Thursday, 31 July 2014

Clouded Yellow.

One of the well known but unpredictable migrant butterflies to Britain is the Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus).
Last Friday I spotted one individual as it flew strongly westwards over Denbies Hillside while I was immersed in photographing other species. At the end of a stroll around Ashtead Common today with one of the Rangers another individual caught our attention as we traversed the meadow. It was flying purposefully around a specific area so I waited patiently and eventually managed to capture an image when it perched very briefly within range of the lens.

There have been a few other sightings recently in Surrey so hopefully there might be other opportunities to watch this delightful migrant that arrives here from around the Mediterranean.   FAB.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Wildlife in the Park.

Bushy Park is the second largest Royal Park in London covering an area of around 1,099 acres and there is an incredible range of wildlife and habitats within its walls. It has a distinctive landscape, shaped in part by its history as a royal hunting ground,  but also by its many ponds and streams. I often take a stroll around its largest expanse of water and here is just a sample of what I usually encounter at this time of the year.  FAB.

For the time being this female Pigeon is ignoring the attention of a broody male.

A juvenile Grey Heron chilling out.

Mute Swan creating waves.

Mr Mallard keeping an eye on everything.

A Fallow Buck looking for a snack.

Magpie, a little damp after the rain.

Jackdaw drinking some recent rainfall.

Red-crested Pochard trying to sleep.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Boots still walking.

Exactly four years ago I published a post entitled 'Boots are made for ....' and reported on the wildlife I encountered on a particular walk so I thought it would be interesting to repeat the walk, which I did today, and review any changes. Well, of course, the boots have changed ... the others wore out some time ago but my shadow is still the same! However the introduction to the original post (see below) is still relevant today.

"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, and 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 ... for a short time!) and also canoed along various rivers and canals; 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.

So are you ready boots? Start walkin'! An anti-clockwise circuit of Banks Common (connected to Bookham Common which has featured in numerous posts). The first thing I notice is that the vegetation is a lot thicker and higher than July 2010 as a Great-spotted Woodpecker repeatedly utters its distinctive 'kick .. kick' call and a male Blackcap flies across my path while a Goldfinch converses with its companions beyond my immediate view. The PowerShot SX50 HS focuses on the first of numerous Gatekeepers nectaring on Lesser Burdock. 

As I head towards the bridge a passing dog walker advises me that the path ahead is very overgrown and muddy underfoot .. I'm not deterred, I'm wearing boots! I am however conscious of the ever present danger of being stung by the overhanging large nettles as a tiny insect takes a nip somewhere above my bare ankle. As in the past the hedgerows were full of Bindweed, their white trumpets glowing like light bulbs amongst the dark green foliage where a 2nd brooded Small White Butterfly was resting. Natures colour palette of  greens, blues, purples, yellows and reddish-browns was provided by Teasels, Bittersweet, Tufted Vetch, Agrimony, Tansy, Grasses, Thistles, Ragwort, Honeysuckle and Common Sorrel just to name but a few.

Silver-washed Fritillary where thin on the ground with only two individuals seen during my whole walk. With the relatively high temperature I was glad of the shaded areas throughout my walk but they afforded little in the way of wildlife activity. However as soon as the view opened up that changed dramatically

On the opposite side of the meadow a single Common Buzzard drifted above the tree line constantly issuing its mewing 'piiyay..piiyay' call while Large Skippers, Meadow Browns and Common Damselflies rested nearby. The fence post is still standing but the moss has invaded its crown.

The view over the style hasn't changed but in the opposite direction the hay field has long since been converted into horse paddocks for expensive bloodstock. At this point I heard the calls of both a Chiffchaff and a distant Nuthatch as a number of Blue Tits flitted through the hedgerow. I also noticed that a Dragonfly had landed 15 feet high up on a bare branch but totally inaccessible for a photo. Using my bins I ascertained it was a Common Hawker and then a Ladybird landed and without a 'by your leave' hitched a ride on my arm for a while.

There were one or two fresh Brimstone getting a nectar fix.

Surprisingly I didn't come across any horse riders during this leisurely stroll but I did watch a Kestrel hunting on the far side of the meadow for over 15 minutes, constantly dropping into the long grass and then rising up again to hover while looking for a tasty meal. I think it was eventually sucessful as it flew to its regular tree and didn't reappear. 

During the walk I saw several male Darters frantically chasing one another during their territorial battles and towards the end of my circuit I found one male Ruddy Dater taking a well earned rest.

As I returned to my vehicle the final wildlife colours were provided by a beautiful Peacock showing off its brilliant upper wing patterns and its cryptic under wing camouflage.

In conclusion, a few changes to the landscape, a lack of sightings of any White Admiral butterflies (a typical scenario on most of my recent forays) and certainly fewer birds seen or heard with the notable absence of any colourful Yellowhammers. 

However one thing doesn't change ... on my exit route the traffic on the 'magic roundabout' (M25) was at a standstill but the trains were still running!  

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.

Linking to Saturday's Critters hosted by Eileen.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Tern on a fence post.

Earlier in the week I paid a visit to Tices Meadows, a site that has grown in popularity over the past few years for many Surrey birders due to the increasing number of species being recorded there. This obviously has a lot to do with the overall management of the water levels and the diverse habitats.

Walking into the site through the copse I noted numerous pairs of Speckled Wood performing their dancing courtship flights and one perched for a side view only. Other species logged included Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Green-veined White, Peacock, Large White, Large Skipper and a very fresh, second brooded, Common Blue.

This is not a location where it is particularly easy to get close views of the birds without a scope or exceptionally large lens but the fence posts way out in the water offered an opportunity to snap two species.

An adult Black-headed Gull (nearest the camera on the right) and a noisy offspring on the furthest post.

Other species logged around the site included Canada Geese (82), Egyptian Geese (2), Mute Swan (2 plus 2 cygnets), Mallard, Tufted Duck with youngsters, Coot (too numerous to count), Moorhen, Great-Crested Grebe (3), Little Grebe, Little Egret, Lapwing, Grey Heron (7), Starling, Crow, Jackdaw, Sparrowhawk, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch and Pied Wagtail.

I watched an adult Common Tern fly in with a catch, presumably for its youngster.

The two parents looked slightly bemused ... "Where has our child gone now!"

"Hey ... I'm up here".    Juvenile Common Tern on another post.

As I failed to find any waders that had been recorded on previous days I drove over to Thursley Common and spent some time photographing a very small Darter (Sympetrum danae) that will feature in a forthcoming post but you can get a sneak preview by clicking hereFAB.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Two Chats.

For this weeks edition of Wild Bird Wednesday I'm featuring two different 'Chats'. Both are Passeriformes of the Turdidae (Thrush) family.

First is the [European] Robin (Erithacus rubecula ssp. melophilus). This smart individual is our 'British' version and our unofficial national bird which has currently made my garden its feeding territory. Unlike its continental cousins it is not shy and readily follows me around 'chatting' and hoping for a handout.

The second 'chat' is more suitably named as the [European] Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola ssp. hibernans). Its name originates from the Latin;  saxum - a rock; colere - to dwell and torquis - a collar. This individual is a male in post breeding moult, photographed today perched on a dead Pine on the edge of a lowland heath.  FAB.

Monday, 21 July 2014

After the rain....

We have had some interesting weather in recent days; sunshine, humidity with high temperatures and then intermittent electrical light shows accompanied by booming thunder claps; or as one member of the family used to say "Don't worry, it's only God moving the furniture around!" 

So for this week's Nature Notes here are a few images taken in the garden after the rain ceased.

Red Lilium (Asiatic hybrid)

Lilium 'Lady Alice'
I am often reminded by you know who that "You've been rubbing up against those Lilies again" when another clean shirt is stained with pollen!!

A fresh looking Gatekeeper took up residence amongst one of the Euonymus shrubs waiting for the sun to reappear.

One Goldfinch was quickly back on the feeder devouring a quantity of sunflower hearts before its companions arrived and leaving plenty of leftovers on the patio floor. Why do they do that when I provide a top quality product?

 Our resident Robin, my former namesake ('The Earlybirder') takes advantage of a tasty meal.

And then a brief visit by an unnamed feline; no collar to ID it; who to my knowledge didn't leave its calling card!  FAB.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Butterfly Foray - Grayling.

Mid morning today I joined a small band of searchers on Chobham Common, the largest National Nature Reserve in south-east England covering an area of 574 hectares of lowland heath. The expanses of heather are broken up by deep valley bogs, isolated pines and patches of grassland, gorse and silver birch that provide a wildlife rich, patchwork of bio-diverse habitats. The main purpose of this field trip was to hopefully locate our most cryptically camouflaged butterfly, the Grayling.
For the first hour or so the conditions were fairly cool, with the sun hidden behind a total cloud blanket and certainly not ideal, so my expectations were very muted although I had already disturbed a Ringlet and Gatekeeper during a brief stroll around the car park perimeter.

With the lack of sunshine and no butterflies on the wing our attention turned to other winged inhabitants of this lowland heathland.

It didn't take long to pick up the calls of a Stonechat (image on left) and then a brief sighting of a Dartford Warbler as it flew low across the landscape.

We subsequently had slightly better views of another Dartford further into our walk and although too far away for my lens I was finally able to add this heathland specialist to my year list.

While three of us did have an initial encounter with a Grayling (Hipparchia semele) that perched very briefly on one of my fellow walkers before rapidly flying away it was another hour before the temperatures improved and my camera finally locked on to one resting on the bare ground, just presenting its mottled-brown underwing that provides excellent camouflage against most predators.

At rest the forewings are usually tucked behind the hind wings, concealing the eyespots and making the butterfly appear smaller but if you are quick enough when an individual first lands then sometimes the eyespot on the fore wing remains visible (see images below).

In total I logged five individual Grayling during this walk plus Little and Large Skipper, Green-veined White, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Heath and Six-spot Burnet. FAB.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Butterfly Forays - Purple Emperor and Hairstreak.

During the past two weeks I have been fortunate to see a total of 7 male Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) during visits to two separate local commons, including one individual flying just twenty feet above my head, but once again the only photo opportunities were males perched extremely high up on their Oak master trees. I am still hopeful that one day I might get one in the frame at a much lower altitude!

Indications from one local site (Ashtead Common) are that there are very good numbers of Purple Emperor on the wing this year so I'll definitely be going back subject to a spell of suitable weather.

For the other species, the small Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus) I stumbled across a single individual, probably a female, perched just a foot off the ground on the leaf of a Birch sapling on Bookham Common, and managed just one decent shot of its silvery under-wing (see below) before it disappeared from view.

All images were taken 'handheld' with the 450D and 70-300mm lens.  FAB.

Feeder Friends.

A few images of two of our regular garden visitors, the Starling and House Sparrow, sharing one of the feeders filled with suet with meal worm pellets.

 A male House Sparrow sharing with a Starling.

Two juveniles happily gorging themselves. At any other time of the year the Starlings rarely allow anyone else to occupy the feeder.

"I'm sure someone is watching me through that window".

"I've got it all to myself so time to get stuck in".

All these shots were taken 'through the window' with the 450D and 70-300mm lens. For this months images of Birds, Butterflies and Odonata please check out my photo blog.  FAB.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Blue Skies.

We have experienced blue skies and ramped up temperatures for a few days followed by the start of a series of electrical storms overnight with more on the way. I'm linking to Weekend Reflections and SkyWatch Friday with a sample of the views while I've been out in the sunshine recently.

Me scanning a heathland pond for the signs of any activity!

A view over Epsom Common Great Pond with a few residents drifting towards me.

And finally, just a hint of different speeds of travel.

Wishing everyone a glorious weekend wherever you are.  FAB.

For this months images of Birds, Butterflies and Odonata please check out my photo blog.

Hillside Wander.

For this weeks edition of Good Fences (hosted by TexWisGirl) why not follow my journey as the boots take another leisurely wander around Denbies Hillside on the North Downs.

From my starting point the path drops steeply downwards across Steers Field, with a view of the South Western Weald stretching out way below, to the first of many gateways beyond which I enjoy the sight of many Chalkhill Blues and Marbled Whites. Most of them were males on the wing hunting for a female but a few stopped for either a rest or a top up of nectar.

I think about taking a rest in the shade by the gate that leads into the woodland but there are far too many distractions such as lots of Cobweb Spiders including a Funnel Weaver waiting at the entrance to its lair hidden within the shaded brambles, plus Six-spot Burnet and Skippers perched nearby in the sunshine.

After an hour or so in the sunshine with the temperature rising to around 28 deg C I decide to rest awhile about two thirds of the way along the downward slope, amongst the grasses and wild flowers, and soak in the view southeastwards as the clouds slowly drifted in that direction.

At the foot of the slope I pass through a small shaded copse with two more gates to negotiate and then get a reverse view of hillside route I have just descended.

As I turn eastwards I am serenaded by the song of a Goldfinch while a tiny Goldcrest underneath the light green beach canopy checks out the 'watcher' before continuing its late morning search for insects.

So finally I'm on level ground on an ancient track that follows the boundary of the original iron Denbies Estate fence. Erected in the 1890's and definitely built to last.

I am quite surprised by the view ahead with large patches of tall growing Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus sylvestris) adorning the track side verges and being visited by various flutters including the Chalkhill Blue and a number of Brimstone and Gatekeepers.

Blooms reaching high above the fence wire.

The trackway eventually enters some welcome shade and I turn north to climb very slowly back up the hillside. After 60 steps and another gate the view opens up to the final grassy slope that needs to be conquered for me to reach the the beginning and the end of my hillside wander.

I hope you managed to keep up with me .. no apologies for the length of this post.  FAB. 

For this months images of Birds, Butterflies and Odonata please check out my photo blog.


Related Posts with Thumbnails