Monday, 30 July 2012

Silver-washed Fritillaries

Got a bit carried away taking photos of these lovely flutters at Bedford Purlieus last week-end. There were at least 10 individuals, some a bit tatty, but others looked very pristine indeed. The photos below show the colour differences in the same species.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Marbled White

I have seen one Marbled White butterfly this 'summer' and that was at Bedford Purlieus the other day. A very obliging individual who must have been getting fed up with being photographed as there were 4 of us standing around poking lenses at it! It stayed perfectly still for about half an hour and then it obviously had enough and was off.

Getting a bit more used to the camera now, but still a way to go.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Shooting Dragons with a Canon

Still having a `play around` with the new camera! This time I was trying to get some shots of dragonflies and although the images below aren't amazing, I am fairly pleased with the results, especially the Broad-bodied Chaser and the Black-tailed Skimmer.

An immature Broad-bodied Chaser

Black-tailed Skimmer

An Emperor `ovipositing` (laying eggs) with a few damselflies in attendance

Emperor `ovipositing`
All photos taken with a Canon Powershot SX40 HS

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


There was a strange yellow thing in the sky on Sunday and so, armed with my new camera I set out for a local wood called Bedford Purlieus to see if I could photograph some butterflies.

This wood is known for a few species, the White-letter Hairstreak, the Purple Hairstreak, the Silver-washed Fritillary and the White Admiral. Only two of these species were seen, the Silver-washed Fritillary and the Purple Hairstreak, the other two were absent, either not yet emerged or missed during the visit. There were good numbers of Silver-washed Fritillaries present, I counted at least 12 of these lovely butterflies, the largest of our fritillaries, but there were just 2 Purple Hairstreaks present, with myself seeing the one and that was thanks to a lady who kindly showed me where she had seen it cowering in the long grass. There were good numbers of Ringlets and Meadow Browns present and I saw at least 4 Commas, but the White-letters and the White Admirals were notable by their absence.

 Thi Purple Hairstreak was very tolerant, crawling on to my finger and just sitting there while I took this shot!

My new camera is a Canon Powershot SX40 HS, what is known as a `bridge` camera, halfway between a `point and shoot` and a DSLR. I have bought it really to use in photographing insects as I was sick of the creature flying away when approached with my little A640. I have yet to master the settings etc as I have only had it a week, but will hopefully mange a few more half-decent images in the future ( any pointers form those more experienced photographers out there would be gratefully received! ).

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Black-necked Grebe, take 2

I paid another visit to Baston & Langtoft gravel pits today to see if the Black-necked Grebe was still present and also if I could get some slightly better shots of it.

The bird was present, but frustratingly elusive, constantly diving and `going missing` for 15-20 minutes at a time. I did manage to get a few reasonable digiscoped images of the bird, but am still not 100% happy!

The Black-necked Grebe is a smallish bird, smaller than a Moorhen. An extremely scarce breeder in the British Isles, with only about 50 pairs breeding here, they are specially protected at all times with their breeding sites permanently monitored. A stunningly beautiful bird in breeding plumage, although in Winter the bird loses the gold `ear tufts` and brown on the side and becomes basically black and white. They still have that piercing red eye though.

A lovely bird to bring my PBC year list to 170.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Black-necked Grebe

It has been a while since I have added anything to my PBC year list, but with the finding of a splendid Black-necked Grebe in almost full breeding plumage yesterday I have hit the 170 mark, 1 more than my full total for last year.

Josh Jones found this bird on his local patch of Baston & Langtoft gravel pits yesterday evening, although with other commitments I was unable to get there until today. The bird was showing very well, but the light was awful, giving the `black and white` images below.

If the bird is still present tomorrow I may go back as the forecast is slightly better. Meanwhile, click on Josh`s blog above for some better shots of this splendid bird.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Black-tailed Skimmer

Another dragonfly post I am afraid. This time of year does see the `disappearance` of birds as they start their moult after the wearing business of breeding and so I am only really on the look out for insects when I go anywhere. There have been very few butterflies of any note so far this year, this may change, but I have seen a few dragonflies with the Black-tailed Skimmer being another species in good numbers at my local gravel pits at Maxey.

The photos below show the male form of this skimmer. The blue abdomen with a black tip has yellow spots along the side, the female has a yellow abdomen with two prominent longitudinal black bands on the upper surface. Males of this species can have territories of over 50metres and can be very aggressive towards other males, indeed I saw the individual pictured `chase` at least one other Black-tailed Skimmer, a couple of Four-spotted Chasers and even an Emperor! A dragonfly that is normally on the wing until early August.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Four-spotted Chasers

The most abundant dragonfly at the moment at Maxey gravel pits is the Four-spotted Chaser. They are everywhere, which is quite pleasing considering the downpours that are becoming the `norm` this summer. This rainfall must be having an affect on the wildlife, especially the insects. The number of butterflies in this country is in free-fall anyway, but this awful summer could see numbers of some species fall perilously low. Dragonflies, too must be feeling the effects of all this wet stuff!

I digress. The images below are all digiscoped as I can`t really get that close with my little hand-held camera, dragonflies are extremely wary and seem to fly at the merest hint of approach.

This species of dragonfly is widespread through most of Britain and fairly common throughout most of its range. It is found throughout Europe and there is no threat to its conservation in Britain, although where sites become over shaded the species seems to have a fall in numbers.

Their flight period lasts from late May until mid-August, with sexually active males being very aggressive and easy to see on the wing as they tend to fly and attack most things that go near them. They are seen perched on emergent vegetation and tend to return to this perch after partaking in a sortie after an intruder has entered their territory and been `seen off`.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Reed Warbler

I have been trying to get a photo of a Reed Warbler for a while now, but due the birds` skulking habits it has proven a little difficult. The digiscoped images above were managed by just waiting by a reedbed where I had heard a Reed Warbler singing and eventually the bird showed itself for a couple of minutes. There was a metal type of fence that the bird was perched behind, hence the blurry silver line over his feet, but beggars can`t be choosers!

The Reed Warbler is a common summer migrant to Britain, numbering between 40,000 and 80,000 pairs, although this number is lower than it was a few years ago. Drainage of reedbeds has had an effect on the bird, but they have started to colonise new habitats such as gravel pits which may help in the future.

A plain, unstreaked warbler that has brown upper-parts and a reddish brown rump. The underneath is buff, leading to white on the throat. A bird that you are more likely to hear before you see it, the `song` is a noisy, unmusical, repetitive chatter and churring with frequent changes in pitch that is very similar to the Sedge Warbler, although it is lower pitched and less varied than this bird. The nests of this bird are frequently parasitised by Cuckoos.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Another Golden Eagle killed by the hand of man!

This `appeal` has gone out through various websites and I received it yesterday from Birdguides. It is another shocking and quite frankly disgusting example of the `scum` that inhabit this island. Although, the case in question may not be a deliberate poisoning, it shows that there are people out there prepared to break the law. As it says in the article, next time it could be a pet dog, or even a small child, these poisons really are indiscriminate and there is no place for them in a `civilised` society.

WARNING: There is a photograph of the dead Golden Eagle, in case any of you are squeamish.

"Police are appealing for information after a Golden Eagle was found dead near Morar, Lochaber in March. A post-mortem conducted by the Scottish government laboratory of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture showed that the eagle had been poisoned with banned pesticides. A multi-agency investigation continues, involving Northern Constabulary, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and RSPB Scotland. This is the third known eagle poisoning incident in the area over the last ten years: two White-tailed Eagles were the previous victims.
Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations for RSPB Scotland, said: "Despite the hard work being done by the police and partner agencies, some individuals continue to disregard the law, and public opinion, by killing protected birds of prey. Sadly, this is just the latest in a long list of Golden Eagles found poisoned over the last few years, and that only represents those actually discovered. Who knows how many of these magnificent birds are killed but never found? We condemn the actions of those who continue to kill Scotland's birds of prey, and hope that anyone with information related to this or other wildlife crimes will step up and pass this to the police or contact Crimestopperss"
Chief Inspector Matthew Reiss, Northern Constabulary's Wildlife Crime Coordinator, said: "Wildlife tourism is an increasingly significant income generator in the highland economy, and particularly so in the West Lochaber area of the Highlands. Poisoning is indiscriminate — it could be your pet dog or even a human that could be killed simply by contact with such illegal poisons. This is a completely unacceptable and illegal practice. People who use illegal poisons are threatening the economy by killing the very wildlife that people visit the area to enjoy viewing. These visitors are contributing significant spending in the area, so crimes such as this are also threatening the jobs of people directly and indirectly reliant on the income derived from wildlife tourism."

Poisoned Golden Eagle (RSPB).

PC Charlie Everitt of the National Wildlife Crime Unit added: "The poisoning of this Golden Eagle demonstrates how indiscriminate this practice is and flies in the face of the steady work currently being undertaken by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime. All raptor poisoning cases will continue to be fully investigated."
The eagle was fitted with a satellite transmitter in 2010 before fledging from a nest in a habitat management area created by Scottish Power Renewables beside Beinn an Tuirc windfarm on the Kintyre peninsula. Peter Robson, Ecologist at Scottish Power Renewables, said: "We were saddened and disappointed to find out that one of the Golden Eagles from Beinn an Tuirc had been poisoned. The habitat restoration project at the windfarm has been a great success, producing four healthy Golden Eagle chicks in a short period of time following a long run of barren years. The data from the tracking device was providing experts with a unique insight into the movement patterns of Golden Eagles during their early years. It is a sad loss, and a setback for all those involved in the conservation of Golden Eagles in Scotland."
Anyone with information relating to this case is urged to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or Northern Constabulary on 01463 715555."

Monday, 2 July 2012

A couple more Dragonflies

A couple more species of dragonfly that were present at Maxey gravel pits the other day were the Black-tailed Skimmer and the Hairy Dragonfly.

The photos above were taken using my Canon Powershot A640 `hand-held`

The Hairy Dragonfly is the first hawker dragonfly of the year on the wing. Males (the blue one above) are usually seen during May and early June, but I think with the lovely weather we have been having this has been delayed somewhat. The pair above were seen flying in the position you see them in, before landing in long grass, allowing me to get these hand-held shots. The duration of this copulation is variable, but can last up to 40 minutes. A dragonfly that is only on the wing for a short time, lasting from mid-May to late June or early July, so catch them while you can! They have a noticeably downy (hairy) thorax, unlike other hawker species, with the male having blue pear-shaped spots along the abdomen and the female yellow.

Both photos above were digiscoped using my normal set-up

The Black-tailed Skimmer is a fast, low-flying species, which is often observed perching on open ground or on muddy banks, stones and even roads. The species seemed to be pretty common at Maxey, with numerous individuals noted, although I only saw the yellow version of the species which is the immature male or female (I don`t know which I have photographed, any pointers would be gladly accepted). The adult male has a blue abdomen with a black tip. Another fairly common species in the southern half of the country that has a flight season lasting from late May until early August. I may get a photo or even just a glimpse of a blue  male in that time! One can hope.