Saturday, April 30, 2011

Things that go bump in the night

My first experience of a cockchafer was on a biology field trip with school, probably 35 years ago. We went to Anglesey for a week (I think). One night the dormitory descended into chaos as a buzzing, blundering ball of confusion flew in through the window. Big and noisy it flew like so many beetles - straight lines, regardless of the environment! I don't have a great memory for things in general from back then, so clearly it made an impression.

Quite a looker, eh - the antlers and pointy bum are a nice touch. Perhaps like the camel, a creature designed by a committee.
This one was crashing around our house until I rescued it and popped it on the box bush outside the back door.

Friday, April 29, 2011

On sticks and stones

I've been taking some more shots at my puddles ( to follow), but also grabbed the chance to take some snaps at a feeding station I set up nearby. I was hoping for something a bit hawfinch-like, but so far no joy. The trail cam has proved good way to keep track of what's feeding.
The niger seed has proved very popular with the siskins, but they are quite assertive little things and tend to fly straight onto the feeders. This one came in when I was packing up though and posed nicely on a branch (not a prop, despite how it looks!) as it hesitated whether to feed or not.

Meanwhile nearer home I went to try and snap a whitethroat. Again plenty around, but they were proving unpredictable perch-wise on the hedges. I did see one use the fence post though and so focused on that. No-go with me at the camera, but eventually using remote and camera unattended this one came in. Just a shame it didn't face the light.

One to try again if the sun comes back. Maybe I can plant a prettier perch.

Does my bum look big in this?

I've never noticed green dock beetles before, but they are out in force here at present along the edges of Crick brook. The males are just small green leaf beetles (see last shot), but the pregnant females get these grossly distended abdomens. Bit small for my macro kit, but you will get the idea from these cropped shots.

An egg cluster.
Male and female inflagrante delicto. Again. Ooh err matron.
And the answer is, of course, "never my love".

Monday, April 11, 2011


Once more with a knack for believing the wrong weather forecast I headed for Derbyshire on what turned out to be another cloudy day. Last year Brian Davis commented on the fact that the water voles at Cromford ..... well, weren't. So I didn't have high hopes, but I knew dull light there was better than in a wooded valley, so I gave it a bash. Wandering along I didn't see anything, but then heard an unmistakable 'plop' behind me. I only saw ripples, but realised a vole must have been on the far bank behind the brambles until the strolling moorhen gave it a fright. Based on past experience I knew it was then just a waiting game, and eventually in one of the canal wall holes a face appeared.
In time it had a swim to a more photogenic spot for a light bite .........
then another swim, and it was gone.
I stayed a while, had another walk and prevaricated a bit too long before heading for Lathkill Dale. The moorhen were in grumpy mood
butterbur was a nice touch (an English first for me)
and on the far bank a small shape flitted from crevice to crevice.

Soon enough I found the purpose of the visit, showing quite well, but not apparently very hungry. This was a problem, because all the birds I saw were bejewelled with brightly coloured bling. Nice to watch, but not so good to snap. When feeding they stand in the water and can hide the rings, but this late afternoon it was just posing and preening.
They looked a bit like cheap wellies in this shot.
Distant shots were marginally less obvious (on this scale at least)
In the end I found that the one with the red ring didn't look too bad if I turned down the red saturation in Lightroom.
Interestingly trying the same with orange on the other bird just led to the bird changing colour too. In fairness the dippers have had a hard time of late apparently, so I guess they do need to try and keep track of them somehow, and colour rings are the easiest way.
So not as successful as I had hoped, and the ISO was cranked up most of the day, but still a cracking part of the world.
As ever a few more shots in the web albums.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Red-necked Footy Arse

Sorry to disappoint any Wayne Rooney fans, but despite the title this post isn't about him!
Anyone who has followed this blog from it's early days (HERE) will know about my childish delight in the old Orkney name for the little grebe. Back then I thought RNFA might describe a disease, but Wayne fits the bill so much better.
Anyway a few days up north saw me carefully misjudging the weather quite skillfully, timing free days to match cloud and even rain. A Met Office suggestion of some sun saw me scratching my head before heading off to see if I could find some adders. No sun, no snakes. When the macro lens is out in early spring it's not usually a good sign, but the urge to snap saw me successfully stalk a fly .....
and an as yet unidentified fungus.
However just after leaving the car park a friendly guy asked if I was there to see the grebe. The blank look led to the explanation that a Red-necked grebe was around. Meeting him again after my fly hunt and fungus chase he had found the bird, so we went for a look. At first it was well off, annoying the GC grebes, but eventually it came a little closer. No light and heavy crops, but you do get a feel for this quite attractive bird.

What struck me as a bit sad was it's repeated calling. Not as though it has much chance of a mate dropping in.
Doing a bit of googling afterwards it seems that a bird, and presumably the same one has been a regular at this site for some years now. The call was quite distinctive, and rather grating, Couldn't place it - bit like a bass water rail maybe, or more often the cartoon screech of car tyres just clinging to a sharp bend. Click here to go to a site where you can get some flavour of the call - especially towards the end.