Sunday, 15 July 2012


Something from the recent archives to keep the bird photography content ticking over .....  
(Eurasian) Nuthatch (Sitta europaea).

In Britain our resident birds (ssp. caesia) have a warm rusty-buff breast and belly. Whilst the sexes are very similar the vent on the males is usually a much darker red-brown.  

All images were shot at Warnham Nature Reserve using the EF 70-300mm lens.   FAB.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Sunshine and Showers.

Once again it was a typical gardening day ..... first the sunshine ....

... and then the showers.

Wherever you are I hope you have a great wildlife watching weekend.   FAB.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Hobby Food.

As a follow up to my recent post providing views of some of the wildlife at Thursley Common I thought I would share another unexpected find .... but if you are a bit squeamish just take care as you scroll downwards!

During the summer months Thursley Common, with its dearth of dragonflies and damselflies (I believe a total of 26 different species have been recorded here), is an excellent place to watch a Hobby (Falco subbuteo) chasing, catching and feeding on dragonflies. The best conditions are on a calm, warm day but so far this year there have been very few of those! This medium sized, elegant falcon has the ability to catch birds in flight, including Swallows and even Swifts using its supreme velocity when chasing and stooping on its prey.

On my recent visit, with the very cool, overcast conditions I was struggling to find many invertebrates and certainly didn't expect to see a Hobby but while searching the waterside vegetation I heard something drop out of the sky and fall close to where I was standing on the boardwalk. After a brief search I spotted a fluttering movement of wings and to my utmost surprise I located this individual .........

A Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) clinging onto a stem BUT clearly missing all its abdominal segments. I attempted to reach out and pick it up for closer inspection but again to my surprise it fluttered its wings and moved to another perch which did then enable me to get a much closer image of the damage .... probably caused by an incomplete attack by its fearsome predator, the Hobby or possibly as a result of an accident during copulation (which occurs in flight and only takes from 5 - 20 seconds) .... I will never know for sure.

  Definitely a view of 'nature in the raw' ...... taken with the Canon Powershot.

Just in case you are wondering this is what an entire Four-spotted Chaser should look like.

Searching the sky above the bog I eventually located two Hobby's in fairly relaxed flight fairly high up so on this occasion I can only offer this heavily cropped image (see below).

I can't wait for a series of warm, calm days when I might just get the opportunity to watch and photograph this species at much closer quarters ..... well I always live in hope!   FAB.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Young Robin.

While I was in the garden yesterday doing a few tidy up jobs I noticed that a young Robin was hiding in the lilac bush so I nipped indoors for the camera but when I returned .........

.... it decided to come out of hiding and dropped onto the garden furniture to check me out. Typically this species is very inquisitive and it is not unusual for both adults and juvenilles to show a distinct lack of fear and approach very close to us humans.

 The 'head on' look.

 My movement is monitored very closely.

A very pleasant interlude between the garden chores and a delightful encounter with one of my favourite garden visitors.  FAB.

Please check out WORLD BIRD WEDNESDAY for more images from around the globe.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Thursley Common.

After my recent morning session with the Silver-washed Fritillary's at Bookham Common I decided to head over to the acid lowland heath at Thursley Common and did a circuit of the boardwalk to check out the wildlife.
Avian activity around midday was very quiet apart from a distant perched Stonechat plus Mallard with chicks and a pair of Tufted Ducks on the pools.

 While searching the water I located an Emperor Dragonfly ovipositing amongst the vegetation.

Due to the warmer conditions a few of species were taking advantage of the boardwalk to rest and soak up some limited sunshine including a large number of Common Blue Damselflies .....

 .... and numerous male Black-tailed Skimmers (Orthetrum cancellatum). It is easy to get these confused with a Keeled Skimmer (see below) but the Black-tailed has a dark brown-black pterostigma.

I only managed to find one male Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) perched above the water. Distinguished from the Black-tailed by the totally blue abdomen; the parallel light markings behind the head plus the obvious yellow pterostigma.

Numerous Common Lizards were also basking on the boardwalk and I'm always intrigued to see how close I can get by slowly creeping towards them before they scurry away into hiding.

Other sightings included Four-spotted Chasers, Blue-tailed Damsels, Great-spotted Woodpecker, a single Swallow, a few high flying Swifts and a pair of Hobbys made a brief foray over the pools.   FAB.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Bookham Common.

While I was waiting on Bookham Common for the Silver-washed Frits to appear (see previous post) a few other species kept me entertained.

 Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

 Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)

 Comma (Polygonia c-album)

 An immature female Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo). Note the very distinctive white pseudo-pterostigma near the tip of each wing.

 Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum). Distinguished from the Common Darter by the totally black legs and lack of a darker middle segment on the side of the thorax.
 Bumble Bee (Bombus hortorum)

And then just like the Bee it was time for me for to move on to pastures new ... an afternoon visit to Thursley Common where the insect life was subtly different. (Details to follow soon).

Wherever you are ..... have an interesting wildlife weekend (if the weather permits!) ..... FAB.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Silver-washed Fritillary.

A hunch paid off today. With an improvement in the weather I headed over to my favourite 'butterfly glade' on Bookham Common this morning and although the initial sightings were high above in the leaf canopy once the sun broke through a few male Silver-washed Fritillarys (Argynnis paphia) eventually decided to descend upon one of their favourite nectar sources.

Other butterfly sightings included Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Comma, Large Skipper plus two or three high flying White Admirals but no sign of any Purple Emperors. Common Blue Damselflies were around in good numbers together with Broad-bodied Chasers and a female Ruddy Darter.  FAB.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Grassland Flutters.

A very recent wander around the grassland and wildflower meadows within Horton Country Park on another windy day produced my first sightings this year of species that enjoy this particular habitat.
 Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola)
This little butterfly, first recognised as a new species in 1889, is easily confused with the Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) but the black tips to the underside of the antennae (orange-brown on the Small Skipper) is usually my only way of separating these two species .... but only after I've got a reasonably good image for comparison! The flight period is usually from the end of June until the end of August.

 Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata)
This species is our most widespread 'orange' Skipper; single-brooded with a normal flight season that starts in late May or early June, reaching a peak in mid-July and usually disappears by the end of August.
Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata)
 This male was resting and swaying in the breeze on Cock's-foot which is the caterpillar's main food plant.
 Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Probably the commonest and most widespread of our butterflies that is capable of flying on overcast days with a lengthy flight period from late may until October (depending on the weather conditions).

Two for the price of one! (Meadow Brown and a Skipper).

As all these species lay their eggs in a variety of grasses with their caterpillars (except the Essex Skipper) overwintering it is vitally important that not all tall grasses are cut at this vulnerable stage of the life cycle to ensure good numbers survive from year to year. Now all we and the flutters need is a good spell of dry, warm weather so that we can all enjoy the myriad of colours usually seen flitting around the meadows at this time of year.  FAB.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Dainty Demoiselles.

At the end of last week I took a stroll alongside the River Mole and although the sun was shining there was a very blustery wind ..... certainly not ideal conditions in which to seek out one of my favourite water side damselfly species. Undaunted I picked a likely spot and waited and it wasn't long before the first of many male Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens) perched on the nearby vegetation.

In an attempt to get some uncluttered shots I decided to get closer to the water. Despite all the rain we've had the water level was not particularly high so I scrambled down the bank and tried to maintain a steady base while slipping and sliding in the mud close to some reeds.

Well the effort paid off as there were plenty of males chasing one another and they regularly perched for a brief rest before continuing their territorial chases and hunting for a likely female which never materialised.

I didn't spot any male Beautiful Demoiselles (Calopteryx virgo) but one female made a brief appearance ... 

.... distinguished from the Banded species by the suffused brownish colouring in the wings.  FAB.

[All shot with Cannon 450D + 70-300mm lens].


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