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Sunday 20 October 2019

Back to Birding - at Rutland Water on 10th October, 2019

With a rather poor run of health this summer, what 'wild time' I have managed has been mainly focused on dragonflies and butterflies. With the season drawing to a close, it was always on  the cards that my birding interest would be revitalised, and so it was that, on this day, I headed to Rutland Water for a spot of birding.

For technical reasons (mainly concerning a Nuthatch in the garden!), I didn't get away from home until just after 10 a.m., so arrived at the car park on the Egleton side at just before mid-day. Having wolfed down my picnic, I headed into the visitor centre to check for any news.

A Spoonbill was visible from the visitor centre, but it was rather distant, and asleep with its head tucked in, so I didn't wait around, particularly as a message had come in via the WhatsApp group to say that a possible Ring-necked Duck had been seen on Lagoon 3, so I set off in that direction. 

The possible Ring-necked Duck became a confirmed Lesser Scaup as I made my way to Lagoon 3. However, I did get briefly distracted by some dragonflies, one of which is perplexing me to this day as I only had a very brief glimpse and it looked like a small hawker but seemed to have a bright completely powder-blue abdomen! I've since come to the conclusion that, unless this was an extremely unusual aberrant, I was seeing things! Here's one dragonfly I did see. 

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male)
Near to that particular darter was a caterpillar which I believe to be that of one of the Tiger moth species. Any help with ID would be appreciated.

possible Tiger sp. (larva)
I made my first stop at Shoveler hide, expecting to find it full as the car park had been full, with the overflow car park in operation. However, there was only one person in there when I arrived, and he was totally unaware of the potential excitement. 

There was little of interest at close quarters, with any ducks being at too great a distance to sort a lone Lesser Scaup from the rest of a raft of Tufted Ducks! I took a shot of a Great White Egret over on the far side of the lagoon, which Google Earth tells me was nearly 400 metres away, and an Egyptian Goose, which was somewhat nearer.

Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - from Shoveler Hide
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) - from Shoveler Hide

We were soon joined by a third person. With little happening, and my two companions chatting away, totally unaware of what might be going on outside the hide, I decided to depart and head round the corner to Buzzard Hide to look at Lagoon 3 from a different angle. Here I found a gentleman with a scope, already well settled in, and who had not yet found the Lesser Scaup. I stayed for a while during which time the gentleman located the bird for a second or two before losing it again. It subsequently transpired that it had departed to the North Arm of Rutland Water.

I had a quick look in at Smew hide, and found myself looking straight into the sun, with not much close in except a female Shoveler, and the photos were grim!

I next moved on the short distance to Crake Hide, which gives onto a corner of South Arm III, and here I stayed for the next two hours as the action was virtually non-stop!

Shortly after my arrival at Crake Hide, a Great White Egret flew in and landed by the far bank. It only stopped briefly, and by the time I'd checked my camera settings (they weren't good!) and looked up again it had departed.

Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - from Crake Hide
A Grey Heron also made a brief appearance.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - from Crake Hide
There were a few Great Crested Grebe, in varying states of plumage, out on the water in front of the hide, and to the right of the hide.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - from Crake Hide
Black-headed Gulls were making a nuisance of themselves, trying to steal fish from the Cormorants.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - from Crake Hide
An immature male Teal had me scratching my head ID-wise for a while.

Teal (Anas crecca) (immature male) - from Crake hide
Twice, a Marsh Harrier passed by - possibly the same individual.

Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) (female) - from Crake Hide (1st pass)

Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) (female) - from Crake Hide (2nd pass)
The real stars of the show were, however, the Little Grebes, Cormorants, and Little Egrets.

At first, two Little Grebes were fishing in a shaded area to the right of the hide, mainly obscured by vegetation. I did manage to get one shot of one of them in the open with a good-sized fish - I'm rather pleased by the effect of the light on the water in this shot.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - from Crake Hide
On my previous visit to Crake Hide, the water level in South Arm III was extremely low and there was just a trickle of water running through the mud in front of the hide. Now, the water level was much higher and came right up to the hide. It seems that the reeds in front of the hide had grown, but had recently been cut, leaving an area of reedy water in front of the hide, surrounded by high reeds. After a while, the Little Grebes moved into the area in front of the hide.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - in front of Crake Hide
At one point, one of the grebes managed to come up from a dive with a dead and decaying fish. I think the second image, below, shows its look of disgust after dropping the corpse back into the water!

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - in front of Crake Hide
The Cormorants were very active and mainly fishing in the water beyond the reeds in front of the hide, and they were very vocal, with noisy squabbles over fish catches.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - from Crake Hide
Occasionally a Cormorant would swim underwater through the reeds (detectable by bubbles) and end up right in front of the hide. They seemed to be very successful in fishing in this area but I failed to get a shot of one with a fish.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - in front of Crake Hide

For me, it was the Little Egrets that really stole the show, however. When I first arrived, they were starting to gather on the far shore.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - from Crake Hide
After a while, they started to disperse to other roost points. The first was to the right of the hide, and totally hidden behind a Willow.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - from Crake Hide

The second roost was to the left of the hide, and out of sight behind tall reeds. They then started to come in to a third roost - immediately in front of the hide! As they arrived, and dropped down, probably only 3 or 4 metres in front of the hide, they spotted me sitting in the hide and departed again. I then employed the tactic of sitting well back and peering round the edge of the closed shutter to the left of my open one. 

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - from Crake Hide
All was going rather well, until the lady who was one of the two I'd left behind at Shoveler Hide arrived and started opening the rest of the shutters in the hide. I explained the situation to her and how, with care, she'd see some great bird action. Sadly, she paid little heed and opened the shutter that I'd been hiding behind and came to sit beside me. It didn't help that she kept leaning out of the hide window and peering around, and also felt the need to chatter. It was soon time for me to depart!

Although nothing of great rarity was seen, it had been a very rewarding, and entertaining afternoon at Rutland Water, with even more bird action than I usually see there.

I'm sorry to say that my health had been improving to such a great extent that I got a little careless, and did something really stupid which seems to have set me back more than a little, so I have not managed to get out again since that day. Therefore, I'm not sure when my next blog post will be or what it will feature - watch this space.

My apologies (particularly to Diane with her slow internet connection!) for the length of this post. Thank you for dropping by.

Friday 11 October 2019

Go East, Old Man - on 29th June, 2019

I fancied a bit of a butterfly fix, and the forecast for the day was for exceptionally hot and sunny weather, so my choice of destination was Ketton Quarry, right over on the eastern boundary of the county - our home is in the westernmost part of the county. The draw of Ketton at this time of year was the Marbled White, and Dark Green Fritillary butterflies, for which this site is well-known.

I set off quite early for me, and arrived shortly after 10h00. In the top meadow, by the car park, there were several Dark Green Fritillaries and a few Marbled Whites.

Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) - Ketton Quarry
Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) (female)  - Ketton Quarry
Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) (male)  - Ketton Quarry
The sex of a Marbled White is easily determined. Females have brown markings on the underside of the hindwing, whereas males have black markings. If they have their wings open, the light brown leading edge of the forewing on the females can usually be clearly seen - the males are, again, just black on white.

There was a very large area at Ketton to be checked out, so I soon left this meadow and headed down into the nearby quarry, just to the south of the meadow. I was quite surprised to find this area almost devoid of butterflies and other items of interest, as it has been extremely productive on past visits. A little disappointed, I headed up hill and then down dale into the large area of disused quarry to the south-west. 

Again, this area did not yield as much as I hoped for, but I did not draw a total blank. I found a Small Heath butterfly to take a few shots of.

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - Ketton Quarry
The Burnet Companion moth is a very variable species, and a speciality of this location. I also find them hard to photograph and took a long time trying to get shots of these two.

Burnet Companion (Euclidia glyphica) - Ketton Quarry
Being a little disappointed, once more, I decided that I'd be better off back at the meadow where I started. I passed back through the small quarry again and, as I did so, found a fritillary to photograph.

Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) - Ketton Quarry
I was surprised to find a Brimstone butterfly, although it was extremely tatty.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male) - Ketton Quarry
Back up at the first meadow, I found that all the butterflies had disappeared. I don't know why, but it was mid-day, and now very hot - perhaps too hot for them?
I returned to my car, quickly downed my picnic lunch and a much-needed drink of squash, and the set off for the pond at Launde Abbey. The possibility of a few dragons was irresistible!

I arrived to find that there was quite a lot going on at the small pond there, although it was rather difficult to track the action because of the extremely lush growth of the pond vegetation. I was torn between trying to photograph the two Emperor dragonflies that were constantly interacting with each other and never settling, or the pair of Broad-bodied Chasers that were mating whilst in flight. I managed to get shots of both, but nothing that I was very happy with.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Launde Abbey
Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) (male + female in cop) - Launde Abbey
Needing to give my arms a rest from waving about, trying to get flight shots, I headed round to the other side of the pond, and found two Broad-bodied Chasers and a Four-spotted Chaser that were settling from time to time, and I fared a little better with the photography.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) (male) - Launde Abbey

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (male) - Launde Abbey
By 14h00 I'd had enough of the heat and it was time to enjoy the air-conditioning in the car as I headed homeward at the close of what had been a most enjoyable time, even if it did have its little frustrations!

I sense this might be my last dragonfly-focused blog post for a long while and, after a most enjoyable day out yesterday, I expect to be back next time with a post which majors on birds!  Thank you for dropping by.