Saturday, 30 July 2011

True blue

All taken using hand-held Canon Powershot A640

Another `Blue` butterfly, this time the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus). This butterfly is still a regular sight in our countryside, being our most common and widespread `Blue` species. It is found from sea level to mountains throughout Britain, although is absent in Shetland. Its` success could be due it being found in a variety of habitats, including damp meadows, heaths, woodland, roadside verges, waste ground and even suburban gardens.

It is double-brooded, with the first adults flying in May and June with the second brood flying in August and September, although sometimes this becomes blurred and the butterfly can be found in July (as in this case). The male has violet blue wings, finely edged with clear white wing margins, with the female being brown, but also has the white wing fringes, although in some areas there are blue varieties of the female with the subspecies
mariscolre being particularly beautiful ( this is found in Ireland and north-west Scotland).

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Blue is the colour

All photo`s were taken using hand-held Canon Powershot A640

The Chalkhill Blue butterfly is one that is characteristic of warm chalk and limestone hillsides, but has declined in numbers over the last century due to its downland habitat being ploughed up to `improve` the land. The species is, however still fairly widespread and stable in the south of England and in some areas the populations can number many hundreds. One such place is Barnack Hills and Holes NNR, close to Peterborough.

The above photo`s were taken at the weekend on a rare period of sunshine. The number of males in flight easily numbered 70+, but there were only a few females apparent. The male is a beautiful silvery-blue (as above), but the females are a brown colour with chequered wing fringes. It is a butterfly of high Summer, flying in a single brood from mid-July to September.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


The last of my postings from my recent trip to Rutland Water.

This Curlew flew in whilst I was waiting for the Spotted Sandpiper to show itself. The Curlew is a lovely bird and has beautifully intricate plumage, although some may see it as a `brown` bird!

This is one of Britains largest breeding waders and is primarily identified by its very long, deeply down-curved bill. It is a ground nesting bird, hence the plumage colouration, with up to 38,000 pairs breeding in Britain on the uplands and boggy, grassy heather moorland. The call of this bird is the evocative `cour-eee`, from which it gets its name. These birds are fairly long lived, with the oldest ringed bird being 31 years old.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Two Bee or not Two Bee

Taken using hand held Canon A640 Powershot

Not two bees as it goes, but four different bumblebees of varying species going about their daily toil of gathering pollen from various flowers. I am no `bee` expert and am not sure of the differing sorts (please let me know any insect experts out there), but am just happy to see that there have been fairly good numbers around this summer.

It is estimated that the services of bees and other pollinators are responsible for one out of every three mouthfuls of food we have, quite worrying when you think that the numbers of these insects are dropping at an alarming rate. Money is a dirty subject, but relevant to so much in our world that I have to bring this up aswell ; the services of these insects has been valued at around £440 million a year. Let us look after our buzzing, bumbling friends, because without them, we may no longer exist!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Birds on a wire

The above photo`s were Digiscoped on my recent visit to Rutland Water and is a small sign that the Sand Martin colony there has had a fairly successful breeding season. The birds in the pictures are pretty much all juveniles and could be from different colonies from the surrounding area as these birds tend to gather in these mixed groups before making their long trip to Africa in August.

This bird is one of our earliest migrants, with birds arriving in March. They are smaller than a Swallow and slimmer than a House Martin, with brown upperparts and white underparts with a distinct brown band across the breast (a feature that helps tell it apart from the similar House Martin when the colours cannot be seen well). They breed in colonies and depend on vertical sandy banks for nesting. These sites tend to be close to rivers and sand/gravel quarries. They happily use man-made nest sites in areas where their natural choice is limited and perhaps this has enabled their population to stabilise after a massive crash in 1984. The population in the U.K. is estimated to be in the region of 250,000 pairs, although the bird is found throughout most of Europe, Asia and North America.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Spotted Sandpiper

Back to birding with a spot of `twitching` yesterday.

This Spotted Sandpiper has been present at Rutland Water for the past few days, but with work commitments I have been unable to visit. Rain scuppered my plans for working yesterday and so with the bird being reported early in the morning I decided to brave the weather and get this `lifer`!

After a rather long walk, in what can only be described as torrential rain, I arrived at the hide that the bird had been seen from. I entered and was kindly put on to the bird by a young lad who was watching it through his scope, I was rather less than enamoured with the view as the bird was at least 500m away! (This bird is the size of a Starling, so is rather small). However, I duly `ticked` and settled in to wait to see if the bird came any closer. The hide gradually filled, the rain got heavier and the bird stayed where it was. Eventually, it flew, but no-one saw where to, so I decided to watch the family of Ospreys that were putting on a little show, obviously annoyed at all these birders paying them no heed. Half an hour went by, the conversation in the hide started to become slightly negative to say the least and I was about to leave, happy in adding 1 more tick in my book, when on a last scan of the area I noticed the Spotted Sandpiper standing approximately 40-50 metres in front of the hide giving fantastic views! After informing everyone I watched and Digiscoped this bird for approximately 20 minutes while it fed quite happily infront of the now happier crowd. It put on a fantastic show, showing its spots off to the full and then flew to the far bank where it remained.

This little wader breeds in North America and is a fairly regular vagrant to Britain with annual records, indeed a pair attempted to breed in Scotland in 1975, but this was unsuccessful. It is related to `our` Common Sandpiper and out of its spotted finery in the winter it is very difficult to tell them apart. Luckily, this bird was all spotty and very obviously a Spotted Sandpiper.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Butterfly bush

There can be no finer sight on a lovely summers day than a Buddleia laden with butterflies. Unfortunately, this sight is getting less common as the years go by. Thankfully, however two species that still seem to be fairly common are the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and the Peacock (Inachis io) and are both pictured above.

The Red Admiral is a familiar garden butterfly, but it is an immigrant whose numbers depend on migration from North Africa and southern Europe. In recent years there have been reports of Red Admirals in December and January, suggesting that some overwinter in this country. The major influx of this butterfly occurs in late May and June, with migrants, that have already mated, spreading northwards, with others appearing in August and lasting until November. From mid-August these butterflies begin to move south to re-migrate to the continent. Sometimes, large numbers can be seen gathering along the south coast, before heading across the Channel. Purple buddleias, sedums and Asters are often visited in gardens and in the autumn the flowers of ivy and rotting fruit are the favoured food.

The freshly emerged Peacock is a stunning butterfly and can be seen in this country for most of the year, with hibernating individuals emerging on sunny days in February or March. The offspring of these butterflies emerge in July, when this beauty is at its most common. When alarmed, the Peacock flashes its eye spots and produces a hissing sound by rubbing its wings together.

All the photo`s were taken using my hand held Canon Powershot A640.

For those people who are interested, the Big butterfly count starts tomorrow (16th July) and lasts until 31st July. This is an event organised by the Butterfly Conservation in order to gauge the health of our environment. The numbers of butterflies has a direct link to the health of our countryside and the disappearance of our butterflies has an alarming link to the state of our environment. Click here to find out how you can get involved.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Marbled Whites

These are just some of the photo`s taken on the trip to Barnack Hills and Holes mentioned in my last post. The sheer numbers of Marbled White butterflies made counting them quite difficult, but there were easily 150+ individuals.

This butterfly thrives following hot, dry summers and despite the destruction of flower-rich meadows it has spread to different habitats, such as disused railway lines, waste ground and chalk downland. The butterfly can be seen on sunny days feeding and basking on knapweeds and scabiouses. They fly in a single brood from mid-June until mid-August.

All the photo`s above were taken with my Canon Powershot A640 camera.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Bedford Purlieus butterflies

White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album)
White Admiral (Limenitis camilla)

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata)

Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)
Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)
Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia)
Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus)

Last weekend the weather was perfect for butterflies and so Lisa and I spent Saturday searching the woods at Bedford Purlieus and the chalk fields of Barnack Hills and Holes. Above are photographs of some of the species seen at Bedford Purlieus, I will put the ones of Hills and Holes on another as there are quite a few!

The stars of the show at the woods were the Silver-washed Fritillaries, we counted at least 35 individuals, with at least 10 Purple Hairstreaks, 3 White-letter Hairstreaks, 2 White Admirals, plus numerous Meadow Browns, Large and Small Whites, Green-veined Whites, Large Skippers, Speckled Woods, a few Red Admirals and Commas and the most numerous species was the Ringlet.

The sun was shining and the Silver-washed Fritillaries were very busy flying up and down the rides, very briefly stopping on a bramble or wild Thyme, but never long enough to get a decent photo (I managed one, but at distance). Also, the Purple Hairstreaks were very high up in the canopy of 200 feet oak trees, the only photo was taken by Digiscoping and the result is not very pleasing, but the butterfly is identifiable.

All photographs, except the Purple Hairstreak were taken with my hand-held Canon Powershot A640.