A couple of days ago I visited Thursley Common again but this time the conditions were far more promising .... muggy and slightly overcast with hardly a breeze so I headed out onto the acid heathland in the hope of finding something to photograph. Initially things were fairly quiet with just a brief sighting of a female Keeled Skimmer plus Brown Hawker and an Emperor busily patrolling their territories. As the sun broke through around midday the activity intensified with Skimmers and Darters zipping about erratically in every direction.
I eventually located a pair of Black Darters(Sympetrum danae) flying in tandem who decided to perch very low down above the board walk allowing a reasonably close encounter.
There was a certain amount of wing fluttering by the male as this pair struggled to maintain their composure.
Mature males are non-territorial and frequently settle on marginal vegetation to bask in the sun which provides a good opportunity to view its very distinctive colour markings including the three yellow spots enclosed within a median black patch on the side of the thorax. The black markings have a thermo-regulatory function so it adjusts its body heat by both perching at different heights and to reduce the surface area exposed in very warm conditions it will point its abdomen vertically towards the sun ... known as the obelisk position ... on this occasion it wasn't quite warm enough for that particular pose.
This is a northern species with a circumboreal distribution and fairly widespread throughout much of the UK although far more abundant in the north as it requires shallow, acid, nutrient-poor pools on heathland, moorland and bogs. FAB.
This old wooden foot bridge on the edge of Bookham Common traverses a tiny stream that is often devoid of any water in the summer months. It has I'm sure been crossed by many, many feet that failed to stop and wonder what wildlife may be present. In the winter it is a very barren spot with very little vegetation and sticky mud that adds pounds to the weight of your boots but now there is an abundant mixture of weeds, brambles, nettles, grasses and various wild flowers growing freely on the heavy clay soil. In the past I have regularly found a pair of Bullfinch here plus twittering Goldfinch and Greenfinch are regular inhabitants. In mid spring it is alive with the sounds of Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Garden Warbler but on a very recent visit it was much quieter so I stood for a while to see what else might be using this wild habitat.
It wasn't long before my eyes rested on the distinctive shape and colour of a Brown Hairstreak(Thecla betulae). For me this is a fairly elusive species that spends most of its life high in the woodland canopy feeding on aphid honeydew. The males rarely descend from their lofty perches so I'm guessing this is a female (difficult to tell the difference just by the under wing pattern) feeding in between egg-laying. Their favoured larval food plant is normally the Blackthorn.
This individual provided me with the opportunity at long last to get some decent images as she moved to a thistle head to sup the nectar.
The removal of more than half of Britain's hedgerows over the past 60 or so years has caused a dramatic and widespread loss of colonies. Single brooded this species is usually on the wing from late July until the end of September.
Hopefully the scrubby thickets and hedgerows at this particular location will ensure the continuance of this delightful species. All shot using my Canon PowerShot S95. FAB.
I am linking this post toNF WINGED #6where you will find more interesting images.
Traditionally for me at this time of year bird photography is slim pickings and my efforts switch to Butterflies and various Odonata which was the reason for a visit to a well known Surrey lowland heath today. So while I sat waiting for any of the very active dragons to perch within range of the 70-300 my attention was distracted by a distant white blob on the water that began to get closer.
Mute Swans are normally quite inquisitive and this individual was no exception as it silently drifted straight towards me .... so an opportunity to capture something much bigger for a change.
It eventually stood directly in front of me, eyed me up and down and I got the distinct impression that despite the lack of any audible conversation between us I was being told that I was the intruder.
After a few more moments it uttered a single 'hiss' then turned around and floated away leaving me to return to my vigil of waiting for my intended quarry. Just another wildlife interuption. FAB.
Following on from my previous post I was delighted to find that the wheelchair, after being broken down, actually fitted into the boot of my car with just an inch or so to spare! So the next question to Mum and Dad was ... "Where do you want to go?" Typically the answer was ... "We don't mind ... it's totally up to you!"
So an hour later we arrived at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Arundel. After a very pleasant lunch at The Waters Edge Cafe we started on our very leisurely stroll around this fabulous reserve looking at species from all around the world.
It wasn't long before Dad was questioning me as to names of all the 'collection' species ... I'm not sure I got them all correct but that didn't seem to matter as both my parents were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Dad has always had a love for wild flowers and the reserve was awash with colour so we had fun trying to identify everthing we could find. It wasn't long before Dad had very close encounters with the Nene (Hawaiian Goose) who obviously wasn't too impressed that he had no free handout!
Other reasonably close encounters were with Mute Swan, Magpie Goose and three young Trumpeter Swans born a little earlier this year.
Adult Trumpeter Swan.
A visit to the Sand Martin Hide produced distant views of a Common Sandpiper and a family group of four Kingfishers ... the latter was definitely a big plus sighting through the bins for my parents. Regretfully only one of the many Mallard and Black-headed Gulls were close enough for any photos.
Our final stop was the Iceland Lake where we watched Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters before making our way back to the cafe for a very welcome cup of tea and some delicious cakes. All in all a wonderful day watching birds from around the globe without having to fly anywhere. FAB.