Wednesday, 31 August 2011

North Wales day 4

The final day of the holiday, and this required going to a national trust property, as is the tradition. The one we chose was the botanic gardens between Conway and Colwyn bay. If I ha known that going to the gardens would require driving past the Conway estuary RSPB reserve I would probably have gone there, but I did not know this, so I tagged along to the gardens. I saw on the map that there were some ornamental ponds, so that's where I headed first. I walked all the way round each of them, hoping to flush a dragonfly, but I only spotted this damselfly, that seems to have some bird poo or something on its eyes.

-Common blue damselfly
Since there were no dragonflies on the ponds I headed down to the river, to see what was about. At the first bridge I spotted a rather handsome dipper on a rock not too far away, and seemingly uncaring about me being there. Unfortunately the low light presented by the tree's shade meant that photography was not an option.

It was whilst I was watching the dipper that something mammalian began to move in the water, and emerged just in front of the bridge where it became clear that it was mink. It didn't care about the spectators on the bridge, and surprisingly the dipper didn't care about it. Its the first time I have ever seen a mink, and the first time I have got photos of one, and though it is kind of interesting, its also very scary. It moved downstream pretty sharpish, obviously in a rush to get somewhere.


I turned my attention back to the dipper on the rocks, and tried to get closer to it, whilst at the same time, getting more light. I didn't manage the latter very well, but I did get closer to the dipper, which was nice.


I headed up to the forest pond, there wasn't much there, although there was one dragonfly that must have landed somewhere out of bounds, because it certainly wasn't anywhere in bounds! By this time, it was time for lunch so headed back up to the top.

After lunch i headed back to the forest pond, and once more got fleeting glimpses of the dragonfly before it disappeared into the woods.

I walked down the river this time, and spotted a few juvenile brown trout in the river.

-Brown Trout
when I arrived at the limit of the river going downstream I met my mum and dad, who said they had seen some dragonflies on the ponds, where I had seen nothing. So I headed up there, and was rewarded with a pair of dragonflies. The female was landed and ovipositing, though she flew off and disappeared as soon as I showed up-as always happens.

The male on the other hand was very showy, were it not for the fact that it never landed. I therefore had to chance it trying to get a decent flight shot. I tried a few from distance, and then got a bit closer. And then its one of those things, I had it on focused quite close to me, and he came and flew right in front of me, slow enough to bang two shots, one was blurred, but the other-finest shot the holiday

-Southern hawker male

-Southern hawker male
but then he too disappeared into the bushes, but fortunately there were other things of interest, including a pair of ravens overhead...

-Raven pair
Whilst I was walking around the pond, hoping to re-flush a dragonfly I spotted a heron flying in to the pond on the next level. I headed up that way and was not surprised to see a small grey heron on the pond. it was quite bold, as grey herons often are, and so i had no problems getting photos like i wanted. I was a bit pushed for time, as the closing up time was 5 o'clock, but enjoy the photos.

-Grey Heron
I decided to give the bottom pond one last shot, despite time pressures, but luckily I was rewarded for my effort as the female that lands had returned to the pond and therefore I was able to get a few photos, to add to my southern hawker collection.

-Female southern hawker
I made it out of the gardens safely and then, as a family, made our way to Conway whilst we waited for the traffic to die down, whilst we were there my brother found a dead dogfish and I spotted this rock pipit I think, though I could be mistaken.

-Rock pipit

and there ends our wales holiday, what has been a very good holiday, despite being put together at such short notice.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

North Wales Day 3

it rained today. I mean it really rained, so we decided to go to a little village where there apparently was one of my mum's favourite coffee shops, only to find when we got there that the coffee shop was shut, and that there wasn't a great deal going in the town, so we decided to move on.
we moved on, and ended up at some random lake called llyn cwm bychan which was well hidden within the hills and mountains. It was pretty spectacular even in the rain and fog! As we drove along the edge to reach the car park I spotted a little grebe, but it was the marshes along the car park side that really caught my attention,.,as i was still hopeful of finding a black darter, or even a small red damselfly, so whilst my family went for a walk up a hill, I set off to explore the sedge and wet fields.
obviously in the rain I would stand little chance of finding anything-but I was not perturbed, and set off through the reeds, hoping to flush something. The first thing I found was a dead sheep, hidden below the water. But then my fortune changed and my found my first odonata against the odds, a female emerald damselfly was resting on the reeds so I got down and took some photos.

-female emerald damselfly
then, in another clump of grasses I found a male, sat looking rather handsome, covered in droplets from the ever present fog.

-Male emerald damselfly

As I walked round the same area as i found the damselflies i found a common blue damselfly, another to add to my list for the day, and then i flushed my first dragonfly. I tried to track it down but It took a while, but when I eventually I discovered it was a common darter. It's quite a young specimen, but looking rather dashing with the droplets of fog on its eyes.

-Common Darter

continuing around I spotted more emerald damselflies, plus a couple of blue tailed as well as a couple of common blue damselflies, so it was turning into a size able list, especially for a rainy day.

-Common emerald damselfly male
I had nearly entered the final section of the reeds, on the far side to where I started I spotted another dragonfly, this time the extensive black on the underside was a big give-a-way that I had found my first black darter outside that one juvenile male in scotland. this specimen is a Young male i think, though it may be a female. It was very obliging for a photo...

-Female black darter
Then after seeing one, there began to be more, I spotted another. This one was an almost mature immature male, if that makes sense. What I mean is that its almost all black, but not completely, and therefore not fully mature.

-mature immature male black darter
I continued going all over the marshes finding more darters and emerald damselflies, including males.

-common emerald damselfly

Then I spotted another damselfly, that at first I didn't recognise but it quickly came to me based on the red legs that it was a small red damselfly-my first and new tick for the holiday. i took 5 photos, noted that a grass stem was in the way and stupidly decided to move it. In doing that I managed to scare it away, and more than that lost it too, even though damselflies fly so slow.

My stupidity detracted from the joy of finding a new species and being able to touch it and view really close, and it ruined my day. But still, it was great to see, and enjoy the few photos that I managed to get!!

-small red damselfly
there continued to be other damselflies, but I failed to relocate the small red that I really wanted, even though i searched everywhere. My guess is that it must have landed on one of the plants in the water that I was unable to reach.

-Common emerald damselfly
Moving back and forth across the marsh i spotted more and more black darters, including 2 fully grown males within 1m squared of each other, but there were others too, of all ages, though seeing my first fully black male was pretty special and the highlight of my day-which has been good, considering I had written off my chances before I'd even started looking due to the weather.

-Female black darter

-Male black darter
by now I was so desperate to try and find the small red again that I was heading back to areas i had only gone through once, but when i finally looked there i found a newly emerged common darter, still next to its larval case.

-Common Darter
moving back into more familiar territory still without the damselfly, though there were still damselflies around, including emerald still being rather showy.

-Emerald damselfly

one final look round, this time showing my parents the sights of the marshes and i found another couple of stunning male black darters that were very obliging for a photo.

-Male black darter

so that was the final specimen that I saw all day, though the afternoon brightened up there wasn't much going on where we went, though I spotted an unusual spider

-unusual spider

by the end of the day there wasn't a cloud in the sky, which is ironic because i didn't see any dragonflies, although it was a very good day.