Saturday, 30 July 2016

Rye Meads and Danemead

The butterfly and dragonfly drought continues for me, but at least I managed to see a few today. I went to Rye Meads this morning in order to catch up with the Garganey that have been around for a while and hopefully a few other things as well.
I got there just after nine and headed for the Draper Hide. On the way I stopped at the start of the boardwalk and spent some time watching the young Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. I missed a great shot when one of the Chiffs came down onto a dead umbellifer and posed really well but picking the camera up was sufficient to flush it.
I spent over an hour in the Draper, chatting to an astronomer, Mark that I had bumped into at Tring some time back as we searched for the Garganey which I eventually picked up a long way off at the back of the scrape. The Dunlin and three Green Sands were a bit more obliging. Most of the ducks are still in moult of course but it was interesting to pick up a pair of Teal and several Shoveller among them. One Snipe showed briefly before flying off. At least one pair of Common Terns remained with two juveniles.
We walked up to the lagoons-unfortunately the water was rather high and not quite what I expected. We found a few butterflies-mainly whites and a few hoverflies, bees and beetles. I left Mark heading up to the Kingfisher hide and made my way back, taking a detour around the summer trail. This had a few Sedge and Reed warblers and a dragonfly flew past but I couldn't get on it.
Back outside the Draper Hide, the sun had come out and it was warming up. Several Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and a Comma were nectarine on the ragwort, and I found a Brown Argus there as well. A few Common Blue damsels, a Southern Hawker and a Migrant Hawker were seen around the pools-these were the first odonate in over six weeks.

I had sufficient time to call in at Danemead in Broxbourne Woods for a quick circuit. The cattle that are being used to graze the meadow have taken off much of the flowering vegetation (and blocked the usual entrance gate) but there were still plenty of butterflies present. Mostly Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers but one rather tatty Silver Washed Fritillary was found. A walk around the wood and river failed to find any Broad Leaved Helleborines but I eventually found two rather nice specimens by the reserve sign-I had walked straight past them on my way in. Birds were rather quiet, but a large tit and crest flock entertained me for a while-not surprising when the first bird i got on to was a juvenile Firecrest!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Butterfly Weekend

Its been a pretty dire year for me regarding insects in general. I have only really had two days with Dragonflies, and Butterflies have been really hard to see. The best weather always seems to occur when I am work, withs seemingly a never ending sequence of dull, cool and wet weekends.
I wasn't feeling all that great this past weekend and didn't really want to go out. It was supposed to be another cloudy and cool Saturday morning with the promise of the occasional sunny break, so was rather surprised when the clouds cleared not long after a late breakfast so I decided to go for a walk with the camera and see what I could find.
This time of year the birds tend to be rather quiet, and hard to see so I want really expecting much. The walk through the conifer plantation and down to Aston End was punctuated by the occasional calls of young Blue and Great Tits, and singing singles of Song Thrush and Chiffchaff. Speckled Woods should have been out but I never found any, but once clear of the woods White butterflies started to appear, predominantly Green Veined and Large, and one Small. A few red Admirals and my first Gatekeepers of the year were seen on brambles in the hedgerows.
A big flock of screaming Swifts over the ford were the first birds of note, though there were also a few Yellowhammers and Linnets around. Once onto the footpath heading up river Meadow Browns and Ringlets started to appear, plus a few more Gatekeepers. The best bit, a large patch of thistle and burdock near the horse paddocks held my interest and most of the photographs were taken here. Apart from the abundant Meadow Browns, I found a few Large, Small and Essex Skippers, some Tortoiseshells and my one and only Comma of the year (so Far). Beetles and bees were targeted as well, including a very nice long horn called Rutpela maculata. Another smaller beetle with swollen legs caught my eye-I had seen a few on Twitter earlier in the week but the name escapes me.
I was expecting to encounter Small Heaths on the more open grazed paddocks but couldn't find any, but heading up the hill to the Chells Manor radio mast I found at least a dozen Marbled Whites.

Since then the weather has improved considerably with a  lot of sun and heat (maybe too much of that as I write) and this has brought a few more species into the garden. Since I have a lot of nasturtiums, I have started to get frequent visits from Large Whites (so the nasturtiums probably won't last much longer) plus a few Green Veined Whites. As mentioned in previous years, Ringlets are also turning up-they seem to favour a few areas around the pond but I don't really know what plants are bringing them in. With a lot of marjoram starting to flower, Gatekeepers are also appearing. I am also getting a lot more bees-still to be identified and one of these days I will have to try and sort out the moths particularly as there are a few plants grown specially for them.

Monday, 11 July 2016

RHS Wisley Visit

The weekend didn't go to plan, not that we really had one anyway.
Basically, this time of year we would like to go down to the southern heaths-New Forest, Thursley and concentrate on the plants and insects, with the added bonus of picking up a few birds in the process. The weather forecast on Friday seemed to suggest that Sunday was no good, but Saturday would be reasonably warm, with sunny spells throughout the day. What we got was overcast skies, a constant breeze with occasional gusts and it wasn't quite as warm as expected so we gave up fairly quickly.
In order to make something of the day, I thought it might be worth visiting a garden. A quick online search for anything in Hampshire didn't produce anything obvious, so I took advantage of my RHS card and got Colin into Wisley. Big problem for me is that I didn't really have the right camera lenses with me apart from the 100mm macro, so I had to resort to the iPhone (using one of the apps that enable it to take TIF files) for the more general wide shots.
The borders weren't all that colourful, its an in-between period where the early spring flowers have gone over and the high summer perennials and tender plants have yet to get going. We basically had Geraniums and Veronicastrums, with a few odd spot plants among the grasses. The meadows looked good, particularly the one based on African plants-dominated by Berkheya and Dieramas. Shame about the wind.
The woodland areas naturally were a bit quiet, a few Rhododendrons were still flowering, but the main shrub colour was provided by Hydrangeas Viburnums and Dogwoods. The banana and tree fern grove was looking pretty good. Would love to be able to get my tender plants to overwinter like these ones.
The alpine house, with a bonsai display outside had some interesting plants and bulbs, and the main glasshouse had the usual orchid display. Fuchsias were also on display, including a few of the more unusual species.  Would have liked to have had my other lenses and the flash in here, plus the polarisers as only a few of the large tropical and african plants came out well on the iPhone.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Images from a recent Walk

Didn't go out travelling this weekend. As a result I missed a Great White Egret at Amwell which dropped in briefly on Sunday (I had decided that since it was a 'quiet' time of year there was not much point going down for the usual social gathering and worked in the garden instead, never mind).
Took the macro lens out on a stroll on Saturday. Being rather windy there want much in the way of butterflies etc until I reached a warm sheltered spot. Here are a few images, most being unidentified.