Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Sunday at Bushy Park with the Fewy and my first Demoiselles of the year

Sunday found me awake very early and must more rested than on Saturday. All I had to was decide where to go. RSPB Rainham looked promising until I looked at the train websites and saw some of the journey was subject to delays. WWT London also looked to be good until I saw it was family fun weekend and I didn't fancy battling my way through the crowds.
 My mate Fewy often raves on about Bushy Park, a place I've never been, so as I was up early enough to afford the hour long bus journey before losing the best of the morning light, it was Bushy Park I chose.
map of Bushy Park
 Bushy is smaller than it's close neighbour, Richmond Park, but just as beautiful. It shares the same different habitats, and Fewy and I spent most of our time in the Woodland Gardens...
Woodland Gardens
Fewy had found a Great Spotted Woodpecker nest on one of his previous visits, which was at the wrong angle for me to try and grab any photos with my little 300mm zoom lens, but there was plenty to keep me occupied whilst Fewy staked out the Woodpecker nest tree...
It really is the month for critters, and to add to my growing photo collection of them was this lovely Wasp Beetle, a beautifully marked critter that shares the same 'warning' markings as a Wasp.
Wasp Beetle
 There were other beetles around too, both of the below which I've already got on my 2015 photo list...
Black-headed Cardinal Beetle
Cardinal Beetle
Fewy found a mating pair of Large Red damselflies. As they moved around the female (at the back) clung on to a strand of grass as if to say 'I've had enough !'.....

mating Large Red Damselflies
But the high-light of my day was finding lots and lots of both Banded and Beautiful Demoiselles. To me these have to be the most beautiful of all the Odonata.

male Beautiful Demoiselle
immature male Beautiful Demoiselle
male Banded
male Banded

female Banded
 I could have photographed these beauties all day.
There were other distractions around with a Nuthatch landing near to me.....


and a Wren that kept landing on a nearby log looking for tasty tidbits...

Fewy also got down with the Demoiselles and also found a pair of mating Green Dock Beetles
It was around this time that disaster struck. My favourite and most often used camera lens, the Sony 75-300 zoom, started malfunctioning. I could still use my little 18-55 lens so not all was lost, but it did put a sour note on my so far enjoyable day out.
Fewy came up with a solution though. His camera can take two SD cards at the same time.
So all the photos below are taken by the Fewy but on my piggy-backing SD card....

male Great Spotted Woodpecker with food

looking inside the nest hole....

emerging from the nest hole with a nice fat juicy fecal sac
 mating Green Dock Beetles
mating Banded Demoiselles

female Beautiful Demoiselle

female Banded Demoiselle

Robin with food

So the day was not in vain after all. We didn't spend the whole day at Bushy, I was still feeling very lethargic and achey, but it's certainly on my list of places to re-visit very soon.

Thanks Fewy :)

Saturdays visit to Cranford Park, and my first juvenile woodland birds

I was pretty tired on Saturday after a stressful week at work, and managed just a brief two hour visit to the park. I had a tummy bug last Friday and don't think I'm completely over it yet.
It was worth dragging my aching legs around though, as I found juveniles of three of our favourite woodland birds.
The first was a juvenile Robin that hopped on to a branch in front of me....
The second was the Great Tits nesting in the box by the Information Centre. The adults were very attentive with both male and female bringing in food on a regular basis.....

but there was one juvenile that kept popping it's head out of the nest box hole calling for more food after the adult had left....

It won't be long before they fledge and venture out in to the big wide world.
The third was by the river. I was standing on the path watching a couple of Blackbirds when a Blue Tit kept scolding me. It was very insistent and was hopping around from branch to branch giving off small alarm calls whilst still managing to hold on to a beak full of food.....

and then I realised I was standing right next to their nest. I hastily moved away to a safe and discreet distance, and grabbed a couple of zoom lens shots of the juveniles peeking out of the hole.....

The meadows are starting to really flourish, and are attracting all sorts of lovely critters....

Common Carder bee on Red Clover
unidentified bugs
Azure Damselfly on one of the young oak saplings
On my last few visits I've been seeing lots of Thick-legged Beetles in the buttercups, but I finally found a single female one on Saturday too. Below are comparison photos. The first two are of the male with their 'thunder thighs', and the last one is of the more delicate looking female...

male Thick-legged Beetle on a buttercup
male Thick-legged Beetle on a dandelion

female Thick-legged Beetle on a buttercup
There were lots of Cardinal Beetles in the long grasses too..

Cardinal Beetle
 I didn't see many butterflies on Saturday but the most commonly seen was the Green-veined Whites and Speckled Woods.
female Green-veined White on a buttercup
I rested at the log circle for some time, and shared my lunch with the regular pair of Magpies. I see them every time I sit at the log circle. They must have nested near by. Granted these birds aren't to everyone's liking but I could watch these clever Corvids for ages. What was particularly amusing was the way both of the birds would hop from log seat to log seat all around the circle. When they had finished hovering up all the crumbs, one of them stared at me for a short while.....

So a fairly short visit for me, but still an enjoyable one. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Back to Cranford Park with five 'first of the year CP sightings'

I've had to edit yesterdays blog post as I had mis-identified three of the critters. The Shield Bug is in fact a Dock Bug, which I should have known as I've photographed them before. The Black-veined White is in fact a male Green-veined White, and I'm not surprised I got that one wrong as I always struggle with my white butterfly ids. And lastly, but most excitingly, the Southern Hawker dragonfly is actually a male Hairy Dragonfly and it's only Maple Lodges third record of one on site.
So great news and I'm glad the hour I waited for the dragonfly to finally land for a photo was worth it. And finally thanks to Martin Parr for putting me right.
After spending all of Friday home ill, I was maybe a bit too ambitious in spending all day out yesterday at Maple Lodge. This morning when I woke up I felt completely wiped out, and instead of my usual 8-9 hour jaunt at Cranford Park, today I lasted a measly three hours only and most of that was spent sitting down.
This photo is taken from sitting on one of my favourite logs in the woods looking down the path that leads out to the Headland area.

This photo is taken from the wood circle, another favourite perch of mine, looking back towards the Information Centre. Natures own colour scheme.
I had five 'first for the year at Cranford Park' sightings today, but could only get photos of three of them. The first was a stunning fresh male Small Copper butterfly. It was in the Headland area of the park and as I tried to focus my camera on it, the little lovely fluttered off and I couldn't relocate it.
The second was a Five-spot Burnet, a day flying moth, that I found around the wildlife pond in front of the Information Centre. Again by the time I had got my camera in focus the moth had flown and I couldn't relocate it.
The third was my first damselfly at Cranford Park this year. A rather beautiful male Blue-tailed damselfly that I found in the woods....
 my fourth was my first female Holly Blue, also found in the woods....

I've been seeing male Holly Blues for some time now, but not had a female until today.
And finally my fifth was my first female Large White of the year...
I had to get help from James Wright on identifying this one correctly. As I stated above I find white butterflies very hard to id sometimes.
The Bluebells are starting to go over, but Cranford Woods did have one of the best displays I've seen this year. The scrub clearance the grounds men done really worked a treat and there were lots more Bluebells to be seen this year than in previous years. A credit to Alison Shipley and her crew of merry workers.
Bluebell seed heads
Even though our lovely wild native Bluebells are almost at the end of their season, they are still attracting the butterflies....

male Orange-tip

The Red/Pink Campion is also attracting the flutterbyes too....
another Peacock...you just have to love their garish colours

and a female Orange-tip. Not the best photo as taken at some distance
In the ever growing grassy meadows there are hundreds of Buttercups now, and inside practically every one of them was a Flower Beetle today. The one below is known as a Fat-legged or Thick-legged Flower Beetle but only the males have those generous sized thighs.....
In the skies over the meadow I found Swifts...

a couple of House Martins (no photo) and a Swallow (no photo).
I also saw the regularly sighted Buzzard.....

Also in the meadow area both Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were singing away. I had walked almost all the way across the meadow sticking to the same grass path way, when I heard a Mipit calling and glanced around to see one perched very handily on one of the tree guards.....
A few steps back, and still staying on the path way, I spent a lovely ten minutes with this little beauty....

It was quite content to walk all around the tree guard as it obviously wasn't threatened by me in any way. Luckily I have a zoom lens on my camera, so was able to capture the beautiful markings on this little Mipit without disturbing it or feeling I had to get closer to get the ultimate photo. You really have to respect these ground nesting birds at this time of year. Stick to the grass path ways. That's what they are there for.
So it was a nice finale to my weekly visit at Cranford CP. As I wasn't quite feeling myself today I didn't do the whole circuit so there was probably plenty that I missed.
However one thing I didn't miss was whilst I was in the woods I heard the Kestrels calling, and found the male high in a tree. The calling however was coming from the female, and as I watched she flew over to the male, took something off him that I hadn't noticed he had under his talon, then flew to another tree. I strongly suspect I accidently stumbled across their nest, and that the female is on eggs. It is not the same nest tree as last year, but then again last years nest site wasn't the same as the year before.
Although Kestrels are not Schedule 1 nesting birds, and therefore are not covered by the same protection as the Hobbys have, I wont be disclosing where the nest tree is.
In July we will all be able to enjoy and see the juveniles out in the meadows learning how to hunt.