Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Up Close and Personal

Seeing as Sunday's close up shots of Wood Ants turned out quite well, I decided to stick my lens right in the face of another couple of unfortunates this morning.

Bloody-nosed Beetle

Marbled White.
I could only get this close because...

... it was preoccupied.

Neither beetle nor butterflies seemed to mind my intrusion, I know for sure this didn't...

Small Scabious

While I was on Axe Cliff harassing invertebrates I was missing a Wood Sandpiper at Colyford Common. I went down there later to see it but it flew off just as I was approaching the hide. Now I'm safely back at home and due in work shortly it's back again! Oh well..

Sunday, 28 June 2009

There's One, There! ...Oh It's Gone!

This was the oft heard exchange of words today between Bun and me when we visited Ashclyst Forest near Exeter to look for White Admirals. We did see some I'm pleased to say. In fact we saw at least seven of the gorgeous creatures, but would they land, would they ...! Actually we did get two brief perched (do butterflies perch) views but they were high in the treetops. At one point one toyed with me by flying slowly right around my legs, about a couple of inches off the ground, sniggering to itself no doubt. I enjoyed a great view but no photos...this time! I'll be back! We also saw about eight Silver-washed Fritillaries and a few other odds and sods, which was all pretty amazing considering that it was raining a lot of the time and we never saw the sun once. I haven't much time to write this evening so I'll just annotate some photos from today.

Ooh look! Ashclyst Forest is owned by my favourite charity,
good job it's free or I'd be a bit of a hypocrite!

Silver-washed Fritillary, definitely one of my favourites,
I mean ... Just look at them!

Male Ringlet

Also what seems to be my specialty of late. A mating pair.

To counteract all that beauty what about this.
It's a Robber Fly a Neoitamus cyanurus most probably ( I looked it up in a book)
Whatever it's called it's a teeny bit hideous!

A fungus:
None of my books could help me with this one. Any mycologists out there? It's a slimy gelatinous type one, looked a bit like it was once a chicken korma, if you get my drift.

EDIT I've been kindly informed by Maurice (thanks! :-) ) That this is in fact a slime mould called Fuligo septica, more commonly known as Dog Vomit Slime Mould, perfect description methinks. Just 'say what you see'! :-)

A des res?
I know of at least one reader who'll really appreciate the inclusion of this photo of a stunning, light, airy and deceptively spacious, executive style shed.

After leaving Ashclyst Forest we decided to pop in at Alyesbeare Common to look for Dartford Warblers. We didn't see any but heard one call once. It was very quite bird wise as you'd expect. I was highly entertained though by a colony of Wood Ants. I tried to take a few photos which turned out to be a lot trickier than I'd supposed.

Here some of them are carrying off a green caterpillar. They didn't appreciate the closeness of my lens and one of them came over to warn me off!

It 'adopted the position' and showed me its fearsome jaws...I stood my ground.

Then it got nasty and squirted formic acid at my camera. Cool!!

Later while walking Rex in Morganhayes Wood I took a close up photo of this Slender St.John's Wort flower. I'd never noticed the tiny little black specks around the petals before.

Finally just to add a bird photo, here's one I took whilst walking Rex yesterday in a green lane near to Rousdon, another Yellowhammer in fine voice as usual!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Scribbling Lark

I took a couple of snaps of a gorgeous and very vociferous male Yellowhammer on Axe Cliff today, not really much of a highlight I know, but after all it IS June! This is the sort of thing one has to resort to....Least it's not another rant...

Monday, 22 June 2009

Is The National Trust Pants?

Well it's never been my favourite 'charity' that's for sure, more of a massive money making organization I've always thought. Its original aim was apparently to provide free access to open spaces for the multitudes, but I know of one area locally where they lease land to a farmer who defaces and removes public footpath signs and puts barbed wire over national trust fitted gates on access land.

Anyway today they fell even further out of favour with me when I visited a site they manage /own in Dorset called Badbury Rings. Its a very impressive Iron Age hill fort with three circular ramparts. I was hoping to see a fine display of wildflowers and orchids because in my orchid book it states -"A wonderful site with a rich downland flora and a great variety of orchid species, on the hill fort itself Frog Orchid is a speciality, other species include Common Fragrant, Common Spotted, Common Twayblade, Early Purple, Green-winged, Pyramidal, Bee Orchid, Greater Butterfly and Autumn Ladies-tresses." Sounds superb no? When I arrived I immediately spotted Some Pyramidal and Bee Orchids on the grass verge of the driveway leading to the parking area. BUT when I got out of the car and approached the hill fort itself I was greeted by this sign, (which I had to re-fix to the gate as it was falling off and not immediately noticeable) My heart sank into my boots as I read. :(


I saw what I expected, a flowerless waste ground with guess what? Plenty of lovely scrub; brambles, dog rose, wild privet and hawthorn saplings all totally unmolested by the teeth of sheep, I mean what sheep are going to eat scrub when they can eat the lovely shooting tips and flowers of juicy orchids and other wildflowers? Absolutely anything growing over 2mm from the ground (which wasn't scrub) had been devoured. There were quite a lot of Marbled White butterflies on the wing but they had precious little to feed on!

Not a sign of Ragwort though, so that 's worked, call me a cynic but they are probably more concerned about eradicating ragwort than anything else because if they have ragwort on their land they cannot rent it to farmers for grazing, so can't make as much money. What's wrong with pulling it anyway? I used to hand pull all the ragwort from my horse's fields when I kept them. The National Trust has an army of eager volunteers for that sort of thing. Also using sheep to graze ragwort is against the advice of DEFRA who state " Sheep can be affected by ragwort and this technique cannot be recommended on animal welfare grounds"
I find it laughable that The National Trust can devastate this species rich grassland by over grazing when earlier this year they were spouting on about how the previous couple of wet summers have been so detrimental to wildlife, including butterflies and other insects. Matthew Oates (nature conservation advisor to the NT) stated in the Guardian " We're desperate for a good summer in 2009. The state of our wildlife is very dynamic. But a third bad summer could cause significant damage" Who needs bad weather when you can cause this much damage with some sheep. I know the NT says that it's for the 'greater good' but I fail to see how completely destroying the flowering spikes of every single one of up to 10 species of orchid, (two of which are vulnerable/threatened species) could be beneficial. If we do have a hot dry summer they may not recover!
Here are a couple of photos I took, it's still an impressive earthwork:

From Badbury Rings I could see these fields to the west.

The wheat fields right in the distance (beyond the pig sheds) are where calling Quail have been reported from recently, I stopped by for a listen on my way home but didn't here them.

Sssshh! Don't tell the National Trust I've posted these pictures of Badbury Rings in a public domain. They forbid it don't you know. They do really! They state on their website and in an e-mail sent to the forums of the Royal Photographic Society " The NT does not permit filming or photography at its properties for commercial use or for reproduction in any form. Images taken at NT properties must not be sent to photo libraries, agencies or on line providers, or provided directly to image buyers. The bylaw protecting the trust applies to all National Trust property, including non-paying property such as coastlines and landscapes" See more here. So stop posting those photos of Branscombe Beach on your blogs local bloggers, the National Trust says NO!

This isn't just sour grapes because I dipped an orchid tick, I'll see Frog Orchid elsewhere I'm sure. I know the National Trust won't be seeing the colour of my money again that's for sure.

One nice highlight today was a close encounter with a lovely Tree Pipit which landed on the ground singing just three or four feet from me. Not sure why - distracting me away from a nest perhaps?

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Large Blue

This morning Bun and I went to Collard Hill in Somerset to see Large Blue butterflies. Up until yesterday I didn't realise that it was the reserve's ' Large Blue Open Day' today so we aimed to get there reasonably early to beat the rush. It was a good thing we did because when we left the car park was completely full. We got several good views of the butterflies, there were probably about eight on the wing in the small area of the hillside we covered. Most of them appeared to be quite old and faded but some new ones were emerging too. They were quite difficult to get close to, not stopping for more than a couple of seconds. A real treat to see for the first time and it's good to know that they have been seen on a couple more hillsides in the vicinity too. :-)

After leaving Collard Hill we had a good wander round at Meare Heath, Walton Heath etc. We heard the Little Bittern close by in the reeds but didn't fancy waiting several hours for another view! We also had a couple of flight views of Bittern, including a really good one right over the car park. Also a couple of Hobbies, and a superb male Marsh Harrier. We weren't lucky enough to get a glimpse of the Purple Heron that's still in the area though.

The first one I was able to photograph was this poor specimen, which was slightly impaired on the wing front.

That's more like it.

The female of this mating pair was seen to emerge just minutes before.

Mating pair of Marbled Whites.
I'd never seen the pale brown patterning on the females underwing before.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Salisbury Plain and Martin Down

This morning I got up extremely early at 3.00 am in order to join Steve and Bun on a trip to Wiltshire. We visited a couple of sites on Salisbury Plain where we saw a few Stone Curlews, and lots of lovely Corn Buntings some of which were posing really nicely, begging to be digiscoped, but someone went and forgot her digiscoping camera! I believe Steve got some photos though . We also saw loads of tanks. It felt very strange birding with tanks on training maneuvers all around you!

Later in the morning we moved on to Martin Down hoping for a few butterfly ticks. The weather wasn't ideal though with a fair bit of cloud and a fresh northwesterly wind making it quite chilly. There were loads of orchids though and I got another tick with this:

Common (I think?) Fragrant Orchid.

Time was against us with me having to get home in time for work this evening so I wasn't able to have a good look around for any more orchid ticks today. I absolutely love Martin Down though and will certainly be going back soon. We did see a couple of nice butterflies which were both 'lifers' for me, and they were (in no particular order)...

Dark Green Fritillary


Adonis Blue
(I couldn't believe just how vivid blue these were, the photos don't do the colour justice really)

This big hairy caterpillar was one to look up when I got home.

It's the caterpillar of the Oak Eggar Moth.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Yellow-legged Gull

Ian M found an adult Yellow-legged Gull on the estuary at Coronation Corner late this morning. I'd had a lie in, but it was worth getting dressed and rushing out to see it. A real big brute it was too. A bit distant and glary for decent photos but here's a couple of efforts non the less.

Distant and blurry..

Closer and blurrier.

Simply can't have a blog entry without a flower picture, so seeing as I was already at Coronation Corner I popped round to Axmouth Cemetery, to see this...

Fox and Cubs - A red hawkweed, which is an introduced naturalized species. Could also be a garden escape, but it's very nice. Well, I think so.

Because of my lie in this morning I missed the ringing at Colyford Common. That wont stop me publishing some ringing photos though because I took a few at last Monday's session but never got around to posting them on here, so I'll do it now to pad out this entry a bit. :-)

Long-tailed Tit

Female Kingfisher

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Another Walk to Culverhole

This morning I took Rex for a nice long walkies along Axe Cliff into the Undercliff and eventually down into Culverhole. I wanted to have another look in Culverhole because I knew that there was a chance that I would be able to see Marsh Helleborine. It's about two weeks too early for them according to my books, but I couldn't wait! Besides that 'lots of things' seem to be emerging/flowering early this year. So I was optimistic. The weather was lovely and warm and so I was also hoping to see some butterflies and dragonflies too, and you never know even a bird or two!

I took loads of photos today so I'll just recount my walk in photos, like this:

There were a surprising amount of dragonflies on Axe Cliff itself, including this female Broad-bodied Chaser.

Also a couple of these. Golden-ringed Dragonfly.
I also saw a male BB Chaser, an Emperor and a female Black-tailed Skimmer.

At my favourite corner of Axe Cliff there is a small area of wildflower rich grass, I always come here to look for butterflies, I visited on numerous occasions last year but never saw any Pyramidal Orchids, this year there are hundreds of them!

It was here that I saw this: My first Marbled White of the year.

Also this Cinnabar Moth
(you can see loads of these at Weeting Heath in Norfolk, it'll cost you £2.50 mind ;-) )

I didn't spot the juvenile Stonechats today but I did see a Buddleia bush full of lovely 'brand new' Common Whitethroats, like this one. :-)

The view from the footpath on The Undercliff down to Culverhole. The orchid I was after was down there somewhere.

Once down in Culverhole I got my first ever photo of a Wood White. Also on the wing were Dingy Skipper, Common Blue and Large Skipper.

After much clambering about and sinking in another bog I eventually spotted some small clumps of Marsh Helleborine, They don't look much from a distance.

They're behind you!
I was quite exited to find them but Rex just looked at me as if to say, "So what! I don't care if you've just found 'The Lost Treasure of The Sierra Madre' - I could do with a bit of shade here!"

They are really stunning close up though...Look!

I also stumbled upon this...

A Bee Orchid.
Just the one - but it's on patch!

After lunch I made a quick visit to Lower Bruckland Ponds, hoping to get a photo of the male Scarce Chaser I saw on my last visit, and here he is...

There were lots of Six-spot Burnet Moths here too, I took a few snaps including this one and the 'artistic' one below.