Notes on Use of This Blog

1. I have a policy that I always reply to comments on my blog, even if it's just to say thank you.

2. Please don't submit comments that include your own web address. For obvious reasons, they will not be published.

3. I'm now on Twitter - @RichardPegler1

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Strumpshaw Fen Pt.1 - 7th to 8th (lunch time) July, 2019

I had, originally at this time, intended to have three days based in the New Forest (Hampshire) to enjoy the dragonflies there, with an excursion to Thursley Common (Surrey) also included. However, the weather forecast was not that good - but the weather forecast for Norfolk was somewhat more favourable.

I had been booked to have a couple of nights in Norfolk in mid-June, but had to cancel at short notice for health reasons. My main objective then was to have been to try and photograph Swallowtail butterfly and Norfolk Hawker dragonfly. I decided, therefore, to cancel the accommodation booking for the New Forest (at 24 hours notice, with no penalty) and book a couple of nights at the Travelodge, Acle, in Norfolk to see if I could catch a late Swallowtail, and some Norfolk Hawkers. 

I wasn't able to set off for Norfolk until after lunch on the Sunday due to family commitments.  This meant that I didn't arrive at Strumpshaw Fen until early evening. As I left Norfolk at lunch time on the Tuesday, this amounted to little more than a day and a half at Strumpshaw fen. However, I saw so much in that time that I have found it necessary to split my report into two parts, with the first part accounting for the time up until lunchtime on the Monday!

Sunday, 7th July

It was a three and a half hour drive from my home, and at around two thirds of the way there I started getting some unpleasant sensations in my chest. Little did I know that this was pneumonia and pleurisy starting to rear its ugly head, and I decided to continue, rather than turn back. If I had turned back, I might not have found myself in the position I am in today, but then I would not have had the wonderful experiences that I had during the visit.

It was shortly after 6pm that I arrived at Strumpshaw Fen, having taken the decision to drive straight there, and check in at the Travelodge later. I set off down Tinkers' Lane, having found this a useful place to visit one evening last year. It did not, however, deliver on this occasion. I then took the railway crossing at the far end of the lane and started heading for the Lackford Run, to the north of the site. It had become rather cloudy by now.

I did see some distant hawker dragonflies, which were almost certainly Norfolk Hawkers, but too far away to positively ID. I used a blue damselfly to check the settings on my camera, without actually taking a good look at the damselfly itself (I was looking for hawkers), and continued on my way. Disappointingly, I saw nothing photographable at all until I eventually reached the River Yare, and Tower Hide, where I took a few shots of a Black-headed Gull.

I continued my travels alongside the Yare until I reached the Sandy Wall part of the Fen Trail and headed back to my car, with no more shots in the bag.

Having stopped at 'the Scottish restaurant' for a quick bite to eat, I then checked in at the Travelodge and started to review the few shots I'd taken. To my utter surprise, I found that the blue damselfly that I'd used to check my settings was a male Variable Damselfly  - a 'lifer' for me! If I'd have known at the time, I'd have spent more time photographing it.

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) (male) - Strumpshaw Fen
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Strumpshaw Fen
I turned in relatively early that night, having set my alarm for 05h00.

Monday, 8th July (until lunch time)

I popped over to the M&S food store to buy some milk for breakfast (I'd brought cereal and fruit with me) and a picnic lunch. Having sorted myself out, I set off for Strumpshaw Fen again, arriving at around 07h30. My intention was to focus on the southern half of the site. I'd not gone far before I saw a sign advising of the presence of Twayblade orchids, and soon found two. One was in a sorry state but the other was in fair condition.

Common Twayblade (Listera ovata) - Strumpshaw Fen
I then took the Sandy Wall part of Fen Trail to Fen Hide, taking a shot of an Azure damselfly that had ventured out early.

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - Strumpshaw Fen
There was little to see from Fen Hide at that time and I returned to Sandy Wall and spotted a pair of very distant Barn Owls that were spending most of their time either side of the Pump House Track, over 600 metres away. I did manage a couple of shots when they came a little nearer.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - Strumpshaw Fen
As they seemed to be spending most of their time in the same area, I decided to set off towards them to see if I could get any better shots. It took me a while to get there via Meadow Trail and the track beside the Yare, but I was soon in position on Pump House Track, and getting the best views of Barn Owl that I have ever had. 

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - Strumpshaw Fen
At around 100 metres from the track was a Barn Owl box. This contained young, but the adults were not seen delivering food.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) (juvenile)- Strumpshaw Fen
After a while, the show was over, and I made my way back towards the Yare, stopping to photograph some damselflies as I did so.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (immature male) - Strumpshaw Fen
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - Strumpshaw Fen
Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Strumpshaw fen
A walk alongside the Yare brought a few butterflies and a distant view of a Marsh Harrier.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - Strumpshaw Fen
Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Strumpshaw Fen
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) (male) - Strumpshaw Fen
On the Meadow Trail I'd hoped to find Norfolk Hawker, but I found that the most productive area from last year had been closed off because there were cattle there. I did, however, find a few dragonflies elsewhere on the trail.

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (male) - Strumpshaw Fen
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (female) - Strumpshaw Fen
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Strumpshaw Fen
As I approached the ramp that led from Meadow Trail to Sandy Wall, a small bird popped out in front of me. It took me a while to realise exactly what I was seeing. Grasshopper Warbler is a bird that I had only ever heard, and is notorious for being invisible and if one is lucky enough to see one it's usually only a glimpse through foliage. Here was one, totally confiding, and right in front of me!

Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naevia) - Strumpshaw Fen
Eventually it disappeared off into the reeds, and I headed along Sandy Wall towards the Woodland Trail. At a distance, male Scarce Chasers and male Black-tailed Skimmers can look quite similar and both occur at Strumpshaw Fen at the same time. A good rule of thumb is if it's on the ground it will probably be a skimmer, and if it's off the ground it's probably a chaser. Sometimes they try to fool you!

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (male) - Strumpshaw Fen
I was keen to visit the Woodland Trail because it can be good for butterflies in areas where the sun breaks through and there are brambles. However, the first thing I photographed was a Red Admiral on a fern.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - Strumpshaw Fen
I got to a place on the trail where I'd seen White Admiral last year, and soon spotted one after I arrived. It did not, however, give me any photo opportunities, but a female Ruddy Darter did.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (female) - Strumpshaw Fen
To my delight, a Silver-washed Fritillary arrived in the area and perched.

Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) - Strumpshaw Fen
A gentleman that I'd been talking to called from along the path that he'd got a White Admiral. I trundled up there and managed a couple of shots before it flew.

White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) - Strumpshaw Fen
It had been a long, but wonderful morning, and it was now time for me to return to my car to have my picnic lunch and take a rest ( I was still having chest problems). 

This post is quite long enough already, so Pt.2 will feature the afternoon of 8th (mainly dragonflies and damselflies), and the morning of  9th (mainly birds), and another 'lifer'!

Thank you for dropping by.

Thursday 22 August 2019

Sence Valley Forest Park - on 4th July, 2019

Some months ago, when discussing a Barn Owl survey with Sallie Corfield, who is Community Ranger for The National Forest, Forestry Commission England, Sallie (who knew of my dragonfly interest) invited me to visit Usbourne Pool, in the Sence Valley Forest Park. She and a colleague showed me the pool, which looked quite promising, although it was long before the start of the dragonfly season. Sallie was keen for me to report on what Odonates were at the pool, and also invited me to assist at a couple of events planned for later in the year. These were invitations that I was happy to accept.

For various reasons, including health and weather, I did not manage to visit until the afternoon of  Thursday 4th July. 

Having parked my car at the lower car park, I set off towards Usbourne Pool. I had not gone very far at all, however, before I reached a bridge over a stream. Looking over the bridge I saw a couple of male Banded Demoiselle. I was able to get down to the water's edge below the bridge, and one of the demoiselles obliged for some photos.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Sence Valley Forest Park
I kept my eyes open, but saw very little until I reached Usbourne Pool, towards the west side of the park.

On arrival, I was immediately impressed by what was visible. A Ruddy Darter was close to my arrival point.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Sence Valley Forest Park
Emperors were around, with a female ovipositing and a couple of males occasionally interacting with each other on the wing. I spent most of my time here trying to photograph these.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (female - ovipositing) - Sence Valley Forest Park
Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Sence Valley Forest Park
When my arms started to ache with attempting the flight shots, I resorted to recording some of the other species here. I was particularly pleased to see Red-eyed Damselfly here as, in the past, I have travelled out-of-county to find these. However, this species stayed distant on this occasion.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) (male + female in tandem) - Sence Valley Forest Park
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - Sence Valley Forest Park
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male + female in cop) - Sence Valley Forest Park
Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (immature male) - Sence Valley Forest Park
Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Sence Valley Forest Park
A few Blue-tailed Damselflies were seen, but not photographed and a blue hawker was seen briefly a few times at a great distance and also not photographed - if it wasn't so early in the year I'd have guessed at Migrant Hawker.

Soon after setting off back towards the car park, I found a Black-tailed Skimmer on the path, but it wasn't very obliging.

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (male) - Sence Valley Forest Park
I checked below the bridge over the stream again before reaching my car, and there were two female Banded Demoiselle there. Both, however, were in awkward positions and I did not manage any shots with the whole of the body in focus. I include these two, however, as I think they show that the female is just as spectacular as the male, although very different.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (female) - Sence Valley Forest Park
On the basis of what I saw at Sence Valley Forest Park that afternoon, I resolved to spend much more time there. Usbourne Pool was not an ideal place for observation and photography as only a small length of its margin is accessible, but it's still a great place. Sadly, a week after this visit I fell ill, and had to cancel my attendance at the two planned events, and it looks as if I might not be able to make it back there before the end of this year's dragonfly season - but fingers are crossed!

My thanks to Sallie for an introduction to this place, and my apologies for not being able to monitor it for the season - hopefully next year!?

Thank you for visiting. I have a feeling that my next post might feature a visit to Norfolk which didn't turn out as expected, but provided some wonderful and unexpected encounters. It will be a very long post (unless I split it) - sorry Diane!

Friday 16 August 2019

Heather Lake - on 18th June, 2019

Not having been out for a while, my blog, over the next few weeks, will be be visiting some of my excursions from earlier in the year.

The dragonfly season got off to a relatively late start in this region. A visit to Heather Lake at the beginning of June just turned up a few damselflies and was not worth reporting on. This day was a little better, and gave me my first local dragonfly of the year.

The walk from my car to the lake passed through two wooded areas. Speckled Wood butterflies were around. 

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - on walk to Heather Lake
Once at the lake, I was disappointed to see relatively few damselflies around. Those present were, primarily, Common Blue Damselfly, with very few Azure Damselflies seen (and none successfully photographed). I didn't do well with the Common Blues, but here are a few for the sake of completion.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (teneral female) - Heather Lake

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Heather Lake
I was half way round the lake and had not spotted a single dragonfly when I noticed a Four-spotted Chaser low down in long grass, and clearly in trouble. I investigated and found that it was missing its right fore-wing. I also noticed that it was the first time I'd seen f. praenubila of this species, with extended dark markings on the wing tips. I moved it out of the damp grass and onto something more substantial where it would be dry. It did not however look good when I returned half an hour later, and was back, low-down in the vegetation.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata f. praenubila) (damaged male) - Heather Lake
There were a number of other insects that I found interesting, although I do not know much about them so my identification might be awry - please let me know if/when you spot mistakes!

One fly, in particular I found fascinating as it was brilliant green. I'd not seen one before but, apparently, they are quite common. It was, however, difficult to photograph as it always landed low down in the grass.

Sawfly (Rhogogaster sp.) - Heather Lake
Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) - Heather Lake
Sawfly (Tenthrodo sp.) - Heather Lake
Moths were represented by one caterpillar and one adult micromoth.

Vapourer (Orgyia antigua) (larva) - Heather Lake
(Agapeta hamana) - Heather Lake
I couldn't resist a shot of one of nature's perfections - a seed head. I have no idea what the plant was!

Seed head - Heather Lake
It had started to rain, so I headed for home, with a pleasant surprise as I made my way through one of the wooded sections - a fox was briefly on the path ahead of me. I made a mess of the photo in the poor light and in my haste, but here it is anyway.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) - near Heather Lake
It hadn't been the most successful of visits, but I did find it interesting and rewarding.

Thank you for dropping by. I'm not sure what my next post will feature, but I expect it to be relatively short and have dragonfly content again.