Thursday, 30 August 2012

Dumfries and Galloway Day 5

And so the Holiday comes to an end. After packing up, we decided to go for a quick walk along the beach for one last time, and it turned out to be worth it, because I spotted my first golden plover (s) of the year, and they were pretty close too.

-Golden Plover
As is tradition it seems, we headed to threave gardens for the day, because my mum loves the gardens there. I also love it, because it has a great bird hide, with reliable smashing views of jays and woodpeckers, as well as other woodland species. After lunch I headed straight up there. Sadly I did not have long as we had promised my brother that we would go to the airplane museum in Dumfries because he likes looking at planes.
  Luckily I did not need long, as no sooner did I arrive than did the unusual birds begin to appear, first were the nuthatches and siskins

I waited a while, and it did not take long for a woodpecker to appear, and just like buses there were two at once.

-Greater Spotted Woodpecker 
and so, after spending the first half of the afternoon at threave, we left for the airplane museum. I initially was dreading going, but as it happened there was a forestry commission site on the other side o the road to the museum, so I headed there. I was not expecting great things from this site, but since it was a sunny, warm afternoon, I had nothing to lose.
  As it happened, this was possibly the best wildlife site I had been to all year, outside of your regular RSPB and the such reserves. The first path that was not overshadowed by trees had a dragonfly hunting along it, and after some close observation I could see that it was a common hawker.
  and then the path dipped down into what looked like once a quarry, with birch shrubby woodland, and very open gravel pathways. I came around a corner and could see a large ish pond, clearly a flooded depression in the quarry. One side was clear gravel, and the other side was the birch and bramble woodland.
  This pond was wonderful, as after I took my first step to the edge, I flushed a lovely common darter, slightly menalistic, suggesting that yesterdays was not a highland after all.

-Common Darter 
And if that alone was not enough, remember I had low expectations, I then flushed a stunning male black darter from the edge of the pond. These darters were very flighty in comparison to what they have been in the past when I have seen them.

-Black Darter Male
There were actually rather a lot of common and black darters flying over the pond that I had not noticed. There were also quite a few pairs in tandem, including these black darters.

-Black Darters in Tandem 
Unsurprisingly, as where ever you find black darters you seem to find emerald damselflies, I soon stumbled across a lovely male emerald damselfly. There was some aquatic vegetation in one corner, and there I found it. It was difficult to photograph because the greenery was some way into the pond.

-Male Common Emerald Damselfly 
Back on the shore, and there continued to be good numbers of both common and black darters, looking lovely in the sunshine.

-Male Common Darter

-Black Darter 

-Male Common Emerald Damselfly 
as the sun began to get lower, the number of dragonflies began to drop, as dragonflies went to roost in the birch woodland I spoke of earlier. I headed there and found quite a few darters rested up on the various logs and brambles.

-Black Darter 
It was probably the sunlight but I swear I saw a flash of blue, which made me wonder if I had seen a keeled skimmer, so I headed off into the brush into it.
  Sometimes in nature you can see something awesome, but expect to see it, and then the appeal is somewhat diminished. When you see something you completely do not expect to see then its always wonderful. When the black darter that appeared blue in the light dissapeared I happened to glance down at the floor in front of me, probably to avoid catching a bramble, or worse. There, under a bramble patch, casually sat there, was an adder. I was shocked, as it made me jump. When you see its eyes looking at you when you don't expect it its quite a startling experience. After I got over my shock, a wave of excitement came over me and I carefully lifted my camera to see if I could get some photos.
  It must have been asleep as I carefully moved around it, to get different angles. I must have taken ten photos before it seemed to wake up, and then it dissapeared into the brush. It was wonderful to see, though it had left me with a beating heart.

After that amazing sighting I headed back onto the pond. there were quite a few common hawkers around, which had been off in the forest before now, but this gave me the opportunity to try and see if they would land. I followed one into the wood, where it did land, but sadly left before I was able to get a really good photo.

-Common Hawker
After the failure of them in the forest, I tried to get some flight shots of them hunting over the pond. I managed a few, but they move way too quick really

-Common Hawker
By the time I had finished, the light was poor and most of the wildlife had gone to bed. My dad and brother had finished and so we headed into Dumfries for a walk along the river. We had not gone far, when I spotted a shape in the water,  which promptly dived showing me that it was an otter. I couldn't believe it, especially since I had left the camera in the car. I told my family, so waited patiently for it to re-appear, whilst I legged it back for the camera.
  Upon arriving back at the spot, they told me that it had not re-appeared. We decided to carry on with the walk and see if it appeared. it did not appear on this side of the river, and we crossed over to the other side to continue the walk back. Then, It re-appeared on the other side of the bank, just for a few minuets, so I was able to get some photos, and properly watch it.

As soon as it dissapeared I ran back to the bridge so that I could try and be over it for when it went under the bridge. That was the last time I saw it, it must have dived and swum under the bridge. While I waited I was able to enjoy some of the other evening wildlife, such as a family of three grey wagtails on the river bank.

-Grey Wagtail 
And on the other side of the river I watched a pair of goosanders come up and under the bridge, which was lovely to see.

and so ends the scotland holiday, quite a remarkable set of species, such as Otter, Adder and Black darter.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Dumfries and Galloway Day 4

Day four was very sunny and so we decided to go and have a look at Glenwhan Gardens which was lovely the first time we went. The last time we were there we saw loads of Golden-Ringed Dragonflies, but we were too late in the season for them this time.
  As soon as we arrived I headed onto the "moors" bit, because I had not spent much time there last time, and that was where the dragonflies. The first pool was exactly how i remembered it, and looking in the grasses alongside it I spotted my damselfly of the day, which was a blue-tailed damselfly. 
-Common Blue Tailed Damselfly
further exploration found my first Emerald Damselfly of the holiday. It was the perfect habitat for them, so I was not very surprised. It was a female, and was resting on the sedge alongside the pool.

-Common Emerald Damselfly
After looking round the first lake I decided to look up on the higher ground to see what heath land birds were around. It did not take long before I found my first yellowhammer of the holiday, a stunning male hiding in a shrubby tree.

and even further away from the pool I stumbled across a pair of siskins in a distant tree, so I was unable to get a good photo.

There were many more ponds than I remembered, though the second one I found was not buzzing with wildlife, as the only thing I found on it was this male emerald damselfly

-Male Emerald Damselfly
Back up on the gravelly path near the entrance after my loop I began to see more things, I flushed a common hawker which made a speedy get-a-way, and also found a lovely wall brown butterfly resting on the path.

-Wall Brown
I went down another path which I had missed out to incorporate my loop, and found a smaller pond rather than a lake on my left hand side, with a much larger lake about 10 meters to the right. On the small pool were two common hawkers hunting, and I spotted on some bracken nearby a lovely male black darter, my first of the year, and one that was really easy to photograph. It looked lovely in the afternoon sunshine.

-Male Black Darter
There was also a toad on the path further down. After that I headed back to the mown area near the top, next to the main lake and entrance. Here I found a common darter sunbathing on a large flat rock. I flushed it and it moved off to some cut shrubbery. Here I could see that it was incredibly dark on the underside and on the frons. It would be a bit too south for a highland darter, but the excessive black, especially on the face convinced me that it must be, or a menalistic common darter. Should it be a highland darter, which I think it is (if the species exists at all) then it would be my first, and therefore my first new species of the holiday.

-Highland Darter
In the same region as the "highland darter" I spotted a female black darter, which was a nice addition to the nice growing list of species for the gardens. it was very docile and therefore very easy to photograph.

-Female Black Darter 
So without doubt the best day of the holiday. We spent the afternoon in Stranraer and then went swimming in the afternoon, because it clouded up.