Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gardens again

Small Copper

Dahlia

Sweet Chestnut leaf

Sweet Chestnuts

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Ospreys in action


Have a look at Roy Dennis's website for further evidence that migration is a wonderful thing. He's tracking the migrations of three Ospreys which were fitted with satellite tags in Scotland this summer (two chicks and their mother; the chicks were ringed at the nest but the adult female was netted - I'd love to see how!).

The tags are doing their stuff. They show the adult female has made it to her wintering grounds in Senegal, while one of the chicks is now in southern Spain. I've borrowed the graphic showing the female's route across the Bay of Biscay (see above); she made the crossing in about 10 hours.

For the other chick, things didn't quite go as they should have. She took a route south from Scotland to the Isle of Man, then Anglesey but then 'missed' possible stops in Ireland and south Wales.

The tag's last recorded position was north of the Isles of Scilly.

Interestingly, Roy suggests that 'Scottish young have an inherited migration heading, from their Scandinavian ancestors, which takes some of them SSW. This is a good direction for migration from Sweden to Spain, but not so good from Scotland, because of hazardous sea crossings and possible losses in the Atlantic Ocean.'

Bargain


I'm starting to realise that I'm a bit of a migration obsessive. Every bird that flies over... it could be migrating... wow! Has it come from Moscow, Reykjavik, Tallinn, Gdansk or Rotherham? Amazing feats of avian endurance are around us all the time.

When I saw this poster for sale on the New Jersey Audubon Society website, I could barely resist it. To receive one here in the UK, the cost is $50 plus $10 shipping, which works out at a bargainous £29.77!

The Hibernator


Found this Peacock butterfly had sneaked into our utility room - it looks set to hibernate.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Predator




Sparrowhawk

What a bird! I was watching the greenfinches on the feeder when she turned up and sat on the back fence.

On Wednesday I saw a juvenile Sparrowhawk catch a small bird so I guess there's a strong possibility that this is the same one, which has decided our garden is a good place for a meal... There are certainly enough tits and Greenfinches around to keep her well-fed.

I'm not sure her hunting technique of sitting around on one leg, yawning and waiting for something to fly towards her is the best option.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 77 with 20x eyepiece

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Red in beak and claw

It's easy to be impressed by what you see in television wildlife documentaries on. Whether it's extravagant displays of birds of paradise, the migration of whales or a cheetah bringing down a gazelle, it's exotic and exciting and different from anything you'd see in the UK.

However, if you keep your eyes and ears open at home, you could have your own wildlife experience without even leaving the house. OK, I can't promise wildebeests, zebras or big cat action, but it was pretty thrilling all the same.

What happened?

The first clues that something was up were the Greenfinches fleeing from their usual positions on the bird feeder. Next, a brown shape whizzed through the buddleia bush and came to a sharp stop on top of the garden fence, a few metres below the window I was watching from.

Peering down, there were chocolate-brown wings, fringed with chestnut - the hallmarks of a young Sparrowhawk. Its head whipped round as it tried to see what it had been after, and revealed fierce, intense pupils ringed with lemon yellow.

I didn't get long to admire what was a beautiful bird, as it was off again across next-door's garden, scattering small birds in its path. The Sparrowhawk wasted no time in plunging into a buddleia bush. The wings spread out as it 'mantled' its catch - showing that it had caught something and was prepared to defend it against would-be thieves.

For a moment, it lost all its grace as it hung upside-down, disentangling its long toes (ideal for grabbing things) from the twigs. In a swoop, it took its prey - probably a Blue Tit - underneath a low-hanging apple tree and disappeared from view.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Owl

I've just got in from watching owls. I was sitting at the computer with the window open and could hear faint rasping noises... Opening the window and leaning out, the noises were more audible and revealed the source to be a Barn Owl.

Looked down the road and, silhouetted against a beautiful sky, was a hunting owl, flapping gently - almost butterfly-like - and silently disappeared behind one of the barns.

It's one of those ultra-clear evenings where the sky goes through a gradient of deep blue (with stars) at the top, through orange and yellow to a dull, ashy brown where it hits the horizon.

It seemed too good to miss, so I went to stand outside in the garden. I couldn't see the owl, but I could hear it calling as it flew around in the dark. It's really hard to describe Barn Owl noises. They do vary a lot, but this one sounded almost insect-like, slightly whirring, a bit Nightjarry, maybe.

Fowlmere

Chiffchaff. Darren managed to 'pish' this bird - it's the first time I've ever seen pishing work. It sat right up and cocked its head towards us.

Common Darter. No pishing required

Hawthorn leaves

And stunningly bright berries

Ivy - leaves and flowers

Phragmites

Southern Hawker

Umbellifer of some description (Cow Parsley, I suppose)

Distant new galaxy, or spider web?

Motion on water created by whirligig beetles

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Thursday, September 13, 2007

They're here!


It would give me far greater pleasure to announce that Harlequin ducks had taken up residence at The Lodge - even if they were escaped ones. Unfortunately, the Harlequins I saw yesterday lunchtime were ladybirds.

They're on the move across the UK, from south-east England. Now they've invaded The Lodge gardens. You can see from the map on the left, and here, how fast they're moving - they only arrived in 2004.

Why are they bad news? Because they outcompete our native species, and eat insects, caterpillars, pollen, nectar and sometimes other ladybirds!

Visit the Harlequin Ladybird Survey website

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

GoogleMapalicious


View Larger Map

A map with blobs on it showing where I've taken photos, and links to those photos. Or something.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Leaf obsession

Got in early this morning and the sun was out, so I thought I'd get some photos before the permacloud set back in.


Oak

Spider's web and oak leaves


Sweet Chestnut

Horse Chestnut

Birch

Fungus which I've forgotten the name of...

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Monday, September 03, 2007

Job done

Southern Hawker

This lunchtime I achieved something I've been wanting to for a while. I finally got a photo of a dragonfly in flight. I didn't have much to do with it at all; it was only possible due to the camera and lens, being in the right place (thanks, Lucinda, for suggesting we walk to Jack's Pond), and pressing the button at the right time.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Sunday, September 02, 2007