23 July, 2010

Silver-washed Fritillary

Silver-washed Fritillary

The largest Fritillary in Britain, and one which I have never seen before; I was kindly given directions by Frank (The Early Birder) to Bookham Common just a few miles down the road, where the Silver-washed Fritillary will be reaching its peak.

With the weather window we needed, my mum kindly offered to take me to the Common on Monday, and we were greeted by 100s of these striking orange and black streaked butterflies.

They spent most of their time feeding on thistle in the sunny clearings, but were easily disturbed and without a proper macro lens, I used the telescopic; having the advantage of not needing to go too close to get a shot.

The sun was extremely bright, which produced many 'fried' images, but also a few ones that I don't think are too bad.



A side on view...



These guys will be on the wing throughout August so I might give it another shot at them... literally.

18 July, 2010

Good Old Winchester Hill

Good Old Winchester Hill

Old Winchester has got to be one of my favourite nature reserves in Britain, because of it's brilliant views and also stunning range of wildlife that can be found there. It is arguably the best sight in Britain to watch butterflies, solely because of the range of specialist wildflower that grow on the chalk downland slopes, providing excellent feeding for specialist butterflies.

The butterfly I was looking for when I went down there the other day was Chalkhill Blue, and as the name suggests, its favoured habitat is chalk hillside.

The weather wasn't brilliant as we left, with grey clouds and rain overhead. Hopefully though, the bad weather would break up as we reached the south downs (area of hills)... obviously, it didn't, and we arrived to find many of the butterflies sheltering on grass stems, especially the smaller, weaker flying species like Small Skipper...




Some of the stronger fliers, such as the stunning Marbled White, braved the windy weather, and happily fed and perched out in the open...


As mentioned earlier, the reason butterflies flourish here is because of the specialist wildflowers that grow on the chalk slopes, including Common Agrimony, the footplant of Grizzled Skipper, abundant on the hillside in late spring...


The yellow flowers below are Lady's Bedstraw...


... Apparently, they can be used to cure the smell of stinking feet; I'm starting to regret not pickin- errm... anyway, here's a nice Ringlet that was resting on the path...


Up on the Celtic hill fort, it was evident that Yellowhammers were breeding, with adults carrying caterpillars into the surrounding shrubland...


Back to the task in hand, and slowly but surely the weather began to improve, with the odd bit of sunshine coming through. By this time though, we were reaching the end of the walk with no Chalkhill Blue to boot. Suddenly, a glance over the left revealed a blue butterfly... but was it a Chalkhill?

It finally came down to land on a bramble and bingo, those chequered patterns to the wings identify Chalkhill from all other British Blues...


It performed for another 10 minutes but was far out in the brambles, and I had shorts on, so common sense told me not to go prancing into the brambles!

... Success, I think so!

13 July, 2010

Small Copper

Small Copper

I seem to have abandoned Bushy Park recently, even though it provides great opportunities for photography and is only a short cycle from the house. Butterflies seem to be everywhere at the moment and with only one photo of Small Copper in the archive, a colourful but common species, I headed down to Bushy Park where the butterflies would be reaching their peak.

The park is made up mainly of grassland and ferns, and it's clearings like this that are ideal for butterflies, with wildflowers such as daisies making easy pickings for them...


In this particular clearing, Small Skippers were also abundant, and it didn't take long for me to find a Small Copper as it patrolled its territory. They are very territorial and this male would intercept any insect, including Small Skipper incase it was a passing male, or even better, a female.

They are very active little butterflies, and I could only get close enough for a photograph when the male sat on a vantage point (i.e. fern, grass stem) across his territory...


Or in this case, a leaf...



Meadow Pipit...


After a while, the sun's heat became a bit too much and I decided to call it a day, a bit unsatisfied with the result.

11 July, 2010

Doesn't Get Much Better Than That

Doesn't Get Much Better Than That...

Remember that time when luck was just on your side... everything was going right... nothing was going wrong? No, neither do I; but I got pretty damn close last week, during a few nights stay at the grandparents house in Suffolk.

Being the absolute donker I am, I managed to leave my camera kit at home. In a nutshell...

"Right, time to do some photography. Hmm... I wonder where my camera is? I'm sure I packe- damn!"

This mean't that for the first three days I couldn't take any photographs at all; none at all; zilch; nil; zero, and I was literally crying myself to sleep at night. Anyway, on the fourth day I had my baby back safe with me via a pretty useless courier.

Before the trip, we'd been given a tip off as to where we could see Nightjar, one of those birds that most birders dream about, at Blaxhall Common by the coast. It was a healthy distance from where I was staying, so to make it a day trip we set out to RSPB Minsmere, and with camera in hand, I was hoping for some photos.

By the entrance feeders, this female Chaffinch was having a bit of a shocker with her plumage. I mean that style is sooo last year...


The reserve is dominated by reedbed, and Sedge and Reed Warbler were in full song. Occasionally the odd Sedge Warbler would pop up, albeit distant...


Down along the beach, I failed to pinpoint any Little Terns, but we did get distant and brief glances of a Grey Seal out in the sea. Believe me, it is a seal...


Back down on the wader scrape, much of the water was dried up, but a small pool had been adopted by a family of Avocets...


The juveniles, note the hint of a greyish brown tinge to the plumage...



Despite the young birds large size, the adults were still very protective, and were constantly chasing away nearby Black-headed Gulls...

The gull then decided to take his revenge. Getting ready to give the Avocet a good old slap...


With the sun low in the sky, we decided to head off to our next and last location of the day, Blaxhall Common, in the hope of finding Nightjar. The conditions couldn't have been better with a warm temperature and no wind. The sunset...


A clearing in a woodland were the Nightjars were located...


As the sun went down, I was amazed to hear a Dartford Warbler singing and briefly showing in the gloom, but it was too dark to get a shot.

Then, right on queue at 9.30pm, we heard a churring noise in the distance... Nightjar! Another churring noise started in a tree to the left and it soon became apparent that there were at least two males calling. From then on until 11pm, the Nightjars churred non-stop and flew right over our heads on several occasions. It was too dark for an acceptable photo but we did record a video with churring in...

video

At 11pm, the noise started to die down and eventually stop, although it was starting to freak me out.

On the final day, we took a brief trip to Lackford Lakes SWT before I took the train back to London.

With the amount of luck we'd already had with the Nightjars and the seal, we decided to try our luck in the Reed Hide, famous for Kingfisher sightings. After a painstaking and ass-breaking 5 minutes of sitting still in the hide, a little blue bird came and sat in full view on the wooden post designated especially for it...




So there you go, two of my personal best wildlife experiences in two days. I think it's safe to say that it doesn't get much better than that. I'll leave you with a little ickle bunny wabbit, just chilling out. I definitly feel like a sit down after this post.


01 July, 2010

The Winning Streak Continues

The Winning Streak Continues...

Actually, that title is pretty debatable. The winning streak actually started and finished about a week ago, but Mr BT Home Hub and the laptop haven't been getting on recently and so Mr Home Hub decided to muck up laptop's internet connection, stopping me from posting this earlier in the week when it actually happened... if you follow my strings. Luckily though, I got them to apologise to each other and the internet is now back to normal.

Anyway, the winning streak refers to Hawk-moths, and only the night after catching the Elephant Hawk-moth, I caught the garden's second species of Hawk-moth, the Lime Hawk-moth.

Not quite as pretty, but still a very smart looking guy...



Enjoy. I'll try not to bore you with moths too often, except when I get a really good one, I'll save most things moth related for this blog... worth a peek if you like what you see here.