Thursday, 16 June 2011

Ogden


Went up to ogden today to see what was about. It was quite blustery and so diddnt see as many insects as I would have liked. On the small patch of moors near the golf course I saw a small heath

























-Small Heath
The highlight of the day was without doubt this cercopis vulnerata froghopper, which is the first time I have ever seen one
















-Cercopis Vulnerata Froghopper
Up by the ponds there was the following















-Common Frog 













-Blackcap 













-Willow Warbler 
And up by the giants tooth, there was a meadow pipit and a frog













-Meadow Pipit

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Cambridgeshire day 5

Sadly, today was our last day in Cambridge. My mum and dad had decided to go and have a look at Angelsy Abbey national trust property. I can't say I was particularly optimistic about the potential for wildlife at this site. After packing up, we headed that way. It had a very modern visitor center, which probably would'nt fit with the actual property itself. I was however, quite relieved to learn that at the far end of the grounds there was a designated nature area with a hide, overlooking a small pond.
Naturally, that was where I headed first. I got slightly lost, that being because there were not that many man made structures to locate myself with, but I made it to the nature area eventually. On the way there I had hoped to see something spectacular, but I had only seen a handful of mistle thrushes.
I was gutted to learn that the nature area was actually more like a wooden sculpture park, but I stuck with it and went to the bird hide anyway. When I got there I was relieved to see that there were a number of bird feeders. I waited a bit, but there were not that many birds to see.
Then a woodpecker flew in, and landed on the birdfeeder. The curious thing was that the feeder it landed on was not a woodpecker designed feeder, it would not be able to get any food from it. Or so I thought! As it happened it stuck its head in the top and then pushed its whole body into the bird feeder, from the top, like a squirrel, and then grabbed the food, and somehow managed to get out again. It was funny to watch, its behavior I have never seen before!
The woodpecker left after his snack, and i was left watching the usual assortment of garden birds. However in front of the hide there were a few damselflies, including azure, common blue, blue tailed and a danded demoiselle, which is a beautiful creature, no matter how many you see.
More birds flew in, long tailed tits, which added a little bit of variety to the assortment of birds that were there.

-Long tailed tit
After watching the long tailed tits for a while I started to look over the pond to see what was about. I spotted a couple of dragonflies, but one really caught my eye, it was bright blue-so that meant either skimmer or chaser. I tried to pick it up with the camera, but it was too quick, however through my bin's I worked out that it must be either black-tailed skimmer or broad bodied chaser.
I didn't manage a photo, but I spotted on the far side of the pond, behind the island there was a decking platform, so I decided to make my way to it to see if I could get closer to the dragonflies. I wasn't too sure how to get to the platform, but made it eventually. From there I saw that there were three dragonflies on the pond at the same time. There was one Hairy dragonfly, that did not stay still at all, all day. so I thought i clear that up now, but It was good to see this dragonfly, which has probably been one of the highlights of the holiday. Then there was the blue chaser/ skimmer and then either a female of the latter or a juvenile of the latter but never at the same time.
Whilst I was waiting for the dragonflies to land, I heard a tremendous noise above me and looked up to see a hawk, circling above me. It was probably the noise that made me think that it was a goshawk, but looking in the book at home it proved to be a sparrowhawk.



-sparrowhawk
I finally spotted that the blue dragonflies had landed, but it was some way off. The easy way to tell between the two main suspects was that a black-tailed skimmer has a black tail, which this dragonfly did not have, and so it was therefore a broad bodied chaser, which is the first I have seen since i began to develop and interest in dragonflies. I wanted a photo of it but it was someway off, and I didn't really want to leave the decking.
Either way it flew off, round the far side of the island, so I waited and as i waited another dragonfly approached me. It was, I though, a female broad bodied chaser, but actually it was a four spotted chaser, and it began ovipositing right in front of me, with was really interesting. I tried to get a photo,m just for the record. but most of them came out really poorly.




-four spotted chaser, and ovipositing in the bottom photo
I was still waiting for the chaser to re-emerge when i received a text to go back for lunch. I was a bit disappointed, but I hoped that it would still be there on my return.

walking back to the car, I spotted a pheasant in the grassland, which was the first none garden bird I had seen all day. Interestingly, it was also a black pheasant which i think means that it has some form of caucasian in it.




-caucasian pheasant
During lunch I asked my mum and ad if they had seen anything. My mum said that there was a grey wagtail on the river and my dad said that he had seen a dragonfly on the pond in the gardens. he said that it was a southern hawker, so I had to tell him that southern hawkers don't have this early a flight period, and that it was far more likely to be a hairy dragonfly.

After lunch I headed up that way to see what I could find. The river was not what I expected, It was completely covered in lillypads and hardly any movement in the water, so not really prime grey wagtail habitat. However, I did track down the bird in question, hunting from the lillypads.


-Grey wagtail
At the other pond, I though that there was not enough vegetation for dragonflies, and I didn't see any. There were however quite a few damselflies mainly azure and blue tailed.


-Azure damselfly

walking back to the bird hide and platform I began to spot things in the grass. notably were that the Grass seemed to be writhing with voles and mice, not that I saw any, but they were everywhere because you could hear them squeaking and the grass rustling.

On the subject of things you could see, there were quite few butterflies such as this large skipper.

-large skipper

there were also quite a few of these things (below) in the grass that look like small red underwings. Some kind of moth, that seemed to be everywhere.


-moth
I eventually made it through the distractions to the pond and bird hide. Once more I spotted the chaser and was very relieved that it had not flown away. It also seemed to be landing more, on the side of the decking. I suddenly decided to just go for it, so I climbed over the fence and squelched my way to where it had been landing. It took a while and a lot of patience but eventually the insect started to land of the plants in front of, some kind of flower that was ready to seed, rather than flower. They were quite tall too which helped.

so below you can see an assortment of the photos I took of the broad bodied chaser.














-Broad bodied chaser
so there we have it. i finally managed to get the shots I wanted of this spectacular insect. also the dragonfly I described as being a juvenile chaser was actually a female chaser. It was curious to see the hairy dragonfly, the four spotted chaser and the broad bodied chaser all getting into one fight. Hardly surprising considering the amount of water (not much) and the number of dragonflies hunting it. still, it was great to see.

whilst i had been waiting for the chaser i had spotted a kingfisher land in a willow tree, but i had not seen anything else aside from the dragonfly. I decided to explore the rest of the pond, there was a path through the pond, presumably for the staff to fill up the bird feeders. I walked along it to see what there was and I was rewarded by great views of a comma butterfly.


-comma
I then got a text telling me to start heading back, so I had to leave. overall it had been a good day and as i was leaving i spotted another damselfly, a large red resting on an overhanging stick.


-large red damselfly
On the way back I had to walk through the tall grassland where I had seen so many butterfly's on the way here. On the way back i spotted quite a few common blue butterfly's, just to round the day off.




-common blue butterfly
I made it back to the car park without further distraction. however, in the car park I was able to watch a blackbird throwing itself at cars. I had never seen this behavior before, although i had heard about it. so it was interesting, but also slightly worrying as the bird seemed to be getting very into its attacks and it looked like it might get injured.


-Blackbird

so there we go. Our Cambridgeshire holiday was over, without oriole or bluethroat but with plenty of other stuff. Highlights? certainly the Stone curlew and the hobbys, and the dragonflies. the whole holiday could be called a highlight I suppose, except for the missing out on the obvious!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Cambridgeshire Day 4

I think that this day, Wednesday, was almost certainly the hottest day of the holiday! It was also the day that we decided to go and have a look for the stone curlew. Our chosen destination was NWT Weeting Heath because it offers great views, without disturbing the birds-and you actually have a good chance of seeing them.
I was a bit surprised when I got there! I was expecting slightly more, with ponds and stuff but it was actually a couple of hides overlooking a field with a woodland walk of about 3miles. Even so, I was not disappointed with the birds we saw. We decided not to go for the woodland walk but to only go to the hide to look for a stone curlew.
When we arrived in the hide, some other birders there told us that one had just disappeared from sight down a dip. so as we waited I had a look at what else was around. To be honest, not much really! there were quite a few rabbits, crows, rooks, and jackdaws but there was also a pied wagtail and a couple of lapwings.
Then the moment we were all waiting for-a stone curlew emerged from the ditch and began to move along the steel fence along the edge. It was much too far for the camera, but through the scope you could get great views of the bird, in all its unusual glory. The photos below are just record shots, the bird is in the photo somewhere but it might be a bit hard to find.
You got smashing views through the scope, but eventually one of the crows disturbed it and it flew off, further down the field where we could not see it.







-Stone curlew, surrounded by rabbits and crows
After that, we decided to head back to lakenheath fen, because the woodland walk seemed like it would be too far for my mum. Back at lakenheath I wasted no time in heading to the oriole point, to try and make up for my misfortune yesterday. same as yesterday, I did not see an oriole. I wandered around the stakeout for a while but didn't even hear it. There were however other birds to look at, for example, there were a few whitethroats around.


But then, In a small area of trampled grass with a random stick sticking out from the ground, I found a dragonfly perched. I had read on the sightings board that the dragonfly count was pretty low, the only species being hairy dragonfly, four-spotted chaser and scarce chaser. I knew it wasn't hairy and I could tell that it wasn't a four spotted chaser, so by process of elimination I knew that it was a scarce chaser, which is a first for me.


It was great, that I didn't have to chase it and that I managed to find it whilst it was landed, so I started to get some record shots. I managed to get quite a few, at one point it left but then returned to the same stick, as there supposed to do, but never do in my case, which was nice. The dark eye colour tells me that this is a female as appose to a juvenile.



























-scarce chaser
I sadly scared it away by trying to climb over the stick to get a few head on photos, so I didn't manage any. And continuing with the dragonfly theme, I managed to find a Hairy dragonfly perched. It was not a great photography position as there were too many blades of grass in the way. It was also perched so that if i wanted to get the whole dragonfly in focus, I would have to shoot upwards at it, and there wasn't enough space below it for me to do that, but the photo I did manage highlight the stunning colours of the insect.



-Hairy DragonflyI then got a text telling me that I had to go back to the car for lunch. It was a pity, and I would be kicking myself if the oriole came out, but no-body seemed to be seriously looking for it today, where as yesterday, there was always a decent sized crowd.
On the way back I spotted a garden spider poised in mid air wrapping up his lunch, so I decided to take some photos.






-garden spider
After lunch I headed straight back into the reserve, with the intention to go straight back to the oriole site, but in the pool opposite the visitor center I spotted a dragonfly hunting, so I decided to try and take some photos to work out what kind it was. There were two of one kind and a Hairy dragonfly too. It was hard, the dragonfly's just wouldn't stay still, But then I got a real surprise. As I was watching the dragonfly's to see if they would land, a small dark matter began to move across the water. Or at least that's what I saw, but the ripple marks went quite some way back so after about 15 seconds of watching this matter curiously, I realised that this was a grass snake. I couldn't believe it. Its the first time I have ever seen a wild snake, although to be honest all I could see was its head!









-Grass snake swimmingBack to the dragonflys, as the grass snake had reached its destination at the far side of the pond. Eventually one stayed still for me to get a decent view of it. it was quite a way off but I managed to get a quick photo which proved that it was a four-spotted chaser.



-four spotted chaserToday was proving far more successful for dragonflies, but there were much fewer birds than yesterday. Aside from the usual sedge and reed warbler the only other birds, although this is an addition to yesterdays, was a kestrel plus the marsh harriers.
I decided to walk via the vegetation pools to the main reserve rather than the path and was rewarded with more views of a hairy dragonfly, although I didn't manage to get the camera in pin sharp focus, otherwise it would have been one of the best photos of them I have taken.



-Hairy Dragonflyback at the Oriole site there was only more disappointment to be found. However, the verges to the path were still providing a distraction, this time in the form of a large skipper, identification based on the faint spots on the wings.






-Large skipper


Once that had gone, there was still more, although certainly not a easy to identify. I found this wonderful lacewing perched on an overhanging blade of grass. what struck me was the bluey green tint to the wings and also the small black spots on the head. This lacewing is not in my dads insect book, so I can not say what kind it is, not that it matters, its just nice to see. There were quite a few of them fluttering about, so they were quite common down here, whitethroat food!



-Lacewing
Because the verges were proving such a success I decided to walk along the path where yesterday there were those wicked beetles, to see if i could find some more, or something else pretty cool. I managed to find this spider, which seems to be protecting her eggs under her. I have had a look in a quite vague wildlife book and it says that this spider is likely to be Nursery web spider, pisaura mirabilis which makes sense based on the behavior displayed here! It was quite big and the egg sack is almost the same size as the abdomen of the spider, so it makes you wonder how many eggs must be in the egg-sack.



-Nursery web spider
Further up the path I spotted a whitethroat, so far the bird of the day, perched really conveniently on a jutting out reed. It didn't stick around long, but the shot I got must be one of the most successful photos I have ever taken of a whitethroat!



-whitethroatAt the top of the path was the familiar stile that led onto the public footpath along the side of the river. I decided to go and have a look up on top, and maybe at the river for damselflys and waterbirds. But as soon as i got to the top of the path I spotted something else. It was a small butterfly but this one was brown as a pose to blue. I knew immediately, as soon as it landed that it was a brown argus, but even so I had a nagging doubt that it may just be an exceptionally brown female common blue.


It was really dainty, and although not as colourful as its blue relations, it was still really cool to see. Incidentally this is my first new butterfly for the holiday. I spent a while taking photos before I just sat and watched it as it fed on the Daisy's on the low grass that covered the path.





















-Brown Argus
I took loads of photos for fear that something may go wrong if i only took a few! After it flew away I decided to take a look by the river, to see what was around. I found a banded demoiselle, which was nice and the first one I had found on the site.


On the way back to the oriole site, I spotted another nursery web spider, this one without a egg sack, and so showing how long its legs were i.e. quite long! It was hidden in a leaf. The fact that these spiders didn't seem to asociate with webs made me wonder how they hunt, maybe this one was ambushing something! so I took a few photos and then left, to avoid disturbing the spider.



-Nursery web spider
When i got back to the oriole site, it was about 4 o'clock which mean't that there was the evening light effect taking place. This truly would be the last chance i would get to try and see an oriole. But instead of an oriole I got good views of a cuckoo, finally an unusual bird for today! I got to see it cuckooing without even having to use my binoculars, which was kind of special because it might have been my final memory of the reserve. There were a few reed warblers that were quite angry about the cuckoo being so close to their nests.









-Cuckoo


In the scrub in front of me, before the poplar plantation I suddenly spotted a small brown bird. It was another whitethroat, once again quite close and so I once again took plenty of photos. Its curious because a few minuets before I had seen a whitethroat with a mouthful of caterpillars, and this one had no caterpillars in its mouth,. so I reasoned that there must be a nest somewhere nearby.








-whitethroat


As I was watching and waiting for a potential oriole, I found the scarce chaser again, and it landed for me to take a photo face on, but sadly they diddn't come out well, possibly because of the light fading.


Anyway, I got a text telling me to head back to the car, because it was time to go home. On the way back, I spotted a brown female common blue damselfly, which just adds to the bio-diversity of the place.




-Common blue damselfly


so, once more i have to say goodbye to this fabulouse nature reserve-I thouroughly recomend it to anyone going to the area! So this was the last full day in cambridgeshire, as tomorow we were going home. Its been a great holiday, it almost had asmany new species as norfolk last year, and norfolk is reknown for its wildlife, so that puts it in perspective!


and whats even better is that we saw the whole point of coming down-the stone curlew! thats the best bit, with their beady eyes and wierd personalities.