Sunday, 16 December 2012

A Frosty Morning Stroll.

Last week I decided to take a stroll in Richmond Park on a cold and very frosty morning. Initially the landscape  seemed deserted of any wildlife but it wasn't long before I spotted a small group of Fallow Deer exceptionally well camouflaged amongst the frosty grasses.

A Fallow Buck showing its distinctive rear view.

A much younger buck gave me a brief glance before heading of into the frosty undergrowth.

As usual there were plenty of squawking Ring-necked Parakeets flying around and while I snapped a quiet individual perched overhead I also noticed Song Thrushes, Redwings and Blackbirds dropping down to feed around the base of the trees. Bearing in mind the recent drop in temperatures I wasn't surprised to find that most of the water on the two main ponds was frozen over with many of the ducks; Mallard, Tufted, Wigeon, Gadwall and Pochard plus Coot occupying a distant patch of clear water close to the central island.
 A female Shelduck decided to brave the thin ice in order to get a drink.

While nearby a Carrion Crow kept a beady eye on me!
Other sightings included Jackdaw, Magpie, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Cormorant, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Little Grebe, Egyptian Geese and Kestrel. It was good to get out in the fresh, frosty air with the camera again.

Reason for my blogging absence: A little while ago I experienced an very unusual event which led to an unplanned early morning trip by ambulance to a local hospital. Some four hours later I was eventually allowed home but referred to a Respiratory Specialist. After various tests including a C.A.T. scan and a Bronchoscopy I finally received the 'all clear' last week but still no clear explanation as to the cause of the initial problem. So with my mind put at ease everything should now return to normal with some minor adjustments to my lifestyle and hopefully some more regular blog posts in the future.    FAB.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Little Egyptians.

The British population of Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca) dates back to introductions into wildfowl collections from Africa in the 18th century.

This species was formally added to the British list in 1971 and my first sightings were during trips to Norfolk in the mid 70's where there was a healthy feral population. Over the years other populations have formed and it is now a species that I regularly encounter in Surrey, particularly during visits to many of the local parks with rivers or lakes. The adults are identical in plumage although the males on average are slightly larger. Both sexes are aggressively territorial, particularly towards their own species, during the breeding season.

During a recent walk around Bushy Park we came across this circular huddle of brown and off-white goslings being watched over by their very attentive parents. 

Even when they woke up and entered the water the parents made sure they didn't stray too far.

Back on dry land it was time for a stretch and some preening ......

.... before topping up their tummies.

Then they gathered together once more into a huddle with their parents back on sentry duty.  FAB.


Monday, 10 September 2012

Results of the Big Butterfly Count 2012.

I have just received an e-mail from the Butterfly Conservation with the results of the Big Butterfly Count which took place in the UK between the 14 July and 5 August. Bearing in mind what most wildlife watchers have observed this year I was not at all surprised to learn that 15 out of the 21 target species showed a year on year decline plus 11 species declined by more than a third compared to the 2011 counts all no doubt due to the impact of our wettest summer for over 100 years.

The Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) took the top spot with the numbers recorded rising by 186%. Other single-brooded grassland species whose caterpillars probably benefited from the lush growth of their food plants and slightly better weather conditions during their later flight periods were the Ringlet and Marbled White.
 Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus).

Two other brown butterflies, the Gatekeeper and Speckled Wood, whose caterpillars also feed on grasses but frequent hedgerows and woodland habitats unfortunately did not fare so well.
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus).

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria). Numbers decreased by 65%.

Another loser was the Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) with counts down by 53%.

Counts for the Red Admiral (Vanessa atlanta) were down 72% but in the past few days I have seen plenty of this colourful species on the wing.

One of the few successes was the Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae). This day flying grassland moth came in in 6th place and did well for the second year in succession.

 So who knows what the situation will be next year ... I guess it will all depend on the weather.   FAB.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Red Deer in Bushy Park.

A very recent walk around the ponds in Bushy Park produced some encounters with a few of the resident Red Deer. These two quietly trotted along the side of the pond and came quite close to where we were sitting.

A little while later we spotted one of the mature males feeding in the shade of a tree ...... he eventually walked out into the sunshine and allowed me to get reasonably close!

Totally unfazed by the presence of the many visitors he eventually wandered off to lie down and disappeared amongst the high ferns.   FAB.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Many Happy Years Together.

On Tuesday it was Mum and Dad's 64th Wedding Anniversary so Anita and I made the 120 mile round trip to take my Mum to visit Dad in hospital. On the way we stopped so that Mum could purchase something special for their afternoon tea  .... delicious cup cakes ...  plus she had squirrelled away some candles just for the occasion.

As it was a sunny afternoon we wheeled Dad down to the cafe and spent a glorious couple of hours in the garden chatting and reminiscing about their many years together .... it was great to see them both in such good spirits after all they have endured recently.

Dad is now having daily trips to what he calls the 'torture chamber' ... the hospital gymnasium where the physios put him through various exercises to build up his core and arm strength. Although in his words it is very demanding and knackering (for an 88 year old!) he is determined to do his best. Tomorrow he is being transported to the Douglas Bader Centre at Roehampton for an assessment regarding possible further rehabilitation so we are all keeping our fingers crossed that all goes well for him.  FAB.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Bucking the trend.

The dreadfully wet weather conditions that have blighted our spring and summer here in the UK has been pretty disastrous for many of our butterfly species with vastly reduced numbers being recorded. However, it now appears that every cloud does have a silver lining; and in this case it is a silvery-blue one.
Apparently phenomenal numbers of the beautiful Chalkhill Blue (Lysandra coridon) emerged on some areas of the South Downs at the beginning of August, providing a spectacle seldom witnessed since Victorian times.
So a couple of weeks ago I took the chance to drive over to Denbies Hillside on a sunny but very breezy morning to check out the grassland slopes. Initially nearly all the resident species were perching low down in the grass with wings closed waiting for the conditions to improve but as the warmth of the sun increased I gained a few photo opportunities of this distinctive chalk downland species.

In most summers competition for limited resources dictates the size of the adult population, particularly when drought conditions restrict the availability of larval food-plants. However, this year, it now seems likely that the excessively wet conditions have resulted in unusually lush growth of nitrogen-rich Horseshoe Vetch plants, capable of supporting a veritable army of this butterfly's green and yellow slug-like caterpillars.

 These guys were enjoying another source of nutrients ... left behind by one of the many doggie walkers!

Of course, these weren't the only flutters on show ..... so here are a few of the other grassland species.

Marbled White.

Six-spot Burnet.

 Dark Green Fritillary ... a slightly washed out female.


P.S. I regret that blogging has had to take a back seat over the past month or so ... partly due to the lack of postable wildlife material but mainly because of my father's health problems. After a meeting with his specialist on the 17th he was admitted to hospital on the 21st and had his remaining leg amputated last Friday. He is bearing up extremely well and although he would prefer to be back home this will take some time as he now has to undergo some extensive physiotherapy and reassessment of his capabilities. For an 87 year old I have no doubt that with the appropriate support he will once again be 'bucking the trend'.  FAB.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


Something from the recent archives to keep the bird photography content ticking over .....  
(Eurasian) Nuthatch (Sitta europaea).

In Britain our resident birds (ssp. caesia) have a warm rusty-buff breast and belly. Whilst the sexes are very similar the vent on the males is usually a much darker red-brown.  

All images were shot at Warnham Nature Reserve using the EF 70-300mm lens.   FAB.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Sunshine and Showers.

Once again it was a typical gardening day ..... first the sunshine ....

... and then the showers.

Wherever you are I hope you have a great wildlife watching weekend.   FAB.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Hobby Food.

As a follow up to my recent post providing views of some of the wildlife at Thursley Common I thought I would share another unexpected find .... but if you are a bit squeamish just take care as you scroll downwards!

During the summer months Thursley Common, with its dearth of dragonflies and damselflies (I believe a total of 26 different species have been recorded here), is an excellent place to watch a Hobby (Falco subbuteo) chasing, catching and feeding on dragonflies. The best conditions are on a calm, warm day but so far this year there have been very few of those! This medium sized, elegant falcon has the ability to catch birds in flight, including Swallows and even Swifts using its supreme velocity when chasing and stooping on its prey.

On my recent visit, with the very cool, overcast conditions I was struggling to find many invertebrates and certainly didn't expect to see a Hobby but while searching the waterside vegetation I heard something drop out of the sky and fall close to where I was standing on the boardwalk. After a brief search I spotted a fluttering movement of wings and to my utmost surprise I located this individual .........

A Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) clinging onto a stem BUT clearly missing all its abdominal segments. I attempted to reach out and pick it up for closer inspection but again to my surprise it fluttered its wings and moved to another perch which did then enable me to get a much closer image of the damage .... probably caused by an incomplete attack by its fearsome predator, the Hobby or possibly as a result of an accident during copulation (which occurs in flight and only takes from 5 - 20 seconds) .... I will never know for sure.

  Definitely a view of 'nature in the raw' ...... taken with the Canon Powershot.

Just in case you are wondering this is what an entire Four-spotted Chaser should look like.

Searching the sky above the bog I eventually located two Hobby's in fairly relaxed flight fairly high up so on this occasion I can only offer this heavily cropped image (see below).

I can't wait for a series of warm, calm days when I might just get the opportunity to watch and photograph this species at much closer quarters ..... well I always live in hope!   FAB.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Young Robin.

While I was in the garden yesterday doing a few tidy up jobs I noticed that a young Robin was hiding in the lilac bush so I nipped indoors for the camera but when I returned .........

.... it decided to come out of hiding and dropped onto the garden furniture to check me out. Typically this species is very inquisitive and it is not unusual for both adults and juvenilles to show a distinct lack of fear and approach very close to us humans.

 The 'head on' look.

 My movement is monitored very closely.

A very pleasant interlude between the garden chores and a delightful encounter with one of my favourite garden visitors.  FAB.

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


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