Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Walk In The Sunshine



Just lately we haven’t had many sunny days but yesterday, after an early morning frost, the sun rose into a clear blue sky. So I decided that it was an opportunity that was too good to miss and set off for a walk around one of my local nature reserves.

SSNR Sunshine walk 1 view

I spooked a large flock of Yellowhammers that were feeding on the set aside ground by the footpath, fortunately they didn’t go far and settled high in the trees where they appeared like jewels sparkling in the sunshine.

SSNR Sunshine walk 2 Yhammer


A small party of Reed Buntings were making their way along the hedgerow and not giving too many photo opportunities as they kept low down amongst the branches. Eventually curiosity must have gotten the better of this female as she popped up for a quick and nervous look, maybe to see what the strange creature following along behind them was!

SSNR Sunshine walk 3 Rbunting


There were also quite a few Fieldfare and Redwing (and Blackbirds) feeding on the abundant berries along the hedgerow, unfortunately, they are so wary and skittish birds, they always managed to stay safely out of camera range. (After many attempts I’ve still not got any decent images of either Fieldfares or Redwings…one day!!)

Further on around the reserve and I came across a pair of Stonechats using a fence line as a lookout perch to spot and dive down onto any unsuspecting insects. They managed to keep, what they decided was, a safe distance ahead of me by moving along one post at a time. The male did sit still for long enough and allow me to fire off a couple of shots.

SSNR Sunshine walk 4 Schat


As well as the birds mentioned I also saw (unfortunately no decent photographs!) a large flock (50+) of Goldfinch feeding on Teasel heads, a Kestrel perched in a distant tree, an overflying and very vocal Buzzard also numbers of Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow,Blue Tit, Woodpigeon and singles of Wren, Robin and a Great Spotted Woodpecker ‘tapping’ away high up in a dead tree.

And finally… I was treated to a flyby by a fast moving green missile…or maybe it was a Green Woodpecker? I managed to fire off a quick burst of shots and this, massively cropped, is the best one.

SSNR Sunshine walk 5 GWP

If you look closely it appears to have it’s eyes closed…maybe it was scared at the speed it was going or perhaps it was just having a nap with the auto pilot turned on?!!

I was pleased that I made the effort and had a good three hour plus walk in the sunshine (although the breeze was a bit nippy at times) and got to see a good selection of birds. I also didn’t see another human being!!
Oh yeh!…I also saw and photographed quite a few different species of Fungi (wet and dirty knees and elbows time again!) which I’ve yet to properly sort ID’s for…I sometimes wish that I didn’t take so many photographs!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Looking Back 2



In this second instalment of the series I’m again looking back at some of the photographs I’ve taken over the past year, still on the theme of moths but this time looking at some of the larger types of ‘day fliers’.


Day Flying Moths  (part 2)

Just to recap…..What determines a day flying moth?  Some moths are quite obviously day fliers, flying whenever the sun shines, just like butterflies. Others, that don’t normally fly by day, will readily take to the wing on being disturbed from their roosting site as we walk through the grass or brush against bushes etc.

Cream Wave (Scopula floslactata) (1693)
Day Fliers 1 Satin Wave
(Not the best of photographs!)  With a wingspan of 30mm..this moth can be found in broadleaved woodland, hedgerows and on damp rough grassland during May and June. It is common and well distributed in England and Wales but less well represented in the rest of the country.

Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata) (1727)
Day Fliers 2  Silver-ground Carpet
This large moth has a wingspan of 34mm and can be seen flying at dusk, although it is easily disturbed into flight during the day, during mid May to late July. It prefers a damp habitat with tall herbaceous vegetation such as hedgerows, woodland rides, chalk downlands, fens and heathlands.

Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata) (1728)
Day Fliers 3  Garden Carpet
Another `carpet moth’this one is very common and, as it’s name suggests, can be found in gardens, allotments and rough urban areas. It has a wingspan of 32mm and will readily take to flight if disturbed although it normally flies at dusk from April to October. It can often be found perched in the open on garden walls/fences during the day.  
The one in the photograph above flew through the open patio doors into my living room one warm early June evening.

Chalk Carpet (Scotopteryx bipunctaria) (1731)
Day Fliers 4  Chalk Carpet The Chalk Carpet is distinguished from other carpet moths by it’s drab grey colour and the two small black dots on each forewing. Listed as nationally scarce, it is found locally across much of the south of England and Wales on chalk grassland and in old quarries. During the daytime it rests on bare chalk or soil where it can be easily disturbed. It has a wingspan of 36mm and a flight period from July to August.

Common Carpet (Epirrhoe sternata) (1738)
Day Fliers 5  Common Carpet
As it’s name suggests this moth is common in most types of habitat throughout the UK. It has two flight periods the main one is from May to June and another, with fewer moths on the wing, from July to early September. It flies from dusk onwards when it also settles to feed on flowers such as Ragwort. It is easily spooked into flight during the day and has a wingspan of 28mm.

Yellow Shell (Camptogramma bilineata) (1742)
Day Fliers 6  Yellow Shell This distinctive orange/brown moth (bright yellow forms have also been recorded) is common across the UK and can be found in lowland fields, meadows, along hedgerows and also in gardens. With a wingspan of 32mm it has a flight period from June to August. In the right habitat large numbers can be seen flying at dusk but if disturbed will readily take to the wing during the day.

The next two moths are the two most commonly seen members of the seven strong species of Burnet Moth that occur in the UK. The differences between all seven are very small and mainly come down to the variations in the red spot markings on the wings, these also act as a warning to any would be predators that they are toxic. Varied habitat preferences and distribution are also an aid in their identification.
They are both day flying moths (they don’t fly at night) and can usually be seen in good numbers on bright sunny days.

Five-spot Burnet (Zygaena trifolii  ssp. palustrella) (170)
Day Fliers 8a  Five-spot Burnet
Very similar in appearance to the Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet (Zygaena lonicerae) (171) but is likely to have it’s two central red spots closer or merging together. They also have different habitats with the Five-spot preferring chalk downland. It has a wingspan of 38mm and a flight period from June to August.

Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae) (169)
Day Fliers 9  Six-spot Burnet
This most commonly found member of the Burnet family is abundant throughout the UK, although a little scarcer in Scotland. On warm sunny days it can bee seen flitting, just like a butterfly, from flower to flower on almost any grassland where the preferred flowers are those of thistles and knapweed. It is a similar size and has the same flight period as the Five-spot Burnet above.


Moving away from macro moths to a member of the very similar and closely related micro moth group known as the grass-moths..


Garden Grass-veneer (Chrysoteuchia culmella) (1293) 
Day Fliers 7  Garden Grass Veneer
There are many different grass moths of which some are widespread and very common and can often be seen in large numbers. They rest with their wings held in a tent like position over their bodies with the antennae swept back. As their name suggests they are found in grassy areas.

The Garden Grass-veneer is distinguished from the other members of the group by the metallic fringe on the end, and the elbowed cross-line toward the rear, of the forewing. It is easily disturbed into a fluttering flight from its resting place on long grass stems in meadows, chalk grasslands and waste ground. It has a flight period from May to September and a wing length of up to 12mm.













Friday, 14 November 2014

Looking Back 1



As the weather closes in for winter and the days get shorter and darker and so making it more difficult (and less enjoyable) to get out with the camera I thought that it was time to knuckle down and do a series of posts showing some of the photographs that I’ve taken over the past few months.

So, here’s the first instalment…I hope you don’t get bored?


Day Flying Moths  (part 1)

What determines a day flying moth?  Some moths are quite obviously day fliers, flying whenever the sun shines, just like butterflies. Others, that don’t normally fly by day, will readily take to the wing on being disturbed from their roosting site as we walk through the grass or brush against bushes etc.

Common Tubic (Alabonia geoffrella) (656)
Day Moth 1  Common Tubic
A micro moth with a wingspan of 20mm. Flies during early morning sunshine from May to June and can be found in deciduous woodland and along hedgerows and areas of scrub.

Common Nettle-tap (Anthophila fabriciana) (385)
Day Moth 2  Common Nettle-tap
This very abundant, it can be found throughout the world, micro moth has a wingspan of 15mm and as it’s name suggests can be found anywhere that nettles grow. On the day I took this picture there were hundreds of them, swarming over every Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) plant that I walked past. They fly from April to November.

Small Barred Long-horn (Adela croesella) (151)
Day Moth 3  Small Barred Long-horn
This tiny micro moth has a wingspan of around 13mm and can be seen flying on sunny days during May to June. It’s antenna are slightly longer than the wings. It can be found in a variety of habitats including woodland margins, scrubland, fens and marshes.

Yellow-barred Long-horn (Nemophora degeerella) (148)
Day Moth 4  Yellow-barred Long-horn
This micro moth is common in England and Wales and flies in dappled shade and at dusk from May to July. It’s long antenna are almost four times the length of the males 10mm long forewing. It can be found in (damp) woodland, hedgerows, fens and marshes.

Common Marble (Celypha lacunana) (1076)
Day Moth 5  Common Marble
This common micro moth is readily disturbed from it’s roosting place during the day. It’s wingspan is around 20mm and it flies from May to early November. It has a wide ranging habitat from woodland and hedgerows to meadows, marshes, roadside verges and gardens.

Small Purple and Gold (Mint Moth) (Pyrausta aurata) (1361)
Day Moth 6  Small Purple and Gold
A very common micro moth, except in Scotland where it’s rare. It has a wingspan of 18mm and flies in sunshine from March to early September. Can be found on chalk and limestone grassland and in gardens and wetlands especially were there is an abundance of it’s food plant..Mint, Calamint and Marjoram, hence it’s secondary name.

Common Purple and Gold (pyrausta purpuralis) (1362)
Day Moth 7  Common Purple and Gold
Similar to p.auralis above but the gold band across the wing is usually split into three and the wingspan is slightly bigger at 22mm. It is also found in the same habitat and flies in sunshine and at night from late March to early September.

Wavy-barred Sable (Pyrausta nigrata) (1366)
Day Moth 8  Wavy-barred Sable
Again similar to the two moths above but instead of being predominantly purple the 8mm long wings are black. It flies in sunshine from mid April to October and can be found on chalk grassland.

Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria) (1952)
Day Moth 10  Common Heath
A macro moth that flies by day especially when it’s been disturbed from it’s resting place in the long grass on heathland, moorland or chalk meadows. Flies between May and June and sometimes as late as August. It is very variable in colour and pattern and has a wingspan of 30mm.

Clouded Silver (Lomographa temerata) (1958)
Day Moth 11  Clouded Silver
This macro moth flies at dusk, from May to early July, but will also take to the wing if disturbed during the day. Habitat includes woodland, parks, scrubland, hedgerows and sometimes urban gardens. It is quite a large moth with a wingspan of 33mm.

Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae) (2069)
Day Moth 12  Cinnabar
The red and black markings of this moth make it easy to spot. It is widely distributed, and flies in the sunshine from mid May to early August in open habitats including well drained rabbit grazed grasslands, sand-dunes and heathland. It’s long flight period means that you often see adults on the wing next to the distinctively marked (black and gold hoops) fully grown caterpillars that can be seen feeding on Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). This is a large moth with a wingspan of 46mm.

Burnet Companion (Euclidia glyphica) (2463)
Day Moth 13  Burnet Companion
Another large moth, with a wingspan of 30mm, can be seen flying on sunny and warm overcast days. It normally only flies for short distances where it will settle with it’s forewings slightly open exposing the bright orange ‘flash’ on the hind wings. The flight period is from mid May to early July in calcareous grassland including flower rich meadows, woodland rides and embankments.

Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis) (2474)
Day Moth 14  Straw Dot
Another ‘night flier’ that is easily disturbed by day this macro moth has a wingspan of 30mm. In the south of England (south of Yorkshire) it has two flight periods from June to July and August to October. Further north it only flies between June and August. It’s preferred habitat is tall damp grassland, marshes, fens and heathlands.

Chimney Sweeper (Odezia atrata) (1870)
Day Moth 15  Chimney Sweeper
This large moth, with a wingspan of 30mm, gets it’s name from it’s entirely black colouring (except for the white fringe around the tip of the forewings when newly emerged). More common in the north of the country it only occurs locally in the south where it’s preferred habitat is chalk downland, old hay meadows and unimproved grassy areas, in the north it frequents the banks of streams and other damp places. It’s a strong flier but usually only flies for short distances and rarely settles for any length of time, making it rather difficult to photograph! The flight period only lasts from June to July.


I hope you found this post interesting and I think you’ll agree that, although they are not as conspicuous, the colour and variety of our moths compares well with that of our butterflies?

In part 2 I’ll feature some of our larger day flying moths.




Wednesday, 29 October 2014

LOCAL BIRDS


I made the most of the warm and sunny weather (it’s raining now!) that we’ve had over the last few days and managed to get out and about and photograph some of the local birds.

Local Birds 3  Corn Bunting 1
A Corn Bunting glowing in the early morning sunshine.

I found this pair of very confiding Stonechats…

The male
Local Birds 4  Stonechat  male 1

Local Birds 5  Stonechat  male 2

The female
Local Birds 6  Stonechat  female 1

Local Birds 7  Stonechat  female 2

I was very lucky to catch up with, what was a lifer and the highlight of the show for me, a reasonably rare (although there have been quite a few reported around the country just recently) Great Grey Shrike.

Distant views at first…
Local Birds 1  G G Shrike 1

It was very flighty but I did manage to get a little closer…
Local Birds 2  G G Shrike 2

Over four days of ‘local’ birding I managed to see fifty two different species of bird, all within a twelve mile radius of home. It was a good and enjoyable few days birding.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Hoopoe





Last Friday and over the weekend I noticed reports emerging on the local yahoo group and other various bird groups that a Hoopoe was showing well at a location about 30 minutes drive away from my home.

On Tuesday the reports were saying that it was still there and showing well. Now, I don’t normally attend ‘twitches’ but on this occasion, as Hoopoes don’t put in regular appearances in this neck of the woods (they are classed as mega rarities) and as I’d never had the opportunity of seeing one before, I made an on the spot decision to go and see if it was as good as they were saying…and I wasn’t to be disappointed!



Once I arrived at the location the bird was easy to find…I just had to follow the direction in which all the ‘scopes and cameras were pointing and there it was, busily feeding on the ground in a small horse paddock next to a farm house, about 10 meters in front of the gathered throng and seemingly oblivious to the constant rattle of the camera shutters!



I was lucky enough to find a space between two fellow photographers, who kindly shuffled along to let me in, when to my amazement the bird came even closer, too close in fact, as it momentarily ‘disappeared’ behind the small picket fence in front of us. However, it was soon back out and giving us all good close views once again.



Slowly it worked it’s way over to the other side of the paddock and disappeared from view underneath a gate. It was eventually relocated about ten minutes later on the other side of the farm buildings (where it was less windy!).



I’d spent the best part of two hours admiring and photographing this amazing little bird, and I’d got my life tick, so decided it was time to head off home.





Hoopoe (Upupa epops)



Hoopoe 1





Hoopoe 2





Hoopoe 3





As an added bonus this long staying Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) was giving good, if rather distant, views as it flitted between the ground and the fence posts in an adjoining paddock.



Hoopoe - Wheatear







And now a little rant……..



While watching the Hoopoe I witnessed some behaviour that made me realise why I don’t normally attend ‘twitches’. By their very nature twitches usually involve lots of people gathering in one particular place to observe a rare bird. The normal situation is that they watch/photograph the bird (which on most occasions is already lost, stressed or confused) from a respectful distance. Unfortunately some people cannot help themselves and try and get as close to the bird as possible.



On this occasion I witnessed somebody, a renowned and self styled guru  of British birding (you know who he is!), and who frankly, should know better and at least try to put on a better example, crawl along on his belly into the owners property to get closer to the bird and by default keep it from moving closer the the other watchers who had respectfully stayed back waiting for the bird to ‘come to them’. Sadly this is not the first time that I’ve seen this person display this sort of tactics.



Hoopoe Closer 1



Hoopoe Closer 2



My advice is if he wants to get better/closer photographs he should invest in a better camera and a ‘bigger’ lens and respect the birds space!





Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A FEW FUNGI



Over the past few weeks I’ve spent several days out and about looking to see what fungi I could find. It’s probably a bit early yet but I did manage to find a few. However, for the most part, they had already been ‘found’ and nibbled by the slugs and squirrels, so not many pristine examples.
I also noticed, on more than one occasion, that where fungi have appeared close to footpaths they had been kicked over and destroyed. I fail to see what pleasure, when they’ve obviously come out to walk in and enjoy the countryside, people derive from doing this sort of thing and destroying what they’ve come out to see?

Something else that I noticed was how dry the ground is at the moment, especially in the woods, normally when I’m out photographing fungi I usually get wet and muddy knees and elbows…all they’re getting at the moment is dusty. Out of interest I dug down into the leaf litter and it was about 10 to 15cm down before it started to get really damp, and that’s before the imminent new fall of leaves.

The Fungi…..

Fungi 1  Am Dec
Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)  The colour of this common fungi is more noticeable in young specimens as it quickly fades to a light tan colour. Grows to about 10cm tall, usually in small groups in deciduous woodland. It’s also quite common for the cap to be misshapen. Edible, but not a culinary delight.

Fungi 2  Club F
Club Foot (Ampulloclitocybe clavipes)  A flat topped fungus with a distinctive club shaped stem. Grows to around 7cm tall with a brown cap of about 8cm across in deciduous and mixed woodland. Edible, but can cause a very severe reaction if consumed with alcohol.

Fungi 3  False DC
False Deathcap (Amanita citrina)  This common fungus grows in deciduous and mixed woodland. 8cm tall with a 10cm diameter cap. It has a strong smell of raw potatoes and is mildly poisonous.

Fungi 4  Hon W Cap
Honey Waxcap (Hygrocybe reidii)  This small red to orange/red fungi is commonly found in pasture and grassland. Reaching a height of 5cm the 5cm diameter cap flattens out with age and sometimes cracks appear around the edges. As it’s name would suggest it smells strongly of honey and is edible, but of poor quality.

Fungi 5  Sul Tuft
Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare)  This very common yellow/orange fungus is most notable for forming dense and spectacular clumps on dead and decaying wood of both deciduous and coniferous trees.

Fungi 6  Beech Sick
Beechwood Sickener (Russula nobilis)  This poisonous brittlegill is the deciduous woodland relative of the Sickener (Russula emetica) that is found in pinewoods. Mostly bright red in colour ( all white specimens have been noted) with a white stem. Grows to around 5cm tall with a cap diameter of 7cm. It has a faint smell of coconut.

Fungi 7  Gry Spot Am
Grey Spotted Amanita (Amanita excelsa)  Grows in deciduous and mixed woodland. The grey/brown cap with patches of grey spots grows to around 10cm in diameter and flattens out with age. The stem is white to grey in colour and 12cm tall.

Fungi 8  Blk W Cap
Blackening Waxcap (Hygrocybe conica)  One of the most common waxcaps, seen in various colours from yellow through orange to red however, the irregular shaped cap discolours to black and becomes dry and cracked with age. Can be found in grassland and reaches a height to around 10cm.

Fungi 9  Bit Bol
Bitter Bolete (Tylopilus felleus)  This large greyish brown fungus is found in deciduous woodland and occasionally with conifers. It has a stout club shaped stem growing to around 10cm long, yellowish in colour and covered with a coarse brown net. The cap. up to 12cm in diameter, matures to a flat shape with a dark brown coarse/cracked texture. As the name suggests it has a very bitter taste.

Fungi 10  Unkown
Unknown (help needed)  This one I found in mixed woodland but so far it has eluded any of my attempts at an ID. so, if anyone has any ideas?……


Notes/ Disclaimer…Although I have given indications of taste and edibility of some of the above fungi I would strongly advise that, unless you’re 100% sure of what you’re doing, you DON’T attempt to taste/eat any fungi/mushrooms that you may find.  Just admire their beauty, they look much better growing in the wild than they do sizzling in a frying pan!