Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Lake District

Since it was our last 'family wednesday' before I leave for university we decided to make it special and head up to the lake district. The weather was not as great as it could have been, a grey hazy day, but otherwise fair enough. We decided to start the day by walking up Aira force waterfall, a walk I can recall doing once. It was mainly woodland, and on the dead wood we found some pretty impressive fungal structures.
The rest of the walk passed without much wildlife in all honesty, with the exception of a nuthatch. I did however find a spider dangling about a meter below the branch it was attached it, which looked pretty special, but in the gloomy wood the light was too poor for photos and as such I had to use flash to really highlight the patterns on the spiders back.
-Spider (Garden?)
After that we moved on to Keswick to have lunch in the park/gardens there. During lunch we were accompanied by a number of garden birds. They were mainly sparrows, but there was also a curious, partially albino blackbird and a very aggressive juvenile robin that seemed to want a pick a fight with everything with wings. But it was quite bold so I was able to get some decent photos of it.
-Partially Albino Blackbird
-Juvenile Robin
After lunch we went out on the rowing boats as we always do. This time though we went straight over to the far side to see what was over there. There was nothing different in all honesty, a late family of ducklings and the usual groups of fishing mergansers. As we approached the mergansers they kept diving, but as came closer they dived again and when they reappeared they were right in front of us. It gave them something of start and they made off pretty quick.
-Red Breasted Mergansers
We also found one that was perched on a felled log, but it got up and swam away as we approached.
-Red Breasted Merganser

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Garden Spider

Got a call from my mum to come down to the garden this afternoon, where she had found a massive garden spider, female, the largest I have ever seen. It was about the size of a 2 pence coin, and was beautifully patterned as well. 
-Garden Spider

Monday, 26 August 2013


Since it was a warm bank holiday we decided to spend the morning at Wycolle, since we had not been for a little while. To say that the wildlife was limited would be an understatement, with birds limited to swallows, magpie and robin. We did get a resonable view of a kestrel as we were leaving too.
We did, however, have a little more luck with butterflies, still in short supply for species, but those species there more than made up for it with numbers, particularly green veined whites, which were out in force. Other species included peacock and small tortoiseshell, as well as one Comma which was sunning itself as we arrived.
-Green Veined White

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Soil Hell-Back Again

The weather was nice, today I once more made the ascent up the hill, to see if I could actually track down any birds. I managed a few, which is an improvement on Tuesday. Before I even reached the hill I spotted this lovely female wheatear on the wall along the side of the road. It was not a particularly flighty bird, as wheatears often are so I managed a few reasonable photos to record the fact that there were actually birds there today.
But it was not the only bird, oh no! On the hill there were many meadow pipits and skylarks, a magpie, trios of woodpigeons and pheasants, which jumped out of the long grass at three different intervals and gave me 3 metaphorical heart attacks. There was a large flock of around 20-30 starlings on the mast and as I was leaving were washing themselves in the pool nearest to the mast.
Butterflies were a little down on Tuesday, there remained peacocks, whites and small tortoiseshells but only one small copper and the most abundant butterfly were meadow browns, most of which looked like they had seen better days; tattered wings and faded colouring.
-Small Tortoiseshell
Where the hill exceeded itself was in the dragonfly department, once more, with a record of 3 species! The most common of these was Common Hawker, of which there were at least four, possibly even 5, some having fights but each seemed to have its own pool, whereas on tuesday they had both been on the largest pool.
The top dog as it were on the main pool was quite keen on hovering for a few seconds at each spot, so I made the attempt to try and photograph it in flight. I have a couple of resonable efforts, but whenever it clouded over all dragonflies vanished, so I was eager to have a look round before the cloud became more frequent, for that reason, and the fact that the dragonfly moved and photographing flying dragonflies is hard, these were the only photos I managed that were any good.
-Common Hawker
As I said, I moved on from the main pool to the other pools, where today there were dragonflies. The two male black darters from tuesday had moved to another pool, or possibly a different pair, and here there was no common hawker so they were easier to approach. I got some decent photos of them, a soil hill record shot.

-Black Darter
I made my way round the other pools and found only common hawkers on others beside the 2 main pools. Therefore I returned here when the sun came back out and spotted 2 male Common Darters, which is a new record for me at this site. Having said that, until tuesday I had never seen a dragonfly here, so its not saying much. These darters were not keen to land, as darters often are, so I only got a record shot of it one flight.
-Common Darter
I made my way back to the black darter pond but the sun had gone in and they were not there. There was however, my first female dragonfly of the site, a female common hawker which was ovipositing in the pond, indicating that there is obviously a population here, and this is not some freak event of individuals been blown in.
-Female Common Hawker
So another exciting installment of events on the hill, which has once more excelled itself.

Garden Caterpillars and Sparrowhawk

So since today was so nice I headed out into the garden to photograph the caterpillars that have been the scourge of my mums plants. On the pond we have a very obviously moth caterpillar which is eating the reeds. I do not understand how they are going to work this, because the more of their plant they eat, the smaller their island is going to become...
...we shall see
-Moth Caterpillar
We do however have some more familiar and identifiable caterpillars in the shape of these young large white caterpillars. There were at least 2 broods on this plant alone judging by age, and round the front there is another brood, so this species is seemingly doing well this year.
-Large White Caterpillar
Just as I was taking these photos, our female sparrowhawk flew over being mobbed by around 20-30 swallows. There was some serious mobbing going on, which is probably why it flew over without making a stop.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Soil Hill

It was a pleasant enough afternoon so I decided to wander up to soil hill to see what was going on. The warm air temperature had brought out the butterflies in force. On the way up I found Small Copper, and various whites. Once at the top I also found Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Meadow Brown bringing me up to a reasonable butterfly total for the walk.
-Small Copper
-Small Tortoiseshell
-Green Veined White
It was at the main pond on the track that I got my biggest shock of the day. As I approached I noticed two large black insects hovering next to the side and immediately recognised them as black darters, which I was not expecting. They were then joined by a large but very fresh male Common Hawker which was hunting the ponds edge. I had not expected any dragonflies up here, and these were the first I have ever seen, so to find 2 species was something of a pleasant surprise.
-Male Common Hawker
-Male Black Darter (1 of 2)
As for birds, the main group of wildlife I had expected to see, they were sadly very lacking, reduced to flushed skylarks and meadow pipits that refused to stick around. I only managed to find one Meadow Pipit which did not fly away.
-Meadow Pipit
On the way down though I spotted a very large group of starlings that moved around landing on the pylons that were up there.
On the whole it was a very good trip, and found some lovely wildlife, even if it was lacking a little on the bird front.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Burnsall Bridge

Today we went to Burnsall Bridge, and from there we decided to walk up to Grassington along the riverside. It was pretty void of wildlife in all fairness. There were only a couple of grey wagtails, which were mere flybys. We spotted 3 mandarin females, or eclipse males sheltering in the shade, but that aside there was not much.
-Mandarin Ducks
There were quite a few insects around, including a Banded Demoiselle at the weir before Grassington, which is a species I have never seen here before. I thought I had taken some photos, but they could not be located, so maybe I didn't.
There were quite a few butterflies there too, mainly whites but also a small skipper, which may also be a first for this walk for us.
-Small Skipper
-Small White
So today's walk was wildlife void even by its often low standards, but it was pleasant enough and there were the odd bits...

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Sizewell 2013

Once more, as last year, I was not on this holiday for wildlife but they can hardly be ignored:

Day 1
Travelling down we had an absolute shocker with the trains, but on the way I spotted a little egret hunting in a lake next to the train tracks

Day 2
Walking over to play sport we had to walk past the horrible stagnant pool in case of fire. Hunting it was an Emperor Dragonfly, as well as a Common Darter. In the pond there were still plenty of Palmate newts, one of which I caught to show the people I was with

Day 3
This was the boating lake trip day and I found a few common emerald damselflies as well as some black tailed skimmers

Day 6
Doing water sports and, no joke, we were surrounded by dragonflies litterally hundreds all over the place, all Southern Hawkers. I have no idea what caused there to be so many, but there was clearly enough food to support them