Monday, 16 August 2010

Local Stuff

Another quiet weekend with northerly winds and cloudbursts to contend with.
Not too bothered by the latter as I have been doing more work in the garden, and despite the amount of rain we have had, the soil is still quite dry once you get down a few inches.
I appear to be feeding around twenty House Sparrows at any one time-they have had a very good breeding season it appears. Wood Pigeon is on a nest in the (last week) heavily pruned Bay tree still, and there are a couple of new juvenile Robins visiting. Not sure if the Goldfinches have had another brood, or wether I am seeing the young birds that first visited several months back. The Rowan is now full of berries so the Blackbirds and Starlings are tucking in.

On Saturday, the dilemma was wether to go travelling with Colin, get wet and probably not see much, or stay in the county and still get wet without seeing much. Chose the latter.
Violet Helleborines have been in flower for a while, with a site in Lincs being recommended. They are supposed to be in Box/Pryors Wood in Stevenage anyway, but we decided to go to Bricket Wood as this is the prime Herts site. Never been there before, and although it appears in the local birding books as a good site, I had a lot of trouble getting information on the orchids. As a result we turned up not knowing where to go.
Spent a couple of hours walking round-its a nice area of remnant heath and broad leaved woodland, but we never did find any orchids. Got a bit wet though.

With the forecast for the day of heavy rain from noon, plan B was implemented and we went to the nearby Butterfly World. At least we would be warm and dry.
Decided to wander round the various gardens that had been laid out by a number of designers. A few of the conceptual designs were a bit off the wall for what were meant to be wildlife friendly gardens, but some were entertaining. Gave me some ideas about plant associations that I might try. Not much insect activity though, as it was a bit cold and overcast. The big surprise was that wasps were very attracted to some of the Persicarias and also the purple heads of Angelica Gigas. Trying to get decent images hand held with the limited depth of filed of my Zeiss 100mm were very tricky as I did not have much light to play with. Got a few though.

With showers approaching we hit the tropical house and then had to spend five minutes waiting for steamed up glasses and cameras to acclimatise. The light inside was not good, and without flash it was a case of trying to keep to a decent shutter speed and aperture while using iso 400-800. Even so, 1/160 to 1/250 at F4 was not enough and many images were under exposed by a couple of stops-salvagable but not nice. I need a D3s. At least ten species were on display and it made change to see some of the exotics. Dont know what all of them were, as the display boards seemed a bit out of date but here is some sort of Swallowtail.

Over the course of the next year, a 100m biome is being built, which will house butterflies, Humming Birds and other tropical animals. Will definitely be going back.

We  dodged a number of very sharp torrential downpours on the M25 and called in at Danemead on the way home. A number of tit flocks were encountered, containing Blue Coal and Great, plus a few Treecreepers. Two or three Crossbills flew over and their calls appeared to cause a Nuthatch to respond which was confusing for a moment. On the north side of the reserve, by the stream, I found a small group of Broad Leaved Helleborines. Most had gone over, but one seedling had a single fresh flower, and another large spike was fading. A single Southern Hawker over the small pond, one Common Blue butterfly, one Meadow Brown and a couple of Speckled Woods were the only insects noted.

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