Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Redshank poses

Redshank, Cley NWT, Norfolk, 20.6.05
Nikon Coolpix 880, Kowa TSN-821 +32xW LER

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Big bad hoverfly

Yes, it is insect season here in this glorious World of Nature. So, expect more than a few insects to appear on the site over the coming months. Here is one of the commonest (or at least most obvious) beasts around the insect-rich brambles at Glapthorne Cow Pastures (26.6.05). My good friend The Natural Brian (check out his site for a wider selection of insects from Glapthorn today), has kindly identified this brilliant hoverfly, with spotted wings as Volucella pellucens.
Nikon Coolpix 880

Norfolk Hawker

The Weedon family has just spent a very pleasant week in Norfolk. One place I have never visited in June was Hickling Broad NWT. So that was our first wildlife destination, on Sunday 19.6.05. We weren't that bothered about the elusive, now mobile, long-staying Red-footed Falcon (nor surprisingly was I that gripped by the Caspian Tern there later that evening). The insects were a lot of fun, though, and we all enjoyed the plentiful Swallowtails (too fast for fotos, and only seen on the wing).
One of the 'bridges' of the boardwalk passed over a lovely rich water area, which had small Pike slowly drifting along after tiny fish and the occasional Roach (I think, or were they Rudd?). Drags included Hairy Dragonfly, Four-spotted Chaser and a new species for me, Norfolk Hawker.
Note the largely brown body, bright green eyes, hint of yellow in hind wing bases and yellowish costa (leading edge of wing) and pterostigmata, (dots on wings), plus the yellow 'golf-tee' at the front end of the abdomen.
Nikon Coolpix 880, Kowa TSN-821 +32xW LER

Two garden insect ticks

Sunday 26.6.05 was a great insect day for me. In addition to seeing Black Hairstreak for the first time (see below), plus all the brilliant insects that were at the sites I visited, my Peterborough garden threw up two new crackers. First there was a Black-tailed Skimmer (a maturing male), on our stick pile. Note the lack of black in the wing bases, the shape of the body and wings, the developing blue pruinescence (waxy blue stuff that comes with maturity) and the yellowish 'costa' (the front edge of the wings). And it even has a bit of a black tail...

Our garden's dragonfly list is now: Emperor, Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter, blue damselfy sp(p) [I'm yet to positively identify one] and Black-tailed Skimmer. Total: 6 species (at least).

Then in the early evening, a Large Skipper called in and basked and nectared on one our brambles. It is a male (note the dark 'sex brand' on the wings).
The garden butterfly list is: Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Orange-tip, Holly Blue, Common Blue, Brown Argus, Small Copper, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Comma, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell. Total: 20 species, not bad for a town garden...
All photos Nikon Coolpix 880

Black and White

On Sunday (26.6.05), I took what was probably my last chance of the season to finally catch up with a butterfly that is restricted to a band between Oxford and Peterborough, and is quite an East Midlands speciality. The Black Hairstreak loves a combination of plentiful mature Blackthorn plus some feeding plants such as Brambles. Glapthorn Cow Pastures, Northants, is the place around here (and in teh PBC area!) for this species, (though there are a few other less well-known localities). As you can see from these photos, the rather pretty butterfly is black as the ace of hearts!

After a while admiring this scarce beauty, I figured it was a good time to go looking for White Admirals, not far away at Bedford Purlieus. I was right, and watched one for a while very closely, also on brambles. Enjoy.

All Nikon Coolpix 880

Monday, June 27, 2005

Avocet gallery

Avocets, Titchwell Marsh, Norfolk, 23.6.05 (some of the images are clickable for larger versions)
Nikon Coolpix 880, Kowa TSN-821 + 32W LER

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Can you tell what it is yet?

It is a curious thing when a seemingly dead, rather amorphous mammal, appears to be wriggling all over, and constantly moving, like some macabre, undead glove puppet. All sorts of beasts were enjoying joining in with this fine example of the phenomenon (identifiable as a mole, by its digging claws). Stars of the show were these burying beetles (here joined by a blow fly). 17.6.05.

If you want happier thoughts, to see off the nightmares, here is a soothing photo of a squeaky baby Long-eared Owl. Sweet dreams...

Monday, June 13, 2005

"With a rebel yell...

...she cried "Munch, munch munch!"
Spot the rebel in this first photo [Can I click it? Yes you can].
Sawfly larvae on Hazel leaves, Bedfordshire, 12.6.05.
All Nikon Coolpix 880
Thanks for inviting us, Alex! Great party.

Some orchids

Saturday afternoon (11.6.05) saw Weedon's World of Nature in my old stamping ground of Farthing Downs/Happy Valley, Surrey, where I was brung up and cut my teeth as a wildlife-watcher. The orchid fields there we discovered pretty late-on, past my youth, and it was great to get out there in mid-June and have a wander round with my sister Alison, nephew Harry and Aunt Wendy. Most of the orchids were not really out yet (it's been cool this spring), but there were a few Fly Orchids showing in the shady edge... well as lots of Common Twayblades

All Nikon Coolpix 880

Draggin' fly

Nikon Coolpix 880
Having dibbled at Maxey/Etton pits on Saturday morning (11.6.05), I drove up to Deeping Lakes LWT. Here my life became destabilised by news of an Alpine Swift not too far away (in Oundle). But it couldn't stop me noticing this bunch of ants trying to drag away what appears to be the abdomen of a dragonfly...
("Can I click it?" Yes you can!)

ps There was no further news of the Alpine Swift...

Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover, Maxey/Etton pits, Cambs, 11.6.05. Probably not worth getting bitten on the ankle, by a big, black dog, but never mind...
Nikon Coolpix 880, Kowa TSN-821 + 32xW LER

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Power of Photoshop

About a year ago, I was dibbling for the first time with digiscoping. I was using similar kit to the kit I use today, except that the Coolpix 4500 was my only camera (and I was of course using that not an 880). Also, I had the inferior older 32xW Kowa eyepiece, not the lovely 32xWLER (which is visibly better, so to a camera would be a big improvement). I trundled along to Deeping Lakes and tried snapping some of the more stationary (though invariably highly-contrasting) breeding birds, such as Oystercatchers, sleeping Tufted Ducks and Black-headed Gulls.
The results were awful, though at least the lens combination had added an attractive purple fringe to the boundaries between black and white! To be honest, I was thinking that digiscoping was not for me and I was never going to get a decent image [as it happened my camera settings were all wrong, I had no idea what I was doing, and there really is no substitute for practice]. However, I thought I'd stick the pix on the computer and have a go with Adobe Photoshop [of which I was equally ignorant]. The result of some Brightening and Contrasting, plus some Unsharp-masking of one of my Oystercatchers was this:

One year on, I have learned to twiddle a few Photoshop knobs. Check out the same pic. Spot the difference?

Nikon Coolpix 4500 + Kowa TSN-821 + 32xW

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Cinnabar Collection

Cinnabar moth, our garden, Peterborough, 8.6.05.
All Nikon Coolpix 880

I've got the Blues

I returned with my family to Swaddywell, yesterday evening, to show the children the Bee Orchids. Turtle Doves were purring and the sun shone. As the evening progressed, the Common Blues (all males) and Small Heaths revealed themselves in greater numbers as they settled on grass stems to have a last bask and 'roost'. I couldn't resist a few photos of the Common Blues. If you have Broadband, click on one or two of the images for some extreme close-up action, brought to you by the microscopic powers of the wonderful Nilon Coolpix 4500 Close Up macro mode.
All Nikon Coolpix 4500

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Swaddywell worth it!

Brian Stone is a decent sort, you know, and he once more took me on a lunchtime mission today (7.6.05), to Swaddywell (just ouside Peterborough and not far from Castor Hanglands), with the express task of searching for Mother Shipton moths (see my last Picos post). It was reasonably warm and sunny and a few insects were on the wing and several Bee Orchids were coming into bloom. We found a single Mother Shipton (see The Natural Stone blog, linked on the right), plus such interesting moths as Burnet Companion and Cinnabar.
Dragonflies included Four-spotted Chaser and a single Black-tailed Skimmer, plus Azure, Common and Large Red Damselflies.
Of the butterflies, there were good numbers of Small Heaths plus several Common Blues and single Red Admiral, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell plus one of the smaller whites.
Here are some photos – some of them are clickable for bigger versions, why not try them to see...
Bee Orchid

Small Heath

Common Blue

Grass Vetchling, a pea plant with leaves which look incredibly grass-like, blending into the background (apart from having these small pinky-red flowers).

Mating Helophilus sp. hoverflies (hey, it's spring, give 'em a break)

All Nikon Coolpix 4500

Monday, June 06, 2005

Castor Hanglands insects

Yesterday (Sunday 5.6.05) the Weedon family outing was to Castor Hanglands NNR, not far from Peterborough. It was fairly sunny so the dragonflies were doing their stuff as were a few early instar bush crickets and the like.
The main true dragon was Hairy Dragonfly and there was the odd Four-spotted Chaser. Otherwise, damselflies dominated, including...

Large Red Damselfly

Other highlights included an abundance of Common Spotted Orchids

This species of sawfly seemed very keen on the buttercups (again click on the pic for a whopper version).

On the way back, Jasmine spotted this caterpillar, which my friend Brian Stone has tied down to Yellow-tail (a moth).

And check out the prolegs on this side by clicking on the image

All Nikon Coolpix 4500