Sunday, 26 August 2012

Dragonflies everywhere

ON the Somerset Levels today, as expected, the darter and emperor dragonflies were prolific and fantastic.  I tried very hard to capture the emperors in flight but only with partial success.

At this time of year dragonflies are happy to perch on you...


Under some corrugated iron grass snakes and sloworms were happily coiled up - until I disturbed them!  A male adder was basking in its usual place too.

There are not many plants still in flower apart from the white Wild Angelica and Yellow and Purple loosestrifes, plus the occasional meadowsweet.

Wild angelica


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Return to the New Forest

LAST weekend we drove down to the New Forest for the day, to enjoy the purple heather, the towering oaks and suicidal the ponies.  This time of year is a low point for bird watchers so we have to get our kicks somewhere else - marshy bogs with biting insects and dragonflies is just the thing...and the New Forest has some amazing examples.

The landscape is a patchwork of dry heathland, lowland bogs, streams, broadleaved native woodlands, dense conifer plantations and areas that feel like parkland...its a wonderful mix.  This area is all (except for fenced off woodlands) grazed by ponies and cattle, that roam freely, along with deer and of course, rabbits. The livestock is not wild but owned by the "commoners".

Gate keepers were abundant along the open rides
Common century
We ambled round in a broadly circular route that we often follow, but the warm day slightly defeated us, as we were very weary by the time the we got back to the car.  For me the best bit was the wet flushes in the valleys, where the acid water gives rise to sphagnum covered bogs (have I mentioned the bogs???) playing host to all sorts of interesting plants, including the insect eating sundews.

bog asphodel - last of this species in flower
bog asphodel
bog myrtle - with very fragrant leaves growing on drier patches
Small rush species

Along one of the woodland edges we came across a terrible stink - now that means one of two things - something dead or Phallus impudicus (i.e. a stinkhorn) and sure enough...there was one with flies and all...

Stinkhorn (a fungus)
Further on whilst having a little sit down in the shade a high pitched whistle caught our attention - I could not quite place it then when this flash of blue flew to the bridge in front of me I realised of course that it could only have been a kingfisher

It was a fair distance from my camera but I did manage to capture this unusual image:

This individual was hunting along a small stream fed by smaller streams.  Along the edges were an abundant array of plants and dragonflies:

A yellow bird'sfoot trefoil flower

Lesser spearwort
Water crowfoot

A great day.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Barnes WWT, London - Pond Life

WE were in London for the Olympics (as you do!) and thought that it would be nice to visit Barnes.

This is probably the worst time to go for birds, as they have finished breeding and have dispersed, or are moulting out of sight.  However there were four black tailed godwits still in their warm summer plumage, lots of herons and a few little grebes...which was nice.

The highlight of the visit however were the huge swathes of wonderful purple loosestrife flowers which were super abundant across the reserve.  Also, beside these, were many flowering marginal water plants.  There were also a few dragonflies and damselflies zipping around.  One surprise was the number of basking common lizards (nice work Bryan and Pamela) that seemed quite used to humans as they stretched out on the sides of the board walk.

There is an educational room which gives a great sense of what it must be like to be a minnow in a pond - scary...

These are the flowery pictures - a botanical feast!:

Finally, common but photogenic baby moorhens: