In this second part of my account of 'a week in the hot sun' I was 'buzzed' by a strange flying machine before, once again, finding my target species...encountered not one but two Emperors...and whilst on a picnic, got up close and personal with some dragons!!...
Day four... Incombe Hole in Buckinghamshire.
Once again a warm and sunny day, with the temperature rising to 26c, and it was back to Incombe Hole and it's surrounds in search of the Chalk-hill Blue Butterfly.
As normal progress was slow as I stopped to take photographs of the many wild flowers that were out in bloom along the sides of the pathways...
The area I was walking in lies directly under the flight path into London Luton Airport and on most days this is not a problem as the planes are not too low at this point and maybe fly over at about one every fifteen to twenty minutes, but this was the day before the Olympic opening ceremony and the time between planes was down to about five minutes. This was not really a problem and was soon ignored until I was suddenly aware of a noise that I can only describe as sounding like a dozen or so out of tune lawnmowers being thrashed to within an inch of their lives...a quick search of the sky overhead and a few hasty shots with the camera (no time for setting adjustments) and this was the result!
I'll leave you to work it out but to me it looks like something that has been put together from all the bits that were left over from previous projects!
|I googled the identification letters and it's an Italian designed and built! Piaggio P-180 Avanti!!|
I also came across this rather tatty, lone Dark Green Fritillary.
I finally arrived at the spot where, in previous years, I'd seen quite large numbers of Chalk-hill Blues but today I could only find four males, and one female, who seemed to be hiding low down in the grass, I wonder why??
When you go out looking for a specific species of bird or butterfly it's by no means certain that you'll find it, this time I was lucky I found what I was looking for quite easily, although in smaller numbers than I'd expected. The day before a local eminent birder had recorded seeing over seventy in the same area!...maybe he's got better eyesight than me!!
Day five... King's Wood in Bedfordshire....and a 'royal encounter'!
I again met up with Keith, this time in the car park at Stockgrove Country Park ( now renamed Rushmere country park Stockgrove) which straddles the borders of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Our quest, to find the Silver Washed Fritillary Butterfly.
The day started off overcast and humid as we made our way into the part of the park known as King's Wood, a woodland with records going back for over a thousand years and now a National Nature Reserve.
At first it appeared to be rather devoid of any bird or butterfly life but as the sun started to break through and the temperature started to rise, eventually topping 26c, out came the butterflies...
Hoverflies and Damselflies were also busy feeding on the wildflowers...
|Common Blue Damselfly (female)|
Ruddy Darter Dragonflies were also putting in an appearance..
And then, in what was the start of a very exciting and memorable royal experience, a beautiful male Emperor Dragonfly settled in the long grass right in front of us..
We eventually achieved our goal off the day when a couple (or the same one doing a circuit!) of Silver Washed Fritillaries did a quick fly by before disappearing into the trees.
The day, however, was unexpectedly set to turn into a super day with the arrival of 'royalty'...
After about four hours of butterfly watching we decided to call it a day and, as we turned to head home, there on the path in front of us was royalty himself....a male Purple Emperor.
Creeping up ever so slowly we managed to get close enough to take some decent photographs. This beautiful butterfly normally spends most of its time way up and out of sight in the canopies of its favoured Oak trees only occasionally coming down to ground level to indulge in the, rather un-royal!, habit of extracting moister and minerals from animal droppings and carrion.
Unfortunately for much of the five or so minutes that we were allowed to invade its space it's wings were held closed tightly together only occasionally flicking them open and allowing us to see that beautiful purple sheen from where it gets its name.
After it was spooked by a humble fly our audience with royalty was at an end and 'his eminence' disappeared back into the treetops.
We left feeling rather privileged to have had the rare chance to see, up close, one of Britain's rare and beautiful butterflies.
I suppose when you have reached the heights of meeting royalty things have to return to normal and as we made our way back through the woods we were met by an overpowering stench of rotting flesh and there standing proud in the leaf litter was...phallus impudicus
|otherwise known as..Stinkhorn!|
Day Six... Picnic time...as the weather starts to break!
As the warm and sunny weather had been predicted to last for some time it had been pre-arranged, earlier in the week, that we would be joined by Mother-in-law to go on a picnic!
So, the destination was chosen, Marston Vale Country Park in Bedfordshire, mainly for the fact that it has toilets!! Unfortunately the weather didn't seem to be in picnic mood , and although sunny and warm at times, dark clouds were looming, accompanied by a chilly breeze. The planners have been thoughtful and have provided a nice grass covered area (overflow car park!) just right for picnics.
After driving around in ever decreasing circles looking for a suitable spot to 'settle' (we were the only ones there!!) the tables and chairs were set up, the food and hot drinks put out, coats and a blanket (to keep the knees warm!) put on and the banquet began.
Now, this could only be England!..imagine the scene...a large grassy field, one car, three people, folding chairs and tables, daintily cut sandwiches, hot tea from a thermos flask and coats off when the sun shone and back on when it didn't......brilliant!!
Sorry, I've digressed...I left the ladies to chat! and set off to see what I could find.
First I made my way to a nearby patch of Brambles and soon located Gatekeeper Butterflies and Common Blue Damselflies, but as I was lining up to take a photograph of a butterfly I noticed something moving deep down in the long grass...tiny frogs, about an inch long!..lots of them!...everywhere! and I was standing right in amongst them! carefully and trying not to stand on too many (sorry froglets !) I backed off and left them in peace. In their short lives they must have travelled some distance because the nearest water, a pond in the flower gardens, is at least 400 yards away!
There were not many butterflies around and even fewer birds, a few Mute Swans and Common Terns on the main lake and a couple of overflying Cormorants was about it.
Wild flowers were out in abundance though...
And there were lots of flowering Wild Teasels...hopefully, they'll provide lots of food for the smaller birds later in the year.
There was lots of activity going on lower down in the grass...time to get the knees dirty...and wet!!
|Caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth feeding on Ragwort|
|Female Meadow Grasshopper|
|Rufous Grasshopper (?)|
And finally to an area where I knew that I was almost certain to find Dragonflies resting on the handrails of a boardwalk...and I wasn't to be disappointed...
These two Dragonflies can sometimes look quite similar, a quick way to separate them is that the Common Darter has a Yellow stripe running along the outside of the legs and the Ruddy Darter has completely Black legs.
I arrived back at the car park...er... picnic site, the ladies had finished putting the world to rights!, just in time to pack everything back into the car before a brief rain shower put an end to my 'WEEK IN THE HOT SUN'.
Sorry for the lengthy!! posts and thanks for sticking with it..I hope you found them interesting and I promise in future I'll try and make them a little shorter!!...[;o)