Sunday, 2 August 2015

Weekly visit to Cranford Park

My weekly visit started at the stable blocks today. From the back of them I walked along the back of the woods towards the orchard. The many brambles, nettles and buddleia bushes along that M4 wall are alive with critters at this time of year.....
 
Peacock butterflies

Red Admiral

Speckled Wood

Comma

Forest Bug aka Red-legged Shield Bug
Crab Spider

Helophilus pendulus - species of hoverfly

Marmalade Fly - Episyrphus balteatus
Wasp mimic hoverfly  - Volucella zonaria
Southern Hawker

side view Southern Hawker

Common Darter
Walking through the woods towards the Headland, I could hear a Hobby calling and emerged from the woods just in time to see two flying overhead......
 


 
Continuing my stroll around the back of the Ice House copse, a Red Kite then soared over.....
 
 
In the meadows itself it was all about our resident Kestrels. I saw four today.....


 
One juvenile female gave me some lovely views as she hunted crickets on the grass paths.....




 
From the meadows I walked over to the river and followed it's path down to the stone bridge. I had two fleeting glimpses of a Kingfisher as it flew past, and this young Song Thrush was looking for critters along the paths edge......
 
 
I scanned the river in both directions from the stone bridge but couldn't find the Kingfisher again.
 
Back at the stable blocks where my walk had begun, I quickly checked on the Swallows nest. It's still there. You can just see from my quickly taken photo below, one of the adults sitting on the nest. I waited patiently away from the nest, and when the adult flew off, I quickly checked the nest again to listen for any chicks cheeping, but there was nothing but silence. Either we have eggs, or they have only just hatched. Great news.

 
It was a fairly quick visit for me today, only three hours, but there was plenty for me to observe and photograph.


Friday, 31 July 2015

Thumb therapy and an excellent afternoon at Maple Lodge NR

I booked today off work as holiday as I had to attend the Hand Therapy clinic at Mount Vernon for my thumb. I fell awkwardly about four weeks ago, and was initially diagnosed as having a fracture, so spent two weeks splinted up like this.......
 
 
Then I was told I had ligament damage too, so spent another two weeks with a much easier and manageable splint......

 
and this morning I was told all the swelling had gone down, so a new smaller splint was made for me, and I'll be spending the next two weeks like this.....

 
Anna, my Hand Therapist, has encouraged me to keep up with my photography, so as long as I can hold a camera comfortably, my weekends out and about haven't been affected at all (except for some of my dreadful photos on my blog posts from a month ago when my wrist movement was severely restricted.....)
 
As I had to attend Mount Vernon for my thumb, my lovely Mum suggested we visit my second favourite place after my appointment. So Mum joined me for a couple of hours at Maple Lodge NR before going off to do her own thing and leaving me to enjoy the reserve on my own for another couple of hours.
 
As to be expected at this time of year, there weren't many birds to see, although I did point out a male Blackcap and male Reed Bunting to Mum, and we saw the juvenile Great Crested Grebes.....
 
 
We also bumped in to the Parrs at Comma Corner and saw my first Longhorn beetles of the year....
 
Rutpela maculate with mating Common Soldier beetles

Rutpela maculate portrait shot
As to be expected, there were plenty of butterflies around today. I really wanted to photograph the recently seen Small Coppers and Brown Argus that had been seen in the Barn Owl meadow, but although I did see one of each, I couldn't get any photos.
 
However, there were plenty of butterflies that I could photograph.....
 
male Gatekeeper

worn Comma

male Meadow Brown

male Small White

Holly Blue

female Brimstone
 There was also a teeny tiny macro moth near the Barn Owl meadow, feeding on bryony...
Nettle Tap macro moth
There were a couple of Common Darters around.....
 
 

 
 
but the one member of the Odonata family that I really wanted to photograph was the Brown Hawker. There were at least four flying around the Barn Owl meadow, with another three seen from hides elsewhere on site. After Mum left I spent over an hour trying to capture one, but to no avail. Then as I was packing up my rucksack to move down to the Puddingstone, one landed right beside me......


 
What a stunner ! After failing to get a photo of a Brown Argus, this more than made up for it.
 
I had spotted quite a few Ladybirds around, and saw these two meet up....
The one on the right is our native Seven-spot, but I think the one on the left is a Harlequin species, but I'm not 100% sure. Either way the Seven-spot was the first to move, and when it did, it moved fast....
 
 


 
There were plenty of other critters around to make up for the lack of birds as always at this time of year, I just need to learn what are bees, what are hovers and what I can do to identify any of them.
There is a great facebook group called UK Hoverflies (link here) who have helped me massively in the past. I have to give them a mention. More about that later.....
 
possible Nomad or Digger Bee

Possible Wasp mimic...
 And lastly a Leaf-cutter bee completely laden with pollen......
 
 

 
 Maple Lodge wouldn't be Maple Lodge without a couple of wild Rabbit photos. At my local Cranford Park patch, I know they are there, but I don't often see them because the park is so popular with dog walkers. So to get so close to them at Maple Lodge is a bit of a bonus for me.....
 

 
I spent the last hour of todays visit in the Club House hide. Gary Armstrong had already tipped me off that he had seen a Kingfisher from the same hide this morning so with me having come prepared with sandwiches, water and bananas, I was more than happy to wait it out and see what I could see.....
 
and I wasn't disappointed.....
 
First up was a male Great Spotted Woodpecker....
 

 
 
then there was a flash of blue low across the water and heading straight into the willow....
I could just see the Kingfisher perched, but certainly not within camera range.
 
Another black and white bird flew across my view point, and I was well chuffed to see a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.....


 
After all of my intense studying of Great Spotted Woodpeckers last year when Mum was ill and we had seven individual birds visiting her garden, I am almost certain this juvenile is a female. The red cap is towards the front of the head, where if it was a male juvenile, the red cap would be more at the back of the head.
 
Either way, watching these two made the wait for the Kingfisher worthwhile.
As I started to pack away my bins and food I happened to hear a 'plop' and looked up. There was the Kingfisher with a fish, perched on the branch Gary had told me about. I couldn't get my camera on it quick enough to capture it eating the fish, but I did manage to grab four photos before it took off....
 




 
So a great finale to my days visit.
 
When I got home it was great to see a book had been delivered.
Being a complete novice to Hoverfly id, I had asked on the facebook forum for recommendations for a book. A certain Owen Llewellyn not only recommended a book, but offered to give me his first edition as he had already purchased the second edition......
 
 
but as you can see from the photo below, I still need some help...

 
I'm a novice. Give me time..
 
All in all, it wasn't a bad day. I got my thumb re-assessed, got to have a good gossip with my lovely Mum, got to see and photograph a Brown Hawker and get a Kingfisher. Then home to a book I really need to read from cover to cover....