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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.


  1. Nice to see you score at last Richard and obtain your first Damselfly shots of the year. Hopefully the first of many for you to get.

    1. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a bit of favourable weather, Marc. Rather cool and drizzling as I write this!

  2. What a wonderful selection of critters in this post. Love lal the shots of the many butterflies and was interested to see that black coloured Pheasant as a friend had seen something like that the other day and although she not a bird watching, tried to describe it to me and I was at a lose to ID it from her description however now I reckon this is what it was.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Margaret. I guess that those pheasants would have looked black if the sun wasn't shining!

      My best wishes - - - Richard

  3. What a beautiful photography you have done, and the Green Hairstreak, that is my favourite. Well done Richard.

    1. Much as I love damselflies, I think that the Green Hairstreak probably is the winner over the Large Red Damselfly for me too Bob. Thank you for your kind words. My very best wishes - - - Richard

  4. Hi Richard! Incredibly great pictures, and interesting observations! Specially colored Pheasant! (Bombylius major) its caterpillar uses honey from (Andrenidae) and larvae as food. They are often seen flying near the bees nest.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Anne, which are much appreciated. Thank you also for the interesting information about Bombylius major.

      Have a wonderful week ahead, and take good care - - - Richard

  5. Good to see you bright eyed and bushy tailed again. I have decided to do some more macro this year and will polish up the lens.
    As always the photography would be hard to better. The star of this show for me is the last image of the Holly Blue. Real drama in the image. Stunning it is.

    1. Thank you, Adrian. I'm delighted to hear that you're intending to do more macro work this year and I'm looking forward to seeing some of your results. You may be interested to know that, although I used the Sigma 150 macro on the first and third of those days, the second day (with the Holly Blue and the Green Hairstreak) I only had the Sigma 50-500 with me - it doesn't do too badly for macro work.

      I hope that you are not getting too much of this cold spell. Best wishes - - - Richard

  6. Lovely set of photos. I seem to be stuck on insects as well at present. Although we had a frost this morning, the birds are not coming to the garden and the insects are far more common. We had a Scarce Swallowtail in the garden this afternoon which I was delighted actually waited for me to go and get the camera.
    Glad to hear that you are feeling very much better. Take care and do not overdo things.
    Very best wishes for the coming week, Diane

    1. Your insect images are wonderful, Diane. We're doing reasonably well for birds in the garden, but we have had little sunshine for a week or so, and so are not doing so well for insects. The moth trap is out tonight, so I'll see what that brings.

      It's been many years since last saw a Scarce Swallowtail - such a fabulous butterfly, and I'm jealous. You have a knack of making me jealous with your sightings!

      Have a wonderful week ahead, and my best wishes for you to have plenty of sunshine - - - Richard

  7. Good to see you out and about, Richard, with no ill effects. Maybe a bout of nature is the cure you needed. You have a great series of pictures of a variety of organisms but that Common Sun Beetle takes the prize for me. I am sure I have never seen one and it would fascinate me to to end to come across one. Stay well and bring us more tales of Rambles with Richard!

    1. Communing with nature is certainly a great tonic, David, and one I should partake of more often.

      I suspect that, unwittingly, you probably saw a Common Sun Beetle when you were last in UK, as they are, I understand, exceeding common. Coleoptery is, however, a subject that I dare not immerse myself in - I have enough to learn already, with all my current wildlife interests!

      Not doing much in the way of raqmbling at present due to weather constraints but, hopefully, we'll see a turn for the better soon.

      My love to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  8. Hello Richard, glad to read you are on your feet again after being ill. It must have been quite heavy that you where on antibiotics. On your outing you sure did encounter some great insects, butterflies and birds. I love the Green Hairstreak. Still have to see my first one.
    Regards and take good care of yourself.

    1. My health was getting me down a lot, Roos, but I'm fine now, thank you. I don't like to take antibiotics, but it was necessary in this case.

      It was a most enjoyable weekend of excursions, but the weather has not been good since then, except on days when I have had other commitments. I hope that the situation will change soon and that we will get some warm dry weather without wind!

      Take good care. My very best wishes - - - - Richard

  9. Hello Richard
    The pheasants are really unbelievable, which makes people think of everything ...
    great pictures beautiful post
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you, Frank for those kind words. Sadly, those pheasants represent an outdated pastime that I am very much against. My best wishes - - - Richard.

  10. Extraordinario reportaje, todas las fotos son fantásticas. Justamente hoy he estado fotografiando un amplexus de Bufo bufo, estaban en pleno frenesí. Enhorabuena Richard, un abrazo desde España.

    1. Gracias, Germán, por tu visita, palabras amables y por enseñarme una nueva palabra: amplexus. He visto esto en ranas muchas veces, pero nunca antes en sapos. De hecho, rara vez veo un sapo! Con mis mejores deseos - - - Richard

  11. Hello Richard,
    Thanks to an antibiotic cure, you soon felt better again. I read that you had annoying spam responses. I had a number of them, and in behere I marked them as spam and blocked them simultaneously. Fortunately I now have little trouble with it.

    Your photos in this blog are great again and most of all I am jealous (and green) of your beautiful green butterflies !!! Unfortunately I haven't had time for it yet but I think they are great. You show beautiful and beautiful sharp photos of them.
    Of course the other photos are also a pleasure to view :-)

    Have a nice weekend.
    Greetings, Helma

    1. Thank you for those kind words, Helma, but sorry if I made you jealous with the Green Hairstreaks! - they really are beautiful butterflies. It is, however, fortunate that they always sit with their wings closed as they are much less glamorous with them open, with the upper side of the wings being a relatively plain 'milk chocolate' brown!

      With my very best wishes - - - Richard

    2. Hello Richard,
      I am therefore happy that they are always with closed wings hihi .....

  12. Hello Richard!
    As usual you offer a great variety of interesting animals and insects proving this environment is quite healthy, something becoming rare here in France unfortunately.
    The Holly blue and Green Hairstreak butterflies are really stunning and your photos are beautiful!
    I hope you are both well, I wish a great week!

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Carine. I'm sorry to say that the environment, in general, here is in a very poor state. There are pockets where the environment is good, but isolated pockets mean that disaster is virtually inevitable unless corridors are built between them to join them up. We're now seeing restricted gene-pool issues causing collapse of some species. Add to that the disasterous crash in invertebrate numbers, and it gets extremely worrying.

      In spite of that, Lindsay and I are both fine, thank you!

      Take great care. With my very best wishes - - - - Richard

  13. We are dismayed that you have been ill, Richard! We are overjoyed that you appear to be on the mend!

    Our life the past few months has been a bit chaotic, taking care of sick family members and squeezing in a couple of road trips. Hopefully, I will soon manage a blog post to try and begin to catch up.

    This post of yours has certainly lifted my spirits! I may have to sell some property to purchase a macro lens - oh, wait - I have no property to sell. :(

    Seriously, your work is fabulous. Count me among the Green Hairstreak fans. Although, I'm also partial to the bee fly.

    Gini and I truly hope you're feeling better and we trust you and Lindsay are having a wonderful new week!

    1. So sorry to hear of your family's health issues, Wally. I hope that all gets better soon. I'm absolutely fine now, thank you.

      I'm enjoying the macro lens, particularly as it saves me some weight. However, in order to save on weight carried, I find that I make a choice of which lens to take with me before I set out - and sometimes make the wrong choice! I took the macro with me on Tuesday and spent the whole day wishing I'd taken the Sigma 50-500 as there was some amazing Dragonfly action taking place beyond the sensible reach of the 150 macro! I did, however, use it to get more Green Hairstreak images (never seen so many of them in one area before)!

      Have a wonderful weekend, and take good care. My very best wishes to you and Gini - - - Richard

  14. Beautiful photos of the butterflies and the birds. The kestel is my favorite. Greetings Caroline

    1. Thank you for your visit, and your kind words, Caroline.

      I hope you have a great week ahead of you - - - Richard

    2. Thank you for visiting my blog. I follow you now.


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