Saturday, 30 July 2011

Blacktoft - Marsh Sandpiper

It's back to birds then! A collective sigh of relief from all my birding regulars?? Thanks for bearing with me, the insect sessions have been an invaluable diversion during the 'quiet period' and I've now supplemented my existing stock images with plenty more material to create a worthwhile talk on the Dragon/Damsel/Butterfly theme!

Anyway, it was back to basics with a lifer no less! Blacktoft Sands has hosted a Marsh Sandpiper since the 11th July and whilst I kept thinking it's gonna go (whilst stuck at work all week!) once I'd got news it was still there, I was on my way!

2 1/2 hours later and with the crowd in Singleton hide easing, I was on site, on my list almost immediately but a 'disappearing act' behind the reedbed to the right of the hide meant I was not going to get images easily!

It did of course reeappear and given the distance to the nearest margin, the best I could hope for was record quality shots......









That bill could surely never cause an identity crisis and whilst it really shouldn't be confused...... here's the essential Greenshank comparison shot!








Or a Black-tailed Godwit?






How about a Ruff.....






A couple of flight shots....








Undoubtedly the highlight of the day was this closest encounter as it fed in the shallows in front of the hide....










Record shots only but I'll settle for these and 3 - 2 - 1 :-) Quite a few other waders present: Spotted Redshank, Avocet, Green Sandpiper, Common Snipe.... A distant view of Spoonbill and Water Rail, Marsh Harriers, numerous Bearded Tit flying around, a pretty good session!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Aston Rowant - Butterfly blitz

A day spent chasing Butterflies out of County seemed a good idea and with four target species 'new' to the lens, even more of a reason to drive down the M40 with butterfly guru and chauffer, Rob Stokes.....

....to a very familiar cutting through limestone meadows deep in the heart of Red Kite country - Aston Rowant nature reserve. The target species were Chalkhill Blue, Brown Argus, Dark Green Fritillary, Marbled White and Silver-spotted Skipper.

The only blot on the idyllic meadow landscape was the very same motorway we had just arrived from......






Unbelieveably, within 30 minutes, we had 'seen' all five targets, the next challenge was to get some decent images?

A second brood of Brimstone was on the wing and this one was caught literally on the wing!






Chalkhill Blue were really nice, fresh specimens and I must admit having waxed lyrical about other blues - the males were really beautiful the upperwing blending from blue dusted base through silver, to contrasting black edge - absolutely stunning!










The underwing shot.....






Top portrait of the session?






One or two Brown Argus were seen and the males despite being brown (whilst a true 'Blue', they come in a really vivid shade. This was the only shot of these very flighty individuals!






Dark Green Fritillary was a key target, nver likely to be easy but we managed one, possibly two individuals. Strong fliers, it was a question of taking your moment quickly - before they were gone.....








Marbled White shared the trait of being flighty but at least there were several present and reasonably fresh given the fact these were well into their flight season!










A key target was Silver spotted Skipper, not the most showy of butterflies but this is at one of their most northerly localities and a relatively short drive to see them. Despite usually feeding on stemless Thistles, I had to contend with the taller and very windblown variety. I might have to have another go at this species - one day.....














Next stop was Whitecross Green Wood and 'hopes' of Brown Hairstreak' which were destined to be dashed

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Whixall Moss - Damsels, Dragons and Large Heath!

One of my last remaining targets amongst the Shropshire butterflies was Large Heath and Whixall Moss was the only realistic place to nail this! It was to turn into a marathon however...

Never mind, a chance to get a nice collection of Emerald Damselfly images and upgrade the current website Odonata section! This female has a colour pattern I've not come across but presumably an immature.....








Males despite their small size really are attractive insects, unlike other Damselflies, the wings are often held open at rest.













The lovely colour combination of the thorax seen in close up....






There were black Darters galore as well! Ladies first.......








Immature males.....








A very skittish adult male!






At the other extreme, freshly emerged teneral males.....








Quite a few Peacocks on the wing.....






And finally, after fours hours of persistence and a fair bit of walking, the object of the day flew from the Moss, right in front of me landing on the track!






Ten minutes later, another one!! Obligingly landing on the bracken.








The insects aren't over yet, I'm about to go on the hunt for 'new' butterflies and and a 200 mile round trip with Rob beckons tomorrow......

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Quatford Wood - White Admirals

Two Black-tailed Godwits at VP were the highlight of a part morning session there. The sun was shining and with one or two more butterfly species on the local 'most wanted' list, I decided to check out Quatford Woods for another Shropshire first?

White Admiral are regularly reported here but never easy and it was only afgter an hour or so of walking that I got lucky! In a bit of a clearing, I spotted one elegantly gliding in front of me - they really are efficient in flight - a few flaps then glide glide glide.

I'll spare you the first two ore three tatty specimens as eventually I got a fairly fresh specimen... and it landed - right in front of me.....







This species really does spread it's wings well whilst feeding on nectar or basking!








A pleasing portrait feeding on a spray of brambles!






I soon realised the challenge was to get a decent image of the underwing, which is quite attractive! They do close their wings but only briefly so I chanced a shot from underneath whilst lying down! One slightly concerned walker asked me if I was alright - lol




The closed wing just had to be got though and I musty have spent thee best part of two hours trying. These two images - shot slightly into the sun with fill in flash will do the job though!












An atmospheric shot of my first Common Darter of the year!






And this bug which caught my eye is a Longhorn Beetle Strangalia maculata!








A quick check of Chelmarsh beckoned....