Monday, June 30, 2008


Tan Tan Tanuki no kintama wa,
Kaze mo nai no ni,
Bura bura

As some of you may know, I spent nearly a year in Hokkaido, Japan, some time back. One creature I tried to see throughout my time there was the Racoon Dog or Tanuki – which is commonly depicted in popular culture with unfeasibly large balls!

This weekend I saw one for the first time, but not in the way I would have liked. I was in eastern Finland with Brian Stone, Will Bowell and Tony Parker and we were birding. The Tanuki, part of the 'introduced' European population (they are native to Asia), had been caught in a trap by a lake less than 100m from an official birdwatching tower (or Lintutorni).

Lured by bits of fish bait the poor beast was curled up in the cage, with flies over its face, resigned to death, motionless, spirit crushed and neglected by the trapper for God knows how long.

Memories came to me of the most horrific of YouTube footage of these unfortunate canids being skinned alive and conscious in China (apparently 1.5 million are reared for skinning in that country). I guess this Finnish animal was going to be a fur if the trapper ever came around to check his traps.

It took a bit of shaking, but we got it out of the cage and it ran away strongly into the woods.

Photo by Brian Stone

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In wheel

Azure Damselflies, our pond, Peterborough, Cambs, 14.6.08 (A640)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Maiden Flight

12.27pm: We found this recently emerged Southern Hawker in our pond today (22.6.08). Clinging to its exuvia with wings out, but still together over its back, and still no more than translucent. The whole body is still pale with just a ghost pattern and the abdomen is still bent.

13.53pm: After pumping fluids into its body and wings, the wings are now clear, the abdomen straight and the colour is starting to come into the hardening body. The wings are starting to come sligtly apart from each other.

14.04pm: The wings come apart for the first and final time (they will now stay apart for ever). The pattern of the adult hawker (apparently a female) is now starting to show quite clearly. The wings are shivering as the hawker warms up its muscles. Within a couple of minutes it was off on its maiden flight, settling in one of our apple trees.

14.07pm: All that's left is the exuvia, trailing the white linings of the breathing spiracles. It is unbelievable that the adult could have been packed into here. Note particularly the size of the wing cases and the relatively tiny eyes.

All photos Canon PowerShot A640.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Banded Demoiselle

The business end (A640)


Lesser Stag Beetle, our garden, Peterborough, Cambs, 19.6.08 (A640)

Sunday, June 15, 2008


DSLR shots of the beasts featured below...

Feed me!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Spilt brains?

The fresh wing of a newly-emerged Southern Hawker, just out of its exuvia (Canon PowerShot A640)


Broad-bodied Chaser (female), our house, Peterborough, 14.6.08 (Canon PowerShot A640).


Broad-bodied Chaser (male), our house, Peterborough, 14.6.08 (Canon PowerShot A640). Definitely my favourite insect!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

More Buffs

More Puffs

Herma Ness, Unst, Shetland, 1.6.08 (digiscope)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sunday, June 08, 2008


What a brilliant find by local birders Jamie and Rod Wilson at Maxey pits (an hour after I rudely left the vicinity yesterday...). This was the first adult Buff-breasted Sandpiper I've ever seen and it was mind-blowing to see its dirty-flasher display. An utterly brilliant bird! (digiscope)

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Maxey Pits, Cambs, 7.6.08 (digiscoped with Kevin Du Rose's A95 - ta)

Thursday, June 05, 2008


More Bonxies

Herma Ness, Unst, Shetland 1.6.08 (DSLR)

Two Bonxies

Herma Ness, Unst, Shetland, 1.6.08 (digiscope)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008