29 June, 2009

The Bigger Picture...

As regular viewers will have noticed, I have increased the sizes of the images in this post. I will try to make this a regular thing- only if I can be assed to update my Flickr account all the time!

Anyway, here is one of 7 or 8 frogs that have set up residence in our small garden pond... I attempted to get a shot of it feeding by throwing in woodlice and ants... it didn't work. Then I realised they liked worms... so I threw one at him and he swam away. I'm such an amateur!



28 June, 2009

Small Skipper

Its been another very hot day so I decided to go down to Bushy Park again. Annoyingly, upon arrival in the park, I noticed I had forgotten my bike lock. No matter, I would just have to take my bike with me today. Due to this slight problem, I decided to watch for wildlife in the vast extent of grassland, where there was sure to be much less people around to get in the way.

Leaving the main path onto a grassy track, and the noise of playing children was replaced by the sounds of Grasshoppers, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and a beautiful singing male Stonechat....

A male Meadow Pipit in song flight, twirling as it dives down to Earth...
A noisy Grasshopper... or it a Cricket, I think its a Cricket isn't it?
Butterflies were very abundant in the dead grass, as I cycled through, Ringlet and Meadow Brown fluttered between the spokes of my wheels. However, there was one butterfly that I was really hoping to photograph... the Small Skipper. I had spotted one of two Skippers in the distance as I cycled, but hardly ever very close and never close enough for a shot.

My luck was going to change though... as I watched a Meadow Brown pass by a small orange blur sped past and landed on a fern. Reaching for the camera, I took a shot but accidentally disturbed it in the process and it flew off...

I cycled after it and was soon face to face with about 10 Small Skippers chasing one another! One pair were displaying...
Then one of the pair flew to the ground and perched on a blade of grass, posing beautifully for the camera... you can tell it is Small Skipper by the slight black outline on the edge of the every wing.

Another one Skipper landed on a fern and perched there long enough for me to get a shot of its underwing...
Its safe to say I hit the Jackpot!!

25 June, 2009

What a Great Hobby!

It has to be said, combining birdwatching and photography makes for a brilliant hobby! But thats not the hobby I'm on about... I'm on about the speedy, deadly Bird of Prey that visits Britain in the summer months. Back on Sunday, I was lucky enough to encounter one in Bushy Park, on a trip that was meant to find me more Garden Warbler!

I planned to spend the day in the Woodland Gardens as elsewhere was packed with people! By the gate, a pair of wading Mallards had certainly chosen their territory with a lot of care...

Unknown to them, a sneaky Jay was taking a drink from their 'puddle', decreasing the water level even further...

Upon entering the Woodland Garden, a flock of Stock Doves erupted from a nearby tree (believe it or not I've never actually managed to photograph these shy doves. One call in particular caught my attention. It was coming from high up in a tree and sounded like a Kestrel. A small bird was climbing up the trunk, which made me think of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. However, when the small bird flew off, the calling continued from the same tree. A small bird of prey landed on a branch and it was obvious the calling was coming from it. I smiled at what I thought was a young Kestrel, but after taking a few shots... I realised it was not a Kestrel at all...

It was a beautiful Hobby (the photos don't do it justice!)- certainly one of my best finds in the park; up with the top 2: Kingfisher and Little Owl.

Literally a second later, it was gone... never to be seen again (by me).

The stunning Banded Damoiselle was abundant on this very hot day, along with White legged, Azure, Large Red Damselfly and an identified yellowish Damselfly... anyone got any ideas?

A spectacularly large flock of young Starlings were flushed from the ferns by a young male Red Deer. This isn't even a quarter of the flock...

22 June, 2009

Passing on the Seed

I was in the situation the other day when I had nothing to do, so I went into the garden and decided to look for all the ways the plants germinate (yeh, mad I know!)-- I only found 5!

20 June, 2009

Quick Posts

Wow, I haven't posted for weeks, sorry about that- I know you are all missing me! Yep, its the same old excuse of "I'm too busy to blog". Because of this, I've getting a bit of backblog lately.
I've decided to comprise the next few posts with 'more pictures, less talk' so that I can fit everything in.

Recently, I went to Old Winchester Hill where there is a large breeding population of Skylarks. The males are in full song and go up into song flight whenever they are disturbed... by a Kestrel for example, which was hunting in the same field.

A Micro-lite went over and all the males erupted from the grass; it looks fun and all but I think I'll leave it for the adrenaline junkies

11 June, 2009

Backblog, a Couple of Moths, a Blue Tit and a Painted Lady First!

Sorry for the lack of posting recently, with a Geography GCSE on Tuesday and pages and pages of History Coursework to do, there's been no time for wildlife! One thing I forgot to say is the Blue tits have fledged- well, actually they fledged last week... I managed to nip out into the garden and take a look at the cuties the other day, but the light was bad and flash let me down (just my excuse for it being a crap shot!)...

I did a bit of mothwatching as well in the garden the other night. My best find was a Silver Y moth which has travelled from across Europe and the Channel to get to my garden!

Talking about nectar-drinking flying things, most wildlife watchers will know there has recently been a HUGE influx of Painted Ladies into Britain. Around our parts its been no exception and it gave me the chance to watch the first Painted Lady ever to drop into the garden...

04 June, 2009

BBC (Broad Bodied Chasers)

For those of you who aren't familiar with Chasers, take your average Dragonfly and give it steroids- they are the speedy, killing machines of the insect world and you can bet if a male visits a pond which is already occupied by another species, there is going to be trouble!

During the holidays I was lucky enough to encounter the mating and egg laying of the Broad Bodied Chaser by a secluded pond in Bushy Park on one very hot day. It all started as I was watching Damselflies on a pond. Suddenly a huge dragonfly pelted past, attacking and killing a Damselfly. I managed to ID it with my field guide as a BBC and watched it as it perched on a dead plant...

A few minutes later and a female emerged on scene, circling above the male. Without any hesitation, he pounced on her and... errr... did what he had to do.

This entanglement lasted for a few seconds, after which the male went back to perching on his plant and the female flew away to a nearby stream- allowing me to creep up on her for some close-ups...

Suddenly, without warning she flew back to the pond I'd previously watched her on and began to dip the water with her abdomen, releasing a single egg. She repeated this process several times and then left...

So there you go... a small insight into the secret life of the brilliant Broad Bodied Chaser.

01 June, 2009

A Hot Afternoon in Bushy Park

Wow! This weekend was a real scorcher in terms of weather. In fact it was so hot, I decided to take an afternoon in Bushy Park, armed with nothing more than a camera, a bike and 5 quid (for use at the over-expensive cafe in the car park- £1.80 for a Cornetto Classico- that is just out of order!). Due to the crowdedness (is that even a word?!) of the main lake, I decided to spend most of my time in the Woodland Gardens are of the Park where I was hoping to catch up with some baby birds.

On my walk through the park to the Gardens, I watched a very obliging Grey Heron as he made his way through the long grass down to the canal.

The first young birds I encountered were this young family of Mallards. The youngsters don't look too far off leaving mum- I bet she can't wait for the day they get off her back!

As I waited in a clearing for anything to appear, I heard sweaking from the tree above my head. Sure enough, a Treecreeper was busy picking bugs and insects from the tree bark, probably to feed its chicks somewhere in the wood...

A few minutes later, a family of Long tailed tits dropped in, and being Long tailed tits, the first thing they wanted to do was come to check me out. The young birds had the most curiosity, perching just metres from the camera. The heat was obviously getting to these little guys as the photos I took show them panting... now if that isn't cute I don't know what is!!

I was very suprised and pleased at the same time when a Garden Warbler showed itself briefly in the undergrowth. It looked like it had insects in its mouth... maybe its breeding?
A Great Spotted Woodpecker was feeding its young in a nearby tree... can you see it?

And finishing the post with a dash of colour in the form of a Banded Damoiselle...