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Thursday 28 September 2023

Local Observations - 3rd to 13th September, 2023

Header image (while this post is current) - Common Buzzard - Thortit Lake on 6th September, 2023  

With this post I am, at last, reporting sightings in the same month as they happened!

Sunday, 3rd September            Garden  :  Donisthorpe Wood  :  Saltersford Valley Country Park

In the morning, I spent some time in the garden doing some general tidying up, during which I was keeping an eye open for wildlife on any items I pruned. This resulted in me finding a number of shieldbugs of three different species. I am rather fond of shieldbugs, so this was very pleasing, although I know little about them. All but one of the shieldbugs found were on the sunflower heads.

Hawthorn Shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale) (adult) - our garden
Hairy Shieldbug (Dolycoris baccarum) (adult) - our garden

Common Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina) (3rd instar nymphs) - our garden
On this day, I was booked on an afternoon walk organised by Groundwork Five Counties in conjunction with The National Forest. This was billed as a 'Bug Hunt'. I turned up to the news that the designated guide had called in sick with Covid. However, a well-experienced substitute had been found. What I was not prepared for was the nature of the walk, which largely consisted of swiping sweep-nets through tree branches and ground vegetation, and examining what was in the nets. This was not my thing really, as I much prefer to seek and photograph items in their natural habitat. 

There were, nevertheless, some interesting items found and a few photos taken.

Beside the entrance to Donisthorpe Woodland from the car park was a fine example of Robin's Pincushion. Robin's Pincushion (also known as the 'Bedeguar Gall') is a gall caused by the larvae of a tiny gall wasp, Dipoloepis rosae. It is quite common.

Robin's Pincushion - Donishorpe Woodland
There were a few grasshoppers around.

Lesser Marsh Grasshopper (Chorthippus albomarginatus) - Donisthorpe Woodland
One of the items swept from its resting place was the beautiful caterpillar of the Pale Tussock moth. Unfortunately, this creature was still suffering from the shock of being displaced and didn't straighten itself out from its defensive curled state.

Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda) (larva) - Donisthorpe Woodland
One of our eagle-eyed participants - a fellow dragonfly enthusiast - spotted scars on a willow that was overhanging an isiolated remnant of the Ashby Canal. These scars were left by the oviposition of the Willow Emerald Damselfly. This species is rapidly expanding its territory in UK and was first reported in our county in 2019. This damselfly bores into branches that are above water and lays its eggs. When they hatch, the newly-hatched nymphs drop into the water to start the aquatic stage of their life

Oviposition scars of the Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) by Donisthorpe Woodland
Although a Migrant Hawker dragonfly was seen beside the canal I didn't manage any photos. There were, however, Common Darter dragonflies seen in several locations.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Donisthorpe Woodland
There was an element of hilarity created when a Common Darter landed on the cap of the dragonfly enthusiast that had found the Willow Emerald scars.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Donisthorpe Woodland
Saltersford Valley Country Park is only about a mile (1.6km) from Donisthorpe Woodland, and is one of my favourite dragonfly spots. My new pal, Lance - the fellow that had found the damselfly scars, and owner of the dragonfly magnet cap - was not aware of this place, so I took him there after the walk.

Surprisingly, there were more Migrant Hawkers than there were Common Darters - and they were landing. Lance was delighted as he got his first Migrant Hawker photos of the year.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP

Wednesday, 6th September          Thortit Lake

A mid-afternoon visit to Thortit Lake - my nearest dragonfly hotspot - turned out a little different to what I was expecting.

I was not surprised to find Brimstone near my entrance point, off Willesley Woodside.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male) - by Willesley Woodside
Although I saw several Migrant Hawker and a couple of Brown Hawker dragonflies, I was seeing Ruddy Darters almost everywhere - it was quite remarkable as, until this time, I had seen very few of this species this year.

I have been a little uncertain about showing the first shot, below, as it is not a good photo, but there's something about it that I find pleasing.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Thortit Lake

This next one's for my good friend David.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male+femal in cop) - Thortit Lake

At one point I noticed a juvenile Moorhen that was running with ease across the dense algae covering on an area of the lake. Look at the size of its feet!

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) (juvenile) - Thortit Lake
. . . . .and another shot of a Ruddy Darter - this time, side-on.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Thortit Lake
On my way back to the car, I was alerted to the presence of Common Buzzards by their distinctive calls. There were four of them together, high up and distant. However, they broke away from each other and one came close enough for some photos.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - Thortit Lake
Thursday, 7th September          Garden

It was around this time that a male Sparrowhawk started to make a nuisance of itself. So far, we have not seen it catch anything, but we are alerted to its presence by the sound of warning calls from the birds and the occasional thump as a bird, in panic, strikes a window. We have lost a few birds in this way over the years, but on many an occasion I have gone out to a bird that has been stunned, and wandered around the garden with it in my warm hand for up to an hour before it revives and flies away. 

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - our garden
Wednesday, 13th September          Thornton Reservoir and Brown's Wood

It had been a week since I had been out and prompted by a message from my new pal, Lance, who had been to Thornton Reservoir and seen "lots of Willow Emerald Damselflies and lots of Emerald Damselflies at Brown's Wood", I thought that I'd check it out as I'd not yet connected with Willow Emerald Damselflies this year. I was uncertain as to what my chances were as it had been a day of torrential rain the day before.

I arrived at Thornton Reservoir to find the car park all but full. Fortunately I was in our very small Smart, so was able to find a parking space. 

From the car park, drawn by an unusual call, I found an alien! It was, I believe, a Chinese Goose, the origins of which were, of course, extremely dubious.

Chinese Goose (Anser cygnoides) - Thornton Reservoir
As I approached the cafe area, a juvenile Moorhen scuttled down the slipway.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) (juvenile) - Thornton Reservoir
Outside the cafe, there is a Willow that ovehangs the water. Here I saw a Migrant Hawker dragonfly and an emerald damselfly that settled but I couldn't get focus on before it flew. I am 95% sure that it was a Willow Emerald Damselfly. I waited patiently for a long while, but it didn't return.

The shape of Thornton Reservoir reminds me of a human double tooth, with the dam forming the biting surface and the two inlet arms being the roots of the tooth. The path to Brown's Wood leads off from just past the first inlet. My target was the two ponds that are in Brown's Wood. I had not been there before, and I soon found myself a little lost. In the end, I had to resort to finding my position on Google Earth, and chcking my progress as I went.

In the end, I found the two ponds. Little of the pond edge was accessible at the first pond and I got very wet feet and legs in the long grass. 

To cut a long story short, I got a grabbed shot of a warbler that I believe to be a Chiffchaff (dark legs on another even worse shot than this one).

probable Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) - Brown's Wood

There were a few Ruddy Darters and Common Darters.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Brown's Wood

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Brown's Wood

I also found a damselfly that had me puzzled for a while, until I realised that it was an immature female Common Blue Damselfly.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (immature female) - Brown's Wood
At the second pond, nothing was visible for a while and then a male Southern Hawker showed up. I tried for some flight shots but failed. It then flew off. I hung around for anther twenty minutes but it didn't show again. 

As I had a commitment later that afternoon it was time to head back. I had originally intended to do a complete circuit of the reservoir, but I had not left myself enough time so I headed back the way that I had come.

I saw more on the way back than I did on the way out. There were adult Moorhens out on the water.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Thornton Reservoir

I saw several Common Blue Damselflies, and two of them were engaging in strange abdomen waving.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Thornton Reservoir

There were also young Little Grebes around, with an adult not too far away. The water disturbance in front of this chick is where the adult has just dived.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) (chick) - Thornton Reservoir
A juvenile Moorhen looked very confident out on the water.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) (juvenile) - Thornton Reservoir

After Mallard, Tufted Duck must be our most common duck, but they are rather handsome.

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) (male) - Thornton Reservoir

My last photos before I left were of a Red Admiral butterfly on ivy.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - Thornton Reservoir
By the end of the visit, I had not seen a single Emerald Damselfly and only seen one possible Willow Emerald Damselfly. However, it had been an interesting visit which included new territory for me, and was, therefore, a worthwhile one.

My next post, probably in about a week's time, will bring matters as good as up-to-date.

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

Thursday 21 September 2023

Catchup Time Pt.6 - 10th to 28th August, 2023

Header image (while this post is current) - Banded Demoiselle (female) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone on 28th August, 2023  

Getting ever-closer to the current date, here is Part 6 of my Catchup series of posts.

Thursday, 10th August          Drakelow Nature Reserve

On this day, I visited Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's nature reserve at Drakelow, beside the River Trent. DWT has a reciprocal arrangement with Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust (of which I am a member) which allows visits to this reserve, entrance to which is protected by a combination-locked gate. It is approximately a mile and a half (2 km) from the gate to the car park!

My main interest here was, you may not be surprised to learn, the Odonata. This has been a useful place to visit in the past.

Near the car park, I found Common Blue Damselflies, two of which were in the process of hooking up to mate. In this first image, the male has used his anal appendages (claspers) to grip the pronotum (behind the head) of the female.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male+female in tandem) - Drakelow NR
In this second image, the female has brought her abdomen round so that her rear end connects with the secondary genitalia of the male.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male+female in cop) - Drakelow NR
This is a shot of the male of the species, unusually shown with its wings spread.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Drakelow NR

I can't be sure, without consulting my records, but I believe these were my first sightings of Ruddy Darter for the year. In the first image, the dragonfly is 'obelisking' - pointing the abdomen directly at the sun to avoid overheating by reducing the area receiving the sun.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Drakelow NR
I called in briefly at the first hide and immediately realised that the pickings from here would be slim at this time of year. I didn't bother with the second hide as it does not have opening windows.

On the trail, there were a few butterflies. This was a female Common Blue, although you wouldn't know it as a female unless you saw it with its wings open.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (female) - Drakelow NR
Towards the northern edge of the reserve, I noticed an Emperor dragonfly flying around. It stopped on the far side of the water but I was able to get a distant shot. It was only when I came to look at my photos that I realised that it was, perhaps, a small miracle that this dragonfly was still mobile.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Drakelow NR
In  one area, a Cormorant was taking in the sun . . . . 

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Drakelow NR

. . . . while the rest of the gang looked on.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Drakelow NR

A Brimstone butterfly looked rather splendid.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male) - Drakelow NR

On one of the lakes, there is a platform at the edge of the lake, which can be quite useful for watching the Odonata. As I approached this, I managed to disturb an unseen Emperor. It flew away for a short distance and then, to my surprise, came back a bit closer. For the first image, below, I had to wind the lens back to 325mm to get it in. It then came closer still, and I had to come even further back, to 225mm for the second image! 

Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Drakelow NR

On the path back to the car park, I encountered Common Darters and a Banded Demoiselle

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Drakelow NR

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Drakelow NR

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Drakelow NR

In the car park, before heading home, I photographed a male Common Blue butterfly.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (male) - Drakelow NR
Monday, 14th August          Garden

A male Bullfinch was regularly showing up with three juveniles. I only managed to get two juveniles in frame on this occasion.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male + juveniles) - our garden
Wednesday, 16th August          Thortit Lake

Another visit, looking for dragonflies, took me to Thortit Lake, just down the road from our house. 

As I entered the area, there were two Brimstone butterflies near the entrance. I waited until one landed and took some shots.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male) - near Thortit Lake

There are a couple of areas where it is possible to get close to the water of the lake and I spent some time at both of these.

A Common Blue Damselfly is, as the name suggests, very common, but it is, nevertheless, a very attractive insect.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) -Thortit Lake
There is a spot near the water's edge that regularly attracts Small Copper, Common Blue and Brown Argus butterflies at the right time of year. Here's a Small Copper from this day.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - Thortit Lake
I found a Migrant Hawker that was patrolling an area of the shoreline and started trying to get some flight shots. This next shot is of terrible quality but I have to include it as, although I know they can do it, I have never noticed a dragonfly flying upside down before, and I have never seen an image of one doing this either.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Thortit Lake
Here it is flying the right way up!

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Thortit Lake
Behind me, a Common Blue butterfly had arrived.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (male) - Thortit Lake
As I left the area, a Common Darter posed nicely.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Thortit Lake
Saturday, 19th August          Saltersford Valley Country Park  :  Garden

A quick late-morning visit to the boardwalk at Saltersford Valley CP had me finding the usual Common Darters resting on the boardwalk. This was a well-matured male.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) -Saltersford Valley CP

Most of my time here, however, was spent trying for flight shots of Migrant Hawkers. I didn't do too badly, and one even settled for me.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP

That afternoon, while we we having our early-evening meal in the conservatory, we had an influx of tits, including six Long-tailed Tits.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - our garden

We'd only just finished eating when a warbler arrived. From a photo that wasn't worth publishing, I could identify this as a Willow Warbler by the colour of its legs. Here is a slightly better shot of this bird.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) - our garden

Sunday, 20th August          Garden

Warblers in our garden are relatively rare, so I was surprised when we were relaxing in the conservatory after lunch and we had another warbler visit. I think that this was a different bird to the one of the previous day as it seemed much paler and more yellow. I am relatively confident that this was also a Willow Warbler, however.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) - our garden
Monday, 28th August          Ashby Canal, Snarestone
A fair weather day this day had me returning to the Ashby Canal near Snarestone. This is my my local hotspot for my favourite damselfly - the White-legged Damselfly. It was a bit late in the season for this species so my expectations were not high.
Having parked in the canal-side car park, I crossed the bridge and headed along the towpath. I'd only gone a few metres before seeing my first damselfly - a female Banded Demoiselle.
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (female) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone

As I was watching this damselfly, a White-legged Damselfly arrived.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone
Further on, I stopped for a hoverfly. This is one of the drone flies.
drone fly (Eristalis arbustorum) (female) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone

There were Common Darters  along the way, but I have already shown a few in this post, so I shall not bother you with another image. However, I will show this Migrant Hawker as it appears to have suffered some abdominal damage. It didn't seem to affect it's ability to function, however, as it flew with some agility.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone
My next photographic encounter was with a male Banded Demoiselle.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone
A Speckled Wood obligingly landed on the towpath in front of me.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone
Tachina fera is a rather large bristly fly and quite spectacular in appearance, and I can never resist taking photos when I encounter one.
tachinid fly (Tachina fera)  - Ashby Canal, Snarestone
Sadly, I did not find any more White-legged Damselflies, but it had been an entertaining visit.
I have now reached the end of August with my blog posts. I expect that the next post will feature the first two weeks of September, and I will be nearly up to date - phew! In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.

Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard