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Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Exciting Times and Other Observations - 24th August to 6th September, 2020

I reverted back to the old Blogger user interface in the hope that they'd sort o
ut some of the problems in the interim. Some of them seem to be sorted, but I still have issues with the inability to present images at a specific size

This blog post covers just one long trip out with many photos taken, and an update on my garden observations with some exciting days but few photos taken.

Tuesday,  25th August

This day was remarkable for me in that I managed a count of at least 35 House Sparrows in the garden - which probably explains why we also had a brief visit from a male Sparrowhawk. It was also good to see a Willow Warbler visit that day too.

Thursday, 27th August

I happened to look out of my study window at dusk, and spotted a bat flying around the garden. It seemed to be contained by an invisible force-field at the garden boundaries. Since then, I have made a point of looking out at dusk and it seems that this bat is a daily visitor. I'm wondering what species it is and where it roosts at night during the day.

Friday, 28th August

There was real excitement when I checked the garden trail cams as we were visited by an extremely small Hedgehog. This is the first time ever, after many years with Hedgehogs, that we've had the pleasure of seeing a'baby' Hedgehog. I'll save the video for the following night's sighting.

Saturday, 29th August

The video of the young hog on this day showed that it was fending well for itself and was adept at finding its own food, even to the extent that it knew to roll its prey to clean it before eating it. I subsequently had my suspicions confirmed that we had two young hogs visiting, and both are growing very quickly - as they need to if they are to survive the winter. At the end of the clip, I show one of the larger of our other visiting hogs, just to give you a size comparison. 

Monday, 31st August

We had further excitement when a female Blackcap visited the garden briefly during breakfast in the conservatory. Sadly, my camera was not to hand. By the time 4 Long-tailed Tits arrived with 3 Blue Tits and a Great Tit I did have my camera with me and managed a couple of shots of one of them. I missed getting a shot of the Willow Warbler that they brought with them, however.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - garden on 31st August, 2020

For the past few years we have let some of the sunflower hearts from the bird feeders grow in the garden - please note, however, that I do have to sweep up most of the spillage each night as sunflower hearts are loved by Hedgehogs, but are bad for them as it weakens their bones. I find the differences in the resulting plants to be quite remarkable. Most have single flower heads, but some have multiple heads and are quite showy. Here is one of them.

Sunflower  var. (Helianthus var.) - garden on 31st August, 2020

Wednesday, 1st September
This day started with a forecast of sunny spells with little breeze, and relatively warm temperatures for the time of year, so I decided to have an afternoon out, taking a picnic lunch with me.  I had two prime objectives, the first being to see if the Willow Emerald Damselflies had managed to establish a presence at Eyebrook Reservoir after them being a 'county first' for the species last year, and the second being a follow up on a tip-off from my old pal John Truman about a Red Kite location in Northamptonshire. 
I arrived at Eyebrook and had a quick check around on the bridge, spotting a Kingfisher in the Willow by the inflow, 100 metres away. Not detailed shots of a Kingfisheer at this range, but I'm quite pleased with the atmosphere in these images.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) - Eyebrook Reservoir
I had a quick picnic lunch before doing a thorough check of the brook below the bridge. Day-flying Silver Y moths were very active.

Silver Y (Autographa gamma) - Eyebrook Reservoir
I soon spotted my first Willow Emeralds with a pair in tandem on a fence post. This was more than a little exciting for me as Willow Emeralds had been out for a month or more in the south of England, but my recent visits to Eyebrook had not revealed any.
Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis) (male + female in tandem) - Eyebrook Reservoir
I very soon found a lone male.
Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis) (male) - Eyebrook Reservoir
- and then a lone female, but in a very awkward postion for photography - this was taken with the lens at the full 500mm (as were most of my shots from this session) and then heavily cropped. 
Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis) (female) - Eyebrook Reservoir
 I spent some time trying to photograph a mating pair, but they kept stopping in extremely difficult places, but I did eventually get a brief opportunity for a reasonable shot.
Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis) (male + female in cop) - Eyebrook Reservoir
I did, however, get several opportunities to photograph pairs in tandem.

Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis) (male + female in tandem) - Eyebrook Reservoir
The single lone male also gave me some reasonable photographic opportunities and I managed some closer shots with the lens wound back a bit. The second of the two below shows the side of the thorax with the spur that is a diagnostic ID feature for this species.

Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis) (male) - Eyebrook Reservoir
Whilst there, I saw at least three pairs of Willow Emerald, plus one single male and one single female. I also saw Southern Hawker (male) (not successfully photographed) and a male Banded Demoiselle.
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Eyebrook Reservoir
I also took some photos of what, at the time, I believed to be a hoverfly. However, I now think that I have photographed two different species! The first, with its 'snout', is Rhingia campestris. However, the second, although it looks a little similar, does not have the diagnostic snout, and has a uniform bronze-coloured thorax. Any help with this one would be appreciated! My thanks to 'Conehead54' for suggesting that this is
Ripponensia splendens.
Rhingia campestris - Eyebrook Reservoir

probable Ripponensia splendens - Eyebrook Reservoir
I needed a rest from waving the camera about, and so decided to depart and head to the Northamptonshire location. It took a little finding but, having been aided by a helpful and friendly local person, I found it in the end, taking the recommended public footpath.

As I entered the area I saw a Red Kite on the ground in the middle of the next field to the one that I had entered. I'd only got a few metres down the footpath before it took off and departed.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - Northamptonshire
The next 'red kite' I saw was somewhat different!!

Taylorcraft J-1N Alpha G-AJYB - Northamptonshire

This little gem was even older than I am (just!), being built in 1945. It sports a De Havilland engine.

I spent an hour on the footpath, sitting on the stile that separates the first field from the second, and had just four very distant sightings of Red Kite, with almost no useable photos. This next shot is the best that I could manage.
Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - Northamptonshire
It even got to the point that I was looking for anything I could photograph, including a passing Woodpigeon!
Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) - Northamptonshire
I decided to give up but noticed a Red Kite lurking in a tree at the far side of the ploughed field and so decided to walk a bit further up the footpath which ran at an angle to the bird's position so that I was not walking directly towards it. Halfway up the path I took this record shot.
Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - Northamptonshire
I had just taken this shot when another Red Kite appeared and decided to put on a performance for me. Here are some of the shots I managed and am quite pleased with.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - Northamptonshire
I noticed that all the Red Kites that I had seem seemed to be in partial moult of their feathers, and this might be why they were not showing so well as it seems they usually do. 
It was now time to head back to my car for some much-needed liquid refreshment, and to start my journey homeward.
My route took me back via Eyebrook and so I stopped at the bridge to see if anything else was showing. I'm glad I did as I saw a pair of Willow Emeralds on a distant willow branch over the water, with the female ovipositing into the branch - as they do. I think that the image gives the impression that the female is having to put quite a bit of effort into drilling to deposit those eggs. When the eggs hatch, the new larvae drop into the water.

Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis) (male + female (ovipositing)) - Eyebrook Reservoir
When on the bridge, an extremely well-worn and over-mature female Common Darter alighted on the parapet.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Eyebrook Reservoir
My day was now done, and I headed home after a very rewarding outing.

Saturday, 5th September

Nothing remarkable was observed in the garden until this day, when a Willow Warbler again arrived with a small mixed tit flock which included a Coal Tit - a species that has been elusive this year. All I photographed, however, was a Magpie.
Magpie (Pica pica) - garden on 5th September, 2020
Sunday, 6th September
We end this reporting period with another minor 'high' in that we were visited by a male Blackcap (the previous one at the beginning of the week being a female), and the Willow Warbler returned. Sadly, neither of these two were photographed, so all I can offer from that day is a juvenile Woodpigeon.

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) (juvenile) - garden on 6th September, 2020

Thus ends my blog post. My next post will probably feature an outing from last week and a couple of items from the garden - and maybe a bit more, as well!

Take great care and stay safe.


  1. Some great shots of the Willow Emeralds. They;ve turned up in my part of west London over the last couple of years.

    I wonder if your unidentified fly is the hoverfly, Ripponensia splendens?

    1. Thank you for your kind comment and your ID pointer. It certainly seems to fit the bill for a male Ripponensia splendens to the extent that I shall record it as a 'probable'.

      Delighted to hear that you've got Willow Emeralds near you. If I was living in my old Middlesex home I'd now be looking for them in the River Pinn as I seem to remember it as having a sluggish flow with plenty of ovverhanging trees - it has probably changed out of all recognition, however!

  2. Now Richard, I am a little puzzled when you ponder where the bats might roost at night. Do they not roost during the day, being active from the crepuscular period in the evening through to pre-dawn the following day? As for Red Kites, these are splendid birds indeed. Kites are so graceful in flight. I recall visiting Britain about twenty-five years ago and other than at a location in Wales this species was very uncommon. It seems to have occupied many regions of the country in recent years. There is a bird here called a Mississippi Kite and about twenty years ago I visited friends in a small town in Kansas. They were very anxious to have me go with them to the local baseball diamond to watch their granddaughter play there. I was so entranced watching the Mississippi Kites hawking for insects above the baseball field I missed her home run. My friends have both passed away since then, but they never let me forget it for as long as they lived!

    1. Oh dear - where was my head when I wrote that - you are, of course, absolutely correct David, and I will amend the text forthwith.

      That place in Wales that you refer to was probably Gigrin Farm, near Rhayader. It was/is famous for its Red Kites and when Lindsay and I went there in 2007 we reckon we saw between 300 and 400! There have been a few introduction schemes since then and, having once been extirpated from UK, there is now a healthy population in many areas of UK.

      I was amused by your Mississippi Kite story and you deserved all the ribbing it brought you. Incidentally, I never forget how to spell Mississippi after many years ago someone told me "Em Eye Crinkle-letter Crinkle-letter Eye - Crinkle-letter Crinkle-letter Eye - Hump-back Hump-back Eye".

  3. That's what I like to see Richard, a post full of Willow Emerald shots backed up by your usual excellent photography. Take care.

    1. Thank you, Marc. It was a great relief to find that those Willow Emeralds had managed to set up a sustainable colony. Stay safe - - - Richard

  4. Another good read, with some excellent photographs Richard. Also an interesting piece of info received re Hedgehogs and the Sunflower hearts weakening their bones. Being our Hedgehog guardian, Mrs W has taken note.

    Take Care Stay Safe.

    1. Thank you, Pete. Mealworms and peanuts are another no-no as far as Hedgehogs are concerned, for the same reason. There a link to an interesting article here, which explains in detail.

  5. Congratulations! Incredibly great observations!

  6. Hello Richard, Red Kites stunning and we do not see them here a lot. Your photos are amanzing. The Long tales tit so cute. Love those little birds. Good to see the Hedge hogs have plenty to eat. They will get trough the Winter with all the care you are giving them. And you make great change if you know where the King Fisher makes it nest. Stick a stick in the ground and you will see they will use it for fishing. That is if it is not to far from your home ofcourse.
    Thank you for your reaction on my blog concerning the Ospreys.
    Take care,

    1. The Red Kites in UK are only here because of several reintroduction programmes, Roos, as they were at one time totally absent from UK. However, the introduced colonies seem to be doing extremely well. A few years ago Lindsay and I drove about 160 km south from home to see Lindsay's sister and in the last 30km we counted 44 Red Kites!

      Sadly, I have never found a Kingfisher's nest!

      Thank you for your encouraging words. Stay safe - - - Richard

  7. Hi Richard, The red kite has got to be my favourite bird. I used to travel to Wales many times a year but now, in Sussex, I have got them on my doorstep. On occasions I have them flying over my garden. Stay safe. Mike.

    1. I have only seen Red Kite from my garden twice, Mike, so am delighted to hear that you sometimes get them flying over your garden. They do seem to be doing rather well these days.

      I believe that Gigrin Farm in Wales is still worth a visit!

      Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  8. Beautiful images, I love the Willow Emerald, Long-tailed Tit, and the Red Kite, stunning Richard.

    1. Thank you, Bob, for your very welcome words of encouragement. Stay safe - - - Richard

  9. Hello Richard
    exciting days that you describe, I have had these "problems" with the kingfisher for weeks, just like you are extremely far away so that no good details can be seen. But your other pictures are very nice again ...
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Frank. I hope that one day I will get some better Kingfisher photos. I have had some lucky times in the past - just not since February this year!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  10. Hi Richard and thanks for the comments on my blogs today. I was so excited to see the Little Owl once again.

    As always I love all your photos, but the Long-tailed Tits and the Red Kite are my favourites. I do though love the sunflowers, so bright and cheery always.

    We have bats around here though I seldom see them. The ones I have seen are Pipistrelle bats and although I have no idea where they roost during the day, they make their presence known during the night with all their poop over our car parked in our own barn!!! Sometimes we forget to throw the cover over!!!!!

    Hope those hedgehogs grow quickly so they can can survive winter which suddenly seems to have arrived here!

    Take care and have a good week, best wishes to you both, Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane. I am pleased to report that those young hedgehogs are growing fast so that now it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart from the adults. As of this morning I can confirm that my suspicions that we have more than four Hedgehogs visiting have proven correct. The trail cams showed that we had at least five visit us last night.

      Best wishes to you both - stay safe - Richard

  11. As I was savoring each image of the Willow Emerald, with such fascinating metallic colors, along comes a series of fantastic photographs of the Red Kite! In between the main attractions were sprinkles nuggets of pictorial pleasure such as Long-tailed Tits, Sunflowers, Hoverflies, a Magpie, Woodpigeons and even a Darter!

    What a feast for the senses!

    Thank you for getting out and about, Richard, so you could feed my addiction for Nature!

    Gini and I have been out a lot, lately, and all is well here. We send our best wishes to you and Lindsay.

    1. Thank you, Wally, I don't get out and about as often as I'd like to, but I like to make the most of it when I do! And then, if I can't get out, I can nip into the garden and see what I can find there - or even just take photos from my study window! I'm just so pleased that I have interests that can sustain me in these difficult times. Sadly, Lindsay is finding it more difficult than I am as most of her interests are social ones which have gone by the board in the current circumstances. Unfortunately, she has limited walking ability so there is little we can do outside together unless it is primarily car-based.

      My very best wishes to you both - - - Richard


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