Friday, 19 July 2013

Dorset Holiday-Day 13: Stowe NT

The weather had been pretty incredible all week, but now we had to go home in it, which was less than ideal. We picked our destination prior to our departure this time so we would not end up just doing the job lot in one go. Our destination was Stowe NT, which we had been to before, no we hadn't, Yes we had kind of place. We had been before-Described on this website as 'A random national trust place in the middle of nowhere after the most boring journey in history'. 
Our journey to Stowe was pretty uneventful except that traffic was horrendous and progress was slow, but we made it there for lunch. On the road we saw Common Buzzard, to be expected and also Red Kite, a new bird for the holiday.
The weather was still incredible when we got to Stowe but that meant plenty of insects. My mum and dad got a lift down on the golf cart minibus service, but I said I would walk down to make space on the bus for others. The way down went through some woods, where I saw Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper, 3 very familiar species over the holiday. On the bird front I spotted a Whitethroat singing in the bushes next to the field.
I made my way into the site. Apparently I should have been seen by the gate wardens who check your tickets, but I had no ticket and could not get in without my parents, who had already gone in. But nobody stopped me so I guess that all went well
I first went to the pond directly in front of me. A long lawn led down to it, and I was eager to see what I could find. No sooner did I arrived than did I find Black Tailed Skimmers, Azure Damselflies but also Red Eyed Damselflies, which made up for me missing them yesterday. I immediately took photos of them even though they were not in the best position due to my lack of photos from my previous encounters with them.
-Red Eyed Damselfly
There was one Broad Bodied Chaser among the Black Tailed Skimmers and it kept giving the latter a hard time flushing them from the perches on the waters edge. It only stopped a few times and then it chose perches which were not ideal for my camera.
-Broad Bodied Chaser
My attention was drawn back to the Red Eyed Damselflies, mainly because their eyes made them more striking that most damselflies. They kept perching but not where I really wanted them. One did perch on one of the emergent branches but it was still a little too far away for me to really get to grips with it.
-Red Eyed Damselfly
I mentioned the Black Tailed Skimmers, but they tended to perch on rocks and then not stay there very long, mainly due to the attentions of others of their species and the Broad Bodied Chaser. I did however find one or two who perched with the intention to stay perched so I could get a few photos.
-Black Tailed Skimmer
I left this section of the main lake and headed towards the smaller secondary lake than this main lake flowed into. The secondary lake was more wooded and there was less aquatic vegetation, especially water lilies. Where there was a break in the waterside trees there were a few Azure, Common Blue and more Red Eyed Damselfly, including a few in tandem.
-Red Eyed Damselfly
-Red Eyed Damselfly
I continued my walk and at the far end of the lake I saw a Great Crested Grebe which was quite close and started fishing. But when I looked at the photos afterwards I saw that it had not caught a fish but a crayfish, and quite a big one at that. 
-Great Crested Grebe
At this end of the lake the woods dissapeared and there were more damselflies, including red eyed in a position where I really get photos with all aspects. I took loads of photos but the light has restricted the impact of the eyes in the photos below.
-Red Eyed Damselfly
I continued round the far side of the lake where there was more woodland and here there were a few more birds, like Robin, Blackbird and a female Blackcap which flew across the path and into the trees between the path and the lake. There was also a Brown Hawker hunting this section of the grounds.
-Female Blackbird
Back out on the lake and it appeared that the grebe had followed me. I watched it as it seemed to be striking a threat pose, with its head close to the water, but after that it just sat up and then dived, so I don't really know why it had struck such a position.
-Great Crested Grebe
I found my parents at the top corner of the first main lake and there we watched some more Red Eyed Damselflies, including a pair in tandem.
-Red Eyed Damselfly
We were just setting off to leave and me and my dad spotted at the same time a Grass Snake swimming across the lake. It was a fair old size too but it was the yellow marks behind the head that really gave it away. It was only the 2nd of this species I have ever seen, so I was very excited. It was also the fifth reptile species of the holiday, when really I would have considered myself lucky to get one.
It swum off onto an island in the middle of the lake, swimming between the lily pads which looked rather striking.
-Grass Snake
I then followed my family as they made their way up through some of the smaller pools. Here there were still good numbers of Azure, Common Blue and Red Eyed Damselfly. I also spotted a Banded Demoiselle but it did not choose to land and so it did not take long for me to loose.
On the Dragonfly front there were a couple of female Ruddy Darters, due to the extensive black on the underside and black legs.
-Female Ruddy Darter
I then decided to go and finish my circuit round the main lake. The section I had not been to had good vegetation along the banks but no trees. This made it difficult to get to the waterside, but meant that there were good numbers of dragon and damselflies.
On the dragonfly front there were Four Spot Chaser, and Emperor Dragonfly, one of which took a Large White Butterfly from the air. There was also another of the small hawkers that I was sure were very late hairy dragonflies, but I needed one to land to take a photo so that I could confirm or dis confirm this theory.
It did not land and as such I had to try and take some sort of photo in the air. Below is my best effort, rubbish I know but the dragonfly would dissapear for a good 5 mins at a time and then re-appear at some random spot. I would say though that even though the photo is rubbish it seems to support the idea that it was a Hairy Dragonfly, so I will go with it.
-Hairy Dragonfly
I continued my circuit over the bridge, where there was a Black Tailed Skimmer on one of the posts. It was on the dark side of the post though so no great photos. On the far bank I spotted a Green Woodpecker and some crabby Canada Geese.
I made my way back to where I had started and there found my family again and also thought I saw a grass snake dissapear under the bank, but I could not re-locate it. On the bank the broad bodied chaser seemed to have left so the Black Tailed Skimmers had been left in peace so I took some photos of them perched on their rocks.
-Black Tailed Skimmer
After that my dad and I went for a wander along the bank of the lake and my dad spotted a Pike in the water. We headed off towards where the Canada geese had been but the only thing we saw this time was a juvenile Green Woodpecker chasing the adult bird around, not that we saw much of the adult bird but the juvenile seemed keen to give quite good views of itself.
-Green Woodpecker
And so that was that, the last wildlife act of our holiday down south. Its been a good holiday, but on the way home nothing happened, so here ends my narrative about it...

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