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Wednesday 31 May 2023

Seven Days in Early May - 9th to 15th May, 2023

header image (while this post is current) - Coot family at Heather Lake on 15th May, 2023

In early May, we started to see some improvements in the weather. Conditions were getting warmer, and we had a few dry days! This gave me the opportunity for a couple of outings - one local, and one to another country - to supplement my observations from our home. Here's a summary of what, for me, was an interesting seven days.

Tuesday, 9th May                    Garden

The last Large Red Damselfly seen to emerge from our mini-pond was on 7th May. This day, however, we had a Large Red Damselfly visit us. I was a little disappointed that it was a male, rather than an ovipositing female.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - garden on 9th May, 2023
Wednesday, 10th May                    Garden

Although primarily a butterfly of woodland rides, we do sometimes get Speckled Wood visiting the garden, even though there is no woodland close to our home.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - garden on 10th May, 2023
I also photographed an Orange-tip which took a fancy to our Forget-Me-Nots. Only the male of the species has orange tips to the forewings.

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) (male) - garden on 10th May, 2023
Thursday, 11th May                    Garden

Looking into the mini-pond, I noticed what appeared to be a newly emerged Mayfly, with one wing either deformed or not yet fully extended. I believe this to be Cloeon dipterum.

Mayfly (Cloeon dipterum) - garden on 11th May, 2023
In one part of the garden, I have driven in four vertical  thin wooden posts and each time I prune something giving me a straight stick I lay it between the posts so that it builds up into a wall of sticks. This is intended to provide a home for invertebrates. As the sticks at the bottom decay, they are replaced by new prunings on the top. We refer to this as 'the hurdle'. On this day, for a change, I managed to get a shot of a male Bullfinch away from a feeder - it was on the hurdle.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 11th May, 2023
Saturday, 13th May                    Wolseley Bridge Nature Reserve ; Whixall Moss

I had recently been told that Wolseley Bridge Nature Reserve, the headquarters of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, was an excellent place to watch and photograph Kingfisher, and so this was my chosen destination this day. I arrived to find the overflow car park rapidly filling up. Undaunted, I set off for the favoured location for the Kingfishers and got there to be told that they'd not been seen for a few days, following some very bad weather.

I spent a while here, but was soon disenchanted by the crowds of people, many of whom were accompanied by noisy children and/or over-inquisitive dogs. The only photos that I came away with were one of a very dubious duck which seemed to be at least partly Northern Pintail, and a rather cute Mallard chick - a singleton, not straying far from its mother.

Northern Pintail cross? - Wolseley Bridge NR
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (chick) - Wolseley Bridge NR

My thoughts then turned as to what to do now. I had the bold idea of heading off to the Welsh Borders at Whixall Moss, to see if I could find White-faced Darter dragonflies. It was quite a long drive and I arrived at the Reserve Base as a number of other people were also arriving. I was asked for my name so that I could be ticked off on the list, and when I pointed out that I was not booked on any event, I was told that the event was a short bird-watching walk and that, if I wanted to stay beyond 16.00, when the gates would be locked, I should make my way to the alternative car park , and was given directions. I subsequently learned when looking at the map of the reserve that I'd parked in Wales and then, after having my picnic lunch, walked back into England where the bulk of the reserve is located.

There is one area of the reserve which is generally regarded as the best place to find White-faced Darters. On my way to that location, I had three brief sightings of female White-faced Darters but, mainly due to my inability to find them in the viewfinder (the greatest problem that I haver with the new camera), I failed to get any photos. I did manage some photos of a day-flying Moth - the Common Heath - a species that is very variable in appearance.

Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria atomaria) (male) - Whixall Moss

I saw a few damselflies on my way to the favoured area, but was too busy looking for the darters, to bother with them. I spent quite a while at the usual location and didn't see a single darter. I did see a distant exuvia of what I believe was probably a Four-spotted Chaser, as it looked rather large for that of a W-f D.

dragonfly exuvia - Whixall Moss
While there, I got into conversation with two other people, one of whom kindly took us to see a Raft Spider that he'd found. This is a semi-aquatic predator, and a species where the male will often be eaten by the female during, or after, copulation. I was told that, by the size of the pedipalps, this was probably a male.

Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus) (probable male) - Whixall Moss
This same gentleman then told me that he had seen Green Tiger Beetles along a path that I had not yet traversed. We soon found some, and I even found a pair in cop.

Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris) - Whixall Moss

It wasn't until I watched some video that I'd taken of this pair of beetles that I realised that the female had an ant clamped in her jaws. I understand that one handles this species at one's peril as they can give a very painful bite!

It was now time for me to start wending my way home. Near the favoured W-f D area I again photographed a Common Heath moth. This one was somewhat different to the one shown above.
Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria atomaria) (male) - Whixall Moss

Having failed miserably in my quest to photograph dragonflies, on my way back to my car, I paid a bit more attention to the damselflies, although these were not present in large numbers. Here are a couple of them.
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (female) - Whixall Moss
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (immature male) - Whixall Moss

Thus ended an interesting, but frustrating day.
Sunday, 14th May                    Garden
Whilst having our lunch in the conservatory, Lindsay noticed that an extremely small moth had landed on a food container. It was difficult to see any detail with the naked eye as it was so small (about half an inch, or 13 mm long), but a close-up photo enabled an identification of this micro-moth. 
Esperia sulphurella - from conservatory on 14th May, 2023
In the garden, I photographed another micro-moth. This was the common, and a little larger moth often referred to as a Mint Moth.
Pyrausta aurata - garden on 14th May, 2023

In the pond, I noticed the exuvia of some aquatic creature. 'Obsidentify' suggests it is a Large Red Damselfly, but I don't think so, with those small wing-like protruberances along the sides of the abdomen! I think that it is probably the exuvia of a Mayfly.

exuvia - garden on 14th May, 2023
The Holly Blues were still around and putting in frequent appearances.
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) (female) - garden on 14th May, 2023

The daily appearance of a pair of Stock Dove had, by now, dwindled down to an occasional visit by just one. Sadly, I believe that a cat was to blame for this situation.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 14th May

That night, the moth trap was put out, and resulted in a rather meagre catch of just 7 moths of 3 species. Four of these (all male) were the rather charming Muslin Moth

Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica) (male) - from garden on 14th May, 2023

One was a beautiful Small Phoenix.

Small Phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata) - from garden on 14th Mat, 2023
Monday, 15th May                    Heather Lake
Heather Lake is one of my favourite local places for looking for dragonflies but, last year, it became almost impossible to walk round the perimeter because the path had become so overgrown with brambles. In my quest to photograph my first dragonfly of the year, it was time to give it another visit.
On the walk down to the lake, I stopped for a Speckled Wood.
Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) -near Heather Lake

Arriving at the lake, I soon found a teneral Common Blue Damselfly
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (teneral male) - Heather Lake

A clockwise circumperambulation of the lake produced nothing until I neared the far end, where I was greeted with the charming sight of an adult Coot, leading a group of six chicks. This can be seen in the header image to this blog while this post is current.
Coot (Fulica atra) (chicks and adult) - Heather Lake

The west side of the lake was now passable, but little was seen. I did photograph this very distinctive fly, however.
fly (Tachina fera) - Heather Lake

I also came across this extremely small long-horn micro-moth, which made up for its lack of size by its amazingly long antennae! The length of these indicates that this was a male.

Green Long-horn (Adela reaumurella) (male) - Heather Lake

No dragonflies were seen, but it had been a most enjoyable short visit.

This brings me to the end of this blog post. My next blog post, as usual, will probably be in about a week's time and looks as if it will feature several more visits to locations around the county. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.
Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard 


  1. Cracking Tiger Beetle shots and that male Bullfinch. It does it for me. Take care.


    1. Thank you, Marc. Thankfully, we are getting reasonably frequent visits to the garden by the male Bullfinch. Those Tiger Beetles are not that easy to photograph as they don't tend to stay still and they fly a lot too.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  2. In going through this post, Richard, one knows that spring has really sprung! All of the photographs are superb, but the Green Tiger Beetles take first prize for me. i am pleased to see your interest of late in the intricacies of insect reproduction, with videos even! No doubt you have a documentary production in mind, but be careful where it is shown. There are areas of the United States right now that might see it banned! Best wishes to you and Lindsay - David

    1. When producing this blog post, David, I did find myself pondering whether I should include the Tiger Beetle video in case I got a reputation for being a certain type of movie producer. I shall be careful !

      Sorry for the alte response - had a period of inactivity after another eye injection and have been trying to catch up with many things.

      My best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  3. Hello Richard,
    a very extensive post, many beautiful pictures, the Bläshunh with the young is great but the bow tie is my top... how many details you can see is amazing. And now a compliment from me to you.. You have great control over the new camera, the quality of the pictures says it very clearly. I'll just say great
    I wrote to you about the Sigma lens, I bought it last year, but I'm still not really satisfied with the result... I'll continue to do my best ;-))
    Greetings Frank

    1. Greetings, Frank

      I am not sure what it is that you refer to as the "bow tie" but guess, because of its wing configuration, that it is the damselflies.

      Your kind words about my control of the new camera are much-appreciated, but you do not see the the many shots that are failures. I still have a lot to learn, and my use of the camera will take a long time, if ever, to become instinctive.

      I'm disappointed that you have doubts about the Sigma lens you bought last year. From what you show on your blog, it seems to be serving you well - but then, like me, you are probably just showing the good shots ?!

      My best wishes - take good care - - - Richard

  4. hello richard
    i wish that i could do your fine post justice, but i cant because i had another fall yesterday just when i was going to visit, resulting in a badly broken right wrist. your post is wonderful.
    all the best.

    1. Oh Sonjia, how dreadful that must be for you! I read from your blog post that your fall was because your knee gives way under you. Are you expecting to have knee surgery sometime to rectify the problem?

      I wish you a speedy recovery and shall be keeping my fingers crossed for you. Take good care - - Richard

  5. Hi Richard, beautiful photos of the insects. Once I saw an Bullfinch. Have a nice sunday.

    1. I had no idea that Bullfinch might be a rarity in your area, Caroline. Thank you for your visit. Best wishes - - - Richard

  6. Wow! What wonderful nature observations and photographs.

    1. Thank you, Anne. Sometimes I am in the right place at the right time!

  7. This is a fabulous post and I could pass a comment on each and every photo but it is my bedtime so I am not going to try. It sure means that the weather is warming up and spring has at last sprung. The shot of the Orange-tip is very special. I wish I could see a Bullfinch!

    I hope all is going as well as can be expected with you both. Please take care. Very best wishes to you both. Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane. Things, generally, are improving at this end, I'm pleased to report. However, after a year of having injections into my right eye, and thinking that all was good and I was now going to be discharged, I was told a week ago that my eye condition is deteriorating again, and I am now back having injections - most frustrating!

      My very best wishes to you and Nigel - - Richard

  8. Hi Richard
    My favourite is the Muslin Moth, brilliant images.

    1. Thank you, Bob. The Muslin Moth is rather gorgeous, I agree. Best wishes - - - Richard

  9. The lengths to which you go to produce an outstanding blog just for us to enjoy is remarkable! I mean, traveling to a whole other country! We appreciate it.

    What a diverse collection of outstanding photographs to savor! Your detailed narrative, as usual, provides interesting context for the images. Also as usual, selecting a "favorite" image would be akin to selecting a "favorite" child. Impossible.

    Brilliant to provide a foraging spot for the Bullfinch and any others which love to find their meals in rotting detritus. I was drawn to the "Mint Moth" as one of my favorite subjects in our area is Pyrausta tyralis, the Coffee-loving Pyrausta Moth. Perhaps it's just the name which is the attraction.

    It is heartening to see the number of insects included today as the weather seems to be behaving somewhat more normal for the season. Hope that trend continues!

    All is quite good here in the Sunshine State! The wet season is in full swing and we can almost set our clocks by the arrival of afternoon thunderstorms. The land is turning green and the swamps and aquifers are filling as they do each year. Life is good.

    Time for coffee. Hope it will attract a moth ......

    Gini and I send our very best wishes to you and Lindsay!

    1. I had noticed, with interest, from previous blog posts from you, Wally, that you have Pyrausta tyralis in your area. I see that our Pyrausta aurata (Mint Moth) is very slightly bigger than your Coffee-lover, which goes to prove that mint tea is better for healthy growth than coffee.

      Insect numbers are starting to pick up now, but still well down on what they were only a few years ago.

      Our weather keeps going back to cold and breezy, but without much rain. We've been having to put the heating back on occasionally and we're heading that way this evening.

      My very best wishes to you and Gini - - - Richard


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