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Thursday, 4 August 2022

Catchup Time - May, 2022

I recently realised that, with so many things happening in my life, it was a long while since I published a blog post featuring local and garden highlights. Apart from a report on a dragon hunt in July, my last offering on this subject featured events in April. This, then, will be my first step in bringing matters up-to-date, and feature some of my highlights from May. Being away for nearly half of the month, it might seem to be a bit thin!

Tuesday, 3rd May             Calke Park and Staunton Harold Reservoir

A short visit to the two hides at Calke Park produced a few photo opportunities. The most exciting of these was the male Brambling. At this time, I was still being very cautious about Covid, as our trip to the Outer Hebrides was on the horizon, and so my time in the hides was curtailed by the arrival of other persons.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - Calke Park
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - Calke Park
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) - Calke Park
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - Calke Park

Jackdaw (Coloeus monedula) - Calke Park
From Calke Park, my route home took me over the bridge at Staunton Harold Reservoir. I stopped just before the bridge to have a look around. A Grey Heron was skulking in the shadows and a Mute Swan was sitting on the most enormous swan's nest that I have ever seen!
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Staunton Harold Reservoir
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Staunton Harold Reservoir
Sunday, 8th May                  Our Garden
A highlight on this day was the arrival of a Brimstone butterfly in the garden. We don't see many of these although, by coincidence, I did see one in the garden just yesterday!
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (female) - our garden
Wednesday, 11th May                 Packington
On this day, I went to check on my newest Little Owl site, and was extremely pleasantly surprised to find it much closer to a possible viewing point than on my previous sightings.
Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my LO Site No.54
Sadly, a visit in July revealed that the tree that I'd previously always seen the owl in, and believed to be its nesting tree, had been greatly reduced with a chain-saw. The intervening hedge had grown much higher too, so that it was impossible to check out the situation with any degree of certainty, but I suspect that the owl will have gone.
Saturday, 14th May                     Ketton Quarry
On this day, I travelled a bit further afield to Ketton Quarry, which is one of my favourite locations for butterflies. It also tends to throw up a few day-flying moths.

My main targets were Green Hairstreak, plus Dingy and Grizzled Skippers. My timing seems to have been out, however, for all these species, although they would normally be in the peak of their season at this time. I only found one very worn Dingy Skipper and one rather uncooperative Grizzled Skipper to photograph. Not a single Green Hairstreak was seen in what has always been a 'dead cert' area in previous years.

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) (male?) - Ketton Quarry
Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae) - Ketton Quarry
A pair of Brimstone were busy on the ground.
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male + female) - Ketton Quarry
As far as I can make out, this was the caterpillar of Dark Green Fritillary.
Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) (larva) - Ketton Quarry
Common Blue butterflies were about, and always a delight to see.
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (male) - Ketton Quarry
The female Common Blue can easily be confused with the less common Brown Argus. This is a Brown Argus, but I am not sure of its gender.

Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) - Ketton Quarry
Small Heath butterflies were present too.
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - Ketton Quarry
Two species of day-flying moth are a speciality of Ketton Quarry. Burnet Companion is classed as 'uncommon/under-recorded', and Common Heath (a very variable moth) is classed as 'rare' with only three known colonies in the county.
Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria) (female) - Ketton Quarry
Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria) (male) - Ketton Quarry
Burnet Companion looks orange in flight, due to its bright orange underside - a feature that one would probably never expect from the normal view of a settled one.

Burnet Companion (Euclidia glyphica) - Ketton Quarry
The common micro-moth, Pyrausta aurata, often referred to as 'mint moth' was there.
mint moth - Pyrausta aurata - Ketton Quarry
A caterpillar of the Lackey moth added a splash of gaudy colour to the scene!
Lackey (Malacosoma neustria) (larva) - Ketton Quarry
I don't think that I have ever photographed a Woodlouse before. What fascinating creatures they are!
Pill Woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare) - Ketton Quarry
I have absolutely no idea as to the identity of this tiny beetle, but it looked exquisite! UPDATE:_ With thanks to 'Conehead 54' who ID'd the beetle as one of the Cryptocephalus species (and it being on Rough Hawkbit), I now think that the beetle is probably Cryptocephalus aureolus, as most of the few records that there are for the county are from Ketton Quarry!
probable Cryptocephalus aureolus - Ketton Quarry
It hadn't been the visit that I'd hoped for but it was, nonetheless extremely enjoyable.
Tuesday, 31st May                       Our Garden
We came back from the Outer Hebrides to find that we had a visitor in the garden in the form of a rather fine-looking racing pigeon. This pigeon was somewhat omnipresent and this gave me the opportunity to take photos of its leg adornments and trace its owner via the data on them. It's home was in Biggleswade, some 70 miles (110 km) away, and it had been released in The Channel Islands, approximately 240 miles (390 km) away. There had been a group of pigeon fanciers from Biggleswade competing with a group from Leicester and it seems that his bird had decided to travel with the birds from Leicester.
The owner requested that I did not feed his bird (a 2 year old female) in order that it would be tempted to return home, but there was no way I could withhold food from it without disenfranchising the other birds that visit our garden. Several days later it was still with us and, having seen it that morning, I was about to contact the owner around mid-day to update him when he phoned me to tell me that she'd just arrived home. He also asked if she'd been missing her tail when with us. Not being familiar with racing pigeons, I'd put the lack of obvious tail protrusion as a feature of the breed!

Racing Pigeon - 2 years old - our garden
We also came home to find that a Fox had been visiting regularly in our absence, as had been captured on the cameras that I had left out. This had been taking advantage of the peanuts and sunflower hearts that I'd left on a large suspended tray, and which was within the reach of the Fox.
This brings me to the end of my catchup on May, 2022. I suspect that my next post will feature June events, either from the garden or from my excursions, but not both, in order to keep the size of the post to a more acceptable level.
In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature - thank you for dropping by - - - Richard


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Anne. Our garden helps me maintain what little sanity I might have left!

  2. I am so fed up with our Wi-Fi, I nearly gave up downloading your post but I got there in the end. A fabulous set of photos but the Little Owl is my favourite. Interesting info on the racing pigeon.
    I hope that all is well with you both. Our very best wishes to you, take care Diane

    1. I really sympathise with you and your slow Wi-Fi Diane. It must be very frustrating, and I promise you that I do think of you and feel guilty every time that I produce a long blog post! Thank you for your patience.

      We're both doing OK thank you. Lindsay is awaiting her knee replacement which might happen around the turn of the year, and I had my second injection into the eye this morning, and am pleased to report that I am already showing some improvement.

      Best wishes to you both. Stay safe - - - Richard

  3. Some beautiful photos as ever.

    Your unidentified beetle on the Rough Hawkbit is one of the Cryptocephalus species.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and the ID, for the plant and the beetle. Having checked the Naturespot web site, I suspect that the beetle is Cryptocephalus aureolus. It seems that all the Cryptocephalus species are a bit uncommon or under-recorded in VC55, and most of the records of C. aureolus come from - Ketton Quarry!

  4. Great, crisp pictures, Richard. The detail on the plumage of the Blue Tit is really wonderful. And the male Reed Bunting and Brambling are such handsome birds - dapper visitors to the backyard to be sure. That Mute Swan's nest is huge as you say, but I am pretty sure I have seen them as massive. There is one at Colonel Samuel Smith Park that seems to be added to each year, much in the way of an eagle's nest. It was great to see a Little Owl, but sad to hear that another of their homes fell to a chain saw. Great selection of butterflies and moths and an adventure with a racing pigeon all combine to make this an interesting post. Best wishes to you both - David

    1. Yes, David, that swan's nest does seem to grow each year. I wonder if it has always been occupied by the same birds, and whether it would be adopted by another pair of swans if it was abandonned by the original builders.

      I remember a situation at Rutland Water when one of the Osprey nests became so tall and was listing to one side and in danger of falling off the platform that it was built on. It was cunningly lowered by the team while the birds were away for the winter!

      Best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  5. Hello Richard
    I can only agree with David, the plumage of the blue tit looks great, a first-class photograph, plus the swan on its nest, great and the fox that came over to you from Mike Attwood ;-))
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you, Frank. It took a lot of effort and several tonnes of cat biscuits to persuade that Fox to travel the 250 km from Mike's place - I wonder if he's missing it !?

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  6. Good to see the catchup Richard, and like you have said to me recently I'm impressed.

    1. Thank you for those kind words, Pete. I think that I've probably missed the opportunity to get out and find a GRD - maybe next year?

  7. Beautiful photos Richard, I love very much your owl. Have a nice weekend !

    1. Thank you, Caroline. The weekend is going quite well so far - I hope that yours is too ! Without a doubt, owls are my favourite type of bird.

      Stay safe, and take good care of that shoulder ! - - - Richard

  8. Hi Richard
    Beautiful images, my favourite was the Brimstone butterfly. brilliant photo.

    1. Thank you, Bob. I was lucky with that sttled Brimstone, as most times we see them they are just passing through. Take good care - - - Richard

  9. Este es un precioso reportaje y el de the Outer Hebrides es extraordinario!!! Enhorabuena Richard, me alegra que hayas disfrutado tanto en tus aventuras. Espero que ya no haga tanto calor en UK, un fuerte abrazo desde el norte de España.

    1. Gracias, Germán. Me complace informar que el clima extremadamente cálido en el Reino Unido ya pasó y todo lo que necesitamos ahora es lluvia, ¡mucha lluvia! Espero que sus temperaturas también sean cada vez más cómodas.

      Mis mejores deseos desde el centro de Inglaterra. Mantente a salvo (y fresco) - - - - Richard


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