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Tuesday 28 July 2020

Garden Observations - 13th to 26th July, 2020

The past two weeks have been somewhat lacking in observations, partly due to weather, but mainly due to preoccupation with other matters - particularly in the last week - and the frustration is not over yet, although we might be getting somewhere. We did, however, end the period with some excitement!

WEEK 29 - 13th to 19th July 

Monday, 13th  July

The trail cams showed we had a visit by the Fox in the early hours of the morning. This was the last time we saw evidence of a visit by the Fox, possibly because I have taken steps to prevent too much sunflower heart spillage from the bird feeders, which the Fox was 'hoovering up'. The Hedgehogs were favouring them too, and a diet of sunflower hearts is detrimental to the health of Hedgehogs - and Foxes also?
Tuesday, 14th July

This day's highlight was the arrival of 8 Long-tailed Tits that noisily and busily hung around for a few minutes, but were not photographed.

Wednesday, 15th July

The trail cams showed that, in the early hours of the morning, two Hedgehogs had had a brief encounter. In the last part of this video clip you can see one hog passing the other that it has pushed off the low wall and is curled up at the base of the wall - it later departed unharmed. The sound from this particular trail cam is poor, but you will probably hear typical hog noises if you turn the sound up.

That evening, a trail cam caught a hog out unusually early, in daylight.
When the two hogs met up later that evening, their approach seemed cautious but less antagonistic.
Thursday, 16th July

I was doing some fairly heavy pruning of the ivy at the front of the house, when I found an Old Lady hiding in it. The Old Lady is one of our larger moths, and has a rather subtle beauty. They are said to not be attracted to light, but we do seem to get them quite frequently in the moth trap!

Old Lady (Mormo maura) - garden on 16/07/2020
That afternoon we had a Red Admiral butterfly in our garden which, I believe, was our first of this summer. Sadly, I was on the phone when it visited!

Friday, 17th July

I managed to have a little time in the garden with the camera this day as we had a return visit by a male Large Red Damselfly, now named 'Big Red'! 

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - garden on 17/07/2020
As on the occasion of his previous visit, Freddy the hoverfly was there to greet him!

hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus) (male) - garden on 17/07/2020
You may find yourself returning to the above two images when you see something that will appear later in this post!

Saturday, 18th July

I have mentioned in previous posts that, although we frequently see Carrion Crow from the house, it is comparatively rarely that one visits the garden. This was one of those rare occasions.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)  - garden on 18/07/2020
In summary (weekly maxima in brackets):-

We observed 3 species of mammal visit : Hedgehog (2) ; Red Fox (1) ; Grey Squirrel (2)

We observed 5 species of butterfly visit : Small Tortoiseshell (1) ; Large White (1) ; Small White (3) ; Peacock (1) ; Red Admiral (1)

We observed 1 species of Odonata visit : Large Red Damselfly (1)

We observed just 16 species of bird visit : Blackbird (3) ; Bullfinch (2) ; Chaffinch (2) ; Crow, Carrion (1) ; Dove, Collared (4) ; Dove, Stock (2) ; Dunnock (2) ; Goldfinch (9) ; Greenfinch (1) ; Robin (3) ; Sparrow, House (3) ; Starling (1) ; Tit, Blue (3) ; Tit, Great (2) ; Tit, Long-tailed (8) ; Woodpigeon (6). 

WEEK 30 - 20th to 26th July

Tuesday, 21st July

In spite of Lindsay having a 'tombola number' birthday this day, I did mange a few photos.

Gatekeeper butterfly is not a usual visitor to our garden, so I was pleased to see one this day. They seem to be having an extremely good year this year.

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) (male) - garden on 21/07/2020
A few weeks ago, an on-line friend, Pete Woodruff (see 'Birds2blog' on my sidebar) published a photo of a strange swimming 'blob' that he'd seen in his garden pond, asking if anyone knew what it was. This day, I found something similar in my pond. I didn't see a reply he'd got with an ID, so contacted Pete to ask if he'd found out what it was. Pete kindly responded to say that it was something usually referred to as a Rat-tailed Maggot, and that it was the larva of a hoverfly species. So out came the book and, sure enough, it seems that this was the larva of  Helophilus pendulus - in other words, 'son of Freddy' shown above! Who'd have thought that something like this, shown below, could turn into something as smart as the hoverfly shown earlier.

Rat-tailed Maggot (Helophilus pendulus) (larva) - garden on 21/07/2020
Wednesday, 22nd July

In the morning, I found a Willow Beauty moth (large, and very common in our garden) on the wall.

Willow Beauty (Peribatodes rhomboidaria) (male) - garden on 22/07/2020
The Carrion Crow paid us yet another visit and stayed preening in the back of our Black Elder for almost two hours! It never positioned itself in a photographable position, however. 

We had Gatekeeper butterfly yet again, but I only photographed a Peacock.

Peacock (Aglais io) - garden on 22/07/2020
Friday, 24th July

The garden trail cams showed that we had a late-lingering Hedghog in the garden that was up well past its bed-time. 
That afternoon, whilst discussing work we needed doing with a tree surgeon in our garden, I had the frustration of seeing a female Southern Hawker dragonfly that seemed to be disturbed by our presence, and a Holly Blue butterfly which settled on the Ivy.  I wonder if the dragonfly might have visited our pond, had we not been there?

Sunday, 26th July

Whilst out in the garden early in the morning, topping up the bird feeders and collecting the trail cams, I heard a distinctive sound which instantly said distant Green Woodpecker to me. However, it was not the customary yaffle of the Green Woodpecker, but a a single note every few seconds, and with the same pitch as the usual yaffle. I was unsure, but just in case (knowing how nervous Green Woodpeckers are) I hastened back into the house, and started keeping an eye open from my study window. A few minutes later, what should fly into the Black Elder at the bottom of the garden, but a Green Woodpecker. This is only the second time I have seen this species in our garden, the last time being in December 2016. This latest one was a juvenile, and not being able to see the colour of the moustache in my photos, I can't tell what sex it was. Sadly, I only got record shots at that distance and with all the intervening branches - the light was difficult too!

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) (juvenile) - garden on 26/07/2020
Later in the day we had two second-brood Holly Blue butterflies visit, and I managed some shots of one - a female (as shown by the rarely-seen dark wingtips, the wings usually being held closed) - on the ivy.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) (female - second brood) - garden on 26/07/2020
It had been a splendid end to the week.

In summary (weekly maxima in brackets):-

We observed 2 species of mammal visit : Hedgehog (1) ; Grey Squirrel (1)

We observed 6 species of butterfly visit : Large White (1) ; Small White (4) ; Peacock (4) ; Red Admiral (1) ; Holly Blue (2) ; Gatekeeper (1)

We observed 2 species of Odonata visit : Large Red Damselfly (1) ; Southern Hawker (1)

We observed 17 species of bird visit : Blackbird (3) ; Bullfinch (2) ; Chaffinch (2) ; Crow, Carrion (1) ; Dove, Collared (3) ; Dove, Stock (2) ; Dunnock (2) ; Goldfinch (7) ; Greenfinch (2) ; Magpie (1) ; Robin (2) ; Sparrow, House (6) ; Tit, Blue (4) ; Tit, Great (2) ; Tit, Long-tailed (2) ; Woodpecker, Green (1) ; Woodpigeon (5). 

This ends my report on two weeks that were a bit hin, but had their highlights. I believe my next report will feature a visit to a local site without public access in order to check on the odonata situation. This was the onlt time that I managed to get out in the past two weeks! I'm hoping things will improve.

In the meantime, stay safe. Thank you for dropping by. 

Monday 20 July 2020

Wildlife Wanderings - 29th June to 12th July

It's been a busy time for me so far this summer, and continues to be so, and it has only just dawned on me why there's so much to do outside the house. It's catching up with all the jobs I should have done last summer when I was not fit and well enough to do them! Anyway, I'm slowly getting there now, and I am managing to take time out to do some searching for wildlife. The following is an account of my excursions in the two-week period noted in the title to this post.

Friday, 3rd July - Saltersford Valley

Lindsay fancied a bit of a walk and asked if I would show her the parts of the Saltersford Valley  reserve that I'd visited, but she hadn't found on her previous visit. It was a warm, but fairly dull and breezy morning, and I nearly didn't take my camera. However, I packed the body with the Sigma 50-500 attached, and off we set. 

We'd walked round the two main loops without seing anything of interest and were almost at the exit path at a point that there's a stockaded area with the logs conveniently set at backside height, and found that a significant number of Blue-tailed Damselflies had materialised since we passed on the outward.

Lindsay spent some time sitting on the stockade while I took some photos. The first one, below, is of an immature male, as can be seen by the greenish thorax. 

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (immature male) - Saltersford Valley on 03/07/2020
This next one is a mature male, having a blue thorax.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male) - Saltersford Valley on 03/07/2020
The female Blue-tailed Damselfly comes in five colour forms. They start out as either f. rufescens with a reddish thorax, which matures into the yellowish brown f. rufescens-obsoleta, or they can start as f. violacea with a violet coloured thorax, which matures either into the andromorph with a male blue pattern, or into the greenish  f. infuscans. 

I was undecided whether this next one was a male or an andromorph female and, for a while, favoured it to be a female. However, I changed my mind when I read that females have brownish-red eyes - but then I saw that the andromorph females have male-type blue eyes too. Sadly, I do not have a shot of this next one which clearly shows the tail end of the abdomen from directly above, or from the side so I am still undecided, but thinking probably male as the end of the abdomen is quite slim.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)  - Saltersford Valley on 03/07/2020
Here's a pair with what I believe to be an immature andromorph female - note the green eyes.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male + immature andromorph female) - Saltersford Valley on 03/07/2020
I did also find a pair with a f. rufescens female. This is a colour form that I have not seen many times before.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male + f. rufescens female) - Saltersford Valley on 03/07/2020
I also found a f. rufescens female uncoupled!

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (f. rufescens female) - Saltersford Valley on 03/07/2020
I thought this fly looked interesting. I subsequently found out that it's a species of snipe fly - a carnivorous predator of small creatures.

snipe fly (Chrysopilus cristatus)  - Saltersford Valley on 03/07/2020
It hadn't been the most productive of visits, but it was made pleasant by being able to have a wander with Lindsay for the first time in a few months!

Monday, 6th July - Ashby Bypass

It was 12th July last year when a friend invited me to join him one evening so he could show me some orchids beside the Ashby Bypass. On this occasion, we found a location where there were Marbled White butterflies - a species that, up until then, I'd been travelling 50 miles (80 km) to see. I had to cut the visit a little short that evening as I was feeling a little 'under the weather' and by the next morning I was in hospital with pneumonia and pleurisy, and there I stayed for two weeks.

As it was now a similar time of year, and I had a couple of hours to spare, it was time for a return visit, primarily to try and find the Marbled Whites.

Having arrived at the location, I soon spotted a distant Marbled White which promptly flew up into a far tree when I was about 10 metres away. I watched it for a while, before it flew up and away over the top of the tree. I continued my search, finding a few other items to photograph as I did so.

Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) - near Ashby Bypass on 06/07/2020
I don't know why, but I never cease to be thrilled by the sight of the flowers of Fox and Cubs. I don't find it very often but, whenever I do, I feel compelled to photograph it. 

Fox and Cubs (Aphantopus hyperantus) - near Ashby Bypass on 06/07/2020
Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) (female) - near Ashby Bypass on 06/07/2020
Comma (Polygonia c-album) - near Ashby Bypass on 06/07/2020
I walked around the area for about an hour and had almost returned to my start-point when I spotted another Marbled White which, before I had a chance to even approach it, flew over the hedge towards the bypass. I hung around for a little longer before deciding it was time to head home. Having crossed the stile to exit the area, I immediately spotted a nearby Marbled White - and another - and another! In all, I saw four in a short space of time and they were settling and cooperative. They were all males.

Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) (male) - near Ashby Bypass on 06/07/2020
Nearer to the road were several orchids. Most were Common Spotted Orchid, but this one didn't have spotted leaves and the flower looked a little different. I can't make my mind up what it is from my orchid book so would welcome any suggestions.

Orchid sp. - near Ashby Bypass on 06/07/2020
As I walked along beside the bypass to get back to my car, I noticed that there were many grasshoppers. This one seemed quite colourful by British standards.

Common Green Grasshopper (Omocestus viridulus) - Ashby Bypass on 06/07/2020
Thursday, 9th July - Sence Valley Forest Park

I had an invitation from the local Community Ranger for Forestry England to ask if I was interested in helping them with an Odonata survey on a series of ponds that they had created in the autumn of 2019. These were on a large newly created habitat and in an area not open to the public. We arranged to meet on this morning which, unfortunately turned out to be a dull breezy day. We met up in the rain and took a walk to the ponds, being careful to social-distance at the old 2-metre standard rather than the current 1-metre (which I'm not comfortable with).

The work that they have done on the site, with tree planting, soon to be followed by an extensive wildflower planting project, was extremely impressive, with several thousand trees already having been planted with the help of the local community, and a few thousand more to come.

The ponds looked promising although a little devoid of suitable vegetation at present. However, I was told that this would be rectified. 

We didn't see any signs of Odonata presence, which was not surprising, considering the foul weather, and I'd not even bothered to take my camera there because of this. I did, however, return on 17th July, and intend to be reporting on my visit in a future post.

However, I do stress that these ponds are not open to the public.

Saturday, 11th July - Ashby Canal near Snarestone, and Heather Lake

It was a fine warm day with sunny spells, although a bit breezy. If asked what my favourite damselfly was, I'd have little hesitation in nominating White-legged Damselfly. It's not the rarest of damselflies, although far from common in the British Midlands, but it is a little beauty, and I have a location about ten minutes by car from my home. 

I'd missed out on my encounters with this species last year for reasons already mentioned and so I was keen to re-aquaint myself with these damselflies. I was slightly nervous as the towpath beside the canal is quite narrow and social distancing could be a challenge if I encountered other people. In the event, it was not a problem as it was easy to see people coming well in advance, and there were places that I could duck into and turn my back to them as they passed - it must have looked very unsociable, but I felt it to be necessary.

On arrival, my first impression was how high and dense the canalside vegetation had grown compared to previous years. This was, I suspect, due to lack of 'maintenance' and canal traffic because of Covid-19 lockdown. This was encouraging, as White-legged Damselfly like undisturbed waterside vegetation, but it was going to make it difficult for me to find them as the chances were, so I thought, that they'd be perched up on some hidden stems. There was another factor that came into play, however, and that was that it was very breezy - far  more so than I would normally accept for dragon hunting. 

I didn't have to go far before I found my first specimen, not on tall stems by the water as I have always seen them before, but almost at ground level on a clover flower at the landward side of the towpath.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male) - Ashby Canal near Snarestone on 11/07/2020
This one moved to a different spot and obliged once more. I love the shade of blue of this species and the exquisite markings on the side of the thorax and on top of the abdomen, all beautifully set off by the darker blue eyes.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male) - Ashby Canal near Snarestone on 11/07/2020
As I headed northwards along the towpath a female Southern Hawker zoomed past on the far side of the landward hedge and was not located again. 

I reached the usual end of my travels and turned back, slightly disappointed that I'd only seen one White-legged damselfly and not a single Banded Demoiselle as this is usually found in good numbers on this section of canal, but this may have been due to the high vegetation and the stiff breeze. Things improved saignificantly, however, on the return journey.

Three more male White-legged Damselflies were located on the return run, all low down on the landward side of the towpath.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male) - Ashby Canal near Snarestone on 11/07/2020
I was also delighted to find two female White-legged Damselflies, similarly low down on the landward side. These are also beautifully marked, but with a different pattern on top of the abdomen.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (female) - Ashby Canal near Snarestone on 11/07/2020
During my travels, I found a mating pair of Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male + f. infuscans female) - Ashby Canal near Snarestone on 11/07/2020
I also photographed a few butterflies.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) - Ashby Canal near Snarestone on 11/07/2020
Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - Ashby Canal near Snarestone on 11/07/2020

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) - Ashby Canal near Snarestone on 11/07/2020
The 'icing on the cake', however, came just as I was about to leave the canal side and found a female Banded Demoiselle. Imagine the face in the last shot being the last thing you saw before being devoured for lunch!

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - Ashby Canal near Snarestone on 11/07/2020
It had been a delightful session, catching up with my favourite damselflies, and I came away a happy man!

I needed to fill my car up - possibly the last time ever I put petrol in a car! - and my route to a contactless petrol station would take me past the entrance to Heather Lake, so I thought I should take a look to see what the current situation was. 

As I entered the site, I did my usual thing of checking the camera settings by taking a shot of something representative of the type of exposure I was expecting. 

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) (female) - near Heather Lake on 11/07/2020
To cut a long story short, the visit was a little disappointing. I have mentioned in previous posts that, this year, Black-tailed Skimmers have changed their habits and stated perching on stems, etc. off the ground. Not so on this day, probably because it was somewhat windy. The few that I saw were all on the ground, and also very alert. I'd only brought the Sigma 150 macro lens with me and so photography was not easy - you can see the problem in the next two images..

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (male) - Heather Lake on 11/07/2020
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (female) - Heather Lake on 11/07/2020
What was remarkable was the number of Common Blue Damselfly. There must have been well-over a thousand of them round the lake. If this sounds like an exaggeration, the lake is approximately 450 metres in circumference, and it is probably well-reeded at the water's edge for about 90% of that circumference - look at the second image, below!

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Heather Lake on 11/07/2020
This ends my report of my outings for the two weeks. The next outing reports will probably be in a couple of weeks time, but with a garden sightings report in the interim. In the meantime, I still haven't started on that garden path, I've got a garage to clear prior to a charge-point installation, a new (electric) car to collect, and someone's 'major' birthday to celebrate!

Thank you for dropping by. Take great care and stay safe - - Richard