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Saturday, 26 September 2020

Still Summer - Just! - 7th to 13th September, 2020

It has been rather a long time since my previous blog post as I have been busy. However, I've now completed the garden path, and so I feel the need to keep things flowing by putting something on the blog. This blog post will be a relatively short one, but I have a feeling that the next blog post might be somewhat longer!

Monday, 7th September

The week got of to a slow start as far as sightings were concerned, and the only photos taken were of a juvenile Woodpigeon. I do not usually bother to photograph Woodpigeons, but I do not remember ever photographing a juvenile one before.

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) (juvenile) - garden on 8th September, 2020
That evening the bat was seen once more at sunset, and was seen every subsequent evening that week except on the Sunday.

Tuesday, 8th September

In the morning, I photographed a hoverfly on a michaelmas daisy. I believe it to be Eristalis tenax, but please correct me if I'm wrong!

hoverfly (Eristalis tenax)  - garden on 8th September, 2020
In the afternoon I went out in search of wildlife. I decided on a visit to Croxall Lakes in Staffordshire as on a previous visit (last year) I had noticed a boardwalk access to a pond that I did not know existed there, and it looked as if it would be good for dragonflies. Croxall Lakes can also be good for birds.

I arrived to find the 'pond' had dried up to the extent that you'd have been hard-pressed to fill a domestic wash-basin with the water left in it. Not a single dragonfly or damselfly was seen there.

I carried on regardless, in the hope of finding birds, and maybe some damselflies by the River Trent at the far end of the site. Cutting a long story short, I didn't find any odonata, and virtually no birds were seen. 

I then returned and cut off eastward under the railway and across the meadow to the hide by the smaller of the two lakes. Soon after arriving at the hide, a Kingfisher suddenly appeared in the distance, hovered for a couple of seconds above the water, dived, and then came out and shot behind trees to my right. During this brief time, I didn't even manage to get it in my viewfinder. I waited an hour in the hope that it would return, but to no avail - I even started photographing trains to pass the time!

DB Cl.66, No. 66 124 (EMD) - Croxall Lakes
The only birds that I was able to to photograph were some Canada Geese.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Croxall Lakes
It was time to move on! As I left the hide, my attention was drawn to something in the grass not far from the hide. It turned out to be the largest field fungus that I have ever seen . Nearby, there were many more. This first one must have been around 10 inches (25 cm) across. If my ID is correct, these were Parasol Mushroom, and are said to be "uncommon" but "edible - excellent". I suspect that I could have collected 4 or 5 buckets full in 5 minutes! However, I would not trust my ID skills, and Lindsay would never contemplate cooking any fungus that had not been identified by an expert. The first image, below, is of the first (largest) one, and the subsequent two images show less developed specimens.

Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) - Croxall Lakes
My next destination turned out to be even less successful. I headed off to to visit another place that I'd not been to since lockdown - Drakelow NR - and arrived to find a notice on the gate that stated that it was closed for the duration, due to lack of maintenance because of Covid!

Things were getting somewhat frustrating so it was time to go somewhere where I knew I had a chance of seeing something worthwhile. It would only be a very small diversion from my route home to call in at Saltersford Valley so that is what I did!

Having parked, it was but a short walk to the boardwalk at the eastern side of the first lake. I arrived to find a male Southern Hawker dragonfly holding territory at the near end of the boardwalk. I must have spent getting on for half an hour trying to get flight shots of this dragonfly, but got nothing but an identifiable blurry shot before it departed. I then took a wander along the boardwalk and managed to find what was probably my last Ruddy Darter of the year.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Saltersford Valley
I next set off to the west side of the lake where I found a male Migrant Hawker which kept settling in the reeds in front of me, but always with intervening reeds. I did, however, note an adult Coot on a log in the lake and another adult with two young further out.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Saltersford Valley
When the Migrant Hawker disappeared, I took the circular walk which briefly passes a point on the large lake where I saw Red-eyed Damselfly earlier in the year. This time the walk was fruitless, apart from the opportunity to take some shots of a Speckled Wood butterfly.
Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - Saltersford Valley
As I passed by the section where I'd seen the Coots, I noticed that one of the juveniles was quite close to me.

Coot (Fulica atra) (juvenile) - Saltersford Valley
I was about to head back to my car when I changed my mind and decided to re-visit the boardwalk. I arrived to find the Southern Hawker had returned to the same spot, and tried once more for some photos, but didn't even manage a blurred one before it departed. I did, however, manage some shots of a rather obliging Migrant Hawker. Here are a few of the many shots I took - I even managed a few flight shots, although far from good.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Saltersford Valley
It now really was time to go home as I was cooking tea that evening.

Wednesday, 9th September

Nothing remarkable in the garden this day, but I did get some shots of a Comma butterfly that was in a rather bright condition.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - garden on 9th September, 2020
Thursday, 10th September

This day brought us some excitement in the form of visits from a Nuthatch, a Willow Warbler, and (not seen for some weeks previously) a Stock Dove. Sadly, I only managed photos of the Nuthatch, but was happy to get these as this is a species rarely seen in the garden. It was busy hiding sunflower hearts in nooks and crannies and, at one time, seemed to be playing hide-and-seek with a House Sparrow.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - garden on 10th September, 2020
Sunday 13th September, 2020

There was then little of significant interest in the garden until the end of the week, and on this day the Nuthatch returned, but any photos taken were rather less acceptable than those above. Most excitement was caused, however, by visits from two dragonflies, neither of which stayed long enough for a photo. The first was a male Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum), and the second a male Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea).


That brings me to the end of this blog post. As mentioned above, the next blog post is likely to be a long one, and might well be a couple of weeks in the production process! In the meantime, stay safe and well, and look after nature so that it can look after you.