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Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Garden Observations in April, 2022

I am still in 'catch-up' mode and, with this post, I offer an account of some of my sightings in the garden during April of this year. Some of the winter visitors were still with us at the start of the month, but things soon started to change during the later part. Herewith, a few of the highlights.

Saturday, 2nd April

The Bramblings were still visiting, and on this day I photographed a male. This one was well into its breeding plumage.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) garden on 2nd April, 2022
Occasionally we get visits from Long-tailed Tits and are always delighted. Often it's small groups but sometimes, as on this occasion, we just have a single bird. When we do, we tend to refer to it as 'pathfinder' because, after such sightings, it is quite common for a group to arrive within an hour or two. Not on this occasion, however, as far as our observations were concerned. This one was outside my study window. It seemed to be collecting nesting material.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - garden on 2nd April, 2022

Sunday, 3rd April

The only remarkable thing this day was the small flock of 10 Goldfinch that visited. Goldfinch are daily visitors, but not usually in such numbers. This event was not, however, recorded on camera.

Magpie is a relatively reliable visitor these days, but I rarely photograph one. This day was an exception.

Magpie (Pica pica) - garden on 3rd April, 2022
Monday, 4th April

We had three Brambling visit this day. I did manage to get a record shot with all three in!

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (2xmale, 1xfemale) garden on 4th April, 2022
Thursday, 8th April

Wanting to make the most of the continuing Brambling visits, I took this shot of a female of the species.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (female) garden on 8th April, 2022
A pair of Stock Dove have been regular visitors for a long while now, and I find them most agreeable.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 8th April, 2022
Saturday, 9th April

Excitement arrived this day in the form of a Lesser Redpoll. In recent years, garden sightings of this species have been very thin on the ground. Unfortunately, I only managed a 'feeder shot'

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) (female) - garden on 9th April, 2022
Sunday, 10th April

It was a fine sunny day and the Lesser Redpoll was back, but I didn't manage any photographic improvements. I was pleased, however, to get a few shots of an Orange-tip butterfly. The orange wing-tips denote this as a male - absent in the female of the species.

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) (male) - garden on 10th April, 2022
Thursday, 14th April

The moth trap went out this night. It only resulted in 13 moths of 10 species. A couple of the more attractive ones are shown below. The Waved Umber was not in the trap, but on the wall next to the trap, and I nearly missed seeing it as it blended in with the wall so well. I have added a second image of it to show it more clearly.

Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria) (male) - from garden on 14th April, 2022

Purple Thorn (Selenia tetralunaria) (male) - from garden on 14th April, 2022

The Purple Thorn shot was taken when the moth flew up from the piece of green card that I was trying to photograph it on, and landed on the glass of the conservatory window - I think it makes for a rather nice shot!?

Saturday, 16th April

A common, and not very colourful, butterfly, but I think that this was probably my first of this species for the year (I don't keep butterfly records).

Small White (Pieris rapae) (male) - garden on 16th April, 2022
Wednesday, 20th April

No particular highlights this day other than unphotographed Holy Blue and Orange-tip butterflies in the garden, but I did take some photos of a Jackdaw that has become a daily visitor.

Jackdaw (Coloeus monedula) - garden on 20th April, 2022
Thursday, 21st April

And a Jackdaw again the following day - a very smart-looking bird.

Jackdaw (Coloeus monedula) - garden on 21st April, 2022
Sunday, 21st April

On this day, I did manage to photograph a visiting Holly Blue butterfly. This one, with the extensive black on the outer edges of the forewings, was a female.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) (female) - garden on 24th April, 2022
Friday, 29th April

I'd been neglecting the garden observations for much of the last couple of weeks in April, partly because I was getting out more often and partly because I was rather busy in the garden with things like pruning and fence-painting. On this day, however, I did sucessfully rush out into the garden to photograph a visiting Orange-tip. This one was, again, a male. This photo allows you to just detect the wonderful pattern on the underside of the wings, showing through the slightly translucent rear wings.

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) (male) - garden on 29th April, 2022
That night the moth trap went out, and only attracted five moths of three species, none of which were remarkble from a rarity point of view but I do find the Early Grey to be quite appealing, and the Brindled Beauty to be particularly attractive.

Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) - from garden on 29th April, 2022
Brindled Beauty (Lycia hirtaria) (male) - from garden on 29th April, 2022

Saturday, 30th April

The month ended on a high when we had our first visit from a Fox for a very long time. I'm not very knowledgeable on Foxes, but it seems to me that this may be a female that has recently given birth.

Thus ends my account of some of our garden highlights for April.

At this point in time, I'm not sure when my next blog post will be, or what subject matter it might feature. There's quite a lot going on at the moment - most of it good!

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

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

April Local Visits - 2022

To give my reader(s?) a break from repetition of my garden birds (and other wildlife), I am offering an account of a few local places I visited during April. All my outings, for various reasons, were at the back end of the month, and partly inspired by wanting to check if any damselflies or dragonflies had emerged - if they had, I didn't see them!

Thursday, 21st April              Saltersford Valley Country Park

A morning hospital visit in Burton on Trent had me wanting to get out and stretch my legs in the afternoon, so I headed for Saltersford Valley CP. 

Soon after entering the site, I found my first Speckled Wood butterfly of the year.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - Saltersford Valley CP

I saw several more of this species during the visit, and it was good to see them doing well.

Saltersford Valley CP is centred on flashes caused by the subsidence of disused coal mines. One of the two lakes is fed by what, at first glance, appears to be a spring. However, it seems that it might be water being pushed up from flooded mines with some sort of polution, as the water emitted is stained a rusty orange colour and this permeates the major portion of the lake. It does not, however, appear to be detrimental to wildlife, as birds and insects seem to thrive here. My next image shows the colour of the water.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - Saltersford Valley CP
Also on the lake were a pair of Coot with two young in tow, but I did not get any sensible photos.

The only other thing of interest photographed was a hoverfly species that I do not recall seeing before. You can tell it's a male because the eyes meet in the middle - in the female, they are well separated. 

hoverfly (Myathreopa florea) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
Saturday, 23rd April                       Saltersford Valley Country Park ; Pastures Lane

I returned to Saltersford Valley CP on this day, but this time, rather than park in the Saltersford Valley CP car park, I parked in the Oakthorpe Colliery car park and took a public footpath to Saltersford Valley CP. This time there was rather more to see.

At the start of the boardwalk was this flower, which I believe to be Cuckooflower.

Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) - Saltersford Valley CP
Along the boardwalk, I found a Canada Goose closely watching me as it lay on a nest incubating eggs.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Saltersford Valley CP
Towards the far end of the site, my eye was taken by what I at first thought was a wasp species, but now believe to  be Nomada lathburiana - a cuckoo bee.

cuckoo bee (Nomada lathburiana) - Saltersford Valley CP
I saw a few more butterfly species, which was encouraging.

Peacock (Aglais io) - Saltersford Valley CP
Green-veined White (Pieris napi) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - Saltersford Valley CP
I was pleased to see that the Coots still had their two young, one of which is shown in the second image below.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Saltersford Valley CP
I took a different return route to my car, passing along Pastures Lane, which is a roughly-surfaced road to Pastures Farm. At one point, a reasonably sized lake is about 150 metres to the north west of the lane. The head of a breeding-plumaged male Cormorant was just visible over the brow of the interevening pasture. I do like Cormorants in this statae of plumage!

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) (male - breeding plumage) from Pastures Lane
Further along the lane, I photographed a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. By its tattiness, I guess this is one that overwintered somewhere.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - Pastures Lane
Monday, 25th April                 Heather Lake

Heather Lake is another of my favourite dragonfly spots, but is rarely interesting for birds, although I did once have the pleasure of encountering a Spotted Flycatcher here.

An Orange-tip butterfly, with the orange tips just detectable through the wings showing it to be a male, sat patiently while I photographed it.

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) (male) - Heather Lake
At one point, where there is a narrow path between hedge and water, there were some noises on the path ahead of me. I waited and eventually was approached by a lady with push-chair and child, who informed me that there was a Moorhen nest with eggs in the water just beside the path. I continued gingerly and spotted the nest which appeared to have at least six eggs in it. The Moorhen was way out in the lake, presumably having been frightened off the nest by woman and noisy child.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) (nest + eggs) - Heather Lake
Further round the lake, a furry creature ran across the path just a metre or so in front of me and plopped into the lake. My immediate thought was Water Vole, but when I looked at the only shot I managed to grab, I came to the conclusion that it was a juvenile Brown Rat! Please tell me if I am wrong.

Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) (juvenile) - Heather Lake
Having passed once round the lake and seen little, I decided to cover totally new ground for me by continuing on the footpath beyond the lake, including taking a side branch too. Little of great interest was seen, although it was good to explore, but I did get a shot of a Small Totroiseshell in better condition.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) -beyond Heather Lake
I came back to the lake, keeping clear of the side which had the Moorhen nest, and found a Moorhen close to me, which beat a hasty retreat.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Heather Lake
Before reaching my car, I spotted a patch of Cowslips a couple of which had bright orange-red flowers, rather than the creamy yellow that is normal for this species. You can just see the colour of the yellow ones in the top right corner.

Cowslip - near Heather Lake
Thursday, 28th April              Hicks Lodge

On this day, I parked at Oakthorpe Colliery car park and walked into Hicks Lodge. Beside the path in, there was a Greylag Goose quite close but on the other side of a hedge. I managed to poke my lens between the branches and get a few shots.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Hicks Lodge
Further on, a Greylag flew overhead.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Hicks Lodge
There were Cowslips in flower here too, so I took some shots of ones in the usual colour!

Cowslip (Primula veris) - Hicks Lodge
As I started down the west side of the main lake, a Moorhen trundled across the grass in front of me.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Hicks Lodge
I noticed a small wader fly up from the edge of the lake and head off into the far distance, so I proceeded with stealthy caution. I then briefly spotted a Common Sandpiper of which I only managed to get a shot of its backside before it disappeared. I did, however, manage a shot of the Pied Wagtail that was with it.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - Hicks Lodge
I carried on past the end of the lake, and then turned left to gain a path that heads to a smaller lake which lies to the north west of the main lake.

The lake only seemed to hold a Coot and a Little Grebe. I spent nearly half an hour hiding behind a bush, hoping the Little Grebe would come closer, but it didn't.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - Hicks Lodge
Coot (Fulica atra) -Hicks Lodge
Back at the main lake, I managed to focus on a Reed Bunting that was lurking in the back of a bush.
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - Hicks Lodge
I first saw and photographed a Bar-headed Goose at Hicks Lodge in 2018. I have seen and photographed (presumably) the same bird every year since then except in 2021. I have no doubt that this bird is an escape from somewhere, although it is not ringed. I do, nevertheless, find it an attractive bird, and was delighted to see it on this day.

Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) - Hicks Lodge
After a session photographing the goose, I was delighted to manage a shot of a fly-past Common Sandpiper.
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) - Hicks Lodge
As I started heading back to my car, a group of Canada Geese flew over.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Hicks Lodge
Back at the car at Oakthorpe Colliery, while I sorted myself out, a female Common Pheasant hove into view. I couldn't help but think that this poor creature was here because someone bred it so that it could be shot at by some cretin with a gun! Such a beautiful bird!
Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) (female) - Oakthorpe Colliery
Friday, 29th April                  Saltersford Valley CP
A Quick visit to Saltersford Valley CP was not very productive, although I did have the good fortune to bump into an old friend, Mick Smith - it was great to have a chat. I did take some shots of a relatively common hoverfly. This one was a female - eyes well-separated.
hoverfly (Eristalis pertinax) (female) - Saltersford Valley CP
My greatest excitement was at finding a pair of mating Dark-edged Bee-fly. I am rather fond of this species, but have never seen them mating before. At first, I thought it was a rather long insect flying around. Fortunately they settled and I managed a few photos.
Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) (male+female) - Saltersford Valley CP
Again, I found a Reed Bunting in a bush, but this one was a bit more visible.
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) -Saltersford Valley CP
Saturday, 30th April               Heather Lake
I had time for a brief late-morning return to Heather Lake on this day.  Sadly, I found the remains of the Moorhen nest abandoned, with no eggs visible. I suspect that someone had allowed their dog to enter the water here (a common practice at this location).

I only photographed a Moorhen and, on my way back to the car, a distant Wren.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Heather Lake
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - Heather Lake
That brings me to  the end of the month of April. May has got off to a slightly slower start, but my next blog post will almost certainly cover my April garden observations, and will appear in about a week's time from the date of this blog post. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.
Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard