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 For obvious reasons, they will not be published.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 24 April 2024

Nature Alive Again - 12th April, 2024

Spring is sprung, and nature has certainly come to life once more after a very wet and windy winter. However, the title of this post refers to a return visit to the small nature reserve, Nature Alive, in the neighbouring town of Coalville - a town which once had a coal mine winding wheel near the centre of the town.

My first visit to Nature Alive, on 17th March, featured in my last blog post. On that day it was partly flooded, but showed great promise, so I was keen to return. A spell of relatively dry weather prompted me to go back for another look on this day - 12th April.

On arrival, I was delighted to find that a dry path was available where, on my previous visit, I had to wade along a torrent of water. It was soon apparent that, in spite of a stiff breeze, there was enough shelter from the surrounding trees, and insects were enjoying the multitude of wildflowers on the reserve. 

I stopped to photograph a hoverfly which I subsequently identified as a Chequered Hoverfly. This was a male, as witnessed by the eyes almost touching in the middle - female hoverflies have eyes that are clearly separated.

Chequered Hoverfly (Melanostomer scalare) (male) - Nature Alive

Wood Anemone is a very common but, in my opinion, very beautiful flower.

Wood Anemone (Anemonoides nemorosa) - Nature Alive

At the first small pond, which has a currently closed viewing platform, a pair of Coot wre present. This is one of them.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Nature Alive
Moving on to the largest of the lakes, a heron was on the far side of the lake.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Nature Alive

A Moorhen was somewhat closer, looking rather splendid with that red and yellow bill.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Nature Alive

On my previous visit, I only covered about half of the reserve. This time, I was determined to cover as much as possible. I set off for the previously unvisited north-west corner of the reserve, finding the path a little difficult with water and a fallen tree. Nothing of real interest was seen at this end, but I did go up onto the footbridge that crosses the railway, just to see what was on the other side. The short answer was 'very little' other than an industrial estate, so I did not bother descending the far side. I found myself surprised that the rails below the bridge were very rusty. This line passes within earshot of our house in Ashby de la Zouch, and it had not dawned on me that I had not heard a train for a long while. This next shot shows you some evidence of the industrial past of this location.

Rail tracks bordering Nature Alive, Coalville

I re-entered the reserve and continued my perambulations in a clockwise direction, seeing nothing of note before I got back to where I started from.  I felt inspired to head back to the large lake, taking some shots of flowers and insects as I did so.

I am not sure if this primula is a cultivar or a natural deviant from the usual yellowish cream of the true Primula. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Primrose (Primula vulgaris) - Nature Alive
There were a few Dog Violets around.

Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) - Nature Alive

What really surprised me was the huge number of Cowslips there - I believe the most I have ever seen in any location. Foolishly, I only took a shot of a single flower head and omitted to take a photo of the hundreds of blooms in the area.

Cowslip (Primula veris) - Nature Alive
There was one large Gorse bush which was covered in flowers and attracting a few bees and hoverflies.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) - Nature Alive
This hoverfly was rather obliging.

Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax) (female) - Nature Alive
I then returned to the largest lake, and found a Buzzard circling around in the distance. It appeared to be in a state of moult.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - Nature Alive
I was pleased to see two female Mallards, each with three chicks in tow.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (female + chicks) - Nature Alive

Beyond the viewing platform on the large lake, there is a boardwalk which crosses the north-west corner of the lake. I headed back there to assess the potential for dragonfly photography when the season starts, and came to the conclusion that it was good. There were plenty of rushes near to the boardwalk. However, at this time, a large patch of Marsh Marigold looked most attractive. The flowers are beautiful!
Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) - Nature Alive

As I headed back and approached the viewing platform, a drake Mallard was on the fencing of the platform.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (male) - Nature Alive

Before reaching my car, I photographed a couple of butterflies. The Comma was rather tatty, and probably one of last year's.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Nature Alive

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) (male) - Nature Alive
I am looking forward to returning to Nature Alive when the dragonfly season gets started.
PLEASE NOTE:- I have a rather difficult week or two ahead of me, so please forgive me if I am tardy in publishing or replying to your comments, and in visiting your blogs. It might be a while before my next blog post. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature - thank you for dropping by - - - Richard

Sunday 14 April 2024

Slow March Pt.2 - 16th to 31st March,2024

This blog post gives an account of some of the highlights of what was a rather gentle month in terms of excursions, but included a few welcome harbingers of spring.

Sunday, 17th March          Nature Alive, Coalville

It was a relatively sunny day, and quite warm too. I fancied a short trip out, but had to take into consideration the fact that, being fine weather after a period of poor weather, and a Sunday also, most of my usual haunts that were not still under water would be busy with people. I had heard of the Nature Alive nature reserve in Coalville but never visited. It was formed on a brown-field site of a relatively small area, trapped between a railway line, the Coalville ring road, and a small retail park. It has some ponds, the largest of which was formed by mining subsidence.

Having parked my car and entered the site, I walked up the slope to the embankment (on which a railway branch line to Swarkestone to the north once ran), and then descended the other side and found myself confronted by a torrent of water about 4 inches (10cm) deep running down the path towards me. Fortunately I had put on wellingtons, so was able to pass along the path undeterred. It was only about 15 metres until I reached dry land and was able to explore.

In one of the two smaller ponds I found there was a Coot having a splash-about.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Nature Alive
At the main lake, a pair of drake Mallards were having an interaction.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (male) - Nature Alive
One of them then approached me, possibly hoping to be fed!
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (male) - Nature Alive
I carried on past the main lake, finding a few insects enjoying the flowers in the sunshine.
Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) - Nature Alive

Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) (male) - Nature Alive

There were some eye-catching clumps of Marsh Marigold around.
Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) - Nature Alive
Arriving back at the main lake, there were two drake Shoveler in the distance.

Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) (male) - Nature Alive
Before I left, I could not resist taking a shot of one of the many magnificent clumps of Primrose that were on the site.

Primula (Primula vulgaris) - Nature alive

Monday, 18th March          Garden

This was a very special day, due to our first (and, so far, only) sighting of the year of Redpoll in our garden. It was a splendid male, and I did manage some shots, although I'd have been happier if I got some that were not on a feeder. Lesser Redpoll is a 'red-listed' species.

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) (male) - our garden
Tuesday, 19th March          Saltersford Valley Country Park  :  Donisthorpe Rail Trail

A quick visit to Saltersford Valley CP in the afternoon was a little disappointing in that the boardwalk was still closed, water levels were very high, and paths were still flooded. I saw nothing of real interest and only photographed a Mute Swan which appeared to have some staining from the discoloured water caused by leakage from the old coal mine workings.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Saltersford Valley CP
As I had spent so little time here, I decided to check out the disused railway line that is now a public trail, accessible from by the church on Church Street, Donisthorpe.

Again I found little to occupy me, but I did manage to get some photos of a Red-legged Partridge - a species that I have not photographed for a while.

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) - Donisthorpe Rail Trail
The only other photos I took were of a lone wild violet.

Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) - Donisthorpe Rail Trail
Wednesday, 20th March          Garden  :  Bardon Hill area

We were visited by two male Siskin on this day, and I managed a few shots of one of them, away from the feeders.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden

The previous day, there had been reports of a group of approximately 25 Waxwings on an industrial estate near Bardon Hill. As Bardon Hill is quite local to me, I felt compelled to visit for what might be my last chance of seeing a Waxwing of the season. I did a bit of research on Google Earth and sorted out where I was going to park in an area where most roads are very busy with trucks. 

Having parked, I only had to walk a couple of hundred metres before I spotted the flock in a distant tree, a little away from the area that they had been reported in. I took some records shots, as shown below.

Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) - Bardon Hill Industrial Estate
I counted 31 birds before I retraced my steps back to the road that my car was parked on, in the hope of being able to find another viewpoint for the birds that was perhaps a little nearer and not into the light, although it was not particularly bright weather.

I soon realised that there was no prospect of seeing the perched birds from this road and, to my dismay, the flock flew over my head and headed south in the approximate direction of the road that I was on. I followed the road to the end, but saw no sign of the Waxwings anywhere, although I did get a distant view of a Buzzard perched in a tree.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - Bardon Hill area
Thursday, 21st March          Garden

At the back end of last year, we had got used to regular visits from Magpie. However, this year they have become rather more elusive. On this day, two Magpies visited and I managed to catch one snaffling some dried Black Soldier-fly lavae that I'd tipped out of one of the Hedgehog feeding trays.

Magpie (Pica pica) - our garden
Friday, 22nd March          Our Conservatory

I noticed a small spider crawling up the window frame in our conservatory. I have not been able to positively identify it, but believe it to be one of the Philodromus species. If I had to make a guess, I'd say a female Philodromus dispar. It was released into the wild.

possible (Philodromus dispar) (female) - our conservatory
That afternoon I went to Calke Explore, which I have already reported on.

Friday, 29th March          Garden

This was something of a red letter day, as a Comma butterfly visited the garden - the first of the year. It was a bit tatty, so I believe it to be one that had emerged from winter hibernation.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - our garden
Although a very common bird, the male Chaffinch is rather handsome.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) - our garden

Saturday, 30th March          Garden  :  Willesley Wood

This was a good day for buterflies in the garden, with Brimstone, Peacock, and Small Tortoiseshell being seen. I only got usable photos of the Small Tortoiseshell.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - our garden
I was also pleased to see my first Bee-fly of the year.

Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) - our garden
Seeing the butterflies in the garden prompted me to visit a local place which has been relatively productive for butterflies, including Brimstone.

I arrived and parked the car - although it is close to home, the road between my house and Willesley Wood is very dangerous to walk along as it is a narrow bendy road, running between dense hedges and has no verges.  There is, therefore, no option but to walk in the road, along which cars tend to travel at high speed.

As soon as I entered the site, I saw a Brimstone butterfly but it was distant and mobile, and soon disappeared. 

There were very deep puddles along the path and I was glad that I was wearing wellingtons. As I approached Thortit Lake I was astounded by how high the water level was. I suspect that it was about a metre above its usual level, and was approximately 4 inches (100 cm) deep over the path at one point. I wish, now, that I had taken some photos to illustrate this.

A female Mute Swan was busy tidying a nest, possibly incubating eggs, and it struck me that while this nest was currently like an island near the edge of the water, and quite safe from the many dogs that are walked here, when the water level receded to its normal situation the nest would be some distance from the water, and high and dry.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (female) - Thortit Lake

A little further on, the male swan was dabbling around. That tree trunk, surrounded by water, is usually well out of the water.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (male) - Thortit Lake

Close by, there was a Coot which seemed more confiding than I'm used to with this species.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Thortit Lake

There was little happening on the north side of the lake so I headed off in an anti-clockwise perambulation. Reaching the path on the south side of the lake, I was surprised to see water reaching up to the path. Usually, water is not visible from this path as it is about 150 metres away, through densely packed trees. 

At one point, I had nice views of a Heron.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Thortit Lake

I also found my second Bee-fly of the year!

Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) -Willesley Wood

I then headed back to my car, stopping to photograph a very tatty Peacock by the exit gate.

Peacock (Aglais io) - Willesley Wood

I was just about to get into my car, when a Brimstone flew by and stopped briefly, further up the lane. I followed it for a while and eventually it stopped long enough for me to take a record shot.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male) - Willesley Woodside

Sunday, 31st March          Garden

Not a particularly eventful day but I had a rare opportunity to photograph a Wren in the garden - it is not the presence of the Wren that is rare, but the opportunity to photograph one, as they are forever on the move and soon vanish!

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - our garden

Thus ended what I believe was the wettest March on record. Fortunately, the weather seems to be improving a little and spring has now sprung - fingers are crossed that we continue to get some more helpful wildlife watching opportunities.

As usual, I expect my next blog post to be in about a week's time. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard


Sunday 7 April 2024

Slow March Pt.1 - 1st to 15th March,2024

For reasons previously explained, I didn't get out much during March, and most of the excursions I did manage have been covered in previous posts. This will be an account of some of my other observations in the first half of the month.

Friday, 1st March          Garden

Much to our delight, the male Brambling was still visiting us on most days. I was pleased to get a shot of this bird in flight - albeit a rather poor one.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) - our garden

Saturday, 2nd March          Staunton Harold  :  Melbourne Pool

On 29th February, Lindsay and I had visited Melbourne. During that visit, we'd called in at a charity shop in the grounds of Melbourne Hall and Lindsay had spent a little while browsing through the books there. After we'd got back home again, she did some resaerch on a cookery book she'd seen there and come to the conclusion that she wished she had bought it. That day, I'd also taken a walk beside Melbourne Pool and thought I'd seen what might have been a Red-crested Pochard in the distance. This bird is rated locally as being 'uncommon, probably feral'. It is, nevertheless, a very attractive duck.
A Saturday is not a good day to visit Melbourne as it gets very busy, and car parking can be hard to find. It made sense, therefore, for me to visit Melbourne on my own this day, not having to worry about parking too far away from the shop for Lindsay to walk. It also meant that I could take more time out to walk round the pool.
Due to a long-term road closure and the official diversion route being a long one, I took a short cut through Staunton Harold deciding to stop there briefly to see if the Cattle Egret was still there. A swan greeted me as I arrived.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Staunton Harold
It took me a little while to find the egret, as it was tucked down in some reeds. Eventually it woke up and became more visible and, by moving further along the road, I got a better photo.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) - Staunton Harold

Having returned to my car, I headed off to Melbourne and did manage to find a parking space quite close to Melbourne Hall. I hurried to the charity shop and was relieved to find the book that Lindsay wanted was still there. I quickly took it back to the car, and set off to Melbourne Pool with my camera.

I won't trouble you with most of the photos that I took, but this one, of a Black-headed Gull landing on the water, I thought was a bit unusual.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Melbourne Pool

From the road on the east side of the pool I could see a Red-crested Pochard in the far distance - this was with my lens at the full 400mm.
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) (male) - Melbourne Pool

If the duck stayed in the same area, I would be able to photograph it from a well-used footpath that ran closer to its location, so I set off in that direction, taking another shot of Black-headed Gull as I did so.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Melbourne Pool

I got to a point where I could get some closer shots, but the bird was still at quite a distance.
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) (male) - Melbourne Pool
I then stood behind the trunk of a tree, in the hope that the bird would come even closer - I suspect that this was to the amusement of the several passing dog-walkers. It did, eventually come a little closer, and I got some better shots, although far from perfect, before it drifted out into the centre of the pool. In the first image, below, it is enjoying a good scratch.
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) (male) - Melbourne Pool

I returned home, happy to have seen my target, whilst earning a few brownie-points with Lindsay.

Sunday, 3rd March          Garden

The Hedgehogs came out of hibernation early this year, and we have had up to three different ones visit us in a night. On this occasion, there was a bit of an altercation between two hogs, as can be seen in the video below. The cat that appears is one of many that visit our garden (at least five), and I have named 'Ghost'.
Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) - our garden
Monday, 4th March          Garden
A female Blackcap had now become a regular visitor, and was very fond of the 'flutter butter' that I make (blitzed peanuts in lard). She was back to this treat several times a day.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - our garden
Tuesday, 5th March          Garden

On this day, the male Brambling brought a female with him. Sadly, it seems that she was not impressed enough to return.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (female) - our garden

We were still getting frequent visits by three Carrion Crows. This is one of them on that day.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - our garden
Sadly, Stock Dove has become a less frequent visitor, and when we do see one, it is usually a single bird.
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - our garden
Friday, 8th March          Garden
Here is the Blackcap again on her favourite twig from which she launched herself into the 'flutter butter' feeder.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - our garden

Saturday, 9th March          Garden
A visit by Great Tit is not unusual in our garden, and they usually go for our sunflower hearts or flutter butter. However, I don't recall ever before seeing one probing in the moss on the wall, like a Wren often does. I missed the shot of the probing, but here is the bird.
Great Tit (Parus major) - our garden

Sadly, this next shot is my last one of the male Bullfinch that had been visiting our garden several times a day all winter. Three days later it was taken by a Sparrowhawk, dashing our hopes that, one day, he'd find a mate and bring her to visit.
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - our garden

Tuesday, 12th March          Garden
It had been mainly male Siskins that had shown up in our garden, so the arrival of a female this day was a real pleasure. I only managed shots on a feeder, however.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - our garden

I was quite excited when a female Sparrowhawk landed on the trellis at the bottom of the garden as, usually, it is male Sparrowhawks that we see.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (female) - our garden

It did not stay long in that position, but shot off to the left round the back of our viburnum, reappearing a second or two later, landing on the ground in front of its previous position. I didn't spot anything in its talons, but could tell from its actions that it had got prey. I still couldn't spot the prey when it saw me and departed at speed. However, when I zoom in close to my photos of it on the ground I can just detect the red breast of a male Bullfinch in its talons, and the lack of subsequent sightings of our Bullfinch bears this out.
Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (female) - our garden

Wednesday, 13th March          Garden
This day was quite remarkable, in that we had a group of six Siskin visit - four males and two females. The best photo that I could manage, however, was of just three males on a feeder.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden

Friday, 15th March          Garden

This day, a male Sparrowhawk stopped briefly in the Rowan outside my study.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - our garden

I'll bring this account to a close now. With luck, Pt.2 will follow in about a week's time. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard