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Saturday, 21 May 2016

A Magical, Mostly Macro, Day - on 17th May, 2016

With a relatively good weather forecast for Tuesday (mainly sunny, with light breezes) I took the decision to have a day out seeking dragons, damsels, and butterflies.

Wanting to get to the target areas as soon as possible, I bypassed my usual owling sites and took the quick route to Rutland Water. Here, I made directly to the Egleton side of the reserve, and the dipping pond near the centre. I'd seen Hairy Dragonfly at this spot last year and was hoping for a repeat. I spent some time searching the area, but the only photos I took were of a Green-veined White butterfly.

Green-veined White (Pieris napi) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Looking for a more productive site, I set of to the south side of Rutland Water, and the Lyndon Reserve. Outside the Visitor Centre, there is a small pond, which featured in my last post, and I was keen to see what had happened since that visit.

A spider was the first thing I photographed. I don't know what species this one is, but I'm pretty sure that it's one of the Wolf Spiders.

Wolf Spider species (?) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
There were several Red and Black Froghoppers around the pond. These are only approximately 10mm long.

Red and Black Froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
On this visit, I only saw the one newt in the pond, but I did manage some slightly better shots than I did the previous time that I'd seen newts here.

Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) (female) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
The main attraction here was, of course, the damselflies! Whilst they were not particularly numerous on this occasion, they did keep me busy. Once again, however, my photographic efforts were somewhat frustrated by the limited access. I did, briefly, see one damselfly, which I believe was a teneral Azure Damselfly, but all the rest seen were Large Red Damselflies. These were seen in several stages of their life-cycle.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (teneral female - exuvia below) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
At first I thought this next one had not yet emerged, but then I noticed the 'white string' and what appears to be a tear on the back of the thorax, so I believe it's an exuvia.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (exuvia) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
I'm still very much a novice when it comes to the odonata, so please tell me if/when I get something wrong! I believe this next image to be of a teneral male. I'm going by the not fully developed colouration and the slightly drooping abdomen.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (teneral male) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
I think this is either an adult or immature male. I'm more used to seeing adult Large Reds with red on the side of the thorax and a red 'collar', which is why I'm expressing doubt.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
These next two are of adult males as I'm more used to seeing them. Until I started taking macro shots, I'd never appreciated that fabulous metallic top to the head and thorax!

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
Whilst there, I also witnessed this species mating. I found it interesting that there seemed to be a short period (perhaps only lasting five minutes) of orgiastic mating with several pairs in close proximity, and then nothing. This only happened twice in the nearly two hours that I was at this spot.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (mating) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
I was in danger of loosing sight of my main objective for the day, which was a visit to Ketton Quarry - a disused quarry on the eastern edge of the county of Rutland and which has a reputation for its butterflies. I'd never been to this place before, so was looking forward to a visit.

I soon found the place and wandered into the reserve. The first problem I had was in trying to sort out which would be the best location. My first venture was down into an area which I subsequently found out is known by 'the regulars' as 'the Barbecue'. This looked to be an interesting area, and I started to explore.

The first thing of interest that I found was a Bee Fly. I'd never knowingly seen one of these before, although they are, I understand, quite common. I never saw it settle on anything but, fortunately, it had a habit of hovering. I wish I could have frozen that wing motion better. If you want to know more about this fascinating insect, I recommend Phil Gates's post on the subject which you can find here.

Bee Fly (Bombylius major) - Ketton Quarry
Shortly after this I spotted one of my target species - a Grizzled Skipper. I've never photographed this species before. This one was quite obliging.

Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae) - Ketton Quarry
It was while trying to relocate this butterfly after it had flown that I found a Common Lizard. Amazingly, it was only two days previous to this that, in reply to a comment by ADRIAN, on this blog I'd said "if I knew of a place for lizards near here, I'd be there in a flash!". This one didn't present itself out in the open but at least it didn't scurry away when I approached it!

Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara) - Ketton Quarry
It was while I was trying to find the Grizzled Skipper again that two more people arrived. It turned out that the quarry was their 'local patch' and so I gained all sorts of useful information whilst chatting with them.

I continued to explore, and found a Comma.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Ketton Quarry
One of the two gentlemen was slightly limited in his mobility, but the other very kindly offered to show me round the area whilst his friend remained in the Barbecue. I wish I had made a note of this gentleman's name as he was so helpful. 

He first tried to find me Green Hairstreak, but the sun was intermittent and it was a bit breezy in their favoured location, so none were seen. He then took me to another area to try and find Dingy Skipper, and we soon found some. First, though, we found my first Small Heath of the year.

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - Ketton Quarry
We didn't waste any time on this relatively common butterfly as the Dingy Skippers were calling. A pair of skippers gave themselves away by having a period of interaction with each other. Although my guide was carrying a camera, he very generously let me have first shot at getting photos. Here's some of a relatively pristine specimen - I think it's a male. It was the first time that I've photographed this species too!

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) (male) - Ketton Quarry
A short distance away, another Dingy Skipper was found - a dingy Dingy Skipper, as noted by my guide! I think that this was a tatty female.

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) (female) - Ketton Quarry
We then wandered back to the Barbecue to rejoin my companion's friend, who beckoned us over to show us a Grizzled Skipper that he'd been watching.

Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae) - Ketton Quarry
Hopefully, this will not be the last time that I connect with this delightful species.

The two gentlemen departed, and I suddenly realised that it was 16h00 and I was hungry and very thirsty, and had forgotten to have my lunch, not having had anything to drink since 09h00, so I returned to my car, stopping to look at the holes left by Hornet Moth larvae in the base of some nearby trees.

holes left by Hornet Moth (Sesia apiformis) larvae - by Ketton Quarry
The two skippers, and the lizard had been on my target list for the day, and I'd only missed out on Green Hairstreak (butterfly) and Adder (snake). It was now time to head homeward, and try and find some Little Owls en-route. I thought that I was going to be out for a duck, but one was spotted at my LO Site No.41. It occurs to me that, sadly, this is the first image I've posted of a Little Owl for a long while.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
I fully expected the day's excitement to be over, but as I drove away from the owl nest tree I spotted what I took, at first, to be Yellowhammer in the field beside the road - although the location wasn't right. As I got nearer I realised that I was seeing my first Yellow Wagtails of the year. There were four males and two females. I quickly got my car into a position where I could observe, and got the camera out again!

Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) (male) - near my LO Site No.41

Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) (female) - near my LO Site No.41
Now it really was time to head home - after one of the best days I've had in a while!

My thanks to the two gentlemen who helped make my visit to Ketton Quarry so enjoyable.

Please let me know of any corrections I need to apply!

Thank you for dropping by.


  1. Seems like you had a wonderful day, Richard, with a variety of interesting taxa, and discovered a gem of a place to visit again in the bargain. It all sounds pretty good to me.

    1. I really did enjoy that day, David, and was very lucky with the weather - which is more than I can say for the days since then! I hope to be returning to all those locations soon.

      Love to you both - - - - Richard

  2. Thank you for your lovely photos. Very interesting findings :-) Good description moments for you.

    1. Thank you for those kind words, Anne. I'm delighted that you enjoyed this post.

      With my best wishes - - - Richard

  3. A superb post Richard and some excellent macro work. Love the mating Large Red Damselfly shots, something which I have never captured but on the 'to do' list. Keep it up, certainly going in the right direction.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement, Marc, and for your inspiration over the past months which has made me impatient for the onset of spring/summer!

      All thing being equal I'm off on a Hairy Dragonfly hunt tomorrow in the company of an expert! The weather forecast is not good, however!

  4. My goodness what a wonderful variety of critters in this post. I love all the close up details that you would not normally see. Thanks for a wonderfu post and have a great weekend.

    1. Thank you, Margaret. I think that I'd be having a better weekend if the weather was better! I hope that you are faring better over on the other side of the Irish Sea!

      With my best wishes - - Richard

  5. 'One of the best days I've had in a while'....You can say that again Richard, with some excellent macro work here. Can't confirm your Wolf Spider, but looks that way to me, a robust and agile hunter.

    1. Thank you for that, Pete. Sorry to take so long to reply - I've been a bit pre-occupied for the past few days.

      Best wishes - - Richard

  6. WOW, that was a rewarding macro outing even if you didn't manage to find the elusive Hairy dragon.
    It is quite uncommon here too, but we have a couple of interesting sites in the "Landes" area.
    Can't go this year with the removal going on, but next year I hope I'll have opportunities to to go find them.
    Your banner is superb, I love those Large reds.
    The female newt seems to be about to lay her eggs.
    Gorgeous and eclectic series, Richard!
    Huge hugs for both of you and enjoy your sunday... dull here!

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Noushka. It was a most enjoyable day.

      I managed to catch up with Hairy Dragonfly on Sunday, although not photographically. I then had a great 5 hours with White-faced Darter (a bit of a rarity in England on Monday - shot 1,136 frames!!! There will be a post on this when I wade my way through all the photos!

      We've got a few days of dull weather forecast now, so it will porobably be back to the birds - maybe even an owl or two if I'm very lucky!

      Sorry to take so long to reply to you, but I've been busy

      My very best wishes - - - Richard

  7. Thank you for your return comment on my blog, Richard,
    I don't think the Common tern it referred to as "Sea swallow" in anglophone countries, it is just my english translation of one of the french denominations ;-)
    Rats can be cute but some not at all, I can understand your phobic reaction!!!

    1. Not sure why I have that phobia about Rats - I'm fine with other rodents!

  8. Fantastic blog Richard. You did see some wonderful butterflies, dragonflies, lizzard and birds. Love the details in the pictures. And last but not least an LO. Indeed it must have been a wonderful day.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments, Roos. It certsainly was a wonderful day, and I've managed to have two more great days since then. Unfortunately it's going to take me a week to sort out the photos!!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  9. Stunning macro images Richard. But I really like the Common Lizard images. Such a great treat to see.
    The Yellow Wagtails were an added bonus.

    1. Thanks, Doug. That was the first lizard I've seen in a few years. Now I know of this place I shall return, and hopefully find an Adder or two as well!

      I hope your week is going well - - - Richard

  10. Hi Richard, some super images, in particular like the Bee Fly and the Common Lizard, in fact nothing not to like, a super set of images. Regards John

    1. Thanks, John. We must go to that place together sometime, when it's a sunny day. Looks like this Thursday will be dull, however, and probably just one for the birds! See you then - - - Richard

  11. This is a magical post Richard,your Macro captures are to die for,loved the Skipper shots,to get both in the same day is a treat for anybody,brilliant going.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, John. It was a real treat to be able to take those photos. I've been mainly concentrating on Dragonflies since then, with target species being Hairy Dragonfly (not good results), and White-faced Darter (wonderful!).

      Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

  12. What a rewarding day out, I could do with a day like that. My camera skills though are not a patch on yours. We often see Froghoppers here in the garden and we have numerous Bee Flies. The latter are quite a challenge to take photos of. I am though surprised to see a lizard in the UK, I did not know there were any there, of course they are everywhere here, both common and green lizard.
    Hope you are well, take care Diane

    1. It was, indeed, a very special day for me, Diane. It was just what I needed, as I'd been finding myself lacking the inspiration to get out for a while. I'm now fully fired up with enthusiasm! Long may it last!

      I rarely see a lizard in UK but Common Lizard is not a rarity in the right location. Sand Lizard (your green lizard?) is, however, a rarity.

      I'm doing just fine here, thank you. Take good care - - - Richard

  13. Stunningly detailed images Richard, nice post!

    1. Thank you, Paul. I'm getting a kick out of seeing the deatail in small creatures.

      Hopefully I'll get back to the owls soon, but it's been a very disappointing, even depressing, few months on that score!

      Best wishes to you - - - Richard

  14. A great post with a lot of animals in it.
    Butterflies are exceptional photographed.
    You have fantastic macros with.
    The pictures of the eggs in the water off the damsels you have great beautiful immortalized.
    Beautiful damsels fire, and insects are very nice color.
    The sand lizard is also great to see.

    Greetings, Helma

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Helma. I have still got a lot to learn about macro photography! With my best wishes - - - - Richard


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