Sunday, 30 June 2013

Blue Damsels.

On Friday I thought it was time that I searched for some more butterflies so I headed over to Bookham Common and walked the numerous tree lined grassy tracks but the only species I found was a Speckled Wood. 
At my favourite woodland glade the ferns were already as tall as me and birch saplings had sprung up invading nearly a third of the previously open area which was also devoid of any flutters. I therefore revised my plan and turned my attention to what was available but waiting for any of the various Blue Damselflies to stop flying around was going to test my  patience!

So here is the selection that made it onto my memory card.

  A male Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella).

 An immature male Azure changing from pale mauve to blue.

The second species noted was the Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans). 

Mature males are fairly easy to identify as they have a metallic-black abdomen with a bright blue spot at the "tail" (segment 8), blue thorax, blue eyes plus the long bicoloured pterostigma on the fore wing which is present on all forms of this species. However on 'teneral' males the thorax and S8 are violet and on immature males the thorax is green but S8 is blue.

If you thought that was confusing then consider the females who can vary with at least 5 different colour forms: [1] rufescens form which emerge with a reddish-pink thorax and after about 8 days changes to yellowish-brown to become the mature version rufescens-obsoleta. [2] violacea form that starts life with a violet thorax but can then mature into either the [a] andromorph with colour and markings very similar to the mature males or into [b] infuscans which can be found with either a green or brownish thorax.  

Based on the pale blueish-mauve colour of the thorax and S8 I initially thought this was a teneral male but in view of the very thin antehumeral line it is more likely to be an immature female Blue-tailed (Ischnura elegans) form violacea. [Many thanks to Noushka  for her assistance with the identification.]

 A typical mature male Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum).

 A female (blue form) Common Blue Damselfly.

A female (drab form) Common Blue Damselfly.

And finally the only butterfly on parade ... a Speckled Wood.   FAB.

Linking to  Macro Monday 2 and Nature Notes.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Fenland with friends. (Part 2)

Continuing from my previous post (Early Start in Suffolk) I didn't have to wait long before my companions for the day to arrive. It had been just over four years since Keith (holdingmoments) had spent a day birding with me in Surrey so while more caffeine was consumed we chatted as if it was only yesterday. I have only known Trevor (aka The Herald) via his blog postings but the immediate healthy banter between us suggested that this was going to be a good day regardless of what we may or may not see at RSPB Lakenheath.

As we headed off along the trail behind the Reserve Centre we were greeted by Goldfiches on the feeder plus Reed Bunting and Reed Warblers flitting in and out of the reeds. Further along the path the strident calls of Cetti's Warbler got us scanning every possible spot for any glimpse of this generally secretive songster but without success while the diminutive Wrens popped up everywhere.

As we arrived at the first watch-point overlooking the main reed-bed a Bittern rose up and flew away from us and was probably startled by a member of the reserve staff undertaking the morning survey. While being entertained by a family of Greylag Geese we quickly added Marsh Harriers, both perched and quartering the reed tops, Common Tern, Cormorant, Cuckoo's calling and in flight, Kestrel, Blackcap and a Kingfisher but no sign of any Bearded Reedlings.

There were a few Swifts but certainly not the numbers I had witnessed on my earlier visit some 10 days previously.

Our route then took us up onto the bank overlooking the river and over the distant farmland a low flying Barn Owl appeared to be attacked by a brown coloured raptor and they both disappeared. After what seemed ages the Barn Owl re-appeared looking no worse for the encounter ... our belief is that the Barn Owl was carrying prey and was probably successfully molested by a female Sparrowhawk.  

Moving onwards we eventually reached the furthest watch-point overlooking a more extensive reed-bed with more sightings of Marsh Harriers but we didn't locate the Common Cranes that were apparently in this general area. We did finally get views of a number of Hobbies hawking insects as we commenced our return route. 
 Grey Heron flying over.

With a lessening of bird activity our attentions turned to other wildlife. A Stoat dashed across our path while we were all trying to get shots of Reed Warblers deep within the reeds ... I wasn't successful!

The vegetation was carefully scanned for anything that our lenses might capture and for me this included Scarce Chaser, Azure Damselfly and Brown-lipped Snail but I bet Keith and Trevor have many, many more beasties on their memory cards. I was fascinated by a very tiny Moth (see image below) with exceptionally long antennae and somehow managed to catch one in my fingers but I couldn't get my pocket PowerShot to focus so Trev did the honours while it perched on my finger. We had no idea of its name so Trev dubbed it 'Frank's Finger Moth'!!

I eventually got a close up of another individual and thanks to Trevor's subsequent diligent research I now know it is a Yellow-bared Longhorn micro moth (Nemophora degeerella).

Another interesting creature was this Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle (Agapanthia villosoviridescens) with its velvety coat and two tone antennae.

Returning to our first stop of the day our patience eventually paid off as we heard the calls of Bearded Reedlings ....

.... and then a pair flitted across the water and finally settled on the feeder tray but unfortunately partially obscured by the waving reeds. Not an ideal image but for me it will suffice for now.

The voice of another visitor sitting close by rang bells in my memory and I was delighted to have a brief chat with a old acquaintance, Trevor Gunton a very respected ornithologist, who way back in the 1980's introduced me to many of the special birds along the North Norfolk Coast. I chuckled when he commented that we were both much younger then but he still had a glint in his eyes when talking about the birds we both love to watch

We returned to our vehicles and enjoyed a late picnic lunch while reminiscing over our day so far. For me this had been my style of relaxed wildlife watching in the company of two like minded friends but it wasn't to end here so you will have to stay tuned for the final installment.  FAB.

Linking to I'D-Rather-B-Birdin' hosted by Anni and Wild Bird Wednesday hosted by Stewart.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Early start in Suffolk.

In my previous post I made reference to a return trip to Suffolk. In the early, dark hours of Tuesday morning I drove northwestwards into Cambridgeshire and then headed east into Suffolk for a 6am rendezvous with two other wildlife watchers.

 Dawn breaking over the Suffolk countryside.

On arriving at my destination after a three hour journey I take a short walk with the sounds of Crows and Jackdaws erupting from their overnight roost behind me and a heavy dew lingering on the grassland.

The low lying early morning mist quickly dissipates as the sun rises over a Suffolk wetland.
The view over 'The Flash' with two Mute Swans still fast asleep and totally oblivious to the songs of Reed and Sedge Warblers emanating from deep within the vegetation all around me.

I return to my car for a caffeine fix and await the arrival of my 'blogger' friends as a Wren serenades me from its nearby perch and I wonder what wildlife will grace our time here. (More to follow)   FAB.

Linking to Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Scarce Chaser.

On Tuesday I made another very early morning journey across country to meet up with two fellow bloggers at a fenland habitat in Suffolk but I'll post more about that at a later date.

During our relaxed wanderings we were fortunate to locate a dragonfly that although locally abundant where it does occur, is scarce throughout its limited range in southern and eastern England.

Aptly named this is a Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) which has a specific preference for river floodplains and water meadows with prolific emergent vegetation.

The flight season for this species is fairly short, lasting from the end of May to early August although emergence may be delayed in adverse weather conditions, such as we have experienced recently, but is usually completed by the third week of June.

From memory this is the first time I have had the opportunity to photograph this species so I was fairly happy with the outcome.  FAB.

Linking to NF Winged.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Goslings Growing Up.

Do you remember this little fluffy Canada gosling. (You can click this link for my earlier post images)

Well its been well over a month since I first spent some time with them at feeding time .. so how are they doing?

A week after my first encounter they were slightly larger, certainly a lot more vocal but still enjoying each others company for their post feeding nap.

So a month later their colour is changing and the development of their first true feathers are starting to show.

 Whilst they still remain under the watchful protection of their parents .....

.... at least one of them now prefers its own company and snoozes in the standing position.  FAB.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

In a huddle.

 A bevy of fluffy bundles hunkered down by the waters edge.

 After a little while they decided to regroup in a circle ....

 .... while a parent rested nearby but keeping an eye on you know who.

 Sleep time is over .... for a little while.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) photographed during a walk at Painshill Park.   FAB.

Saturday, 22 June 2013


You just never know what you might find when you go out for a stroll!   FAB.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Singing in the wind.

I don't know why any bird would pick such an unstable perch to announce its presence on such a blustery day but this male Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) continued to sing with brief silent interludes for over 10 minutes whilst rocking back and forth.
To listen to its song with the sounds of Wren and Reed Warbler in the background just as I did during a visit to RSPB Lakenheath, exactly a week ago, please click on the recording below.

Its conservation status was classified as RED following a rapid decline of more than 50% from the mid 1970's to the mid 1980's but with evidence of some recovery in numbers it was moved to the AMBER list in 2009. Because of its association with wetland breeding habitats (reedbed and riverine scrub), it has been informally known in the past as the 'water sparrow'. 
Interesting fact: Over 50% of Reed Bunting chicks are not fathered by the pair male but are the result of an adulterous liaison, the highest recorded rate of any bird.  

Wishing everyone a wonderful wildlife watching weekend. FAB.

Linking to Feathers on Friday and I'D-Rather-B-Birdin'.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Broad-bodied Chaser.

I mentioned in a recent post when photographing a Four Spotted Chaser that I had seen a few Broad-bodied Chasers but hadn't found one at rest.

Yesterday that all changed, but as soon as I focused on this immature female Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) and pressed the shutter she decided to move.

Instead of re-perching at low level this individual decided to fly upwards and stop some 25 feet above me. Not an ideal position to capture her in detail but at least you can see her shimmering wings bathed in yesterdays much enjoyed sunshine.

A close up shows the broad, flattened abdomen (which in males is pale blue) and intricate brown markings at the base of the wings. I wonder which species will be next?   FAB.

Linking to NF Winged and Camera Critters.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


This year the numbers of nesting [Common] Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) on my patch seem to be far fewer than previous years. During a walk last week I finally located one adult busily foraging and then constantly delivering its contact call before disappearing low down into the base of the gorse to feed youngsters in the nest.
Looking around to check that nobody is watching!   FAB.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Blue-tailed Damselfly.

I was slow to rise and get going this morning and as a brief dip into my local patch just before midday only produced a single male Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot and Grey Heron on the Great Pond I decided to drive down to Riverside Country Park for a wander around the lake.
There were several spots alongside the waters edge where the wild flowers were putting on a good show and amongst the grasses I noticed a few Damselflies flitting hither and thither but rarely stopping to rest. Undeterred I continued my search around a patch of thicker bramble vegetation and found a pair of Blue-tailed Damselflies (Ischnura elegans) in a mating wheel. 

I wasn't overly happy with the results using the 450D plus 70-300 lens handheld so I reverted to my Cannon PowerShot S95 for a more detailed close up view (see below) which clearly shows the two distinctive features that distinguishes this species from the rarer Scare Blue-tailed; the blue at the end of the abdomen is present on both segments 8 and 9 and the male has a long bicoloured pterostigma on its fore wing.

While snapping this co-operative pair I missed a Common Tern fishing right behind me! Other sightings included a nice patch of Marsh Orchids and Hoverflies visiting various nectar sources.

The only dragonfly I found was a large unnamed version where I was able to rest my weary legs. You can view all the Dragons and Damsels I have photographed by clicking this link.  FAB.

 Linking to Nature Notes.


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