Sunday, 22 September 2019

Rainy day at Maple Lodge NR

After yesterdays successful visit, which made me feel 'human' again, I decided to venture back to Maple Lodge NR this morning. I only intended to stay until lunchtime but both the rain and the atmosphere kept me there longer and I finally left at 5pm, a mere eight hours after I arrived.....

The overcast sky meant there were not many photo opportunities, and not too much to see, but you can always find something at Maple Lodge. 

The bad light also meant every photo I took was quite 'noisy' so apologies in advance for the dreadful pics. 

Small White

An unobliging Chiffchaff

Grey Wagtail in front of the Clubhouse Hide

Coal Tit at the Clubhouse Hide

Nuthatch at the Clubhouse Hide

Great Spotted Woodpecker at the Clubhouse Hide
 I had a bit more success at the long screen by the Barn Owl Meadow, with three insect species that I haven't knowingly seen before. However, the light was still not in my favour and couple that with the how fast these critters were, my photos really don't do them justice. 

I've not had time to fully look into any ids for the below, but I think the first is an Ichneumon species. It had the longest ovipositor I've ever seen....

The second little gem is, I think, one of the Jewel wasps....

and the last is, I think, one of the Sawfly species.....

There was also a wasp making a lot of noise by scrapping at the wood....

I spent a fair bit of today inside the comfortable Clubhouse Hide. The lure of a hot coffee and great view gets me every time. The added bonus today was the great company of Paul, Gary and Jack. Even after they left and I had the reserve to myself for nearly two hours, I still favoured the Clubhouse Hide. 

A Little Egret had landed earlier in the day and was fishing around the exposed shingle islands. Eventually another bird joined it and they made their way nearer to the hide. My photos are still not great but they will do for now. 

Despite the rain, despite the heavy cloud, despite the awful photos, I actually had a really enjoyable day and felt a bit more weight lifted off my shoulders. Nature really is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Unseasonably warm day at Maple Lodge NR

I've had a very tough few weeks and not really felt like going out with my camera, but today I woke up and knew I couldn't waste the day by staying indoors. As I stayed at my Mums last night it made sense to go to the nearest nature reserve to hers, which is the wonderfully private Maple Lodge NR. 

The weather was fine and dry, with barely a cloud in the sky and I found plenty to observe and photograph. Even though it is mid September there was no need for a jacket. 

The old Oak by the Barn Owl meadow was full of acorns. Some have succumbed to the Knopper Gall wasp, a tiny parasite that lays its eggs inside the developing acorn. The grub will feed inside and eventually the adult wasp will burrow out of the deformed acorn, leaving just a tiny hole to show that it has left. These parasites don't really hurt the Oak, after all there are plenty of acorns to go round. 

Knopper Gall 
 There was also a very attractive bee by the meadow. It's a Common Carder aka bombus pascuorum.

Common Carder

Common Carder
 From the Long Hegde Hide there were a few Blackcaps feeding up before they start their migration back to north Europe, although these stern looking small birds are often now spending the winter in Britain. 

On the grassy path a tiny movement caught my eye and I managed to grab one photo of this Field Grasshopper before it hopped off...

Field Grasshopper
 It has definitely been a good year for Darters. They were all over the reserve. 

There was only one low point during my visit...…………. The water levels at the reserve are the lowest that I have ever seen them. The view from the Long Hedge Hide is just a huge expanse of mud. There was something on the far right hand side that caught my eye. It was a Jay, and it looked to be literally stuck in the mud. The more it struggled, the more mud it got on its feathers. I didn't want to see it suffer, but it was impossible to rescue, despite Jack and I discussing what we could do in detail. After conferring with Keith and Martin, it was decided to let nature take it's course. Although the lake bed looked like it was safe to walk on, it was very deceptive and soft, as the poor Jay found out for itself...….

I couldn't save the Jay but I did save a Dock Bug from a spiders web...…... I've never seen the underside of a Dock Bug before, and after I rescued it with a twig it played dead (on its back) for a few more seconds before righting itself and flying off....

Dock Bug - underside and caught in web

Dock Bug underside
The photo below is how I normally see Dock Bugs, but I must admit I don't normally see them feeding on bird poop.....

There was a nice Green Sandpiper viewable from the Clubhouse Hide for a while, not quite near enough for a detailed photo but certainly close enough to watch without binoculars. 

The muddy lake bed at the Long Hedge Hide also attracted a pair of Grey Wagtails. Luckily for me one of them ventured quite near, but the other one stayed on an exposed shingle island....

Despite the season, there were a couple of singing Robins around and this one posed for me nicely.

At the Barn Owl meadow there were a few white butterflies, one Comma, one Red Admiral and one Small Copper but they were all a bit far away for a decent photo. However there was another solo Small Copper at Comma Corner that posed for me beautifully.....

Despite the poor mud stricken Jay, it was a very enjoyable visit and I'm glad I made the effort to go out today. 

Friday, 30 August 2019

Todays butterfly count at Cranford CP

I've had a difficult few weeks so haven't been out much but today I took myself off to Cranford Park for the UKBMS butterfly count. 

Considering the weather was cooler than recently, it wasn't a bad show today. 

During my 70 minute transect I counted 58 butterflies of 11 species...
Large White x 10
Small White x 14
Green-veined White x 1
Holly Blue x 4
Red Admiral x 7
Painted Lady x 3
Comma x 1
Speckled Wood x 10
Gatekeeper x 2
Meadow Brown x 5
Small Heath x 1

The Painted Ladies were a nice surprise. These will probably be the generation from the first migrant PLs seen in late spring. In a few weeks time these new generation butterflies will probably attempt the migration to north Africa, although it is hard to say how many will survive that journey. Any eggs laid by the new generation in Britain will not survive the winter. 

Small White

Large White

Red Admiral

Meadow Brown

Painted Lady


Comma - underwing

tatty Comma
After I completed my count I found more Commas. As you can see in the photos above, some were very fresh and new looking whereas others were very tatty. 

I wasn't at the park long today, but it was nice to also see my favourite hoverfly whilst there - Volucella Zonaria. This is the largest British hoverfly measuring up to 2.5cm long. It is a often described as the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly, the disguise helps ward off predators. If you go along the M4 wall towards the apple orchard from the back of the stable block, there are several wild growing buddleja and they are covered with these stunning hoverflies. 

Volucella zonaria

Volucella zonaria

Volucella zonaria

Volucella zonaria
Hopefully next week I can manage a longer visit. I had a fleeting glimpse of one of the Kingfishers this afternoon, and there was a juvenile Green Woodpecker by the cattle paddock. The usual Buzzards and Red Kites were seen soaring the thermals overhead.