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Sunday 5 May 2019

Getting Back Into The Groove - 20th to 22nd April, 2019

Please Note:- Due to a change of options relating to comments to blogger, I found myself receiving an annoying level of inappropriate 'anonymous' comments - around 10 per day!  I have, therefore, changed the criterion for acceptance of comments to 'User with Google accounts'. If you find that you are unable to comment on my blog, please read the note below the 'Post a Comment' section at the end of this blog.

Having been out of action for a month, the antibiotics kicked in on Friday 19th April, and I was feeling reasonably chipper on the Saturday, so I decided it was time for a nice gentle short outing. 

Saturday, 20th April

The weather was glorious, and I'd not yet witnessed the start of the 2019 dragonfly season, so I set off to Ticknall Limeyards where I thought there might be a chance of seeing Large Red Damselfly - reliably the first of the dragonflies and damselflies in these parts.

Ticknall is only about 20 minutes drive on country roads from  my home, and I set off mid-morning, arriving at around 10h30.

As I parked my car, I noticed a Bee Fly on the flowers beside the car. I didn't have a fast enough shutter speed (I was only set at 1/1,000 sec.) to freeze the movement of the wings, which is extremely fast, but I was glad to get a capture of one of these delightful insect.

Dark-edged Bee Fly (Bombylius major) - Ticknall
Calling at the large lake, off to the left of the path, a Kingfisher flashed through too quickly for me to even raise my camera.

As I approached the smaller ponds, a National Trust team was busy with habitat management. It was pleasing to hear, when the team leader told me that one of the groups was busy clearing moss from the banks in order to encourage the Dingy Skipper butterfly to use them.

There was no sign of any damselflies or dragonflies at these ponds, but I did see a couple of pairs of mating toads!

Common Toad (Bufo bufo) (male + female mating) - Ticknall Limeyards
There were Orange-tip butterflies flying around, and I tried for some photos, but they never stopped long enough for me to get near them, and I was only carrying the 150 macro lens to save weight for this first outing. The only butterfly I got any sort of shot of was a Green-veined White.

Green-veined White (Pieris napi) (male) - Ticknall Limeyards
After an hour here, it was time to head back. It hadn't been a very productive visit, but it had given me the confidence that I could cope with a trip out - even if it did mean that I had to be well covered up as I was under instruction that, because of the medication I was on, I had to stay out of the sun!

Sunday, 21st April

With the weather forecast to remain 'scorchio' I felt that it was time to head further afield. I fancied going to Ketton Quarry, which is around 60 miles (95 km) from my home, in the hope of finding my first Green Hairstreak butterflies of the year, and a vague hope of finding Adder, although the best time to see these is early in the morning when they come out to warm themselves.

I didn't have an early start, and took my 'owling route' to Rutland, not seeing a single owl. However, at one place, where I usually have to slow down for pheasants in the road, I noticed a pair of pheasants with very unusual colouration. As if it isn't bad enough that vast numbers of birds are bred and imported as gun-fodder for barbaric shooters - it now seems that they are breeding them in odd colours (to try and make it more interesting for when the shooters get bored?).

unusually coloured gun-fodder - near Lowesby
A more pleasant sight was enjoyed near Burrough, where a Kestrel was in a tree by the road. As usual, it didn't stop there for long.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (female) - near Burrough
Continuing on to Ketton, I arrived at mid-day, and sat in the car for my picnic lunch before setting out into the quarry area. Just inside the gate into the area, a Long-tailed Tit was in a bush, about to enjoy a juicy caterpillar!

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - Ketton Quarry
I took a few shots of various items in order to exercise my shutter finger, and play with camera settings. One of these items was a Common Heath moth. Little did I know at the time that this day-flying moth is considered very scarce in Leicestershire and Rutland, but Ketton Quarry is its main stronghold.

Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria) (female) - Ketton Quarry
Seven-spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) - Ketton Quarry
I'd not long been in the quarry before I bumped into David Needham ('Mr. Ketton Quarry') who kindly alerted me to the presence of Green Tiger Beetles and, almost immediately, I spotted one. However, my shots didn't come to much (more on that later). David also informed me that Adder sightings had been declining alarmingly over recent years and there was concern that isolated pockets of these snakes were resulting in serious gene-pool issues. He had, however, just had a brief sighting of a Grass Snake.

Having had a look round the area usually favoured by snakes, I walked up to the area that is usually good for Green Hairstreak butterflies. It took a while to find one but, when I did, this tiny jewel was (as is quite usual for this species) quite cooperative.

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) - Ketton Quarry
I watched this butterfly for some time and, for a while, it defended its territory against a female Holly Blue. The Holly Blue wasn't so cooperative, photographically, but I did get some shots.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) (female) - Ketton Quarry
Having spent some time with the hairstreak and blue, I set off to explore two other parts of the site. There were many more Common Heaths around, but they are difficult to photograph - very alert and skittish, and tend to settle briefly, where they are obscured by foliage!

Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria) (male) - Ketton Quarry
There were Orange-tip and Brimstone butterflies around too, but I failed to get a shot of an Orange-tip, and only got a very distant shot of a Brimstone.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (female) - Ketton Quarry
David had tipped me off about a good location for Green Tiger Beetle at one of the most remote corners of the site, and so I made my way there. 

On the way, I stopped to take some shots of a Speckled Wood butterfly, and what I believe to be a Common Sun Beetle (please let me know if you think I'm wrong with the beetle).

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - Ketton Quarry
Common Sun Beetle (Amara aenea) - Ketton Quarry
When I arrived in the area that David had told me about, I found no shortage of Green Tiger Beetles. However, as mentioned earlier, my attempts at photography resulted in an exceedingly poor crop of images. Part of this was due to the fact that these tend to be always on the move, and are extremely alert, tending to fly ahead as one approaches. However, even my shots, when I was able to approach one turned out awful - mainly through being out of focus. I'm not sure whether this was due to the old electrical disconnect between lens and body that occasionally happens with my set up, or whether the iridescence of the beetle was fooling the auto-focus system. I came away thinking I'd got so many good shots in the bag, and got home to total disappointment. Here are a few shots that I have managed to salvage to some degree. I did notice that a couple of the beetles had a brownish hue.

Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris) - Ketton Quarry
After this, it was time to leave. Nothing of interest was seen on my way home.

I must return here soon on a warm sunny day (if we get one!) and try again for those beetles, and maybe the Grizzled Skippers and Dingy Skippers will be out too!?

Monday, 22nd April

Having had a relatively energetic day the previous day, I had a more relaxed morning visit this day, deciding to try Heather Lake, which is quite local to me, to see if I could find Large Red Damselflies, as I had not yet had my first damselfly or dragonfly sightings this year.

Having parked my car, I set off to the lake, stopping to photograph a couple of Speckled Wood butterflies en-route

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) -near Heather Lake
On reaching the lake, I set off on a slow clockwise circuit round the edge, carefully looking for evidence of damselfly emergence. I'd seen absolutely nothing of interest until I got to the far end, where there were a few Great Pond Snails in the water.

Great Pond Snail (Lymnaea stagnalis) - Heather Lake
The lake is almost exactly 500 metres in circumference, and I'd got nine tenths of the way round and had come to the conclusion that I was not going to see a damselfly when one flew up out of the grass beside me. I didn't manage any shots of this one, but I found another one just a few metres further on and did get some shots. This recently emerged specimen had a purple hue to the top of the head and thorax, and I have never noticed this colouration of this species at this stage of development before.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (teneral male) - Heather Lake
Having completed my trip round the lake, I decided to re-visit the first part I'd been round. At one point I noticed several spiders on dead rushes. I took photos of two of them. To me, they look slightly dissimilar, but I guess that they are probably of the same species. I would welcome any suggestions.

spiders - Heather Lake
Further round the lake, for the 2nd time, I found three more newly emerged Large Red Damselflies. I was only able to get a good look at one, and this too was a male.
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (teneral male) - Heather Lake
It was now time to get home for lunch. I'd had the great satisfaction of finding my first damselflies of the year, but was disappointed at not finding any exuviae. It was also satisfying that I'd managed excursions on three consecutive days without significant detriment to my wellbeing!

Sadly, since then, the weather has not for the most part been conducive to further excursions for butterflies and dragonflies, but I'm hoping that (to quote Sam Cooke) 'a change is gonna come'!

Thank you for your visit.