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Friday, 20 October 2017

Seeing Kingfisher in a Different Light - on 19th September, 2017

On this day I decided on another visit to the Kingfisher location that has featured on three of my previous posts. It was a sunny afternoon, but I'd had other things to do so it was mid-afternoon when I arrived. Nothing of interest was visible from the first hide so I carried on to the second hide and sat there for a while, chatting to gentleman who had been there for quite a while and seen nothing.

After probably about an hour my companion declared that he would set off homeward, but call into the first hide on his way back. I stuck it out for perhaps another quarter of an hour before setting off myself as the sun was starting to go down and light conditions were getting a bit difficult. As I approached the first hide my earlier companion beckoned to me - he'd got a Kingfisher sitting on a post.

There are three posts in front of the hide and they are all just under 20 metres from the hide. The left-hand post is of medium height, the middle post is very short and is only just visible above the grass bank in front of the hide, and the right-hand post is tall. When I arrived, the Kingfisher (a female) was on top of the tall right-hand post. Sadly, with the sun now low and golden, this post was totally shaded by the nearby trees whilst the background was still in full golden sun. This presented an interesting photographic challenge which I partially manage to rise to.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (female) - Leicestershire
She fished from this post for a while before heading down to the far end of the pond and disappearing from sight. For the next quarter of an hour we had fleeting glimpses before she returned in front of the hide, landing on the middle post, which was in sun. I eventually managed to find a spot in the hide from which, if I stood on tip-toe, I could get a shot without the bird being obscured by the intervening grass. With the golden light on her, the blue plumage took on a somewhat greener hue than I usually see.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (female) - Leicestershire
Fortunately she only fished from this middle post for a short while, before moving to the left-hand post, which was also in sun, giving the greenish hue to her plumage.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (female) - Leicestershire
After this she returned to the right-hand post before disappearing to the nearby brook.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (female) - Leicestershire
It had been another spellbinding session in the presence of this wonderful bird. I think that this will be my last Kingfisher post - for this year at least!

Thank you for dropping by. I suspect that my next post might feature an alien!!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Launde - on 24th September, 2017

I'd decided to have a run out to the east of Leicestershire to see if I could find any Little Owls, as they have been worryingly thin on the ground lately. I didn't see any on my outward run so headed off to Launde Abbey to see if the small pond by the road junction held any dragonflies. 

To my surprise, there were more dragonflies there than I'd ever seen before, although they were all Common Darters. What is more, almost all of them were either engaged in mating or in ovipositing in tandem. 

Here are a couple of males that I found, which were not preoccupied with the mating process!

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Launde Abbey
Here are a couple of shots of mating pairs.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (mating pair) - Launde Abbey
And here are some shots of these dragonflies ovipositing. They fly in tandem and the male positions the female so that she dips the end of her abdomen into the water to oviposit.

Hopefully, the last few images will give some idea of the orgiastic atmosphere of the situation!

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (pair ovipositing) - Launde Abbey
There were times when I got four and five pairs in shot, but the focus on some of the pairs was way out.

I had limited time available here but, shortly after departing, I had a pleasant short session with a Red Kite.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - near Launde Abbey
Sadly, no owls were seen on the homeward run either.

I returned to Launde Abbey with Lindsay nine days later - we had a most enjoyable lunch there - and a very quick stop by the pond showed that the Common Darters were still at it! I hope this means a strong population next year - I understand that the larvae take just a year to develop.

Thank you for dropping by. I'm currently unsure what my next post will feature.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

His Royal Highness, and supporting cast - on 17th September, 2017

It had been ten days since I'd last visited the Kingfishers, so I decided to return. This time, unlike on my previous two visits which were in 'cloudy-bright' weather conditions, the weather was 'sunny spells'.

I stopped at the first location just as a female Kingfisher was leaving a relatively near post. I sat and watched for a while but she stayed at the far end of the pond, only landing when out of sight. She soon flew off to the nearby brook.

As I made my way to the second location there were a few Common Darter dragonflies around. 

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Leicestershire
I arrived at the hide to find two people who had spent all morning there and only got a fleeting glimpse of a Kingfisher - it was looking as if I might not be lucky.

Because of the relatively warm sunny weather there were a few dragonflies visible from the hide. This one perched conveniently close.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Leicestershire
In the event, I only had to wait just over half an hour before a male Kingfisher arrived and obliged by landing quite close to the hide - although the sun had gone behind a cloud.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (male) - Leicestershire
On my first visit, a gentleman who voluntarily looks after the site had commented that he'd like to find an alternative stick to one of the ones that were in place for the Kingfishers to perch on as it was a bit smooth and shiny. On my subsequent visit, I'd taken with me what I hoped would be a suitable stick, and left it for him to do with as he wished. I was, therefore, delighted to see that 'my stick' was now in place and being used to advantage. Here's one of the Kingfisher on 'my stick'.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (male) - Leicestershire
 From its texture, you might recognise 'my stick' in some of the subsequent images.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (male) - Leicestershire
The bird spent a full 15 minutes here before departing to the brook. I waited for another hour, but it didn't return in that time. However, I did take a few other shots. Here's one of a Migrant Hawker dragonfly which landed on 'my stick'.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Leicestershire
 A Wren briefly landed on one of the other 'kingfisher sticks'.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - Leicestershire
Mute Swans might be everywhere, but there's no denying that they are among the most graceful of birds. I couldn't resist the photographic conditions at one point.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Leicestershire
The weather started to change dramatically and so I set off towards my car. I had to take refuge for half an hour in another hide when there was a sudden torrential rain shower. I then made my way home.

It had been another enchanting interlude with the Kingfisher. I have another post up my sleeve  on the subject of Kingfisher and that one will be a little different.

Thank you for dropping by. My next post will probably feature dragonflies, and maybe another bird. 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Garden - September, 2017

It was a very strange September in our garden. Bird numbers plummeted mid-month, saving a small fortune in bird food but, overall, a disappointing situation.

Things started OK, with Chiffchaff and Long-tailed Tit showing from time to time. However, a Sparrowhawk was starting to make its presence felt. This, ultimately, resulted in the birds deserting the garden - which, at least, slowed down the predation rate.

Further disruption started on 18th September when heavy machinery moved onto the land behind our garden to start the groundworks for four bungalows being built. This work has now stopped because some clever person designed them so that one of them had a wall and kitchen window just 6 inches  (15 cm) from our next-door neighbour's 2 metre high back fence, and omitted to tell him that they'd need to take his fence down and put up scaffolding a metre inside his fence line. He was also told that when they dug the trench for the foundations, his fence would probably collapse into the trench. Naturally, he wasn't impressed, and the negotiations are ongoing!

The downside of this building work from our point of view is that, up until they started, we had up to five Hedgehogs each night coming into our garden through a hole in the back fence. Since the work started we're now only seeing one or two each night. I fear that some of them may have perished.

Three Siskin (females) and a Willow Warbler showed for a while on 16th September, but I didn't get any photos. Nuthatch put in an appearance the following day. Nuthatch and Willow Warbler visited the following week also. 

I did get some shots of the Sparrowhawk on 4th September.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - our garden
Fortunately it didn't catch anything on this occasion as we had young Bullfinches around.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (juvenile) - our garden
We occasionally see dragonflies flying in our garden but, as we no longer have a pond, they seldom land. However, on 20th September, a female Southern Hawker did land. Unfortunately it was high up in a mature Viburnum. Photography was not great as I had to stand on a stepladder 'no hands' on uneven ground! I shot off a few frames before the wobbles set in.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) (female) - our garden
 I went back a little later and it had slewed onto its side.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) (female) - our garden
The next time I looked, it had gone.

We're hoping the building work recommences soon as when it's finished we can settle down and hope to get the wildlife back. In the meantime, fingers are crossed!

Thank you for dropping by. My current thoughts are that my next post will feature a more recent visit to the Kingfishers - I've waited years for them, and may never get another chance like these!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Back With Royalty - on 7th September, 2017

Although it was a relatively dull day weather-wise, on Thursday 7th September I decided on a return visit to see if I could find the Kingfishers. If you missed it, you can find my post on my first encounter with the Kingfishers here. En route to the main location I called in at another spot on the off-chance. This paid off as there was a female Kingfisher in attendance.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (female) - Leicestershire
After a while, with the bird still there, I headed off to the main location. No Kingfishers were seen for a while, so I kept my shutter finger exercised with the young Heron that is often here.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) (juvenile) - Leicestershire
I only had to wait three quarters of an hour before the male Kingfisher appeared. At first it kept to the other side of the water.

I'd been hoping for some flight shots and so had set up my camera with this objective. However, there were few opportunities. This sequence is the nearest that I got to success.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (male) - Leicestershire
Eventually the bird came nearer, but stayed only briefly.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (male) - Leicestershire
It was less than a 20 minute wait before the female Kingfisher arrived. She stayed relatively close to the hide, but went again after 4 minutes.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (female) - Leicestershire
I hung on for another hour, but the Kingfishers didn't return in that time. It had been a most enjoyable return visit to the Kingfishers.

Thank you for dropping by. My next post will possibly feature a couple of garden visitors.