Saturday, 28 May 2011

Brown Argus.

A butterfly that is often found in the same habitat as the Common Blue and often confused with the females of several blue species is the Brown Argus (Aricia agestis).

Until the 1900s this species was declining through to the loss of its chalk and limestone grassland habitats due to agricultural improvements in southern England but it has subsequently increased it range and adapted to other habitats.

Once again the compact Canon S95 came into it own as this male decided to rest from its territorial battles with a Common Blue.

Wherever you are I hope you have an enjoyable wildlife watching weekend. FAB.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Common Blue.

Over the past three weeks I have seen plenty of Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) flitting about with the males chasing each other from their respective territories.  
Windy conditions are the worst scenario for attempting to capture these delightful flutters but on one occasion earlier this month a male (above) sat long enough for me to use the 70-300 zoom from a reasonable distance without disturbing the subject.

During another visit to the same location two weeks later with just a gentle breeze I was able to get far closer, sometimes within inches, and as I don't currently own a macro lens I used my compact Canon S95 to obtain these images.

This mating pair were otherwise engaged and totally oblivious to my close approach!

If all wildlife was this cooperative then close up photography would be far less stressful for both the watcher and the quarry.  So do I still hanker after a macro lens for the DSLR .... silly question!     FAB.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Greedy Parakeets.

A fairly quiet weekend here apart from the constant need to top up the peanut feeder!

A small number of Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) have taken a particular liking to all the feeders in the garden and are cleaning out this one on a daly basis .. greedy b*****s!  FAB. 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Still Feeding.

The Blue Tits are still bringing tasty morsels to the youngsters in the box.

I hope you are enjoying a glorious wildlife watching weekend, wherever you are.   FAB.

Breeding Update: We missed the important event!! When we checked the nest box this afternoon it was empty and although one of the parents has been spotted on the feeder there was no indication of where the fledglings are hiding .... probably well away from the inquisitive Magpie and Parakeets.   

Friday, 20 May 2011

Garden Watch.

Another day passed yesterday without the return of my 'wheels' so I spent a few more hours in the garden. In between a little bit of  necessary pruning and watering (some of the plants are definitely showing the signs of drought intolerance!) I took up my usual position and watched the comings and goings of the local residents.

Not sure who was keeping tabs on who! ... "Shouldn't you have had a shave by now?"

Mr. Blackbird made a brief appearance to cast his eye over the neighbours garden.

The Robin wonders where all those little noises are coming from!

Someone else was also enjoying the flowers; Astrantia 'Roma' plus the new Clematis  (C. texensis 'Pagoda' and C. Cezanne) and two of her favourite Roses (R. Compassion and R.Gloire De Dijon).

House Sparrow tries to play hide and seek behind one of the feeders .....

..... while one of the Blue Tits brings in another tiny morsel to feed a hungry little belly.   FAB.

Camera Critters

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A Quick Peek.

While the parents were out hunting I took a quick look inside the Blue Tit nest box and managed just one shot with the Canon S95 compact before carefully replacing the front door. Only one tiny body was clearly visable but there were other little bundles hiding deep underneath. From the look of this one and their constant calls for more food I guess it won't be too many days before we begin to see an open beak or two at the nest hole.  FAB. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Arrival and Departure.

After returning and recovering from the noisy but joyful weekend wedding celebrations it was good to spend some quiet time catching up with the Blue Tit nesting activities in the garden.

Both the male and the female share the feeding programme and are now flying in and out of the nest box with alarming regularity. During the early morning sessions they  were returning with food with monotonous regularity about every minute but as the day wore on the visits became less predictable.

I have also noticed that unless there is any indication of other species in the vicinity or possible predators flying overhead (Magpie, Crow etc.) they rarely perch in the nearby Lilac but fly directly into the next box, often without even perching at the hole. 

During this session I just sat in the garden chair and took a few pot shots (hand held) by focusing on the nest box plate and hoping for the best!

 Capturing them leaving was a test of both patience and anticipating their departure schedule.

Once a head appeared I started to fire off a few frames but as usual most of the 2nd and 3rd shots were just a blank canvas as this little species launches itself into flight faster than I can say 'gotcha'!

Occasionally I was just lucky to find that these little torpedo's were actually 'captured in the frame' but often slightly out of focus.

I then tried picking a manual focus point in line with the nest box hole and increasing the shutter speed (anywhere between 1/1000 - 1/1600 @ F/4.5) but keeping the ISO under 800 even though at times the overhead skies were somewhat dull.

More practice is definitely required and I have no doubt that the use of a tripod and the remote release would probably improve on yesterdays efforts. Anyway it was fun watching this pair going about their rigorous daily routine. How many days before fledging? ... Your guess is as good as mine.   FAB. 

Please check out WORLD BIRD WEDNESDAY for more avian activity from around the globe.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

New Feathers.

Over the past few days the resident House Sparrows have been particularly vocal as the adults have recently brought some youngsters into this world. Most of the time the young ones stay hidden in the Pittosporum or the Lilac and constantly ask to be fed but occasionally one pops out into the open.

As you can see from these images the downy fluff is slowly making way for this youngster's first set of real feathers.

Not sure this is the safest spot to be preening as we know a Sparrowhawk regularly passes over looking for a quick meal!

Time for some sunbathing while it waits to see if will get fed again.   FAB.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


Due to the ineptitude of Blogger my planned wildlife posts have been put on hold plus my outdoor adventures have been slightly disrupted by the lack of wheels (the engineers have discovered that a mounting point for the rear axle on the chassis is very slightly out of alignment causing both the wear on the bearings and the excessive tyre wear - the car may be out of commission for at least a week!) so here is a mini garden update.

Many years ago while working for the RHS I made friends with a customer (who also just happened to be interested in bird watching) and he constantly reminded me that I was responsible for his wife spending far too much money on buying more and more Clematis plants PLUS one of my regular readers, Grammie G, also seems to associate me with Clematis, so here are some very recent images from our small back garden.

This is the first Clematis we every bought and for the life of me I can't remember its name but it might be 'The President' or something very similar. It scrambles its way clinging to the rampant Ivy that surrounds one of the old concrete washing line posts close to the house.

Next up is Clematis montana (possibly Elizabeth). This was a rescued plant and was kept in a container for a few years until it needed to be put in the ground. It is very vigorous and earlier this year I had to severely prune it as most of the growth was actually on my neighbours side of the fence. Despite the late cutting back it is producing some blooms at the moment.

Not in the ideal position this white variety (probably Gillian Blades?), now in a partly shaded part of the border against the fence, is performing far better than I have seen for some years.

This is the only one in a container, Clematis Cezanne, which will very soon be a mass of vibrant blue flowers just outside the dining room window.

I probably won't be posting again until Sunday or Monday as we are attending a family wedding tomorrow, so wherever you are, have an enjoyable wildlife watching weekend.  FAB.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Blue Tit Breeding Update.

During a break from gardening over the weekend I managed a few quickly taken shots to confirm that our pair of Blue Tits are now actively feeding their tiny youngsters inside the nest box.

On most visits with a juicy meal both the male and the female flew directly into the box and then reappeared more often than not with the usual 'poop' sack which they drop as far away as possible to ensure that there is no evidence near the nest site for predators to find.

Waiting for a call from inside the box before entering with another meal. As the chicks grow the frequency of visits will get very frantic.

I thought one of the pair was just topping up its own internal reserves from the fatblock feeder but it actually took some of this mixture into the nest box.

While all this activity was going on one of the Ring-necked Parakeets perched high up on sentry duty but was fortunately looking in totally the wrong direction .....

.... and the Pigeon just sat on the garden fence totally bemused.    FAB

For more images from around the world please look in on WORLD BIRD WEDNESDAY.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Walking Home via Horton C.P.

I delivered the car for its annual MOT just after 9 am this morning and decided to walk home from Epsom via Horton Country Park. So with only my compact Canon S95 in my pocket I have put together a series of collages showing some of the sights throughout my two and a half hours leisurely homeward stroll.

After leaving the hustle and bustle of tarmac pavements behind I entered the park alongside Horton Park Farm where the noise of vehicles was quickly replaced by the calls of Wren, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Goldcrest and Crows. A few of the farm residents were enjoying the fresh green growth or just rooting around in the earth.
The nearby open pasture was a sea of white and yellow ... masses of Daisies and Buttercups plus the odd Magpie.

While listening to Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Great Tit and Robin my eyes turned to search out some of the much smaller critters hiding amongst the lush leafy wasteland close to the pathways including beetles, weevils, Wolf Spiders and plenty of Ladybirds hunting their favourite Aphid food.  

The sun and very recent rain has helped the wild flowers to show off all their varied colours and forms including Red Clover, Vetch, Field Speedwell, Cranesbill and Wild Strawberry. (No doubt the experts will let me know if any of the ID's in this post are incorrect.)

As I skirted the Golf Course the local Whitethroats joined in the late morning sing-song together with a few Greenfinch and Chaffinches. The bright violet-blue of the Ground-Ivy shone out from amongst the verdant green carpet around my feet. I did momentarily consider blowing on the Dandelion globe but there was a sufficient breeze for its seed dispersal to happen naturally ... like the millions of others floating around.

A slight detour took me across the open grass meadow (Lambert's Mead) to Meadow Pond where I disturbed a very disgruntled Coot but not a Grey Heron who surprisingly was totally unfazed when two dogs entered the water for a swim! I didn't find any Damselflies but a very tatty Comma rested in a nearby hedgerow. Leaving the Irises and the sound of metal thrashing that little white ball behind I finally exited via Church Wood to the squawking calls of several Parakeets and cooing Collared Doves. 

P.S. I won't mention what it finally cost me ( 2 new tyres etc) when I collected the car at 6 pm or the fact that I was stopped by the Police on my way home this evening (suggesting I had a wobbly rear wheel!) ... another visit to the service centre may well be on the cards very shortly!!   FAB.


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