Friday, 31 July 2009

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Female Keeled Skimmer

The common opposite work is acid heathland and during a short walk this morning I located this female Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens), another first for me. Note how the wings are held well forward at rest.
Taken with 70-300 lens, f5.6, 1/400. [Click to enlarge]

Try this link for information on British dragonflies: http://www.dragonflysoc.org.uk/species.html

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Return to "The Glade" - More sightings.

As promised here are some more images of the other occupants of 'The Glade' within Hill House Wood that I encountered during a much longer visit last Saturday morning. The weather was warmer with more sunlight than my previous brief early a.m. visit so I was hopeful that more diverse species would be be active and fortunately my wishes were answered.

First up was a Speckled Wood that has ideal camouflage for the dappled world of light and shade of a woodland but is also found in the open countryside. In the 18th century it became known as the 'Enfield eye' when it was identified in rural Middlesex.
One of many Silver-washed Fritillary. Most of the White Admirals are now looking very tatty...here is a view of the underwing.
A Peacock which has the largest eyes of any British butterfly which evolved to deter birds and lizards.
A female Common Blue. Check out the underwing markings.
A male Large White from the 2nd brood showing much darker forewing markings.
A female Skipper
I had a brief glimpse of a Hawker with a 'damsel' in its mouth that sped past so quickly that I couldn't locate where it may have landed to consume its meal. But shortly afterwards I spotted this 'teneral' Hawker which perched very briefly before disappearing on its journey.
Leaving 'The Glade' behind, for the next hour or so, I followed various pathways throughout the woodland, listening and following the sounds of Nuthatch calling from all directions high in the tree canopy. A Treecreeper was moving from tree to tree searching for food and then 2 Marsh Tits appeared above my head but it was too dark for a photo even if they had stayed still long enough. Chaffinch, Blue, Great & Long-tailed Tits passed overhead as they moved through on their morning feeding journey. Passing a small pool I disturbed a Grey Heron and a Moorhen that disappeared quickly into the undergrowth.

My sense of direction is usually very good but somehow while following sounds rather than concentrating on what path I was actually treading I found myself over half a mile from where I thought I was heading and in part of an adjacent wood that I had not visited before! No need to panic....I can hear cars passing, so I'm close to a well used road....recall a map of the area from deep within my memory....check out the direction of the sun....it is just past midday.....in the distance I can just see where the northern woodland edge meets cultivated farmland....I need to travel west....so re-orientated I start the long slog across new territory to find my car and get home before I am reported missing....ha ha.

Return to "The Glade" - Painted Lady

On Saturday morning I returned to the glade in Hill House Wood and whilst Silver-washed Fritillary was again the predominant species there were many others including Painted Lady.


I will post a few others in a few days time....... (to be continued).

Friday, 24 July 2009

Magical Fluttering Moments

As my regular readers will already know the "Early Birder" is partial to a stroll before going to work. Well this week was no exception, so on Thursday morning with approx one hour at my disposal I stopped off at Bookham Common. Weather conditions were not brilliant with a heavy overcast sky and a strong breeze. I headed uphill into Hill House Wood (deciduous woodland dominated by old Oaks) initially in total silence until I heard the croaking 'kah-ahrk' calls of two Grey Herons sailing high over the tree canopy probably on their way back to the heronry. Next a Blackbird scuttled under cover as it heard my footsteps and a Wren uttered it's explosive call from deep in cover nearby. At the top of the hill I headed towards one of the many open glades and heard the sharp 'kick-kick' call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and then the very forceful and repeated 'chuitt - chuitt' sound of a Nuthatch high above me. As I approached the edge of the clearing two female Blackcaps were searching for an early snack but quickly disappeared deep into the wood. Young Blue Tits and Great Tits were also feeding within the foliage and I caught a brief glimpse of a Goldcrest as it darted from branch to branch.

As I entered the glade a fluttering shape caught my eye; I watched patiently and eventually it perched close to the path; a female Silver-washed Fritillary. Over the next ten minutes or so several more females appeared and I wasn't sure where to look next!
Moments later I spotted a much brighter individual....a male at last would be be captured by the camera. Time seemed to stand still as even more males glided down from the treetops all around the clearing.
[This spectacular fritillary is generally quite common in large broadleaved woodlands in southern England. A single brood flies from mid June until early September with peak numbers at the end of July. The males have four bold sex brands along the veins of the forewing. Eggs are laid singly in a crevice on the trunk of an oak, usually one to two metres up. The caterpillar feeds on Common Dog-violets and the chrysalis resembles a withered leaf.]
My attention was then distracted by the unmistakable 'mewing' calls of Common Buzzard. A few moments later a pair appeared over the clearing, wheeling around above me and I just managed a few quick shots before they disappeared just as quickly as they had arrived.
[ Please click to enlarge any pic]
The next flutters to appear were a White Admiral and .......
then a Comma.
Checking my watch I realised that I had been enthralled by these 'flutters' for over 30 minutes and it was time to head back to the car. (If only I didn't have to go to work!)
The quietness was disrupted by the 'yaffle' of a Green Woodpecker as it's torpedo shape crossed the clearing. My return walk was interrupted again by the sight of two more 'flutters' - first a Gatekeeper perched on a nettle ........
and then a Large Skipper posed for it's portrait.
Well I could never have guessed what this morning walk would turn up but it is 'magical moments' like this that make my heart sing.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Jersey - Coastal Towers

Until 1204 the Channel Islands were a part of the Duchy of Normandy. When Normandy was lost to France by King John, Jersey chose to remain loyal to the English Crown. The island was only 14 miles from the coast of France, so the fear of French invasion was a constant concern to the islanders over the centuries during which England and France were at war. The cliffs on the island's north coast provided a natural defence but the bays of the east, west and south coasts were vulnerable to potential invaders.
The Governor of Jersey, General Sir Henry Seymour Conway, decided to build 30 round towers to protect the island's coastline. The inspiration for these towers came from an ancient stone tower in the Bay of Martella in Corsica which held out against a British naval attack. They were round as this shape was regarded as stronger than square ones. However Jersey’s round towers are unique as unlike their English counterparts they have a more elegant design with tall tapering walls. In addition they are generally constructed of local granite and have machicolations (projecting beak like structures high up on the towers and walls) allowing the defenders to protect the base of the tower. The ground floor was used to store ammunition and weapons whilst the upper floor housed up to ten troops and their commanding officer.

You will note that the towers are painted on the seaward side, obviously as an aid to coastal navigation.


Monday, 13 July 2009

Blue Tits - Growing up.

The juvenile Blue Tits are actively feeding every day as evidenced by the reduced size of the fat block and as time goes by their drab colours will become brighter.
[You can 'click' all these shots to enlarge]
Always keeping a wary eye out for possible danger.
Even the young ones can do the leg splits, just like the adults.
This is what the youngsters will look like as they get older.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Natural Garden Predators.

I don't own a macro lens but here are some shots of three 'natural predators' seen recently in our garden.

Hoverfly
Ladybird (Harlequin?)
Fly

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

A Different Award!

A week ago, together with two colleagues from work, I travelled to the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham to attend a garden party and lunch followed by the 'The Greatest Team 2009' awards ceremony organised by Garden Trade News. This is a series of Garden Retail Awards either nominated by trade suppliers or voted by the general public.
After a superb five course lunch Sir Henry Cooper presented us with "The Greatest Wild Bird Care & Wildlife Team 2009" award for the RHS Plant Centre team and I got to shake the hand of "Our Henry".... now that was cool.
Just in case you are wondering from left to right are: Ben Laws, the "Early Birder" is holding the certificate,
Sir Henry Cooper, Brenda has got the bottle and Nige is holding the Award.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

They Found It.

Well it's been a wonderfully wet, wet day with lightening and thunder rumbling around and the drive home was more akin to 'watersports' plus waterfalls flowing freely from the overworked guttering around the house. But it's not all doom and gloom as you can see that the Blue Tits have found the refilled fat feeder. From the evidence of the block it looks as if they have been pecking all day long! [All the shots were taken late this evening during a drier period.]

Then a brief visit as the light faded from a Dunnock.


Monday, 6 July 2009

Acrobatic Blue Tits

The young Blue Tits are still around (4 in total) and late yesterday evening they showed off their acrobatic skills as they hunted for the fat feeder that we had taken down to clean!

This one found the seed feder but was more interested in looking elsewhere.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Jersey - Day 3: Museum Visit

On our 3rd day on Jersey (Channel Islands) it was our day to look after Anita's mum and dad and they decided that they wanted to visit the Battle of Flowers Museum.

The museum was founded by Florence Bechelet (now 91 years young) a prolific exhibitor in the Wild Flower class for some 60 years. She only uses two grasses; Marram & Harestails, originally picked from the wild but now, for conservation reasons, she has to grow everything she needs.

After picking the thousands of grasses, each seed head is individually colour dyed before being glued onto a wire frame covered in material for each piece that makes up the whole display. In addition the wooden float base, which can measure up to 25 feet long has to covered. This has to be a labour of pure love and takes months to complete. It was incredible to see the detail achieved and that many of the exhibits are still dropping seeds from the grass heads. As you can appreciate rodent control is paramount to prevent damage but all the exhibits are also protected by chicken wire to stop visitors touching the flowers but this doesn't help when you want to take photos!

ArcticExplorer

A very colourful Totem Pole
'Caged' animals

Below a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II - impressive detail.

At the end of our tour Anita's mum and dad had another surprise as the museum owner, Florence Bechelet, who is secretly working on this years exhibit, came out to meet them for a chat.



Friday, 3 July 2009

Jersey - Day 2. Samares Manor

On our 2nd day on Jersey (Channel Islands) all of Anita's family visited Samarès Manor’s Summer Festival and Jersey Rose Show. Throughout the day there were various events including Morris Dancing, Dog Obedience & Gymnastic races and Story Telling.
A selection of the vintage vehicles parked in front of the Manor house.
The Jersey Rosarians were holding their annual Rose show and these a just a few of the glorious flower displays.
All the roses were exhibited inside a marquee but far too many to photograph so here is just one of the fabulous blooms.
The gardens were created in the 1920's by millionare shipping magnate and philanthropist, Sir James Knott. They offer exceptional environmental conditions for growing an extensive range of plants and much of the original planting still remains.
We headed into the walled Vegetable Garden which contained this 'Apple Barge'.
This is a 2/3rds scale representation of a spritsail rigged Thames barge or 'Channel Barge'. Two reasons for it's construction: Firstly, a pratical frame for training apple trees; and Secondly as a reminder that these vessels were crucial to the Channel Islands economy before steam was invented. Mainly used for carrying granite as the flat bottom and massive strength enablem them to load and discharge on Jersey's tidal flats and sand banks.
Calendula's through the bottom of the barge.
During our stroll we met and chatted to a 'real' Jerseyman. This was the 'Storyteller' who is a close friend of the Signour of the Manor and his beaming smile tells you everything about his inner spirit and love for this place.
These are annuals in the Exotic Garden (sorry forgot the plant name!).
Yeh, I need a rest from the heat as well!
A view down onto the pathway that splits the Herb and Rose & Lavender Gardens. Established for over 20 years and and one of the most comprehensive in Europe this was the inspiration of John Brookes, the internationally renowned garden designer and author.
Aeonium in the "Hot Garden" enjoying the baking conditions.
A peaceful location to meditate.
Part of the Shade Garden.
An friendly 'Australasian' imigrant enjoying the cool, if muddy water, on one of the small pools.
Part of the Japanese Garden.
One of the many Water Lilies.
I took a rest in the shade with the gentle sound of water at my feet.
...and finally, Percy, the carthouse in the paddock.
An very interesting few hours and then Anita & I headed off for a drive around the east coast.

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