31 May, 2009

Chelsea Won and I Got to See a Woodpecker!

I went to a friends house yesterday to watch the Chelsea vs Everton FA Cup Final. Being a Chelsea fan I was cheering on the Blues but got quite scared when Saha put the ball in the net for Everton after 25 seconds!! However, after a goal from Drogba and a screamer from Lampard, the win was secured!

I bet your wondering what any of this has got to do with birds, aren't you? Well, after the footy we took a stroll in Richmond Park where there was nothing much to note except for a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER (!!) which I watched for a couple of seconds before it flew off into the trees. The birds ID was then confirmed when I heard it call, which sounds almost exactly like that of a Kestrels.

So, Chelsea won the FA Cup and I got to see a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker... what could be better?... well, maybe if Chelsea won the Champions League for once!!

27 May, 2009

An Encounter with My Favourite Animal

I took yet another trip to Old Winchester Hill the other day on what was set to be the hottest day of the year.
The journey started off in style when as we got out of the car at a petrol station along the A3, I noticed a bird of prey high up being mobbed by Swifts... I'm quite glad at what I saw next- as zooming in on the camera revealed it to be a beautiful RED KITE, get in there! Sorry, the shots don't really equate for the beauty of the bird!

As we neared the Old Winchester Hill I noticed a dove flying low over the road, I have to say it looked a bit like a Turtle Dove... I guess we will never know :(
Getting out the car and I noticed a Bullfinch singing from an exposed perch, but just as I set up the camera it flew away! Ah well, plenty of other finches to be getting on with, including Yellowhammers (yes I admit, it's a Bunting).

As you would expect on a day were temperatures were reaching 24 C, there were lots of butterflies about. The Small Heath butterfly is very abundant on the chalk hill slopes and at various parts on the walk, I found myself running after what I thought was a Small Copper, only turning out to be a Small Heath when it landed!
Green Hairstreaks were also quite abundant and I managed to catch up with one that had a great big bit taken out of it, probably the result of an attack by a bird.

Small Heath (a.k.a Small Copper)
Green Hairstreak
The Common Blue is another one of those species that can really get you thinking you have a slightly more decent butterfly on your hands. I have been told that Adonis Blue are quite common on the hill so I was keeping my eyes peeled for anything unusual. When I found a butterfly that looked very much like this rare species of Blue, I was reaching scrambling to find the field guide! The problem was it didn't look blue enough for an Adonis Blue (don't ask!) and I couldn't explain the grey patches on the wings. I looked in the field guide and my initial suspicions were confirmed, it was only a Common Blue...

Common Blue

Here are a couple of female Common Blue I also took that day for comparison...

Common Blue (female)
Common Blue (female)

As we climbed on up the steep slopes that are Old Winchester Hill, a small worm like creature was doing exactly the same. As we came face to face with each other, I noticed it was a Glowworm! It may sound weird, but these are my favourite animals, they may not look special during the day but if you have ever had the privilege, like me, to witness these creatures at night, then you will understand why they are my favourite. It had to be the best wildlife encounter of my life when we went to a secluded part of the South Downs a couple of years ago at twilight and watched Glowworms... well, glow!

Before I knew it, it was time to go home but there was just enough to fit in a few glances and shots of a Mother Shipton Moth (a totally new species for me)... how it can be classed as a moth and not a butterfly I don't know!

Mother Shipton
Mother Shipton
Mother Shipton

14 May, 2009

Blue Tit shots

Here are a few shots of one of our pair of Blue tits foraging for grubs and caterpillars to feed it's young; which have just hatched out in next door's nextbox. The pair have never failed to bring up very cute young Blue tits, in all their years here!

Only a week into the duties of parenting and they are already getting very scruffy. I'm sure the time when the young fledge is much longed for by these two so they can go off and moult!

At the weekend, I'm hoping to make the short journey to Staines Reservoir to watch a White-winged Black Tern (a scarce visitor to Britain)- I'm starting to get into this twitching thing!

13 May, 2009

More Crab Spiders...

Regular viewers will know that I've been following the life of my garden Crab Spider. Stumbling across it again yesterday, and it's obvious that it this guy has been stocking up on flies and god knows what else!
Crab Spiders have a very clever way of feeding. They will lie in wait on a flower (perfectly camouflaged) for an insect to come and land. Then... well, I think you know what happens next!
This behaviour perfectly demonstrated by our own garden Crab Spider...

Sometimes, he forgets his technique and things go a bit wrong! "He's behind you!"

Later in the evening, I came back to check up on it. As I got to the flower that it was hunting on, the spider started to produce silk and when it was long enough, let it blow into the wind to stick onto another plant. Then, it would walk precariously along the silk tight rope to the plant that the silk stuck to and do that until it got the a suitable place to stay for the night...

Just before I went inside, it managed to catch a Bluebottle for dinner...

11 May, 2009

Evening in Bushy Park

Took a late evening walk in Bushy Park on Saturday as it was sure to be absolute mayhem on Sunday due to a Parade that was scheduled to start the next day.
Walking along the canal and the usual Grey Heron was fishing in the long reeds (no good for a photograph) and no sign of any Kingfisher this time. In the Canal Plantations a lone Mandarin duck was swimming elegantly around the pond... after I took this shot the resident Coot started molesting the poor guy who eventually flew off.

It was good to see so many Bluebells out in the warm weather and happily sleeping among them was a cute brother and sister... or brother and brother... or sister and sister Egyptian Geese duo. Mum wasn't too far away so obviously I didn't hang around long.

Back on the main lake and it was starting to get late now, the sun was setting and even Mr. Mallard couldn't resist a quick nap...

In the fallen Willow tree, a Great tit was taking an evening bath but shot up into the branches when a dog bolted past. In the top of the Willow, 2 moustached male Reed Bunting were singing their simple 3-4 note song by the setting sun.

Finishing off with a very tufted male Tufted Duck- a species I don't really photograph enough considering how common it is around here.

09 May, 2009

Dustbin Babies

Whilst taking out the empty Shreddies packet this morning, I noticed a bunch of Spiderlings that had just hatched out inside the Recycling bin. Who knows what they will be recycled into; A Heinz Beanz can? A packed of Kleenex tissues? Or maybe even a pencil. I can only warn you that next time you buy your Evian water bottle, make sure it's made from 100% plastic!

On the subject of babies, next doors Blue tits have young! The adults are making 100s of visits too and from the nest box every day. I'll be sure to keep a eye on this family and expect lots of photos of them when they fledge.

FOOTNOTE- Sorry about the lack of posts recently, a temporary loss of the camera adapter meant I couldn't upload any photos for a couple of days... expect lots more posts to come!

04 May, 2009

Skippers and Hairstreaks on OWH

The plan today was to visit a relative in Hampshire, but as the weather was absolutely perfect, we decided to take a small detour to Old Winchester Hill- best nature reserve in the world ;). The last time I visited Old Winchester Hill, a White throated Sparrow was resident in the hedgerows by the carpark, but has now vanished into the English countryside somewhere... he did seem a bit out of place in the South Downs though didn't he?!

Another little guy that looked a bit out of place on the hill was this very colourful Goldfinch, which was chattering away in the car park...

As the temperature must have been getting close to 25C and the sun wouldn't stop shining, I was hoping to encounter some of the sites scarcer butterfly species that will be on the wing. The first butterfly to show itself was a Small Heath, although not a first for me it was still a nice surprise.

No longer had I taken my eye of the Heath, a tiny green thing floated past me. At first I thought it was a leaf, but when it landed, I knew exactly what it was; a beautiful GREEN HAIRSTREAK!

This had to be the most entertaining butterfly I've come across, as after a few seconds of perching, it would then clumsily lopside as if it were drunk!
Moving on up the steep slope and as I looked back to take in the view... which was stunning ;)- I noticed, out the corner of my eye, a little moth like creature fly onto a dandelion. 'No', 'it couldn't be', 'oh my God it is!', 'no it's not', 'yes it is!!'- were just some of the thoughts going through my head at the time. This moth like creature was a DINGY FLIPPIN' SKIPPER... I mean Dingy Skipper, Dingy Flippin' Skipper is extinct in Britain ;).
The way to distinguish a Skipper from a moth is to look at the antennae; if it is looped at the end it's a butterfly but if it isn't then it's a moth...
A pair of Bullfinches flew past as we neared the fort. After chatting to the very friendly site warden, we noticed we were a bit late leaving, so we had to swap the leisurely pace we had been walking at and replace it with a jog. Of course, I couldn't miss a getting a shot of a yellow Yellowhammer in a tree...
Or a leaf like Brimstone on a leaf...
Suddenly, mum flushed another almost microscopic insect and as I was about to turn away thinking it was just a flying beetle, I noticed it had the pattern of a Grizzled Skipper. It landed and there in front of me was a GRIZZLED SKIPPER!!!!! It was almost impossible trying to pinpoint, as it was so small...
And a close up showing those 'grizzled' markings on the wings...