Friday, 30 July 2010

Pinks and Reds.

Other commitments have kept me away from wildlife watching this week so here are a few images of the current crop of blooms from a short stroll around the garden. 
Lilium Stargazer

Lilium Black Beauty


If the weather holds fair then hopefully the coming week will provide some wildlife sightings to share.   FAB.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Magnificent Mandarin.

Something today from the 'spring' archives. Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) is an introduced alien for the Far East and was first released in Britain in the 18th century but didn't really prosper until around the 1930's when it probably first bred in the wild.
When the male displays he raises his orange 'sails', extends his colourful crest then dips his bill in the water before stretching his head and passing it back behind his 'sails' and then produces an excited breathy whistle....what female could ignore that? 
The female is much drabber looking with her white spectacles and a narrow line curving back towards the nape (not unlike her cousin the Wood Duck which has a darker head with a thicker white eye-ring which stretches into a shorter triangular shape).  It nests in holes of trees, often Oaks, up to 15 metres above the ground and it is not uncommon for me to find them chilling out way above my head in woodland surrounding a local pond where they regularly breed each year.
During the breeding season this duck is very, very secretive and even when the youngsters take to water the female is extremely protective and will steer them into cover at the slightest disturbance. I have only seen one female with four charges this year and she wouldn't let me take their photos so below is an image from 2009.
A brood of eight is not uncommon but rare for half of these to reach beyond juvenile status!
Unlike some alien introductions the Mandarin is a real charmer........FAB.

Lazy Summer Weekend.

We spent a very lazy weekend, much of the time just chilling out in the garden. 
While I watered and encouraged the Tomatoes to grow and ripen....
... and checked out the colours ...
(clockwise from top left - Hibiscus [seedling of H. Red Heart], Clematis 'Polish Spirit', Heleniums and Verbena bonariensis). 
 ... one of the many Bees was collecting pollen ...
Anita was producing some more of her 'one off' cards for friends forthcoming birthdays....
while enjoying the subtle fragrance from one of her favorite Roses (R. Compassion) under the watchful eye of the only permanent 'flutter' in the garden. We did have very brief visits by a Speckled Wood, Holly Blue, Comma and several Whites.
During one of our many rest periods we enjoyed visits from a very young Long-tailed Tit (on the peanut feeder), a juvenile Blue Tit and several Greenfinches eating all the sunflower seeds!
Of course we can always make time for a refreshing cuppa.   FAB. 

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Boots are made for...

"These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do".

The repeated lyrics of the well known song by Nancy Sinatra released in 1966, when I was somewhat younger, subsequently covered by many other artists including Jessica Simpson's own rewritten version. The rest of the original lyrics bear no relationship to my daily life but without boots I wouldn't have got anywhere. As a youngster I explored the local common and woodlands; as a teenager I hill-walked (often with my father in places such as the Brecon Beacons), hiked, rock scrambled and even climbed a bit with a close friend (Snowdonia, North Wales in the depths of a snow and ice filled winter was fun); I cycled a lot (even owned a tandem for a few years which won the heart of one young lady) and also canoed for a while; then car ownership enabled me to explore other parts of the UK testing the boots over mountains,  moorlands, valley floors, clifftops and beaches. In more recent times the boots now usually carry me over less treacherous terrain as I stroll here and there often stopping to watch our native wildlife or to just soak up my surroundings at a much more leisurely pace.    
[You can click all the images to enlarge]
 Are you ready boots? Start walkin'! ......and follow me as I tread the paths, tracks and bridleways around a very small corner of a local common. Starting from a clearing close to where Nightingales, Garden Warblers, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat etc. were singing a month or so ago I cross a bridge over a tiny dried out stream. A Common Whitethroat partly hidden from view warns its young that a 'watcher' is about. Tiny day flying moths flicker around my legs as my footsteps disturb the grasses; a Small Skipper rests on a Cat's-ear and the blackberries are in need of some rain to swell before ripening.....I'll be back for a taste when they are ready!
My ears as usual are  listening for any bird sounds but it is my eyes that are doing most of the work, constantly moving from right to left and back again as tiny fluttering shapes, some colourful and some drab, flit in and out of of my peripheral vision as they seek out their favourite nectar sources; chase away interlopers or hunt for a partner. On this occasion I have initially loaded the 18-75mm IS USM  lens so capturing a close up will no doubt present its own challenges.

Comma and a Skipper (far left) hidding deep in the greenery.

Further along a break in the hedgerow leads me over another small bridge and a style providing a view of the layered clouds above the recently cut field with all the bales neatly stacked up in box-like fashion. With nothing flying to hold my attention I return to my original route.

Green-veined White.
On the other side of the path another style leads into another field often frequented by Corvids and Pheasants but today it was silent with just the clouds drifting slowly overhead. The Elder berries are also looking a little limp from the lack of water and the aniseed-like fragrance of Sweet Cicely drifted to my nose on the slight breeze. The flower head was littered with Soldier Beetles and various other flies and tiny insects.

Silver-washed Fritillary (female).

Following tracks thankfully providing shade from the overhead sun it was generally very quiet apart from the constant mewing 'piiyay..piiyay' call from a Common Buzzard not too far away and the pleasant interuption as two chatty ladies passed by gently exercising their mounts. In fact my pace was so leisurely that they passed me by twice during their circuit! Close to the spot with the sign I heard a few bird sounds and then saw Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Blue, Coal, Great and Long Tailed Tits, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, a young Chiffchaff and very fleeting glimpses of a Goldcrest. They were all grabbing a quick meal from amoungst the dense foliage and then flew on ahead much faster than my footsteps so I turned and retraced my steps between the hedge lined fields.
The hedgerows were full of Bindweed, their white and some pinkish tinged trumpets glowing like light bulbs inbetween the dark green leaves; a lonely fallen feather shed by its owner; plenty of colours other than green with blue, purple, yellow and reddish-browns provided by Bugle, Vetches, Clover, Grasses, Sorrel, Thistles and Ragwort; the Honeysuckle has already lost its flowers plus on the floor the recent remains of a very well plucked Woodpigeon.....someone had a good feast! 
Back out in the sunshine again I finally switched over to the 70-300mm lens. There was still a slight breeze and more butterflies were on the wing but fortunately some were resting briefly to catch the suns rays including (clockwise from top left) Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Ringlet and  a Meadow Brown.
After two hours or so the boots are back at the bridge where a Peacock (the dark under wing shot made it look a bit like a bat) and several bright male Silver-washed Fritillary are enjoying an afternoon feast on the thistles and knapweed. I also had fleeting views of a fast flicking Common Blue, a lazy Brimstone plus a high flying White Admiral bringing the total count to 12 species of butterflies. Once again the boots have served me well and as I drive away the sweet call of a Yellowhammer rings out from the other side of the roadside hedge suggesting it's time for a 'little bit of bread and no cheese' so I head home for a well earned sandwich and a cuppa.

I make no apologies for the length of this post but do hope you will join me again sometime when the boots go walkin....FAB.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Pollen Provider.

Every time I walk past this beauty I somehow end up with a dark orange pollen patch on my sleeve! next post will be a lot longer than normal so be prepared to sit down with a 'cuppa' if you want to see it through to the end!

In the meantime, thanks for dropping by and have a great weekend wherever you are........FAB.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Cloud Layers.

During a stroll this week I stood and watched the layers float above the local landscape while we waited for much needed rain to drench the soil.
Immediately behind me the formation was totally different.

For more fabulous SKYWATCH images please click this link.     FAB.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Getting Closer.

A follow up to my post 'Along the River Bank' when I finally decided to try out the addition of an extender tube with the zoom lens to attemt to get some closer images of the elegant Demoiselles. 
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo).
The female above was captured just using just the 70-300 lens but all the following Banded Demoiselle males were taken with the addition of an EF25 11 Extender Tube and the images have been slightly cropped. I had forgotten to make a mental note of the minimum and maximum focusing distances so there was a bit of trial and error shooting with the zoom at 300mm while trying to maintain the subject in focus and keep everything steady....there was a gentle breeze blowing the folige and its occupants around.
[Please click any image to enlarge].
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens).
Very occasionally the male would flex its wings usually a few moments after it resettled on its perch.
Banded Demoiselles

I would have preferred a single coloured background but when you are pointing at something over water that is rarely possible with reflected light etc. If you have any experience using this type of extension tube and have any tips then I would be pleased to hear them.
Anyway I am reasonably happy with the results bearing in mind I didn't use a tripod just my knees to steady the gear while trying not to slip off the bank into the water!   FAB.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Along the River Bank.

Todays exercise saw me strolling alongside the River Mole on the outskirts of Leatherhead. Many of the wild flowers are suffering with the drought and some are already going to seed but still plenty of blooms around for the flutters and insects to feed on. I have been seeing Brown Hawkers nearly everywhere recently but they never seem to stop flying. Today was no different except one female was caught ovipositing while perched on a log on the river way, way below my feet.
Underwing of a Common Blue seeking nectar for lunch.
Once you've posted one Brimstone more seem to stop by for a photocall!
Still plenty of Specked Wood around.
While capturing this Common Darter a Kingfisher called and darted past me (one of several brief sightings).
Banded Demoiselle.
I spent quite a while just sitting, my legs dangling over the river bank, watching these delightful creatures resting on the leaves just above the water while trying to imagine it was less humid than it really was! Mulling over a few things, as you do in these situations, I remembered a suggestion from Monty about using an extender with the 70-300 lens for close I then whiled away another half an hour or so testing out this set up and I'll share the results very soon.  FAB.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Wear and Tear!

As the flying season progresses, the territorial battles and mating takes it toll as evidenced by these images captured today during a few hours around Bookham Common.
Speckled Wood.
White Admiral.
Silver-washed Fritillary.
Even I was glad of some shade as I tramped the woodland pathways.
Other species seen were Brimstone (posted on FABirding), Common Blue, Comma, Meadow Brown and Purple Hairstreak. Dragons and Damsels were also on the wing including, Emperor Dragonfly, Brown Hawker, Black-tailed Skimmer, Common Darter, Large Red and Common Blue Damselfly. Avian species were fairly quiet but Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Mallard, Coot, Little Grebe, Blackcap, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Grey Heron, Jay, Jackdaw, Crow and Magpie were seen or heard. As I departed from the car park a juvenile Common Buzzard floated out of the woodland, headed out over the nearby fields and scattered all the local Woodpigeons to the four winds......FAB.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Prancing Around.

While I was taking a brief rest during a walk recently a pair of young Moorhens put on a display of prancing and balancing for me.
Whatever the weather and wherever you are have a good wildlife watching week......FAB.


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