Monday, August 25, 2008


Frog in pond
The Great Crested Newts seem to have vanished again, so the amphibian content of the pond seems to be down to one Common Frog and one Smooth Newt eft. I love the frog, but I won't be kissing it.

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Dolphin food

'Marine turtles and some seabirds are particularly at risk, as they feed on prey that floats at the surface. They may mistake floating balloons for their jellyfish prey and swallow them, or become entangled and drown. Once swallowed, a balloon may block the digestive tract and eventually lead to death by starvation. Some whales, dolphins and fish are also known to have died as a result of eating balloons.'
Who would want to be associated with any of this? Stand up, Eastnor Cricket Club.

The pictured card floated into my garden this afternoon. 'I am one of many balloons released at Ledbury Carnival on Monday 25th August', it says. Nearly 100 miles isn't bad, but they obviously haven't read about the Marine Conservation Society's 'Don't Let Go' campaign.

I'll return the card, but they'll also be receiving information about the campaign and why they shouldn't be doing balloon races. Ha!
  • Yes, I am aware that dolphins, turtles, whales and seabirds are in short supply in Cambridgeshire, but that's not the point. I presume Eastnor CC wouldn't dream of dumping a load of latex in the middle of a field, so why let loads of balloons go? What do they think will happen to them?
  • I won a balloon race about 15 years ago. My balloon, released in Northamptonshire, got as far as Felixstowe, before it could harm any hapless sea-creatures.
photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Garden macro

Seven-spot Ladybird

Seven-spot Ladybird
That elusive garden rarity, the Seven-spot Ladybird

Peacock caterpillar
Peacock butterfly caterpillar (I think). Several of these hairy beasts were munching their way through a patch of nettles next to the veg patch.


Sunflower buds

Dragonfly wing
Broad-bodied Chaser wing. Picked this up on the pond spoil heap. Did it die of old age or did a Hobby get it?

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Get orf my land!

Darren alerted me to the presence of this dangerous predator in the garden this evening. While herons are beautiful birds, and I don't really mind them coming to the garden, I DO NOT want them eating our Great Crested Newts! That is unacceptable!

The current newt situation is that the male seems to have left (as is to be expected at this time of year) but another female has arrived to take his place. I'm learning about newts all the time: I can tell they're females from the orangey stripe which goes the length of their tail, on the underside.

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Surprise of the month, or even the year, was the juvenile Crossbill which greeted me when I got up this morning. I peered through the kitchen window to see a load of Greenfinches munching on sunflower hearts, and... a streaky grey-green Crossbill perching on an empty peanut feeder! Of course, it flew off before Darren could get downstairs to see it, but that's what you get for staying in bed too long.

#85 for the garden list (since December 2006)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Frog's back

Common Frog
Common Frog

I think this frog had a narrow escape this morning. I was mowing the lawn not far from the pond (though I'm leaving the grass around the edge) when I suddenly spotted a frog in the shallow water. It's a good job it wasn't a newt...

A female Southern Hawker came to lay eggs in the pond this afternoon, and a Ruddy Darter sat on a piece of wood nearby. I think the male Great Crested Newt may have left, but the female is still around and so is the Smooth Newt eft which was a stowaway in the pond plants that Duncan donated last week.

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Friday, August 15, 2008


Bumblebee takeoff
Bumblebee at take-off, with a shower of pollen grains

Brown Hawker close-up

Brown Hawker
Brown Hawker

Common Darter on Bracken
Common Darter



At lunchtime I went for a walk down to Stratford Road, which runs along the foot of the hill. It's south-facing so tends to be a good place for insects with a good bank of bramble bushes. I couldn't resist helping myself to a few ripe blackberries, and while I did, a squirrel dropped bits of discarded acorn husk on my head.

The blackberries (and blossom) attract butterflies, with dragonflies presumably enticed by the smaller insects on the plants. I had to wade through some nettles to get close to the beautiful Brown Hawker above. The bumblebee was in the garden on my way to the lane.

More photos available on Flickr

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

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Red Admiral
Red Admiral

Peacock butterfly

Hoverfly, Volucella pellucens
Hoverfly Volucella pellucens

Brown Argus
Brown Argus

Small Red-eyed Damselfly
Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Common Darter
Common Darter

Bumblebee on Water Mint
Bumblebee on Water Mint

Blackberries and Ladybird
Seven-spot Ladybird on blackberries. I haven't seen a proper ladybird at The Lodge for ages!

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, Extender EF 1.4x II

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Autumn is coming

How do I know? Well, apart from the date on the calendar (only three more weeks and the roads will be clogged up with the school run again), there are warblers in the garden.

On several occasions in the past week, there have been four Willow Warblers around simultaneously. They seem to be feeding up: flitting around in the buddleia, onto the ground, into the flowerbeds and even for a quick drink at the pond. I wonder if they're locally-bred siblings or if they're passing through and we're actually seeing different birds every day?

In addition to the WWs, at least two different Blackcaps have been seen: a female-type and what looks like a very dull, dark brown-capped youngster (I think it could be a young male). The first bird sampled some Woody Nightshade berries before going back to the Honeysuckle; the other bird also seems to prefer shiny Honeysuckle berries and swallows them whole. A Whitethroat has been seen, too.

Now's the time of year when we could get something weird turning up - perhaps a Reed Warbler like last year, though obviously a Sedge would go down well for the garden list. Lesser Whitethroat would be welcome, too, or even a Pied Flycatcher or Redstart. Well, I can dream.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Southern Hawker

female Southern Hawker



photos taken with Canon Powershot A640


Great Crested Newt
I had to wait about 10 minutes before our resident Smooth Newt came up for air. When it did, it was very quick and soon dived back down out of sight.

Well, it's true that I don't really know anything about newts (amongst many things). I did wait 10 minutes, the newt did come up for air and it did dive out of sight quickly. But, it was not just a Smooth Newt; it was an M&S Newt - a Great Crested Newt!

When Great Crested (or Warty) Newts are mentioned in the media at the moment, it's usually with the words '... bane of modern developers' or 'enemy of progress'. The reason is that they're protected under UK and European laws and you can't disturb them, possess them, trade them in any way or damage their habitat. Good!

The newt was first seen on 27 July. I saw it come up and air and go down again, and it didn't really cross my mind that it could have been anything other than a bog-standard Smooth Newt. On 3 August, I got the above photo of it and it did strike me that it looked quite dark and spotty, but a couple of friends told me it was Smooth and I had no reason to think otherwise.

Then, Matt left a comment on the original version of this post so I thought I'd get it checked out. Kevin and Daniel both told me it was Great Crested and I'm still astounded. Where has it come from? Did it hitch a ride on some pond plants? I don't know for sure, but apparently they've been seen elsewhere in our village and I wonder how many others are lurking out there.

I didn't see the newt yesterday so I wondered if it had left the water and gone looking for worms. This evening, when we got back from work, I went to have a look for it again. There it was, in the water soldier, but there was another one, too! It was fascinating to watch (what was presumably) the male newt stand on his forelegs and arch his back, showing his orange belly to the female.

So sorry, but you're likely to read more of my droning on about ponds and newts here in the future.
  • 'If you are creating or managing a pond where Great Crested Newts are present, you may need a conservation licence' says the Pond Conservation website...
photos taken with Canon EOS 30D + EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Peregrine in Cambridge

Peregrine in Cambridge city centre - in the window of Primavera, to be precise. Sculpture by Mathew Cummings, £3,000. Architecture by Kings College

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Gulls, gulls gulls

Darren sat outside from 6.30 to 8.30 this evening with the express intention of getting Yellow-legged Gull for the garden list. Success! A second-summer flew over and he also saw:
  • Black-headed Gull, 786
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull, 90
  • Great Black-backed Gull, 4
  • Common Gull, 2
all heading in the direction of Grafham Water or Paxton Pits. There were also 10 Swifts west and two Hobbies