Thursday, 27 July 2017

Lowland Heath Specialities.

During a butterfly foray on Chobham Common last weekend despite being plagued by inclement weather I managed to get a few images of some of the special species that can be found on this very important lowland heath habitat.

A female Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum).

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum).

Emerald Damselfly [female] (Lestes sponsa).

Emerald Damselfly [male] (Lestes sponsa).

A male Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens).

Other species seen were Common Blue and Azure Damselflies.

Due to the intermittent rain showers only a few butterfly species clearly seen by me were Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Large Skipper and Brimstone plus probably one of the most cryptically camouflaged species, the Grayling.

 Grayling (Hipparchia Semele).

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Flutters on Headley Heath.

On Thursday, together with 15 other enthusiasts, I took part in a butterfly walk at Headley Heath with its mixed habitats of heathland, chalk downland and mixed woodland. During the first hour there was very little 'flutter' activity due to the blustery wind and light rain showers but from mid-day onwards things brightened up and we eventually logged 22 species.

Once again the new macro lens was in action and here are just a few of the species I photographed.

 Chalkhill Blue (male).

Silver-Y Moth.

Small Copper (male).

While there were a few Common Blues on the wing once the sky brightened up it was very pleasing to find a Brown Argus, initially perched with closed wings and then it decided to show its upper wing surfaces.

Just before we stopped to consume packed lunches one person spotted and photographed a White-letter Hairstreak but it promptly flew away. After lunch we staked out the location and eventually relocated this fairly worn individual.

Several Silver-spotted Skippers were seen and I managed a clearer shot than my previous effort earlier in the week at Juniper Bottom.

Unfortunately the woodland failed to produce a sighting of a Purple Emperor BUT we saw plenty of Purple Hairstreaks (see below).

Initial views were individuals flitting around the Oaks, often at very low level and then one tame individual perched on our leader's finger for its photo call!

Linking to:

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Getting to grips with new gear.

At long last I finally decided it was time to upgrade from my trusty Canon 450D that has served me well for many years to something with a great deal more fire power and also add a macro lens to my tool box.

So earlier this week I paid an early morning visit to the lower chalk downland slopes at Juniper Bottom together with my new 80D and a 100mm f2.8L Macro lens in anticipation of finding some 'flutters' to photograph.

Whilst the temperature was a reasonable 19 deg.C there was a blustery wind and nothing appeared to be on the wing until I spotted a lonely male Marbled White hunkered down in the grass.

Over the following twenty minutes it constantly flitted around the hillside rarely stopping to perch for a second or two but finally came to rest long enough to test the new set up.

As the morning wore on I found a few other species.

A male Common Blue.

And fairly close by was a female Common Blue (below).

When the sun disappeared behind the clouds I turned my attention to the varied selection of wild flowers scattered over the grassland.

Attaching an extension tube to the macro lens gave me an opportunity to test its use with some close-ups of Knapweed bracts (below).

A male Small Skipper.

A chance find was this Silver-Spotted Skipper hiding close to my feet and I only managed one shot before it flew away never to be seen again!

There were plenty of Six-spot Burnets all over the grassland.
One species I was hopeful of seeing was the Dark Green Fritillary (below). I followed several up and down the slope for what seemed ages before getting just one shot of this individual as it perched briefly.

Having reviewed all the images taken during this test excursion I am very pleased with the outcome and performance of the new gear ... just need to get used to the different button layout on the 80D and maybe read the instruction manual. FAB.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

R.I.P. Don.

It has been a rollercoaster ride over the past few weeks for my wife Anita and her close family culminating in the passing away on Monday morning in the very early hours of my Father-in-Law, Donald Reginald Cox (1929 - 2017), following a very eventful time in hospital.

The Nursing Staff at the Royal Berkshire are to be commended for their helpfulness, dedication and compassion. Despite their constant demanding routine nothing was too much trouble for an ailing patient or his concerned siblings.

I have fond memories of much better times including several holidays that we shared together with him and his late wife, Jean. His final passing was a blessed relief for both him and his immediate family to whom I offer my sincere condolences.

R.I.P. Don.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Birding on Lake Kerkini (Part 2).

So here is the continuation to my previous post Birding on Lake Kerniki (Part 1).

Leaving the drowned forest our guide and boatman quietly drifted within range of one the lakes' iconic species, the Dalmatian Pelican, a globally endangered species that I had last encountered during two visits to Bulgaria along the Black Sea coast some ten years ago.

Dalmatian Pelican.

Just one gentle flap to change its perching location.

This species which needs secluded islands on which to breed has historically suffered massive declines due to wetland drainage, persecution and disturbance of breeding birds. Whilst regularly present on Lake Kerniki outside the breeding season they had not bred here due to the lack of suitable nesting habitat. In 2002 funds allowed a small wooden platform to be built and in the following Spring seven pairs nested but disturbance by local fishermen, including scavenging wood, resulted in nesting failure.

During 2003 the original platform was enlarged and a second was constructed resulting in 20 pairs breeding in 2004 producing over 20 young and in 2005 about 50 pairs raised 55 fledglings. Similar numbers fledged annually until 2010 when new extended platforms permitted 120 chicks to fledge successfully and was the first recorded expansion of the Dalmatian’s breeding range in more than 150 years.

Sub-adult Dalmatian Pelican.

The breeding population of Dalmatian currently numbers around 250 pairs with maybe another 100 birds present in total and Kerkini is now the most important winter roosting site in the whole of Europe for this species.

From a distance the much newer rock platforms look just like a white upturned boat hulls. Only when you get closer is it possible to discern the numbers of Pelicans in residence.

For such a large bird I am always amazed at how effortlessly they are able to glide just above the water. Dalmatian (above) and White Pelican (below).

With Lake Kerniki traditionally being such a fertile feeding site White Pelicans that nest at Prespa, over 300km away, regularly make daily excursions here to feed. In 2016 White Pelican bred successfully at Kerniki for the first time with 11 pairs raising six chicks. Up to 2000 of them pass through the lake from March to September.

White Pelican in breeding plumage.

Time seemed to pass for too quickly during this enjoyable wildlife experience and I  subsequently wished I had taken more photographs ... maybe I will just have to go back.

In the meantime my sincere thanks go to Nikos our local host, guide and boatman.


Linking to:
Nature Notes
Wild Bird Wednesday 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Birding on Lake Kerkini, Greece (Part 1).

One of the highlights of our week in Northern Greece was a morning excursion across Lake Kerkini to the drowned forest to view the various birds that regularly visit and nest on this important wetland habitat.

Brief history of Lake Kerkini.
Historically the lake fed at it’s north-eastern corner by the River Strimonas flowing out of Bulgaria was not permanent. In 1932 the first dam was built at Lithotopus at the south-eastern end but following a build up of sediments over the ensuing fifty years a higher dam and improvements to existing embankments was completed in 1982 to improve flood protection and provide agricultural irrigation. The lake is approximately 15km long, with a maximum width of 8.5km and its depth varies from 1 to 10 m. Its surface rises and falls depending on the season from 55 to 85 km2.

We set out from Kerkini Harbour on perfectly calm water heading towards the north-eastern corner with large flocks of Dalmatian Pelicans soaring against the backdrop of the mountains or lazily flying over the lake; resting Great Cormorants, plus Black-headed Gulls and Terns. Both Common, Whiskered, Black and White-winged Black Terns were easily identified flying around us.

Great Crested Grebe dashes across the water along side the boat. During our days around the lake we saw hundreds of pairs in various stages of courtship. Apparently the actual number of nesting pairs is unknown and difficult to estimate due to the size of the lake and their distribution!

So where to look next? A Squacco Heron eying up a meal below its wire perch or flying past us; Grey Heron overhead and a distant Great White Egret and Pygmy Cormorant.

The wire fences accommodated a nice collection of Whiskered Terns with Black-headed Gulls.

As we drifted slowly into the drowned forest we were surrounded by the shear volume of sounds of nesting Great Cormorants together with the much smaller and rarer Pygmy Cormorants which breed here.
The reason for the lakes' success as a both a feeding and breeding location is the sheer number of fish available providing the spawning areas remain intact.

Dotted in amoungst the Cormorants were nesting Spoonbills (above) with the breeding adults sporting their ochre  breast band and neck patch.

Dotted in amoungst the Cormorants were nesting Spoonbills (above) with the breeding adults sporting their ochre  breast band and neck patch. More images of this species will appear on FABirding in due course.

The other species that entranced me (below) was the Black-crowned Night Heron. Perched out in the open this individual provided great views.  
You can click here to view some other close ups on FABirding.

Before long it was time for our expert local guide and boatman to move on and take us to view the other important species on the lake; both Dalmatian and White Pelicans at their breeding platforms.

This encounter will form the subject of a follow up post .. Part 2.

Linking to:
Nature Notes
Wild Bird Wednesday


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