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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The New Forest - from 6th to 10th June, 2016

The very long time-span between this post and my last post to this blog has been due to me taking a 5-day break in the New Forest with my wife, daughter, and granddaughter to celebrate my 70th birthday, followed by just 6 days at home before setting off for a holiday in the Highlands of Scotland with my wife. We're now back from that, and soon I'll have to start processing the 3,640 photos I took during that time!

This is an account of our stay in the New Forest. 

WARNING! - THIS IS ANOTHER VERY LONG POST

Monday 6th June

My wife and I travelled independently of our daughter and granddaughter, and we took the scenic route, stopping for lunch near Stonehenge.

Our destination was the thatched Japonica Cottage in Bank, just outside Lyndhurst. We arrived a little before the official handover time of 15h00, but found that the cottage was already available. Our daughter, Melanie, had managed to confuse Lyndhurst with Lymington and so arrived a little later!


Japonica Cottage
For some reason I'd put some bird food in the car before we set off. We arrived to find that the shrub with the yellow blossoms, which can be seen in that last image, had several empty bird feeders in it, but there seemed to be an almost complete dearth of birds in the garden. One of my first tasks, therefore, was to fill the feeders. The result was somewhat better than expected!

That evening we had a fairly standard 'pub-grub' meal in a pub in the interesting village of Burley.

Tuesday 7th June

My wife and I had decided that we would have the suite of rooms in the annexe to the cottage, part of which can be seen to the left of the image above. The white door visible gives access to a large lounge, and it was great to be able to sit in the lounge with the door open and watch the birds coming to the feeders.

These are some of the birds that I saw before breakfast.

Jay ( Garrulus glandarius) - Japonica Cottage
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (male) - Japonica Cottage
Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - Japonica Cottage
Our granddaughter, Georgina, had requested a visit to the nearby Reptile Centre - a place that my wife and I had been to on a previous occasion - and so, after breakfast, we headed off there, arriving a few minutes before the place was officially open. We were, however, allowed to look around before opening time.

The Reptile Centre is an absolutely delightful place, and there is no charge for admission, although a donation is requested for the privilege of parking (the extremely modest sum of £1 is suggested!). The Centre is manned by an enthusiastic and helpful band of volunteers who do a splendid job.

The Centre has eight huge circular enclosures (or 'pods' as they call them) with low walls, so that you are looking down into the habitats. All British reptiles and amphibians are represented here, with the exception of Grass Snake (their last remaining Grass Snake sadly failed to come out of hibernation). The pods are netted over, partly to stop the predation of young children by the occupants, but mainly to protect the occupants from being predated by external wildlife, such as Buzzards. This netting made photography a little more difficult, but far from impossible, although you will probably detect the fuzzing from a net in some of my images, below.

The first thing seen was Common Lizard.

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) - New Forest Reptile Centre
We next moved on to the Adders, all of which were curled up resting. It was only when looking at my images that I saw that, in at least two instances, what I'd taken to be one snake were actually two (or more?) snakes curled up together! I particularly like the 'black' one!



Adder (Vipera berus) - New Forest Reptile Centre
The Natterjack Toads were showing well.

Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita) - New Forest Reptile Centre
It took the eagle-eyes of my granddaughter to spot a Slow Worm!

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) - New Forest Reptile Centre
Probably my favourite exhibits were the Sand Lizards. The male, in particular, is a spectacular creature!


Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) (female) - New Forest Reptile Centre
Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) (male) - New Forest Reptile Centre
When I saw this male apparently trying to bite a female I was concerned as the female was motionless. I spoke to one of the people on duty and was told that this was a courtship thing!

Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) (male and female) - New Forest Reptile Centre
The habitats created at the Centre attracted a number of incidental inhabitants, although it occurs to me that this first one, which I believe to be the instar of a Cricket species, may be non-native, and introduced into the pod as food for the occupants!

Cricket sp. ? - New Forest Reptile Centre
I believe this next one is a species of Dung Beetle.

Dung Beetle sp. ? - New Forest Reptile Centre
For me, the most exciting thing was to see that one pod had an incidental population of Southern Hawker dragonflies which were emerging from nymph stage whilst we were there. Sadly, some of these were being predated by small birds that were managing to seize them through the netting whilst they were drying out.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) (teneral female) - New Forest Reptile Centre
The very kind lady who was doing a bit of gardening in that particular pod was very helpful when I asked if it was possible for her to retrieve one of the exuvia for me to take. Here's an image of one of the exuvia in place - I haven't yet got round to examining and photographing the collected exuvia. 

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) (exuvia) - New Forest Reptile Centre
After our visit, we went into Lyndhurst to shop for foodstuffs for us and bird food for the birds (they'd already eaten all the food I'd brought with me!) and returned to the cottage for a picnic on the patio. The girls then went off to find the witches in Burley and to visit the Deer Centre whilst I set off to try and find some dragonflies at Hatchet Moor.

Although I have been to Hatchet Moor before, it was in March, 2011 and I was looking for birds. The first dragonfly I saw was a possibly Downy Emerald, but I only got a brief sighting and never saw it again. I consoled myself with a shot of one of the hundreds of beautiful lilies on the water.

Water Lily - Hatchet Moor
Adjacent to the main pond, I saw a male Broad-bodied Chaser interacting with another unidentified dragonfly, but although the BBC was visible for a long while it never settled, nor got close enough for a photo.

My first photographable sighting was of Large Red Damselfly - common in most parts of UK. I wish I'd made a better job of the second image.


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - Hatchet Moor
I was suddenly distracted by the sight of a hawking male Emperor dragonfly. I spent nearly an hour here trying to photograph this individual and did manage some relatively acceptable shots. I wish it would have settled!


Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Hatchet Moor
There were plenty of Common Blue Damselfly around, many of which were mating.


Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male + female) - Hatchet Moor
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Hatchet Moor
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (teneral male) - Hatchet Moor
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (immature male) - Hatchet Moor
Earlier I'd seen a smallish dragonfly at a distance, but not been able to get a good view of it. I then saw another which appeared to be the same, but this one settled where I could see it. I managed a quick shot before it flew, and it's only by looking at my images that I realised I'd seen my first ever Keeled Skimmer!

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) (teneral female) - Hatchet Moor
I managed to relocate this same specimen again and get a few more shots before it flew and disappeared into the distance. I think that this is a very neat and tidy dragonfly.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) (teneral female) - Hatchet Moor
As I was nearly back to the car park I spotted some Blue-tailed Damselflies, one of which seemed to be behaving strangely, whipping its abdomen up into a vertical position, as shown in the second image, below. I can see from my images that it has parasites on the underside of its abdomen, and I'm wondering if the flicking was because of these.



Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male) - Hatchet Moor
My final image from this location is of a damselfly of which, as a novice odonata enthusiast, I'm not sure of the I/D. It's almost certainly a teneral/immature of something very common, but I'm not sure what. Initially I was fooled by the apparent stripes in the eyes, and then the abdomen markings threw a wobbler into that idea. The relatively poor quality of the image doesn't help, but if anyone can I/D it for me I'd be grateful.

unidentified damselfly (teneral) - Hatchet Moor

I was pretty hot and thirsty by now, so when the girls called to say they were on their way back to the cottage for tea, I went off to join them.

That evening we went into Lyndhurst for one of the fabulous ice creams made by a shop at the top of the high street, followed by fish and chips which we took back to the cottage and ate at the table on the patio. 

After our meal, the girls went indoors and I watched the birds. I so rarely get the opportunity to photograph Jay, that I couldn't resist taking more shots. They might not be good images, but I've never achieved better!


Jay ( Garrulus glandarius) - Japonica Cottage
Wednesday 8th June

Most of this day was spent at the Bournemouth Oceanarium. We'd taken a picnic lunch, but I only took my pocket camera, not seeing any point in lugging my usual heavy camera setup. Although we had a very enjoyable time here, I don't think it's appropriate to show photos from this visit.

That evening we had our evening meal in The Swan, just outside Lyndhurst. The meal was great, and very reasonably priced.

Back at the cottage I sat and enjoyed the garden birds again.

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) - Japonica Cottage
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (female) - Japonica Cottage
Thursday 9th June

Before breakfast I was up watching the garden birds again. The woodpeckers brought one of their youngsters with them.

Jay ( Garrulus glandarius) - Japonica Cottage
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (juvenile) - Japonica Cottage
After breakfast, the girls headed off to the coast for the day, primarily to do some crabbing at Mudiford. I set off for the coast at Keyhaven, primarily to try and find dragonflies.

I arrived to find a cool sea mist settled over the area, and was not at all hopeful of finding any dragonflies at all. Little did I know what other delights were in store for me. Having parked in the area along the sea wall which defines the landward end of the inlet, and conferred with a couple of local walkers, I set off on a footpath route which took me on a circular tour of approximately 3miles (4.5 km).

Soon after I set off, heading south-east, I saw a distant Reed Bunting singing its head off.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - Keyhaven.
I saw a few Whitethroat along the way, but none cooperated with the camera. With my camera trigger finger getting itchy, I started to take a few shots of wild flowers. I like the way the mist had gathered on this one.

wild flower - Keyhaven
Eventually, I got to a large stretch of water. With little vegetation, even at the margins, this did not look at all promising for dragonflies. However, my spirits were soon lifted by the sighting of Little Tern. I can only recall ever seeing this species in Northumberland. They are an extremely elegant bird, and a delight to watch as they seek food. I hope the following set of images convey something of the simple beauty of this species.






Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) - Keyhaven
In this area, on the seaward side of the path I was on, there was a high bank, with salt marsh beyond that. I started to keep an eye on what might be on this bank.

I've no idea what species this is a caterpillar of - probably a moth. There were a few of them around and each was in its own protective web.

unidentified caterpillar - Keyhaven
Suddenly the sun broke through and it quickly went from fairly cool to being rather warm. There were a few Linnet in the area. The first one was straight into the light, but worth it for the amount of red on it.

Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) (male) - Keyhaven
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) (female) - Keyhaven

Soon I was seeing damselflies - all of which were Blue-tailed Damselfly. This first one is, I believe, an immature male, as defined by the greenish hue to the sides of the thorax. Unless I've got it wrong the second and third images are of a female of the form rufescens-obsoleta.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (immature male) - Keyhaven

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans fa. rufescens-obsoleta) (female)
Over the far side of the water were Little Egret.


Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Keyhaven
This might well be my favourite image of a male Shoveler that I've ever taken!

Shoveler (Anas clypeata) (male) - Keyhaven
. . . . and this juvenile, by its bill shape, looks as if it could well be a Shoveler and the offspring of the above bird, although it was nowhere near an adult bird.

Shoveler ? (juvenile) - Keyhaven
There were a few Common Tern around, but I was getting nowhere near as many sightings as I was of Little Tern!

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) - Keyhaven
I probably should have paid more attention to what was happening on the seaward side of the embankment. I did spot an Oystercatcher, however, at one point when I went on top of the embankment.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) - Keyhaven
Having had a brief look at the second area of water, I turned back and then headed inland beside a canal like stretch of water, where a couple of Little Grebe were active.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - Keyhaven
As I left the waterside a Linnet was perched atop a bush and singing.

Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) (male) - Keyhaven
Further on, as I reached higher ground, I got my first butterfly photograph of the holiday.

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - Keyhaven
Nearby, a Reed Bunting was singing loudly and seemed totally oblivious to my presence!

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - Keyhaven.
I was nearly back at my car when I saw my first and only dragonfly of the visit and was quite excited until I realised it was a Common Darter!

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Keyhaven
As I approached my car a fluttering insect caught my eye. On inspection, I found it was a rather beautifully marked micro-moth. I'm told by friend Rhys Dandy that this was either Nemophora degeerella or Adela croesella. However, a good side-on view is needed to tell the difference, and that I didn't have! 

micro moth sp. - Keyhaven
It was around 14h00 when I got back to the car and I'd had nothing to drink for around seven hours, so it seemed like a good time to sit and have my picnic.

Whilst at Japonica Cottage there was no internet facility. I also found that my phone coverage in the whole area was very poor. Now I am home and have managed to look at Google Earth, I see that I almost certainly missed the best dragonfly spots in the area. I felt adequately compensated, however, by my other sightings - particularly of the Little Terns.

A bit disappointed by the dragonfly situation I headed off for another location recommended on Paul Ritchie's website, and this was Rushbush Pond, near Ipley Cross. I'd left myself little time as I was due to meet back up with the girls at 17h00. It took some time to get there, and I quickly spotted the pond. Parking nearby was not so easy, however. I did find a gateway to park in and set off down the road. Before I got to to the recommended pond, I found a small pond right beside the road. I stopped to have a look - and got no further. There were several dragonflies immediately visible. At first, my attempts at identification and photography were thwarted by rapid and distant flight. However, my luck started to change.

I did photograph a Blue-tailed damselfly, but I've put up enough images of those already! I then found an ovipositing Emperor (or should that be Empress!).




Emperor (Anax imperator) (female) - near Ipley Cross
Round the other side of the pond, a male Broad-bodied Chaser was making occasional forays from either of his two favoured perches, to defend his territory.


Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) (male) - near Ipley Cross
Meanwhile, out over the water, a female BBC was ovipositing - dipping her rear into the water.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) (female) - near Ipley Cross
A male Four-spotted Chaser had a territory perch quite close to those of the BBC, and there were occasional squabbles..

 Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (male) - near Ipley Cross
My attention briefly turned to the damselflies and I found a male Azure Damselfly.

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - near Ipley Cross
After only three quarters of an hour, time was running out on me. My last act was to check out a teneral Four-spotted Chaser and I was saddened to see that the future did not look good for this specimen. Three of the wings didn't look as if they were going to fill out properly, and a fourth wing was virtually non-existent. The back of the thorax where the wings joined (there must be a technical name for this important area of the anatomy) also appeared to be deformed. I did collect the exuvia, and cannot detect any deformity there.


Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (deformed teneral female) - near Ipley Cross
That evening, we returned to The Swan, Lyndhurst for another highly enjoyable dinner.

Friday 10th June

We had to vacate the cottage by 10h00 and were on our way a little before this. Again, my wife and I decided on the scenic route, but a different one this time. As we passed through the village of Alton Barnes in Wiltshire, we saw the white horse marked into the hillside. In an effort to find somewhere to stop to photograph this we pulled into a parking spot on a hill. The white horse was not visible, but I took a short walk to stretch my legs. There were numerous small beetles flying about, and I've not been able to determine the identity of them. Any help with this would be appreciated.

unidentified beetle - Wiltshire
Whilst there, a Meadow Pipit (at least, I think that is what it was - it was quite slim and the breast markings were rather dense and bold, however) landed obligingly on a nearby post.

Meadow Pipit ? - Wiltshire
Further on we stopped at an avenue of standing stones, known as West Kennet Avenue. We didn't realise until a few miles later that this avenue leads directly to the famous stone circle of Avebury. In the field which held West Kennet Avenue there were huge numbers of the beetles seen earlier. If you took a metre square there would probably have been between 50 and 100 beetles in that area. We both agreed that there must have been hundreds of thousands of them in the field!

We stopped for lunch at The White Hart, in the village of Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire. The food was excellent!

After lunch I fancied taking a walk as there was water flowing through the village. Over lunch we discovered that this was the head waters of the Thames. It proved to be a fruitful stop.

There were plenty of damselflies around, and this one weakly fluttered and landed on a plant growing up a wall. It was only when I approached it that I realised it had one wing which had not developed, and that it was caught in a spider's web. Having taken my photos, I freed it from the web and it fluttered away.


Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (female) - Ashton Keynes
I spent a little time trying to photograph damselflies here, but without much success. Here's a token shot of a Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (immature male) - Ashton Keynes
 And here's a micro-moth for which I have no identity.

unidentified micro-moth - Ashton Keynes.
I'll end this report, not with a wildlife image but, for those of you that might wonder what it looks like, an image of the Thames.

River Thames - Ashton Keynes
I hope that you've found something in this post to interest you. Thank you for dropping by.

Now to get on with visiting the blogs of my friends in Bloggerland, before starting to process all those Scottish trip photos!