No, it's not what you're thinking, I've not been spending time lounging on a sun baked tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific. No, it was last week here, in good ol' England, when we had some 'proper' summer weather with (mostly) wall to wall sunshine and temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius.
So, if you can stick with it, here is my account (mostly photographic, I took over 1500 pictures during the week...and I'm still sorting through them!!) of my week in the hot sun...
Day one...Pitstone Hill and Incombe Hole in Buckinghamshire.
The day started at 5am when I met Keith at the Ivinghoe Beacon car park, our quest for the day was to see if we could find Corn Buntings and the Dark Green Fritillary Butterfly. after a quick coffee, (thanks Keith, our catering manager for the day!) we set of for the walk to Pitstone Hill.
These two, along with their recently shorn compatriots, looked rather bemused to see a couple of strange looking beings traipsing through their field at such an early hour!
As we arrived at the base of Pitstone Hill the sun was up and the temperature had started to rise. It wasn't long before we heard the jangling call (it's been likened to the jangling of a bunch of keys) of the bird we had come to see...a Corn Bunting was singing from the overhead power lines, our first objective soon achieved!
And now the butterflies had started to appear from their overnight resting spots.
After a couple of hours watching the Corn Buntings along with the numerous other birds that had put in an appearance (18 species in total) we started to make our way back to the car for breakfast. Again we heard that jangling call and soon spotted a Corn Bunting sitting on a fence post.
After breakfast, no sooner than we had started to make our way to Incombe Hole, we came across our second objective of the day... a pair of Dark Green Fritillaries were feeding on some thistles.
Satisfied that we had easily found our objectives for the day we continued our walk taking in the sight of the butterflies and wild flowers along the way.
|Cut-leaved Selfheal (apparently quite rare!)
I thought I knew what this was but cannot find any reference for it. can anyone help?
Day Two.....Hitchin Lavender in Hertfordshire.
Again I met up with Keith, athough this time not so early!!..10am, for a trip to Hitchin Lavender where I'd previously found Essex Skipper Butterflies. The temperature had already reached the high 20's when we arrived.
The rows of lavender looked stunning in the sunshine...
.....and were 'humming' with the sound of lots (and I mean LOTS!!) of Honey Bees and various types of Bumble Bee.
Red poppies conrasted well with the purple lavender...
|Long-headed Poppy (no black spots on the base of the petals)|
Unfortunately we didn't find the Essex Skipper, in fact birds and butterflies were largely noticeable by their absence...the heat of the day sending them too cooler spots maybe?
One butterfly that did put in an appearance was this Ringlet.
Day Three......RSPB The Lodge, Sandy in Bedfordshire.
This time I left Keith at home!! and instead took my wife Claire to the headquarters of The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds..her choice by the way!
Another hot, 30c and sunny day as we started our walk around the reserve and again not that many birds showing in the heat....or maybe they had 'gone to ground' at the sight of a patrolling Hobby...
Further on we found a shady spot to sit and have a drink and something to eat (thanks for carrying it Claire X X ) when I heard a 'mewing' sound coming from some distant trees...Buzzard, I thought as I saw a bird silhouetted against the sun, appear out on a branch with some prey held firmly in its grasp, which it promptly started to eat. I fired off a few hopeful shots...
However on looking at the images later and with a great deal of help from Photoshop this is what I discovered...
Now, I don't know if there was a family of Hobbies in the trees, there was certainley lots of noise, but I ever only saw this one out in the open!
Further on and we came to a small pond ( famed for its breeding Natterjack Toads!) where another photographer was busy taking pictures of a lone male Banded Demoiselle, we got chatting and it turned out that we live no more than a mile away from each other! (it's a small world, as they say!!). If you're reading this 'other photographer' I'm sorry but I omitted to ask your name.
Also flying around the pond were a pair of Ruddy Darter Drangonflies.
|Ruddy Darter male|
Also spotted in the vegetation was this emerging dragonfly larva...
...does anyone know which dragonfly this is about to become?
Back to the visitor centre for much needed cool drinks and ice creams and a chance to take a few photographs of the Spotted Flycatcher pair that have returned to nest here for another year.
Also seen around the visitor centre...
|A resting Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon|
So, a good three days out in the sun doing the thing I like best... taking pictures of our beautiful and varied wildlife.
If you've stuck with it to the end..thank you, you deserve a medal ( I hear they're giving them away at the moment just a few miles down the road, perhaps I could borrow some for you!!)
In part two of this epic I have a chance meeting with 'royalty' and get up close and personal with some dragons... as soon as I've sorted through all the photo's that is!!