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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

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Scilly Sojourn, September/October, 2021 - Pt.3

This is the third and final part of my account of our autumn 2021 visit to the Isles of Scilly. You can find Pt.1 here:-, and Pt.2 here:-

Saturday, 2nd October          Porthcressa - Porthhellick - Porth Minick - Lower Moors - Porthloo - Porthcressa

          winday and extremely wet to start, calmer by mid day with showers and sunny periods

The forecast for this day was heavy rain and very strong winds, easing up a little mid afternoon - and this is what we woke up to. Other than popping into the garden to photograph Scillonian III arriving from Penzance, I  didn't venture out until the afternoon.

Scillonian III - off Porthcressa bay
Shortly after midday, I  took a few photos from the garden of the property. 

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) - from property garden, Littleporth
I think that this next one is a Lesser Black-backed Gull - please let me know if I am wrong!

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) - from property garden, Littleporth
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (male) - from property garden, Littleporth
A little later, the girls were going to go out in the buggy and I  was given a lift to the entrance to Higher Moors. As I entered the reserve, I saw a bird that gave me a ray of hope. In the past, I have found Song Thrush to be abundant on the islands, and they have been regular visitors to the the garden at the property that we stay in, even taking food from the hand. However, this was our sixth day on the Scillies and this was the first Song Thrush I had seen! It was, however, a little distant.
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelus) - Higher Moors
Sussex Hide was too full of people for my comfort in these Covid times, but I grabbed a quick shot from the doorway of a Greenshank on the far side of the pool before departing.
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) - Porthhellick Pool
I had better luck from Seaward Hide which only had three other people in. Two Pectoral Sandpipers came into view, followed by three Common Snipe.

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) - Porthhellick Pool
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) + Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Porthhellick Pool
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Porthhellick Pool
I also witnessed the arrival of the Glossy Ibis, although the light was poor and my camera settings wrong for the event, so only a record shot.
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) - Porthhellick Pool
I returned to Sussex Hide, where there was now more space, and was lucky enough to have a good, but extremely brief (5 seconds?), view of the Spotted Crake (only the 2nd I've ever seen!) that was being elusive there.

Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) - Porthhellick Pool
I then headed off to the the beach before taking the coastal path over Salakee Down to Porth Minick and Old Town. From Porthhellick beach I photographed a Little Egret.

Little Egret ( Egretta garzetta) - Porthhellick Bay
As I ascended the path onto Salakee Down, I turned round to take a shot of Porthhellick, with the pool in the background.
Porthhellick and Pool
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) - from Salakee Down
As I descended from Salakee Down, before reaching Porth Minick, a couple coming the other way kindly pointed out two Wheatear that they'd just passed beside the path.

Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) - Salakee Down
From Porth Minick, I took the short walk round to Old Town, stopping to take a photo of Amaryllis belladonna, a beauty that can be found growing in many places on the Scillies, but that I don't think I've photographed before.
Jersey Lily (Amaryllis belladonna) - by Old Town
I'd just reached Lower Moors when I got a message from the girls to say that the internet was now back on and they'd come to pick me up in Old Town if I would like to have a trundle around with them in the buggy. I grabbed a few shots of the Greenshank that was still there before heading back to the road to join them.

Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) - Lower Moors
After a bit of a run around, ending up at Porthloo, where Georgie wanted to buy some fudge (there was none left when we got there!), I got the girls to drop me off by the beach. I found a group of eight Sanderling there and decided to drop onto one knee just above the water line and wait. It was only a matter of a couple of minutes before they approached me, and seemed totally unfazed by my presence, even when I started firing off shots. I reckon that I had approaches to within three metres on several occasions.

Sanderling (Calidris alba) - Porthloo
The view of Thomas' Porth from the coastal path is an attractive one.
Thomas' Porth - from coastal path
Round the corner, in  Porth Mellon, an extremely skilled wind surfer was reaching amazing speeds, and flying high into the air when he made sharp u-turns (there's probably a term for this in windsurfing circles). He did, unfortunately, frighten off the Turnstones that I was trying to photograph.

Windsurfer - Porth Mellon
As I approached the property, a pair of Stonechat were on the beach below the garden, and even flew up onto the garden fence!
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (female) - Porthcressa
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (male) - Porthcressa
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (female + male) - Porthcressa
A day that started out looking as if it might be a washout, turned out to be a rather special one.

Sunday, 3rd October          Porthcressa - Porth Mellon - Porthloo - Rosehill - Porth Minick - Porthcressa

          periods of heavy rain and sun in morning, mainly sunny and breezy with showers in afternoon

I awoke to the news that the Great Crested Grebe that had been hanging around the islands for a few days, was in Porth Cressa - the bay on which our base is situated. At home, a Great Crested Grebe would raise little excitement. However, the last one seen on the Scillies was in 2011! For this reason only, I attempted some shots of this distant bird, which seemed to be feeding well.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)  - Porthcressa, from property garden
I had to stay in for most of the morning as Georgie was fast asleep, and Lindsay wanted to show Melanie the remains of the ancient settlement at Halangey Down. In the event, I got the better end of the deal as they got absolutely drenched in a massive downpour.

I did manage to get out briefly late in the morning, and went to check for Humming-bird Hawk-moth on the Red Valerian above Sally Port, on the Garrison. I was not lucky on this occasion. I did take a few photos on the Porthcressa sea front on my return, however.
Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) - Porthcressa
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Porthcressa
Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) - Porthcressa
After lunch, and another heavy rain shower, I set off for a gentle walk, mindful that I had a long drive ahead of me the next day. From base, I crossed over to the other side of the isthmus and headed north, walking the length of Porth Mellon beach, taking a few photos as I did so.
Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) - Porth Mellon
I then took the coast path to Porthloo where I first tried for some shots of a distant Little Egret on the bar to Newford Island.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - by Newford Island, Porthloo
I was also reminded that egrets can look just as ridiculous as herons! - see my previous post.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - by Newford Island
On the main beach at Porthloo, I found a gathering of around 50 Turnstone, with two Sanderling. The Turnstone were, as usual, extremely confiding. 

Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) - Porthloo
I couldn't resist more shots of Sanderling too.

Sanderling (Calidris alba) - Porthloo
After that, I set off for Rosehill Gardens where I  spent some time looking for dragonflies, only finding four very mature male Common Darters.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Rosehill Gardens
While at Rosehill, I  got a message from Lindsay to say that the three of them were setting off in the buggy to go to 'Treasure Beach' (Porth Minick) to look for sea glass if I  cared to join them. As it was a relatively short walk for me to do so, I  let them know that I was on my way. En route, I called in very briefly at the two hides in Lower Moors,  but saw nothing of interest.

We had a most enjoyable time together and were the only people on the beach. After this, I joined them for a ride back towards base, leaving them again by the hospital so that I could have a last walk down to Porthcressa from Buzza Hill.

At five o'clock it was time for me to take the buggy back to Scilly Carts. The hire had been a great success.
Monday, 4th October          St Mary's - Land's End Airport - Ashby de la Zouch

      cool, wet, and windy to start, later becoming dry and warmer

After breakfast and packing, I popped out into the garden to take a 'farewell' shot of the bay before our departure. 
Porthcressa and Peninnis - from property  garden, Littleporth
We had to vacate the property by 10.00, and our flight was not until 11.40. Usually Paulger's Transport, who operate the Skybus airport transfer service on St Mary's, pick up an hour before booked departure time. I'd alerted them that we'd be ready from 10.00 but, in the event, they did not arrive until 10.40.

The flight back to Land's End was uneventful and, on arrival, Melanie and I went to collect our cars while Lindsay and Georgie guarded the luggage. We then said our farewells and headed homeward.

We stopped in Penzance to pick up some sandwiches and other bits and bobs for a picnic and then wended our way home, with a few pit stops along the way.

It was a pleasant journey, but the arrival at home was far from pleasant. We immediately noticed that the house was very cold - and then we found that something had tripped-out the electricity distribution board and three freezers and a fridge, all full, were now at room temperature and the contents putrifying - indicating that the event probably happened soon after our departure. Sorting this out kept us occupied for most of the rest of the week.

Nevertheless, it had been a truly great holiday with the family, and we are very much looking forward to returning next year.

My next blog post will probably be a very short one and cover my observations from the garden and a nearby location. Until then, stay safe and take good care of yourself and Nature - - - Richard