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Wednesday 15 December 2021

November Round-Up, Pt.2 - 16th to 30th November, 2021

The second half of November was, in terms of my birdwatching, even quieter than the first half, with my only trip out being on the last day of the month. It was not, however, without interest in the garden.

Tuesday, 16th November

Coal Tit is an occasional visitor to our garden. Sometimes we can go for months without seeing one, but at the moment we are seeing one most weeks. However, they tend to zoom in, grab a seed, and then immediately disappear to consume it - I tend to think of them as smash-and-grab artists. All this usually takes place at the top end of the garden, and I rarely manage a photo. On this occasion, one stopped momentarily outside my study window, and the camera was at the ready!

Coal Tit (Periparus ater) - garden on 16th November, 2021
Thursday, 18th November

We had been having some fine sunsets around this time, and Lindsay called me through to the front of the house to see this one.

Sunset - from front of house on 18th November, 2021

Sunday, 21st November

We had a pleasant surprise this day with the arrival of a Pied Wagtail in the garden. Whilst this is a relatively common bird, it has been a very infrequent visitor to the garden. I am not sure whether this is a male or a female, as all the reference books I have show, and discuss, males in breeding and non-breeding plumage, and females in breeding plumage, but make no mention of females in non-breeding plumage and even mention confusion over this aspect! At first I had this down as a female, but I'm now inclined to think that it is probably a non-breeding male. Comments will be welcome!

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrelli) (male?) - garden on 21st November, 2021
Monday, 22nd November

The wagtail returned this day but was not photographed. We did, however, see Wren which is undoubtedly present more often than seen, and always a delight to behold.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 22nd November, 2021
The Viburnum was coming into flower and already filling that corner of the garden with its wonderful perfume.
Viburnum splendens - garden on 22nd November, 2021
Saturday, 27th November

One of life's greatest mysteries will be - how ever did a caterpillar get into the bath in our upstairs bathroom, when all the windows had been closed for weeks? I can only suggest that, as I had been doing some gardening over a couple of days, it had dropped onto me and I had brought it in on my clothing. I have not been able to positively identify this caterpillar, but think that it is probably the larva of a Dark Arches moth.

Dark Arches? (Apamea monoglypha?) - from the house on 27th November, 2021
Sunday, 28th November

Sadly, Song Thrush is in desperate decline and now rarely visits our garden. We did, however, have a very brief vist from one this day.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - garden on 28th November, 2021
Monday, 29th November

This was a remarkable day in that, in the morning, I was greeted by snow when I looked out of my study window.

view from my study window on 29th November, 2021
Robin put in an appearance. All snow needs a Robin!

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - garden on 29th November, 2021
Later, the skies brightened a little and the snow began to thaw. For a brief moment we had two Pied Wagtails together in the garden. I did not have time to check them out or take a photo and it didn't register whether they differed in plumage (i.e. whether the were a pair), but two together was a first.

I took a few photos of other common  birds.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - garden on 29th November, 2021
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) - garden on 29th November, 2021

Tuesday, 30th November

The snow had all gone and I did spend some time trying to photograph a few birds in the garden. A Pied Wagtail found my garden mini-pond. I'm even less sure about the sex of this one, and it looks a little different to the one shown earlier in this post - although that may be just a trick of the light and the pose of the bird(s).

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrelli)  - garden on 30th November, 2021
Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - garden on 30th November, 2021
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - garden on 30th November, 2021

I find that Carrion Crow can look quite menacing sometimes.

I took a late afternoon trip out to the nearby Longmoor Lake in the hope of finding some owls as I have, in the past, seen both Short-eared Owl and Barn Owl at this location at this time of year. This was my only trip out in the second half of the month.

The light was already fading by the time I got to the lake at around 15h00. Shortly after I arrived, the numerous geese started to depart in groups, each group shouting their intentions to each other before departing. This is behaviour that I have witnessed many times before at the end of the day.

departing Greylag Geese (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake
It wasn't long before they were all gone. I continued along the lake towards an area where I'd seen owls before, stopping to try and photograph a distant Reed Bunting in the lakeside reeds. It was now 15h15 and light levels made it difficult enough to find the Reed Bunting with the binoculars, let alone through the camera viewfinder. After many attempts, I did, however, manage a record shot as shown in the heavily cropped and light-manipulated image below.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - Longmoor Lake
A little further on I found some Wigeon.

Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (female + male) - Longmoor Lake
Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (male) - Longmoor Lake

I did not succeed in finding any owls and so started heading back past the lake. When I was about halfway along the lake, a cacophony of sound started building up to amazing levels and, to my utter surprise, all the geese returned to the lake. This is something that I have not witnnessed before. I'd assumed that when these birds had departed, just before sunset, they were heading off to an overnight roost. I'm now wondering if they departed to find their supper, before returning to roost on the water. This image, below, is just a small part of the returning birds.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) + Greylag Geese (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake
This happened at 16h05 - it was much darker than this image would suggest! Ten minutes later it was dark enough that I had to use my head torch in order to pick my way back to my car without stepping in dog excrement, although I have to admit that this unpleasant factor was not as bad as on previous visits.


Thus ended a month in which I largely relied on my garden to maintain my wildlife interest. So far, in December, I have not fared much better, and the run-up to Christmas is not likely to improve that situation. However, the garden has been rather more interesting than usual, so I already have enough material for another blog post, which will probably appear between Christmas and New Year as I intend to take a short break from blogging, although I will try and visit your blogs.

In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that 2022 will bring some sanity to the world for us all - please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Best wishes - - - Richard


Tuesday 7 December 2021

November Round-Up, Pt.1 - 1st to 15th November, 2021

November was, sadly, another month in which I got out into the wild far less than I should have done. As I have mentioned before, this was due to a number of reasons, which I will not trouble you with again. Most of what follows, therefore, is from my garden observations during the first half of the month.

Tuesday, 2nd November

In spite of autumn setting in, Red Admiral butterflies continued to visit us throughout most of the month when we had spells of sunshine.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - garden on 2nd November, 2021
The moth trap went out that night, but only resulted in three moths - all of the same species! The December Moth is a delightful species, and I always think of it as wearing a fur coat against the onslaught of winter.
December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) (male) - from garden on 2nd November, 2021
Thursday, 4th November

On this day, I did manage to get out for a few hours and visit Sence Valley Forest Park. My main objeectives were to try and find some 'winter thrushes' and to see if there was anything on, or around, the water. 

On the first leg of my wanderings, I did see a few Redwing, but these were very skittish (as always!) and I did not get any usable photos.

On Stonebridge Lake there was a family of Mute Swan, with both adults, plus three juveniles. This shot was taken from the hide at the opposite end of the lake.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Sence Valley FP
Also from the hide, I managed to grab some shots of a Long-tailed Tit.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - Sence Valley FP
I then took a stroll to Horseshoe Lake to see what might be around. I spent most of my time here trying to photograph the Pochard that were out on the lake but at some distance. I still have not managed to work out whether to pronounce their name as 'Poe chard' or 'Potchard' as both seem to be in use. Pochard are far from rare, but I don't seem to come across them very often.

Pochard (Aythya ferina) (male) - Sence Valley FP
I don't usually bother much with gulls (I can sense David cringing as he reads this!), however, this one seemed to want me to take its photo, so I felt obliged to do so.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Sence Valley FP

The light was fading fast, and it was time to head homeward. It had not been a very productive outing, but it had been good to get out and about.

Friday, 5th November

I'll start by saying that I'm sure that I'm not the only person in UK that thinks that the whole thing of celebration with fireworks has got out of hand. It seems that too many people have money to burn on fireworks that make the loudest of bangs. It's like Armageddon going on out there on Guy Fawkes night, scaring the crap out of wildlife, livestock, and pets, let alone many children too! And it's not only on November 5th (as it always used to be), but for a week or so either side of that date. It now seems that any celebration event, be it international, national or personal, has to be accompanied by fireworks. We've even had them going off long after our bed-time. It's time that these things were restricted in time, and only permitted for licenced organised events.

And don't get me started on gas-filled balloons!!

Anyway, back to this day before the countryside exploded with sound. I managed to take a few shots of the wildlife that graces our garden with their visits.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - garden on 5th November, 2021
Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - garden on 5th November, 2021
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - garden on 5th Novemeber, 2021
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 5th November, 2021
Tuesday, 9th November

Having been informed of the location of a hornets' nest close to home, I felt that I had to investigate, so headed of to Willesley Wood. I had a good look round but couldn't find the nest, so decided to take a walk through the woods, circumnavigating Thortit Lake in the process.

There was little about and all I had photographed as I approached my start pointonce more were various fungi. I know virtually nothing about fungi, so am not attempting any sort of ID on the following. If anyone cares to offer ID suggestions I'd be delighted to receive them.

various fungi - Willesley Wood
I'd found so little to photograph during my walk that I resorted to taking some shots of a slug on the pathway. There's nothing like a bit of variety!
Black Slug (Arion ater agg.) - by Thortit Lake
Wednesday, 10th November

I was busy in my study when Lindsay called me through to the lounge, where a Pheasant had landed on the sill of the lounge window. I was able to get my camera and take a shot before it departed. This was only our second ever 'garden record' of this species!

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) (female/juvenile?) - garden on 10th November, 2021
Saturday 13th November

The moth trap went out again this night and, although there was nothing in the trap the next morning, there was a moth on the Virginia Creeper beside the trap. In accordance with normal practice I will record that as being from the date the trap was deployed.

The moth was a first for the garden - a Scarce Umber. This was a male of the species - the females are 'wingless'.

Scarce Umber (Agriopis aurantiaria) (male) - from garden on 13th November, 2021

This brings me to the end of my account of my observations for the first half of November. Thank you for dropping by. My account of the second half of the month will probably follow in a week or so.

In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and Nature. Best wishes - - - Richard

Tuesday 16 November 2021

October, 2021 - A Round-up

Having returned from the wonderful Isles of Scilly on 4th October, I found myself rather bogged down with photo processing, blog post writing, gardening, time-consuming household maintenance works, and the making of Lindsay's Christmas present (an ongoing project which, hopefully will be completed in time!).

In consequence, I only ventured out once with the camera in the rest of the month, but I did take a few photos around the garden.

So here is what will probably turn out to be a rather short blog post - by my standards, anyway!

Warning!      If you are an arachnophobe, you might now want to rapidly scroll down a way!

Wednesday, 6th October

While painting the garden fence, I had to pause to let this harvestman depart. Harvestman is a group of  arachnids, but not spiders, of which there are several species in UK, but many more worldwide. This one had lost one of its front legs

harvestman (Leiobunum rotundum) (male) - Garden on 6th October
Thursday, 7th October

At this time of year, we seem to get many Garden Spiders in the garden. The Garden Spider is one of our most common and largest spiders and makes a large web of the sort that features in halloween motifs. It rushes to disable prey caught in the web, quickly encasing it in silk, as this one has done, before removing it to its larder for later consumption. 

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) - Garden on 7th October
More recently, from the comfort of our conservatory, Lindsay and I watched a wasp getting caught in a Garden Spider's web. The spider was instantly on the scene and wrapping the wasp. It was obviously conscious of the sting which was thrusting in and out of the wasp's abdomen in an effort to defend itself, as it wrapped the front end first and waited for the wasp to become still before cautiously working on the tail end, and then carrying it off.
Friday, 8th October
Sadly, Great Spotted Woodpecker is now a very infrequent visitor to our garden, so I was particularly excited when a female of the species visited us on this day. 

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus major) (female) - Garden on 8th October
Saturday, 9th October
After a disappointing period of absence, a Robin has now included our garden in its territory and is a daily visitor. Even if it is a common bird, there's no getting away from the fact that it is a British icon for good reason!

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Garden on 9th October
Sunday, 10th October
This was the one time that I made it out for a local walk, with my destination being Thortit Lake, which is less than five minutes away from our home by car. I could walk to it in less than half an hour, but I'd probably get wiped out on the way as it is a narrow bendy lane with no footpath and people tend to drive rather fast along it.

A few days previous to this, I had participated in an on-line presentation on the state of dragonflies in Leicestershire. During this, it was stated that the Willow Emerald Damselfly, first recorded in the county in 2019, was spreading rapidly. Someone commented that they'd recently happened upon one at Thortit Lake. As, just one month earlier, I had travelled 45 miles (72 km) to the other side of the county in order to see this damselfly species, I was keen to see if I could find one 'on my doorstep'.
The lake is just over 300 metres long by just under 100 metres wide with views only available from the long north side. There is a well made path which runs at an average of approximately 25 metres from the water's edge. This is probably best explained by the 'grab' from Google Earth, below.
Thortit Lake, taken from Google Earth
From the main path there are a few places where tracks have been worn to the water's edge, possibly by dogs as much as by people. I went down a couple of these, before I found one which looked promising. In the water ahead of me was a pair of swans. This is one of them.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Thortit Lake
Nearer to the water, a Common Darter was perched on the path ahead of me.
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Thortit Lake
I stood at the edge for a while, scanning the small Willow that was in the water at the edge of the lake before I noticed a movement and a damselfly flew to the back of the reeds in front of me. It eventually moved to a spot where I could see it more clearly. However, it was distant and into the light. These are heavily cropped images taken with the lens fully extended to 500mm, and not to a standard that I'm happy with, but show that I had, indeed, found a male Willow Emerald Damselfly.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) (male) - Thortit Lake
I waited patiently hoping it would move to a more accessible position but, eventually, it flew off and was lost to sight. While waiting and hoping for its return, I photographed another Common Darter - this one a female.
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Thortit Lake
I also spotted a rather unusual-looking spider (another warning for arachnophobes!) which appeared from behind a leaf and then descended out of view. I have consulted my spider field guide and can find nothing that resembles it. Any help would be much-appreciated!

spider species - Thortit Lake
Before I left, I tried taking some shots of a Migrant Hawker in flight, but this was the best I could do against the light and at a distance.
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Thortit Lake
The finding of the Willow Emerald had made my day. Sadly there was a change of weather after this day, and a few other things got in the way too. My next visit yielded absolutely nothing in the way of Odonata.
Wednesday, 13th October

On this day, I noted a micromoth resting on the remains of the mint against the shed wall. It was one of the plume moths with its distinctive 'T' shape.
Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla) - Garden on 13th October
Thursday, 21st October
A sunny day, with me busy in my study, but I couldn't resist a shot from my desk of this very spotty Starling in the elder at the other end of the garden.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - Garden on 21st October
Thursday, 28th October
Yes, I'd been a whole week without photographing anything, and my offering for this day was purely a chance spotting of a caterpillar crossing the path outside our back door. I brought it in so that I had better light to photograph it in before placing it somewhere safer outside. I have tried to identify it, but without any success whatsoever. Not finding it on a food plant doesn't help!

unidentified caterpillar - Garden on 28th October

This brings me to the end of my October round-up. I have no concept of when my next post will be or what it will feature as I seem to have lost my mojo of late and have only managed two relatively brief, and frustratingly uproductive, excursions so far this November.

Until then, please take good care of yourselves and Nature - - - Richard