Friday, 31 August 2012

Welsh dragon

Close to the place we were staying in Wales there was a little pond which apparently held a few different sorts of dragonflies. Over the few days that we were there I only saw one sort, the Southern Hawker and they were always in flight, never settled. I did, however mange to find a couple of empty larvae shells and on one occasion I saw what I assume is a Southern Hawker in a state of emergence.

Reminds me of Alien.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Red Kite

We were very close to losing the Red Kite in the U.K. The bird, once very common in Britain had been eradicated as a breeding bird in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and only a handful of birds clung on in the Welsh mountains. We were down to 1 breeding female and about 4 or 5 males. Thankfully, due to a re-introduction scheme, this magnificent bird is a fairly common sight once again in various parts of the country. We are very lucky in the Peterborough area in having a healthy population of this bird, it is an annual  tick on my PBC list and is almost taken for granted. Almost, but not quite.

Lisa and I have just spent a few days in the midst of Wales and paid a visit to a site where they feed these birds. It wasn't the famous Gigrin farm, but a Forestry Commission place called Bwich nant yr Arian. At three o'clock every day, come rain or shine (rain on the occasion of our visit), 10kg of meat is put out to tempt these birds to come down and feed. They do not disappoint. Over 90 of these birds circled above our heads and perched in the surrounding pine trees, waiting for their chance for an easy meal. At first one bird tentatively had a look and then they descended en-mass.

As I have said, an annual sight in my area, but I have not taken this bird for granted. Hopefully we have learnt from the past and will not persecute this magnificent creature to the verge of extinction again. Am I being naive?

Thursday, 23 August 2012


This post is a bit of a cheat, showing captive birds at a little butterfly and wildlife park that Lisa and I visited a couple of weeks back. I am quite pleased with the results though.

The Eagle Owl is a massive bird, a fully grown adult female is capable of taking a roe deer, although this one was quite happy tucking into a chick! They have recently started being seen in the wild in Britain, escapees from collections, with individuals being seen in Yorkshire, although I am not sure whether they are breeding or not. There are feelings that this bird can harm the native wildlife, out-competing other birds of prey and thus removing these from our landscape, I am not sure what to think of this, do we remove them, or do we live and let live?

The Burrowing Owl is from the U.S. and is similar to 'our' Little Owl, which is itself an introduced species. There is a whole can of worms to be opened when we start to look at 'true' native birds and ones that are not really, but have been in the country for so long that they have become thought of as native.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Mona Lisa

Okay, I know there are other famous ladies that have been painted, but I couldn't think of any off the top of my head, Bazza's blog here is the best place to go for art information.

This Painted Lady butterfly was in our garden on my return from work this evening, feeding on one of our Buddleia plants. This is the first time that I have seen one of these beautiful flutters this year and the first time that one has been seen in the garden since we have been living here. A welcome addition to the insect activity that we have been experiencing over the past week or so.

Other butterflies that have been seen in the garden include the Small and Large White, the Gatekeeper, the Holly Blue and Common Blue (although these two have just been fly through's), the Red Admiral, the Comma and the Peacock, this last one in fairly large numbers.



Red Admiral
We have also been getting our fair share of dragonflies, the more common being the Common Darter, but we have also had up to half a dozen Migrant Hawkers buzzing about feeding on flying ants.

Migrant Hawker

Common Darter

Common Darter
 We are now experiencing a 'summer' of sorts, it's just a shame that it is at the end of August!

Thursday, 16 August 2012


Two quite similar darter species of dragonfly are the Common Darter and the Ruddy Darter. They are both found in good numbers at Maxey gravel pits, where the above photos were taken.

The Common Darter is in the first 4 photos, the first 2 are of a female (I think) and the other 2 are of the male. The last photo of the Common Darter shows how similar it is to the male Ruddy Darter, which is in the next photo. The Ruddy Darter is told apart by the waisted blood red abdomen and the all black legs, both features that the Common Darter doesn't have.

The flight season of these two dragonflies can last until late Autumn, even after the first frosts, it is lack of food that eventually kills these beasts rather than cold nights.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


The Osprey is making a welcome comeback in the British Isles. After being persecuted to extinction as a breeding bird by 1916, this bird started to re-colonise itself with a pair breeding in 1954. After a faltering start due to egg collecting and continued persecution, the numbers of this bird have gradually grown to number over 150 pairs, still a very small number when you consider that Golden Eagles number over 450 pairs. These birds are still persecuted with individuals being shot or 'disappearing' from breeding areas. One individual at Rutland Water 'disappeared' last year after having mated and started to raise young, it was feared that he was shot.

In the Peterborough area the sighting of these birds is pretty much an annual event, with birds passing overhead in the Spring and Autumn. Some even hang around for a while, favouring a lake from which it fishes before moving on. This is in part due to the close proximity of Rutland Water, one of the sites where a re-introduction programme was started in 1996. The bird in the photos below show an individual that has been hanging around for a while now and was seen by myself at Maxey GP on Sunday. I thought that I would get some shots using my new camera and some using my trusted digiscoping method. You can see the difference in results for yourself. The first two are with the Canon Powershot SX40 HS with the other two being digiscoped.

The shots with the new camera were taken with the lens at full 35x zoom, with the digiscoped images using my scopes 30x eyepiece. I am happier with the 'camera' photos, but to be honest, not truly happy with any of them! The bird was a bit distant and the heat haze was pretty horrible, but then again I am not complaining about a bit of heat haze!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Blue on pooh

The picture most people have of a butterfly is one perching daintily on a flower of a Buddleia or other sweet smelling plant, happily taking nectar. What you don't think of is one sitting on a pile of dog pooh, quite happily taking the salts from said excrement. It shatters the illusion somewhat, but many butterflies do it, the Purple Emperor, for example, is very fond of feeding on something extremely undesirable such as corpses of animals and also pooh of all sorts.

I visited Barnack Hills and Holes the other day and was greeted by clouds of Chalkhill Blues. There were hundreds of these lovely blue butterflies flying around in the sun and feeding on knapweeds and scaibiouses. Whilst revelling in this far too rare sight I trod in some dog pooh! Lovely, I thought, why can't dog owners clear up after their pets?! However, I was soon finding little blue butterflies coming down to feed on this 'delightful' deposit. Cleaning the foul smelling muck from my shoe, I proceeded to snap away.

I didn't see any females feeding this way, what does that say?! Shatters the picture somewhat, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


It comes to something when I do a post about the humble House Sparrow and how 'excited' I was when this male came to the feeders in the back garden, but it just goes to show the sorry state that this little bird is in.

This bird used to be everywhere, in every garden of every house in the land. Not any more. Young sparrows are not surviving to adulthood, which has caused a decline of over 50% in the last 25 years. Reasons for this are not fully known, although there are various theories. Cat predation, Sparrowhawk predation, autumn sown crops leading to lack of stubble in the winter, have all been blamed, even traffic pollution in towns and cities which may affect the invertebrate population on which the young feed. One thing is for sure, if this decline is not addressed our little 'cockney' Sparrow will soon be a thing of the past.

Monday, 6 August 2012

White-letter day

It has been a poor year for White-letter Hairstreaks at Bedford Purlieus, I think only a handful have been reported and up until today I had not seen one, despite my numerous visits. That was to change with the sighting of two rather tatty individuals, with one of these quite literally falling out of an oak tree and landing on some wild thyme right in front of me.

The poor creatures look decidedly worse for wear and I don't think they will last much longer, in fact, after the thunder storm that was experienced this evening I fear that they are no longer with us.

The three photos above show the individual that fell out of the oak tree

This is obviously a different butterfly as seen by the hindwing being in a slightly better state.
A small butterfly with a wingspan of 35mm and a fairly short flight period, with individuals normally appearing from July until mid-August. It normally feeds high in the tree canopy on honey dew, although it sometimes feeds on flowers and thistles. It is the darkest and 'plainest' of the Hairstreaks, although the uppersides of the wings are never seen as it always feeds and rests with its wings closed. This butterfly is identified by the conspicuous white 'W' on the hindwing underside.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Common Darter

Just a few shots of a female (I think) Common Darter dragonfly taken in a spell of sunshine today with a close up of the head. The compound eye of these insects always fascinates me, such an alien looking thing.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Kendal Castle Kestrel

Spent a week-end in the Lake District, mostly in and around Kendal. We didn't really do a lot, just relaxed in the hotel and only ventured out into the cloud and the rain to visit the ruin of Kendal Castle which could be seen from our hotel. The ruin is on top of a pretty steep hill and is very 'ruinous', there not being a lot left of this 14th and 15th century building, home of the Parr family whose most famous member was Katherine Parr, the wife who outlived Henry the Eighth. I took my new camera along, just for the views really, but after climbing the only remaining tower Lisa noticed a male Kestrel hovering below us. I didn't manage to get any sort of shot off at this point, but the bird decided to perch on the ruin and pose beautifully for us. He then hovered a bit more where I managed to get the shots below, not great as he was facing the wrong way and the light was bloomin' awful, but it gave me a chance to see what this hand-held camera could do.