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Thursday 29 September 2022

The First Half of September, 2022

For various reasons, I didn't get out as much as I would have liked to in the first half of September. It was also a bit quiet as far as garden observations were concerned. Here are some notes and images relating to that period.

Thursday, 1st September                      Garden

A visit by a Brimstone butterfly was the main highlight this day.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male) - garden on 1st September, 2022
Thursday, 8th September                      Garden

Another butterfly was the star of this day.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - garden on 8th September, 2022
Saturday, 10th September                 Garden

Sticking with the Lepidoptera, it was a moth that caused excitement this day. I have recently published photos of Hummingbird Hawkmoths hovering at flowers on this blog. Finding one settled is something that rarely happens. I was, therefore, extremely excited to see one head high up into the Sambucus nigra 'Gerda' (known to Lindsay and I as 'the black bush'), and seemingly settle. I picked up my camera and eventually managed to find it with the aid of binoculars. It was so cryptically coloured that moving just a metre to try and get a better angle on it took me a good five minutes to locate it again. With yet another move, I lost it - and then the Goldfinches arrived and sent it on its way.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum) - garden on 10th September, 2022
Sunday, 11th September                    Hicks Lodge ; Garden

I was in two minds whether or not to visit the very local Hicks Lodge on this day as it can get busy with people on foot and on bicycles, and even occasionally on horseback, at the weekend. However, I decided to give it a try, and was glad that I did.

I parked at Oakthorpe Colliery and headed up to the south entrance to the Hicks Lodge site. From the moment that I got to the gate I was seeing Migrant Hawker dragonflies in the immediate vicinity. I spent around twenty minutes here trying to get some shots. Because of the background, I totally failed with attempted flight shots but, eventually, I saw one settle. To my absolute delight, it was a female. I reckon that the odds are about 20:1 that a spotted Migrant Hawker will be a male rather than a female.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (female) - Hicks Lodge
Passing on, I found huge amounts of fungi growing, away from the path. I subsequently found that these were Field Mushrooms, and I could have foraged buckets full of them. However, Lindsay, probably somewhat wisely, will not entertain the idea of me bringing any foraged fungi into the house for consumption! 

Alerted by the call of a Buzzard, I spotted this one in the distance.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - Hicks Lodge
It's around 600 metres from the south gate along the track to the main circuit of Hicks Lodge, and I spent some time to the east side of the track.

A Comma butterfly was very obliging.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Hicks Lodge
Near the top of the rise, the Field Mushrooms gave way to masses of another fungus. Although the fringe of that cap looks quite distinctive, I have no idea as to the identity of these.

fungus - Hicks Lodge
A Red Admiral was also in this area.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - Hicks Lodge

As I drew near to the main lake, I diverted onto a minor path that passes between two smaller ponds, Here I found a Common Darter.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Hicks Lodge
Having reached the main lake, I found two swans, one of which seemed unhappy with the presence of the other. There was an animated persuit for a while. The persuer is depicted in this next image - putting on quite a show!

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Hicks Lodge
A Cormorant flew over.
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Hicks Lodge
A female Mallard flew in and made a splash - yes, it's me with my thing about water splashes again!

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (female) - Hicks Lodge
. . . . . and a Coot glided by serenely.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Hicks Lodge
I thought that this flower stem of Purple Loosestrife looked particularly beautiful.
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) - Hicks Lodge
A Grey Heron was on the edge of the larger island.
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Hicks Lodge
On the main path, I found this brilliantly metallic-looking beetle - I have no idea as to its identity!
beetle sp. - Hicks Lodge
My photos do not have enough detail for me to identify this hoverfly beside the path, but I am relatively certain that it is an Eristalis species.
hoverfly (Eristalis sp.) (male) - Hicks Lodge
I had another session trying to photograph Migrant Hawker dragonflies, and had a little success. Unfortunately the sun had disappeared at this time.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Hicks Lodge
Before departing, I took some shots of a Small Copper butterfly.
Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - Hicks Lodge
At home that afternoon, I had another session with a Hummingbird Hawkmoth.
Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum) - garden on 11th September, 2022
Wednesday, 14th September                  Hicks Lodge
I returned to Hicks Lodge on this day. Sightings were similar to my visit only three days earlier, so I'll just offer some photos, and a few words.
I love the stamens on the Chicory flower! 

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) - Hicks Lodge
Carrying on with the blue theme, the male common Blue butterfly is rather special too.
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (male) - Hicks Lodge
There was the usual mix of dragonflies seen.
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Hicks Lodge
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Hicks Lodge
Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Hicks Lodge
A Little Grebe kept its distance, as is usual.
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - Hicks Lodge
A group (not quite a skein) of Greylag Geese arrived, flew around undecidedly, and then headed off northward.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Hicks Lodge
As I left the site a Buzzard flew overhead and landed in a distant tree. I'm convinced that this is the same bird that I see each time I visit, and one day I'll get a decent close-up of it - maybe!
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - Hicks Lodge

Thus ended the first half of the month of September, and so ends this blog post. I am a little uncertain as to what my next blog post might feature, but it might be something to do with royalty.
In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for your visit - - - Richard

Thursday 22 September 2022

The Last Two Days of August, 2022

This blog post will cover two excursions out I made at the very end of August. The first was a morning visit to a local nature reserve. The second was a day out to the other side of the Vice County. This is my illustrated account of those visits.

Tuesday, 30th August                       Kelham Bridge Nature Reserve

Kelham Bridge is about 15 minutes from my home by car. It has produced some interesting sightings in the past, but I had not been there for a long while, mainly because much of the interest can only be viewed from the two hides which are rather small and cramped and I didn't consider them a safe place in early Covid times.

Kelham Bridge has a reputation of being a dragonfly hot-spot, but I have never found it to be so, although one can be almost guaranteed to see them in the right season and suitable weather. I have, in the past, found it more interesting for birds.

As I entered the site, a Kestrel alerted me to its presence by flying out of a tree ahead of me and disappearing over the road behind me. I attempted some grabbed shots but this is the best of a bad bunch.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - Kelham Bridge NR
Absolutely nothing of interest was visible from the first hide and so I set off for the second hide. It seems that no visit is complete these days without the attendance of a Speckled Wood butterfly. This day was no exception. 

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - Kelham Bridge NR

A little further on I found a Migrant Hawker which, at first, I took to be an immature male because of its blue colouration, but subsequently realised it was a rather blue female. I have no idea as to what may be the reason for the curved abdomen.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (female) - Kelham Bridge NR
Before reaching the second hide, I stopped for a Comma butterfly which didn't do me the honour of opening its wings and, instead, exhibited an unusually dull underside.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Kelham Bridge NR
I spent just over an hour in the second hide, which I had to myself, but all the birds stayed distant and nothing of particular interest prompted me to excercise the camera, other than a Little Grebe which stayed at the far side of the lake. Below is a very heavily cropped image.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - Kelham Bridge NR
As I reached the exit of the site, I stopped to take some shots of a Common Darter. When you look at these creatures closely, they become even more fascinating.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Kelham Bridge NR

Although it had not been a particularly productive visit, it was very enjoyable in this tranquil place and I intend to return soon.

Wednesday, 31st August                    Rutland Water Nature Reserve

On this day I spent the greater part of a day on a visit to Rutland Water. I took my usual owling route and, as tends to be the norm these days, no Little Owl was seen.

My visit was to the Egleton side of the nature reserve and I kept to the north side of the Visitor Centre whilst there.

I missed out calling into Redshank Hide as people were going into the hide ahead of me. Little was seen from Grebe and Osprey Hides but as I walked round Sharples Meadow I found Ruddy Darter and Common Darter dragonflies.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum Sanguineum) (male) - Rutland Water NR
Common Darter (Sympetrum Striolatum) (male) - Rutland Water NR
The real interest happened on arrival at Shoveler Hide on Lagoon 3. Here I found people watching a good array of birds. Most obvious were the Little Egrets. I didn't count them but I guess that there were about twenty of them in immediate view.  In the third image below, one appears to have caught a tandem pair of damselflies, which it soon swallowed.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Rutland Water NR
What I found to be more unusual than the large number of Little Egrets was the good number of Snipe that were in the immediate area, and active.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - Rutland Water NR
Wanting to see what might be viewable further along the path, I called in at Buzzard Hide, where the view was so restricted by close tall growth that I left immediately. Nothing was seen from Smew Hide that  was within identifiable distance without a 'scope (I no longer posess one).
Hopes were high for some good sightings from Crake Hide which overlooks a narrow part of South Arm III. However, on arrival, I found that the water level was extremely low, with the water's edge a long way away. I stayed here for a while, with the only shots taken being that of a distant passing Marsh Harrier.
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) (female) - Rutland Water NR
It was time to set back to Shoveler Hide as that had been most productive for my interest. On the way back, I stopped for a very fresh-looking Comma butterfly.
Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Rutland Water NR
In a shady area of the track, I noticed a small damselfly fly in and appear to land a bit further along. I am extremely glad that I spent time trying to find it as, when I did find it, it turned out to be a Willow Emerald Damselfly. This was only my fourth site in the Vice County for this species, and I was susbsequently told that it was first recorded from Rutland Water only last year.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) (female) Rutland Water NR
Further along the track, in better light and different areas, I found two female Common Blue Damselfly. One was an immature specimen of the drab form and the other a very bright specimen of the blue form.
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (female - immature drab form) - Rutland Water NR
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (female - blue form) - Rutland Water NR
Before reaching Shoveler Hide, I found a shieldbug of a species that I've not encountered before - a Spiked Shieldbug, so called because of those 'shoulders'. Its  status is described as 'Fairly frequent but not common in Leicestershire and Rutland.' It is a carniverous species, with a particular liking for caterpillars.
Spiked Shieldbug (Picromerus bidens) - Rutland Water NR
My return to Shoveler hide turned out to be a fortuitous one, largely because of the eagle- eyes of a very knowlegable and friendly gentleman on a disability buggy. He was spotting, and identifying extremely distant birds long before I could see them. Here are a few that he alerted me to, all of which remained fairly distant, but close enough for me to track with the camera (practising on dragonflies in flight certainly helps!). 
Hobby (Falco subbuteo) - Rutland Water NR
Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - Rutland Water NR
Great White Egret (Egreta alba) - Rutland Water NR
The Hobby had caught a dragonfly and consumed it in flight, but I did not manage to capture that event.
A Heron that had been lurking in the reeds, unseen by me, emerged into full view.
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Rutland Water NR
I alerted others in the hide to two waders flying in. I was unsure of the identity at first until my eagle-eyed companion ID'd them as Greenshank. Eventually they came nearer and I was able to get some shots.

Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) - Rutland Water NR
My visit was cut short by a call from Lindsay to say that she was on a call from our son who was inviting us to join him and his two girls for dinner at an inn close to our home - could we accept? Of course I agreed and so hot-footed it back to the car and headed homeward. I did return by the owling route, but still nothing seen.
It had been a splendid day at Rutland Water, and dinner with our son and grandchildren rounded it off perfectly!
This brings me to the end of my account, and the end of August. I'm not sure what my next blog post might feature and, at the moment, it looks as if it might be a short one - but not without interest!

In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard