeding site though and although it didn't seem to be the most favoured it was reasonably lit, enabling me to grab a few shots. So often the Forest is surprisingly dark.

Although the first impression is of a slightly drab little thing they have a real appeal if you watch them - dainty and nimble (if you can apply that to a bird?). Didn't get the 'insects in the beak' shot, but maybe I'll get another go when they are feeding more actively.

As always better quality versions of the shots in the web albums HERE

Friday, June 18, 2010

A bit late to start, but worth a go

I thought I'd probably blown my chance of snapping the woodland migrants this year - except maybe the spotted flycatchers, but that nest isn't at all well sited for photography. However a tip about a pair of redstarts led me to the Forest and a fun few hours trying to get them in camera range - the female (not brightly coloured, but very cute) was already primed, the male took a bit longer to join in. As the nest was way up in a tree there was never going to be a chance to catch them by finding a favoured branch near the nest hole, so the pictures are largely at ground level, and not so pretty as these by Steve Round . Still I like them enough, even though as Chris G pointed out they are looking a little bit the worse for wear (he looks at pictures with a more forensic eye than I do - I'll learn in time!). All that feeding takes it's toll.

Meanwhile on returning home I found the forest had come to our garden in the shape of a male and juvenile great spotted woodpecker. Despite it's size the male was still carefully breaking up food for the youngster. We've since heard the female was doing the same in a neighbours garden. Not great quality pic's - handheld in lowish light. I knew that 'post' would provide a photo-opportunity of some kind in the end!
As always some better resolution versions of the pictures HERE

Friday, June 11, 2010

Big mummy long legs

I never envisaged a situation where I would post several pictures of a crane fly. But this one actually made me jump. It's pictured here sitting on a buddleia. If you know your plants you will realise that this was actually quite a big crane fly. In fact Tipula maxima has the biggest wingspan of any true fly in the UK (winglength 20-30mm). So once I realised it wasn't a small sparrow that had interrupted my gardening over the fence I nipped back for the camera. She (pointed back end) was actually quite attractive as long as you avoided the face ("nice personality"). The fingers on the last shot aren't clumsy framing, just an attempt to portray the scale, although not sure it really works.

Large red damselfly in the garden.

Dull day, deep shade, so I'm pleased this Nagshead marsh tit feeding at the nest came out as well as it did. Truth is I ditched dozens of other shots - playing with the remote camera trigger again, which definitely allowed the birds to be more relaxed than when passing birders were watching them.

Spotted flycatcher nest building - time to go back and see if they are feeding young. I suppose it's too much to hope that some magical subsidence has lowered the tree by 8 feet - it's not like Springwatch you know!

To end a few orchids from local woodland - two rather poor shots of early purple ....

and a couple of what I believe to be common spotted, although the flower head on the lower specimen looks completely different.

As always some 'bigger views on the web albums HERE

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Here's a clue - it's knot Dartford

You may not believe it, but I often think a bit about what I'm going to say on the blog before I start typing. We've just had a few days away on holiday, and I thought I'd start with a little photo quiz. Can you guess where we went?
First a general snap just to give a vague sense of location .................

Then a couple of pictures of species named for the location ........

and finally a snap of one of it's best known (former) inhabitants.

Trouble is my insect identification let me down, so if you know your moths you'll be scratching your head at this point!
The answer is Jersey - St Ouen's Bay, Jersey orchid and Gerald Durrell (My Family and Other Animals was an all time favourite of mine). When Kay pointed out the moth I knew it wasn't the 'tiger' we normally see and I said authoritatively "It must be a Jersey tiger." Except it's not. They have lines not blotches. I think this is a cream spot tiger - still pretty, but kind of spoils the start to the post!
St Ouen's Bay is a fabulous expanse of sand. I'm not the world's best sunbather given my celtic origins, and even though there was a bit of cloud about I left Kay to it and went to have a peer in some rock pools.

There were a few fish, etc, but it was these creatures that caught my attention - moving singly or several 'bonding'. Some kind of rock pool mollusc I think they may be a form of sea hare - if you know please tell me by using the comment facility.

The gulls were tending to be a bit twitchy, although as the tide came in they settled and started crabbing pretty successfully.

As ever though the best views came from the tamer ones seeking a share of our lunch.

Anyway, while I was down fossicking I noticed a couple of little shorebirds, which gradually came nearer, working the waterline. As usual the little buggers wouldn't stay still, and I didn't have the easiest camera kit to use (I don't usually take the fast lens away on holiday) but eventually I got my first ever views, let alone snaps, of summer plumage knot. Perhaps the best days sunbathing I've had. [Although there was that evening skinny dipping with the Scandinavian girls in Greece ....................]

So I thought that would probably be it. This wasn't a wildlife holiday after all, and the views of some good sized mullet in the marina were probably the only other sights I'd get.

However, in the cafe there was free internet access and the Jersey Birds website (thanks guys) mentioned some heathland birds that saw me up early for the last 2 mornings to try and see, and hopefully snap a bird that has been on the wish-list for some time now. As it turned out the weather the first day wasn't great - but I did see some. Day 2 saw more sun, and although the lack of a tripod proved a fairly bad decision I also got some snaps worth posting. Not the dunnock, although it was kind enough to pose against the gorse .....

not the meadow pipits either ....................

but these little guys. My first Dartford warblers. I couldn't work out at first what was going on. I thought I'd found a nest as there were definitely a couple of adults catching caterpillars. But there were more than 2 adults. Then they all moved off? Eventually the penny dropped when I had a brief view, and sadly a bit of a ropey snap, of a youngster. It seemed to be a small group of several adults with young that stayed mainly hidden in the dense gorse bushes.

While there I met a friendly guy from Paisley who told me about the 'orchid field' at St Ouen's. As I had seen but not snapped some marsh harriers down there too, I did the sums and decided I could make a quick visit before Kay stirred. I found the Jersey orchids, and some southern marsh orchids, complete with cricket. The harriers were too far off, but they can wait for another year.

Botanically the wall pennywort, or navelwort, seemed to be growing everywhere.
Lastly I found this behind the dunes at St Ouen's. I haven' a clue what it is. If you know please leave a comment, as I hate nameless pictures!
As always some of the shots can be seen in more detail HERE in the web albums
- click on latest pictures.