Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Co.

I went out looking for butterflies today both in Devon and Somerset. I didn't manage to see any Duke of Burgundy (it's still a bit early for them though) but did see my first Dingy Skipper and Grizzled Skipper of the year at the site I visited in Somerset. There were lots of Pearl-bordered Fritillaries at one of the usual sites near Exeter though.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary


The above two shots were taken with the 400mm lens.
I had an attempt at getting an action shot but it was difficult to get focus with such a messy background.
The rest of the PBF shots were taken with my  SX50.

Look away now if you're of a nervous disposition.....

 It's got a passenger!
 A mite or a tick?

It's actually walking in the butterfly's eye!
What? You'd like a closer look....Okay..


Dingy Skipper

Grizzled Skipper

Orange Tip

Wood Spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Collared Pratincole at Northam Burrows

Second time lucky for Bun and me today after our unfortunate dip on Tuesday. As soon as we arrived at Northam Burrows we could see a line of birders watching the bird out on the golf course. We joined them and enjoyed superb views for the whole time we were there, it even had a couple of  nice fly arounds. It was feeding alongside several Wheatears and seemed to be catching plenty to eat. It was always a little too distant for the 400mm lens but I was able to get some digiscoped shots too. A species I've been looking forward to getting on my list and that's where it now is at No.349. I wonder what 350 will be?

Collared Pratincole

 The above shots were all digiscoped, the following ones I took with the 400mm lens which didn't quite have enough reach but it was still nice to be able to get some flight shots.

While eating my sandwiches some pink flowers caught my eye, I didn't recognize them, turns out they are Common Storksbill.  Yes, they're common, the clue is in the name after all. I must have seen them before but never really 'looked at' them if you know what I mean. I'm planning on seeing or should that be 'noticing' many more plants this coming season.

Common Storksbill

Friday, 25 April 2014

Green Winged Orchids

I paid a visit to a nearby site for Green-winged Orchid this morning after seeing them (possibly at the same site) on Roger's blog yesterday. They are very early this year, I don't usually go to see them until May, and some of them very big too!

If only more meadows could look like this.

There were lots of really robust specimens like these.
Also the usual variety of colour forms, although I couldn't find a white one this year.

 The majority are this shade of purple.
 The green veins on the wings are clearly visible on this specimen.

The veins on this one are the alternative bronze colour.

Slightly different shade with pale centre to the lips of the flowers, again  with the bronze veins on the wings.

A couple of really dark ones.... 
and best of all several shades of pink...


The icing on the cake of my visit was hearing and then seeing a Cuckoo. Unfortunately I hadn't brought my birding camera along  but that didn't stop me trying to get a record shot. It's definitely a real bona fide 'record shot' too!

See. Told you so!
I wish I'd taken my other camera along because after I'd taken this stunning shot it flew right past me. 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Catch up...The Good, The Bad and The Very, Very Sad

As promised I'm going to do a catch up post with some stuff that I've had ready to go on here but haven't had the time or if I was more honest, inclination, to put on here.

Firstly back in March I went to check on the Spring Snowflakes just down the road at Wooton Basset. I'd seen them three years ago if I recall correctly. I was wondering how they had fared through all of the flooding we'd had during the winter. There was a very good show of them I'm happy to say. All the plants close to the edges of the stream were quite stunted but further away some specimens were pretty large.

 Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum)

A couple of weeks ago whilst visiting Martha in Winchester I popped into the New Forest while passing to look for a plant I've never seen before, namely Narrow Leaved Lungwort (Pulmonaria longifolia). This is actually a rare native plant unlike the more often seen Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) which is a naturalised species in the UK.

 The flowers become a very vivid blue.

The basal leaves are eight times as long as they are wide as can clearly be seen here.

In the warm weather we've been having I've seen quite a few butterflies out and about and also in my garden, where I've already seen nine species! I've had a go at photographing some using my 400mm lens, which isn't ideal but I'm happy with some of the results especially managing to get clear 'flight shots'.


Small Tortoiseshell.

I do have some bird related news, mostly bad, but I did see the Lodmoor Red-rumped Swallow, which was a lifer for me. The weather was extremely dismal and gloomy so my efforts at getting photos were pretty dismal too! Still, you can definitely tell what it is.

I've also suffered two horrendous dips. Firstly the Great Spotted Cuckoo (I don't see what's so GREAT about them. I hate them!) This was (can you believe) the second bird which I have seen other birders watching but haven't seen myself! (Read the other sorry tale here.) And this one was on patch which makes it extra annoying! I kept hearing about it whilst I was at work, how it just sat there, and sat there for almost four hours. As soon as I got out of work at 7 o'clock I sped up there as fast as I could. I was less than one hundred metres away when I heard it had flown into some conifers, presumably to roost. I could possibly have seen it from that distance had I not been looking directly in the direction of the low sun. I went back at first light but there was no sign (and there wasn't realistically going to be) in thick fog. The thick fog lasted for three days, plenty long enough for it to have died :-( Thanks to Bun and Phil for their help it was much appreciated.

Then onto this Tuesday when Bun and I set out very early in the morning to Northam Burrows to see the Collared Pratincole. We arrived at 7ish and there had been no sign of it. We watched and waited for around 3 and a half hours and then,very stupidly, decided to call it a day. It really didn't seem that it was around anymore. We had just arrived back in Seaton when we heard that it was back. It could have been worse though. If we had decided to drive back we'd have dipped it again because it flew off a couple of hours later never to be seen again.

That was the bad. Finally the very sad, which really puts not seeing a couple of birds into perspective. Exactly nine weeks ago tomorrow I had to do what I'd known was coming for months. I had to make that final act of kindness and take Rex on his last journey to the vets. He had gone into cardiac failure and was struggling to breathe. By the time I got there he was so weak that it didn't even take the whole contents of the syringe to see him peacefully on his way. It still broke my heart....My best friend and constant companion for 13 years, at least he'll always live on in my memory and on here too. I'm so glad that I documented so many of our 'little adventures' on my blog and can look back on them from time to time. George Graham Vest's famous 'Tribute to a Dog' probably says how I felt about him better than I ever could..

Best of Friends...
and he never once laughed at my choice of hats!