Saturday, May 31, 2008


I thought a stroll by the River Great Ouse at Roxton might be nice this morning. It certainly was...

Banded Demoiselles are probably my favourite insects. If I had to choose one species to watch all year, it would be this one.

I can remember seeing them for the first time along the River Nene when I was a kid, but I couldn't work out what the funny black-green-blue butterfly fluttering along the water's surface was. It all makes sense now...

They're beautiful, graceful, common, easy to photograph - but then they do things like this:

female demoiselle eating mayfly

There were a few other insects out and about, too:

Scarce Chaser: so scarce you have to have a license to handle them. We saw 20 today (and 250+ Banded Demoiselles) in less than a kilometre of riverbank vegetation

Hairy Dragonfly

White-legged Damselfly

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM. They didn't look this dark in Photoshop...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

On the heath

male Broad-bodied Chaser - what a beast!

Four-spotted Chaser

Large Red Damselflies. This pair had a lucky escape when the female became entangled in a spider's web, but they made their escape

Soldier Beetle

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Slug killer and dandelion muncher

Song Thrush: the slug destroyer

Goldfinch: the dandelion exterminator

Who needs pesticides or herbicides when you've got birds who'll do the job for you? Goldfinches are getting through the dandelions at a rate of knots at the moment, while a pair of Song Thrushes are rearing a brood of chicks on worms and tiny slugs from our garden (they're nesting next door, though).

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Step away from the bird

Long-tailed Tit

Baby bird season is hard work. After the experience of seeing Jackdaw chicks become supper for young Carrion Crows last week, today I stumbled across a tiny Long-tailed Tit fledgling. I'm not entirely sure what the official definition of 'fledgling' is, but this one couldn't really fly very well. It was more of a flutterer at an altitude of two inches.

It was in a vulnerable position in the middle of a busy path, so I watched for 10 minutes to see what happened before picking it up - it seemed quite happy to perch on my finger - and attempting to put it somewhere safer.

At first I couldn't hear any adults calling nearby, but then two sat in a nearby tree before flying off. The chick was calling but there didn't seem to be any other Long-tailed Tits around. In the end it fluttered into some nettles and I had to walk away... Now I'm trying not to think about its fate.

Large Red Damselflies - much less hassle

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

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Choose life

On Tuesday night, there was a commotion in the garden:
'A carrion crow was sitting on the outer branches of the ash tree, ducking its head as the parent jackdaws divebombed it. As it flew off, I saw what the crow was carrying - a naked jackdaw chick, yellow beak open. Shortly afterwards, the crow returned and took another, like a baby-carrying stork gone bad.' More...
This morning, I heard another commotion from some Starlings outside. I couldn't see what the fuss was about initially (or the Starlings), but then it became obvious: on the lawn was a crumpled Goldfinch with an adult male Sparrowhawk on top of it.

My initial thought was 'the poor Goldfinch!' At this time of year, it's possible that it's feeding chicks or a mate on a nest. I'd been watching it eat dandelion seeds earlier (much appreciated). And it's very pretty, after all.

So's the Sparrowhawk. The hawk was a stunner: all slate-blue-grey and golden-orange eye, and there are probably white, fluffy Sparrowhawk chicks in a twiggy nest a short distance away.

When I inspected the scene later, all that was left were two secondary feathers, black with a white spot, and some downy feathers rather like the windborne seeds of a dandelion.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wet weekend

Cape daisy (Osteospermum)

Last week's hot weather has now evaporated.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 or Canon Powershot A640

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

At the swimming pool

Four-spotted Chasers mating (the female was busy ovipositing and the male flew down and chased and grabbed her. She managed to get free)

and ovipositing (egg-laying). These dragonflies fly along the surface and jerkily dip their rear ends below the surface

Large Red Damselfly

This Carrion Crow has learned to catch small fish in the pool

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

Monday, May 12, 2008

Big Reds

close-up of the female

It was busy at the swimming pool again today. As well as a scattering of Large Red (pictured), Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies, there were at least 4-5 Four-spotted Chasers on the loose, too. They seemed to be spending all their time chasing each other.

If I spend all summer there, I might stand a chance of getting some flight shots.

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640


The crucifix is a nice touch, don't you think?

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Spring at The Lodge

Some kind of gall thing on an oak

My first damselfly photo of 2008

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