Notes on Use of This Blog

1. I have a policy that I always reply to comments on my blog, even if it's just to say thank you.

2. Please don't submit comments that include your own web address. For obvious reasons, they will not be published.

3. I'm now on Twitter - @RichardPegler1

Wednesday 30 August 2023

Catchup Time Pt.2 - 1st to 6th June, 2023

Header image (while this post is current) - female Banded Demoiselle at Sence Valley Forest Park on 5th June, 2023

I was quite busy with my seeking the local Odonata in early June, but was also observing the goings-on in our garden. Here are some of my findings.

Thursday, 1st June          Our Garden

This was a busy day for medical visits, with me taking Lindsay for a physiotherapy session in the morning, and then me having to go for an eye injection in the afternoon. These appointments took  up most of the day, but I was able to see just about well enought to take a shot of this Bullfinch visiting the garden after my return from my eye appointment.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - our garden

Friday, 2nd June         The Ivanhoe Way : Saltersford Valley Country Park : our garden

I had to take Lindsay for a mid-day appointment with her surgeon on the other side of Leicester. Fortunately the appointment was a relatively short one and I managed to get out mid-afternoon. Under strict instructions to take it easy for a couple of days after my eye injection, I took a gentle stroll at a location that I'd been informed of recently. This was a section of a local countrified walking route, which goes under the name of The Ivanhoe Way.

I wandered the route for a way, until I came to a section which ran through a rather uninteresting field, and then turned back. I was three quarters of the way back to my starting point before I started seeing  a few damselflies.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - The Ivanhoe Way
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - The Ivanhoe Way

I then noticed a large dragonfly fyying quite high up near the adjacent trees. I watched it for quite a long time - maybe fifteen minutes - before it suddenly dropped down into the long grass about 5 metres off the path and some distance ahead of me. Miraculously, I managed to locate it, but only got a few obscured shots before it was up again.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (female) - The Ivanhoe Way
I continued watching again for quite some time until it dropped back into the grass. This time I was able to find a better viewpoint and it stayed there for a while as it was busy munching on a ladybird that it had just caught.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (female) - The Ivanhoe Way

It was an exciting end to the short visit, but I felt that I was ready for more, so set off on the short journey to Saltersford Valley Country Park.

I didn't find any photographable dragonflies there, but there were a few obliging damselflies waiting for me. This first one is a female Blue-tailed Damselfly of f. violacea, which will either mature into into the andromorph blue form or into f. infuscans - greenish, with brownish thorax and segment 8 of the abdomen.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (female f. violacea) - Saltersford Valley CP
This Azure Damselfly was resting with its abdomen unusually kinked. I wonder if it was having a post-coital rest?

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP

This year, Banded Demoiselle have not been as easy to find at this location as they have been in previous years, although they seem to have done well enough at other local locations.

I include a video clip showing that wonderful flashing wing display.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP

This next sequence, included in order to match friend David's expectations, shows a pair of Red-eyed Damselfly hooking up prior to copulation.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) (male+female) - Saltersford Valley CP

I have occasionally been amused by shots of Large Red Damselfly with just the eyes showing either side of a leaf, and even attempted such shots myself. I couldn't resist taking this one of a Red-eyed Damselfly trying to get in on the action too.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
On my way back to the car, this Speckled Wood posed quite nicely.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - Saltersford Valley CP
Back home again, I managed a shot of a Holly Blue butterfly. I have seen mention of Red Admiral butterflies having an exceptionally good year this year. However, my own observations suggest that the real butterfly winners this year have been Holly Blue, Gatekeeper, and Brimstone.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) (female) - our garden
Saturday, 3rd June          Donisthorpe

Donisthorpe is a parish just 3 miles (5 km) from our home. Two years ago, a Community Interest Company (a CIC has a legal standing) was set up to take control of an area of unregistered land to convert it to a wildlife area for the benfit of the community. It will then pass into full ownership of the CIC if not legally claimed by anyone inside ten years.

I was invited by one of the committee to visit this plot of land on this day for a guided visit, with a view to becoming a member of the group. This I did, and am now a fully paid up member!

Here are some of the things that I observed during this visit.

Not far from the entrance was a specimen of Fox and Cubs, which is one of my favourite wild flowers with its amazing colours.

Fox and Cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca) - Donisthorpe CIC Land
False blister beetle (Oedemera lurida) on Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) - Donisthorpe CIC Land

Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus) - Donisthorpe CIC Land

Damselflies and dragonflies are relatively colourless when they emerge, but soon gain their basic colour. In some species, there are further colour changes as they mature - quite often darkening or bronzing. Common Blue Damselfly retains its bright blue colour as it matures.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (immature male) - Donisthorpe CIC Land

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Donisthorpe CIC Land

I have always found the Hairy Shieldbug to be an attractive-looking insect, but was surprised when one that I was photographing here took off and gave a glimpse of a bright scarlet elytrum - a feature that I was totally unaware of and suspect that others are too.

Hairy Shieldbug (Dolycoris baccarum) - Donisthorpe CIC Land

Lacewing (Chrysopa perla) - Donisthorpe CIC Land

There were plenty of orchids around, particularly, in a damp area where there was a small dried-up pond. I believe that the first, below, is a species of Marsh Orchid. I am confident that the second is a Common Spotted Orchid.

Marsh Orchid sp. (Dactylorhiza sp.) - Donisthorpe CIC Land
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) - Donisthorpe CIC Land

It had been a fascinating experience, with the plot of land being full of potential, but requiring a lot of effort to make it permanently accessible and maintain it that way. I just hope that the manpower can be attracted to achieve this. I shall try and do my bit to help, but my abilities are limited.

When writing this piece I felt it strange to be referring to the plot as 'Donisthorpe CIC Land' so I enquired as to whether the plot had a recognised name - I got the following response "Other than Donisthorpe CIC no it hasn’t. Perhaps we should come up with names ready for the AGM in September and vote on the suggestions". I have already put in a suggestion. Watch this space!

Sunday, 4th June          Our Garden

Garlic Mustard is a rather invasive plant, but I try to let a few plants grow each year because it is favoured as a food plant by the larvae of the Orange-tip butterfly. Here is one that I took some shots of this day - it is a quite small caterpillar.

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) (larva) - our garden
Monday, 5th June          Sence Valley Forest Park

As it was my birthday, Lindsay bravely offered to accompany me on a short walk at Sence Valley Forest Park. This is an ideal place for Lindsay to enjoy a gentle walk in natural surroundings as there are benches to sit on every couple of hundred metres. It is a pity that it is not a little closer to home, although only 7 miles (11 km) away. 

We spent a while at the stone bridge over the River Sence. Here, there were Banded Demoiselle, with only females being photographable.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (female) - Sence Valley FP
 A short walk round to Horseshoe Lake revealed very few gulls. Avian Influenza has wreaked havock in this area, especially on the Black-headed Gulls. This one seemed to have a look of loneliness.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Sence Valley FP
Lindsay had walked as far as she was able, and so we set back to the aforementioned bridge. Here, Lindsay, with her eagle eyes, spotted a mayfly on the outer edge of the bridge parapet. In that position it was difficult to photograph, but it was worth the effort as it was a quite remarkable-looking insect. Look at that wonderful tail!

Green Drake Mayfly (Ephemera danica) - Sence Valley FP

I went down to stream level beside the bridge to look for dragonflies. This swan family came into view from further upstream.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Sence Valley FP
On our way back to the car, I spotted this soldier beetle.

soldier beetle (Cantharis nigricans) - Sence Valley FP
Tuesday, 6th June          our garden

This day was really special as it yielded my first ever sighting of a Lime Hawk-moth - and it was in our garden! To my mind, this large moth ranks as one of the most beautiful of the Hawk-moths.

Lime Hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae) (male) - our garden

That happy note brings me to the end of this installment of my catchup series. If all goes according to plan, my next post will feature the following week and will also be a quite long one!

In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. 

Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard

Friday 25 August 2023

Catchup Time - 23rd to 29th May. 2023

Header image (while this post is current) - Male Large Red Damselfly at Saltersford Valley Country Park 

My recent blog posts have totally focused on reporting on two vacations away from home - the first to Norfolk and the second to The New Forest. It's now time to catch up with what has been happening closer to home. So here we go.

Tuesday, 23rd May          Melbourne Pool

Lindsay fancied somewhere different to take exercise but, because of her limitations, it had to be somewhere with seating at relatively frequent intervals. It seemed to me that Melbourne Pool was just the place. There is plenty of seating and also some avian activity to keep me amused too.

A Coot was resting, near to the dam.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Melbourne Pool
Several Pied Wagtails were present and in various states of plumage. This was a rather handsome male.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - Melbourne Pool
A Moorhen was busy going about its business.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Melbourne Pool
Mallards were, of course,  quite numerous, but there's no denying that a male Mallard is a handsome duck.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (male) - Melbourne Pool
The real pleasure, however, was to find that the Red-crested Pochards were back. Sadly, they stayed distant on this occasion.

Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) (male) - Melbourne Pool
We both really enjoyed the outing.

Wednesday, 24th May          Saltersford Valley Country Park

I made a brief visit to nearby Saltersford Valley CP to check on the dragonfly situation. I did have a few sightings of Hairy Dragonfly, but failed to get any photos. The only odonate I managed a shot of was a Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (immature male) - Saltersford Valley CP
The Yellow Flag Iris were in flower, and looking splendid.

Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) - Saltersford Valley CP
The only other thing of note that I photographed was a tiny Red-and-black Froghopper which, for me, are always a joy to see.

Red-and-black Froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata) - Saltersford Valley CP
Thursday, 25th May          Garden : Saltersford Valley Country Park

Wanting to have another attempt a photographing Hairy Dragonfly, I returned to Saltersford Valley, As I exited our front door I noticed an unusual-looking wasp on the wall beside the door. This was one of the solitary wasps, Sapyga quinquepunctata. It seems that they are only occasionally reported in our county. This was identifiable as a female by the red band on the abdomen.

solitary wasp (Sapyga quinquepunctata) (female) - our front garden
Again, I saw a few Hairy Dragonfly at Saltersford Valley CP, but failed to photograph one. There were, however, quite a few species of damselfly around.

The first of these Blue-tailed damselflies had not quite reached maturity, having a distinctly greenish tinge to the thorax which would soon be the purest blue.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (immature male) - Saltersford Valley CP

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
Large Red Damselfly is a quite easy species to identify. Here, I show both male and female. The male has a relatively slender abdomen, with finer dark rings at the joins of the abdomen segments.
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (female) - Saltersford Valley CP

For me, the key ID feature of the male Azure Damselfly is the marking on segment 2 of the abdomen, whch I think of as the being like a cross section of a drink beaker.
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP

More often than not, if I find a Red-eyed Damselfly it is on a lily pad or other vegetation, floating on the water. Finding one on waterside foliage is a real bonus.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) (male) - - - Saltersford Valley CP

Banded Demoiselle is always a delight to see
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP

On the way back to my car, I stopped for this Common Carder Bee which was looking rather gorgeous.
Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum) - Saltersford Valley CP

Saturday, 27th May          Garden
Absolutely nothing remarkable about this sighting, but I was rather pleased by this shot of an immature Starling in our garden.
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) (immature) - our garden

Monday, 29th May          Cloud Wood
I attended a visit to Cloud Wood this day, organised by the Blackfordby Wildlife Group that I am a serving member of. The focus was, primarily, on the flora of this place, but it is not without other attractions. Here are a few of the things found. I'm no botanist, so no descriptions - please let me know if there are wrong IDs.
Red Campion (Silene dioica) - Cloud Wood

Guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus) - Cloud Wood

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) - Cloud Wood

Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum) - Cloud Wood
There were a few insects around also, although not as many as I had hoped for, probably due to the weather. It was cold enough that two of our participants had to return to the car, with one of them showing symptoms of hypothermia - in late May!!!
I believe these to be Celery Leaf  Beetles on Hogweed in this first image.
Celery Leaf Beetles (Phaedon tumidulus) - Cloud Wood

The Tapered Drone Fly is a common occupant of Cloud Wood. This hoverfly is a male, as witnessed by the eyes that meet in the middle.
Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax) (male) - Cloud Wood

This brings me to the end of my observations for the month of May.
I intend that my next post will feature some highlights from June, outside of my visit to Norfolk which I have already reported on. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.
Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard