Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Two Chats.

For this weeks edition of Wild Bird Wednesday I'm featuring two different 'Chats'. Both are Passeriformes of the Turdidae (Thrush) family.

First is the [European] Robin (Erithacus rubecula ssp. melophilus). This smart individual is our 'British' version and our unofficial national bird which has currently made my garden its feeding territory. Unlike its continental cousins it is not shy and readily follows me around 'chatting' and hoping for a handout.

The second 'chat' is more suitably named as the [European] Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola ssp. hibernans). Its name originates from the Latin;  saxum - a rock; colere - to dwell and torquis - a collar. This individual is a male in post breeding moult, photographed today perched on a dead Pine on the edge of a lowland heath.  FAB.

Monday, 21 July 2014

After the rain....

We have had some interesting weather in recent days; sunshine, humidity with high temperatures and then intermittent electrical light shows accompanied by booming thunder claps; or as one member of the family used to say "Don't worry, it's only God moving the furniture around!" 

So for this week's Nature Notes here are a few images taken in the garden after the rain ceased.

Red Lilium (Asiatic hybrid)

Lilium 'Lady Alice'
I am often reminded by you know who that "You've been rubbing up against those Lilies again" when another clean shirt is stained with pollen!!

A fresh looking Gatekeeper took up residence amongst one of the Euonymus shrubs waiting for the sun to reappear.

One Goldfinch was quickly back on the feeder devouring a quantity of sunflower hearts before its companions arrived and leaving plenty of leftovers on the patio floor. Why do they do that when I provide a top quality product?

 Our resident Robin, my former namesake ('The Earlybirder') takes advantage of a tasty meal.

And then a brief visit by an unnamed feline; no collar to ID it; who to my knowledge didn't leave its calling card!  FAB.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Butterfly Foray - Grayling.

Mid morning today I joined a small band of searchers on Chobham Common, the largest National Nature Reserve in south-east England covering an area of 574 hectares of lowland heath. The expanses of heather are broken up by deep valley bogs, isolated pines and patches of grassland, gorse and silver birch that provide a wildlife rich, patchwork of bio-diverse habitats. The main purpose of this field trip was to hopefully locate our most cryptically camouflaged butterfly, the Grayling.
For the first hour or so the conditions were fairly cool, with the sun hidden behind a total cloud blanket and certainly not ideal, so my expectations were very muted although I had already disturbed a Ringlet and Gatekeeper during a brief stroll around the car park perimeter.

With the lack of sunshine and no butterflies on the wing our attention turned to other winged inhabitants of this lowland heathland.

It didn't take long to pick up the calls of a Stonechat (image on left) and then a brief sighting of a Dartford Warbler as it flew low across the landscape.

We subsequently had slightly better views of another Dartford further into our walk and although too far away for my lens I was finally able to add this heathland specialist to my year list.

While three of us did have an initial encounter with a Grayling (Hipparchia semele) that perched very briefly on one of my fellow walkers before rapidly flying away it was another hour before the temperatures improved and my camera finally locked on to one resting on the bare ground, just presenting its mottled-brown underwing that provides excellent camouflage against most predators.

At rest the forewings are usually tucked behind the hind wings, concealing the eyespots and making the butterfly appear smaller but if you are quick enough when an individual first lands then sometimes the eyespot on the fore wing remains visible (see images below).

In total I logged five individual Grayling during this walk plus Little and Large Skipper, Green-veined White, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Heath and Six-spot Burnet. FAB.


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