Saturday, 30 May 2015

Damselflies in our garden

WHETHER it's our pond that attracts them or not, these wonderful large red damselflies found it a conducive place to...well you their thing. Fortunately I'm not so sentimental to point out that they create a red heart shape during their coupling, as that would just be soppy.  The male is to the left\below.

Castle Combe - more photos

Our trip to West Yatton Down last week took us through the beautiful ByBrook Valley, where banded damoiselles defended their small river bank territories and mayflies did their best to avoid the feeding trout.  In the woodlands hanging on the valley sides the ramsons were in full flower and amongst the limestone grasslands hawthorn is still out, with its musty blooms.


Dingy skipper (!)

Monday, 25 May 2015

More Exmoor

THERE were a few images which I left off my recent Exmoor post, but thought worthy of showing; they are common species, but I enjoyed capturing them in spite of that:

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Green hairstreak butterfly

Green hairstreak butterfly from West Yatton Down SSSI in Wiltshire:

More details of this day to come...

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Bounty of bluebells and ravishing red campion

Last weekend my folks and I took a drive to see the the wonderful bluebells in Stockings Wood near Wheathamstead, Herts.  This is a small hornbeam coppice woodland managed by the local wildlife trust.


Bluebells are a sign of old ("ancient") woodland, so too is the attractive yellow archangel, which looks similar to a nettle.

On the return home we spotted an amazing sight - this ex-arable filed which is within the new woodland planted recently was full of red campion, with ox-eye daisies waiting to burst into bloom too.  I am not sure if these were planted or arose naturally.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Raft spider walking on you might expect

I suspect that this chap (?) found on the Somerset Levels last weekend is a raft spider.  It seemed to be serene and unflappable, even with me pushing a lens into its face.  When taking photos its important to always get the eyes in focus....tricky with a spider!

As well as arachnids there were plenty of other sights and sounds to please the average naturalist on the Levels last weekend:

First hill looking down on the Levels from the north

Apple orchard now in full bloom

Brimstones have been on the wing for a number of weeks - their colour merging perfectly with the vegetation of spring.

 These two peacocks only had eyes for each other...

Green-veined white
There were plenty of summer (bird) migrants especially white-throats, scratching out their territorial song:

The hobbies (I counted at least 6 in one view) swooped freely through the air catching insects with hundreds of swifts and house martins, along with the occasional swallow.  An occasional cuckoo called, whilst sedge warblers pushed out their metronomic songs.  I had a good view of a bittern flying past a few times, and the usual marsh harriers hunting over the reedbeds.

A few dragonflies and damselflies have emerged too.  This broad bodied female chaser looked fresh and bright.  A blue male was also seen.

There are sooooo many amphibians on the Levels, including plenty of startlingly loud marsh frogs.  This small common frog thought that staying still would help to hide it.

Herons, bitterns and egrets have become quite a feature of these wetlands.  This great white has been ringed.

A great day - this is a good spring!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Exmoor yields its wonders - Day 2 Horner Wood NNR

LAST weekend we visited the truly magical Exmoor National Park, staying in the hamlet of Rockford, with the constant sound of the river rushing past the front door. One of the highlights of the weekend for me was the wonderful Horner Wood, which forms part of a National Nature Reserve.

Ordnance survey map of walk in Horner Exmoor

On our second full day we took in this fabulous NNR, which is in fact a mixture of woodland and open heathland.  There was a fair amount of up and down walking, but it felt easier to be on foot compared to a few groups who had taken to their bikes!

There was interesting sights and views at every turn.  I was keen to see and capture a redstart, but wow was it tricky.  The little blighters sing from way up in the trees and in the closing canopy were quite hard to find, let alone photograph.  A couple of males had a spat while I was tracking them down, which helped.

In some areas, Exmoor ponies are free to roam - here a mother and foal took a moment to inspect us:

This large iridescent beetle (one of a number) crossed our path - I think that it is a violet oil beetle (maybe a female loaded with eggs).

Also two dor beetles (one in hot pursuit of the other - the male behind) were in the same woodland opening.

Due to the overnight rain, and the only partially sunny conditions, the ground flora was damp and "withdrawn" - the wood sorrel and lesser celandines drooped, only the violets seem to be perky!:

From the heathland area, looking north out to sea, the views were spectacular - a point to point race can be seen in the first image:

Looking back over the wooded valley:

An unusually big bracket fungus in the woodland

Driving back to our accommodation the weather broke - it was both violent and spectacular.  We pulled over and I took a few shots between the bursts driving rain and strong winds.

And one more image which I couldn't resist of this chap at Watersmeet - everything, and I mean everything, was interesting to him...