Sunday 31 July 2011

Langford Lowfields Part 3

So, after an unscheduled interruption to take a wallet I found in the road to the police station - now where's my karmic reward you powers that be? - headed off on the Sustrans 65 on a lovely bright morning, with rare decent temeperatures.

Upon arriving at Langford, found for the first time I had company on the path, a nice woman with a pair of bigger field glasses than mine, who kindly pointed out that the bright red T-Shirt I was wearing might not be the most sensible thing to be wearing birdspotting in a reed bed full of shy birds...

Yep, dud! doh! My bad! But to be honest, at midday, on a hot day, there was not a whole lot of activity down on the bed. A couple of lapwings, a cormorant, and unusually just the solitary heron. The most exciting prospect was a falccon I'd seen far down the reed bed by the river, but the hovering gave this away to be kestrel, and not the hoped for hobby!

Would have been a good day for Hobbies actually, as there were a lot of dragonflies about, the same large yellow brown species - they are by the Devon in town as well as I saw when out running in the afternoon - brown hawker? Common hawker? 4 Spot Chaser? I have no idea. They aren't Emperors, of that I am sure.

So, after taking in the sun for a bit, headed back up the path and reported my rather negative findings to the woman - she said she'd seen nothing much either, one heron, couple of kestrels, on the lakes.

On the way home, the House Martins and Swallows are flocking, almost looking like gossping neighbours as they sit with their little heads cocked on the telephone wires. And on a telephone wire was where I spotted what to me was the best spot of the day.

A fairly drab, light and dark grey bird sitting outside a pretty house in Winthorpe village, and making some high pitched little "zeeeeeeee" noises. Straight away figured this as a Spotted Flycatcher, and looking at "the books" at home, pretty sure I'm right!

So, a quiet day on the bird front, but to cycle out to Langford is never a waste of time!

Saturday 30 July 2011

An insect day

A word first about those two pictures below - took those about mid-day when as I was going round to visit some folk, a trio of bumblebees dropped out of one of the sycamores on the drive way and had this rumble ruckus slash mating thing right in front of me!

No damn decorum, these Apids!

One of the challengers decided to knock it on the head after a couple on unsuccessful attempts to get in on the action, and left the other two in what I would call a dogknotted mated state, and barely alive. If that is indeed the Queen bumblebee with a male, she's about three times his size I'd say. I think they call this species Buff Tailed? No idea!

Anyway, they were still lying there buzzing faintly when I returned two hours later, but had gone when I went for my run a short while later. Maybe a bird took them, maybe they disentangled themselves and flew off. I'm sure I read somewhere that "the act of love" always killed a male bee, but i'm not the insectoid Doctor Ruth, so I don't know.

As an aside, as I limbered up for my run, noticed the huge number of hoverflies that were about - some quite beigey and dull, some a vivid orange colour. And then out on the run, the whole length of Clay Lane to the Beacon Hill reserve, the butterflies were out in force.

My garden has small white visitors. Clay Lane has Speckled Woods, Large Whites, and Commas, looking almost a vivid carmine red in the sunlight. The nursery at Beacon Hill had Large Whites, Ringlets and Meadow Browns, butterfly park Peacocks and Red Admirals on the Buddleiahs, and even on a non descript path onto the industrial estate I saw Gatekeepers and a big Brimstone.

Birds, well the House Martins are out in numbers, and saw a lovely yellow hammer over my head on Clay Lane. The fields of wheat are ripe and gold. I just had an orange fairey cake. Life on whole is not so bad!

bumblebees 2 the victor?

bab bumble bees 1

Thursday 28 July 2011

Garden Butterflies

Forgot to to mention this but had a couple of new visitors to my garden this summer;

In addition to the usual whites and small slash common blues, and the occasional peacock on the Buddleiah, the other day a red admiral actually settled on my chest when I was doing some vanity tanning in the sun...

Don't swoon ladies, I do this for a little while to get a bit of UV on my excema *LOL*.

And then, some fluttering amongst the untidy grass and nettles, an unfamiliar twitch of brown. I had a meadow brown come for a poke round my shed, a really weird urban sight. Never seen one in town before. The browns you get in town tend to be Wall Browns.

Another little astronomy note few delta aquariid meteors might be around the next couple of days. Really inspired to try and get the old telescope going after so long...and as the nights draw in you might see a few stargazing reports if I run at night.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

The Beauty of Night

As well as the daytime, if you have a bit of an astronomy head like me there is plenty to see at night!

There's been some fairly crisp clear nights the last week here, and the night sky is unusually pretty for summer in the town. Take the time to have a look, you might see as I did a bat cast in black against the moonlight. Above at 10pm, the Summer Triangle of the bright stars Deneb, Altair and the brilliant steel blue Vega light the sky, and if your skies are dark, the milky way goes ghostly above from north east to south west straight over your head and satellites or even the international Space Station cross it like lonely travellers boating acorss the River Styx from one black underworlde to another.

Later on, Perseus, home of the meteors, is rising. Chasing after Andromeda to rescue her, with the great Flying Horse Pegasus standing by...

God, I love astronomy so much too

Monday 25 July 2011

On the run again

It wasn't warm but it was very muggy today, got pretty damp and sticky while pounding away on these still rather stiff legs. On London Road lake, the drakes still seem to be in eclipse (side note, have seen NO mallard chicks on the lake this year, why?) and on Clay Lane the speckled woods were out, fluttering amongst the fresh fly tips.

Bizarrely, the biggest fly tip seemed consist mainly of one of those Playstation Rockband games - the whole thing, guitar, bass drums. And a load of camping mattress things. No easy thing to get loads of crap there, as there is no easy car access I can see.

Still a bloody disgrace though, and trying to burn the stuff doesn't make it any better, you filthy swine!

In the farmers fields at the end of the lane, the grain is ripening, and large flocks of sparrows had gathered to feed. A large flock of crows flew over Beacon Hill, and for some reason there was a large flock of gulls circling the railway line. Maybe a sardine carrying train had crashed.

It was a dull day, and a painful 7 mile run. But on Beacon Hill, the butterflies were out in force, mainly peacocks with a few red admirals thrown in, startled off the deck by passing runners and few kids on bikes who had no idea what they were missing.

But then, butterflies are for softies, as a near psychotic football thug told me one night when I was admiring a friends picture of a comma at the pub one night. He demanded I talk about football.

I refused, and was amazed I was allowed to survive the night.

Sunday 24 July 2011

RSPB Langford Lowfields, another trip

It was a fine start to the day - I didn't have a hangover, the sun was out and the presence of a Hollyoaks omnibus on the TV would be enough to drive anyone from the house screaming.

But I wasn't screaming, the events of the last few days have taught us that mainly, things are not so bad really, so I headed off on my rattletrap through Winthorpe and then on the back road Holme-wards towards the N64 off road route to RSPB Langford Lowfields to see what I might see today.

When I got to the screen over the reed beds, I see the local RSPB folk had put out a newsletter, which gave me something to read while I untangled the strap of my dinky 10x25 field glasses, and tried to take a picture of one of the Gatekeepers that seem to have taken over as the dominant butterfly of the moment out in the sticks. As ever, the butterflies didn't want to hold still.

But the Gatekeeper really is a very pretty little butterfly, like a little brown and orange paper cutout. In fact, if you gave a kid a bit of paper and some paint and told them to do one of those "paint on one side, then fold over" butterfly paintings, the Gatekeeper is what it would look like.

Out over the reedbed, as usual for me, the Hobbies and Marsh Harriers and interesting waders weren't there, but I had a great view of some herons doing their Max Wall struts amongst the shallows, and a big dragonfly hove into view but not slow or long enough to get a really good view.

The newsletter reckons Emperors are common here, all I can say is that it seemed to have a bright yellow head and thorax.

Scanning the reedbed with my glasses, under a bright sun, there wasn't much to be seen, maybe a bit late in the morning. But then, much nearer to hand and out of focus, a small bird was sat unselfconsciously on a bush.

Focussing the glasses revealed a pretty, and very un-shy little bird with a grey head, white throat chestnutty back and seemingly a very pale russet pink breast. It's tail was long, and edged with white, and when it stretched out its wing like a japanese fan for a spot of preening, it's wing was very white underneath.

Occasionally it sang it's little heart out, rapid trills, but my hearing is a bit crummy and I'm far better with Bowie than birdsong, so this is no help. But initially I mentally tagged it as a whitethroat - because it had an..err...white throat. But when it flew to another bush smack in front of me, I started to doubt myself, the breast looked very pink, the beak quite powerful for a warbler and the white striped long tail wasn't the stubby tail I associate with most warbler species.

But googling it later, I'm pretty sure a Whitethroat is what it is - the langfords people write that there are plenty of warblers about on the site after all and the images suggest I was right. A new spot for me. Yeah, I know compared to you proper twitchers I'm a heap of the proverbial. But I'm trying.

I had a real good look at the pretty little bird for a fair few minutes, before cycling back up, passing another couple of unidentifiable dragonflies - bronze and metallic looking in the sun; Brown Hawker? Four Spotted Chaser again? - but the curious sight was a couple of brown waterfowl scuttling away from my bike before diving into the hedge at the left. They moved like a coot or a moorhen, but I'd swear they were brown. Wonder if they were water rails, or whether my famous imagine was getting the better of me again??!!

Friday 22 July 2011

Who closed the river?

Today's plan was a morale boosting and calorie chomping run to Barnby in the Willows, before following the River Witham across to Claypole village before coming back home.

However, after getting to Barnby after a run baulked by the passage of the three longest and slowest trains in history at the level crossing but brightened by flocks of swallows going about their twittering business, I found that unlike the left hand route along the river towards Beckingham, the right path to Claypole runs out after a couple of hundred yards.But the river was clear, and full of fish which no doubt would attract the large pike found here. None today though alas, pity, as I like to see these eagles of the water serenely motionless in the clear water waiting for some sort of idiot cyprinoid to find its way into its cavernous toothy gob.

Saw a large rather brown dragonfly with a droopy looking tail. Investigations (wiki again, its safe enough for dragonfly id!) probably reveal it to be a four spotted chaser. But it flew on unobstructed, and I came across a nasty wooden fence. I'm sure once upon a time you could get right across to Claypole along here.

So, change of plan. Given I hate retracing my steps, I ended up going across to the A17 (not sensible) before running awkwardly on the verge as the perma-crashing traffic screeched by. After Coddington was really starting to suffer with my right knee getting  bit sore and eventually in town I was a bit stop start. But I won't tell the girls that, I'll tell them I ran 12 miles.

And saw a lovely big dragonfly.

Thursday 21 July 2011

The nights have gone batty

Haven't reported in as have been really busy with work and applications and some scriptwriting - my oscar hopeful alter ego has come into some good ideas for short movies and I've been trying to write them up. See you in LA, I think not.

So I went running one night, and it was wet, and windy, like the rest of this whole darn summer, and I saw nothing apart from the impact craters of raindrops in puddles and ponds. Everything alive apart from this fool was being sensible and staying out of the weather.

So, I've been off shift, working for 12 hours with no natural daylight and going to bed early. It's not a Chris Packham kind of life. But, with thick twilight at about ten pm, suddenly I'm seeing things I haven't seen really so far this year. And that would be bats.

Although I'm sure you would have already guessed that from the feeble pun in the title of this article.

But, yep, bats, flapping by you like sinister swallows of the night, hunting for moths. A couple of small bats were swooping around each other by the library the other evening, probably Pipistrelles. And then last night in my so called garden, what I reckon was a slightly larger furry flyer that seemed to come from under my eaves. Rather than that than the plague of wasps I had a couple of years ago.

I've always been very partial to bats, remember a long time ago sitting out in the garden with a very young sister watching the bats replace the swifts as a summer evening drew to a close, and telling her about vampires and vampire bats.

No sweeter elder brother there ever was.

Friday 15 July 2011

Running for Dragonflies

Thought on today's run, 8 miles out to Farndon and back along the river, I'd keep an eye out for dragonflies and damselflies today, and then, rather boringly, tell you about them.

I'd like to take pictures of them for you, but a slow-wit with a mobile phone, forget it.

So, out on a warm sunny day but with a fair old breeze blowing, what did I see?

Willow Holt brought a large Dragon with a long, yellow green blue body. No idea what it is! Looking at pictures, I'd go for a common Hawker as most likely specimen, the Emperor seems far too blue. And then further round the river, there were a couple of what I think are Broad Bodied Chasers, while the Common Blue Damsels were on the dirt path as usual, although not as many as last time maybe.

The prettiest sight though was a few banded demoiselles flitting amongst the lilley pads further round the river, always a sight to cheer up a tired runner who had been suffering so badly from chafing in "certain areas" he had to run shirtless.

I'm surprised I saw any nature at all. I'd have run or flown off if I could. Even if I was a tree, seeing topless me running like a nut.

Thursday 14 July 2011

red admiral

small tortie flying away



small white butterfly

beacon hill butterfly corner

Wow! Butterflies Everywhere!

This morning started off with me pottering in my, ahem, garden reading a Gordianus (roman detective novel) and being all decadent and sun loving - what else would you expect from a classics degree owning rakish n'eer-do-well.

The reading, and listening to the excellent 6 music, was interrupted by the appearance of a white butterfly loving the clover and ragwort in my wildlife friendly but landlord despised garden. Determined to try and get some half decent butterfly pics, there then followed ten minutes of attempting to jump quietly from spot to spot to try and get a shot of the damn thing, until I managed to get it above my head on my downstairs neighbour's Buddleiah. You'll see this in a second. Pretty sure it was a small white.

Out running an hour and a half later, the town was alive with butterflies - the so called "Summer Flush" I believe. Both kinds of white everywhere, Common Blue in my garden and London Road Lake, Speckled Woods on Clay Lane, and then in Beacon Hill Reserve, well...Large Whites, Brimstones (saw two, doubling my number for the year, odd when I saw so many Spring 2010), Ringlets, Gatekeepers - out in force today for first time all year and very similar to Meadow Browns but I think smaller and with a sort of dartier pattern on the wings - and then over in the Beacon Hill butterfly park by the weird gas sunstation, Peacocks, Small Torties and Red Admirals.

I'd forgotten how large red admirals are, as large as Brimstones which I'd previously mentally tagged as the largest common butterfly I see, and really fast powerful flyers as well, like the Mako Shark of the lepidotera...

Anyway, I was determined to take some photos of all these beautiful flutterers, so after watching Tour de France stuff, jumped back on my creaky bike, and spent a frustrating but fun hour following the damn flying things from stand of Buddleiah to Buddleiah (and some other yellow flowers), and don't forget I'm trying to take pics on my bloody mobile phone, so I'm not Simon bloody King. In short, Peacocks are just that, peacocks! They pose for the camera very readily! Commas are suprisingly easy too. But Red Admirals barely stop for a second, and Small Torts twitch in a frenzy in their brief feeding stops.

Get out to that corner of Beacon Hill folks, if you are doing the butterfly count or want to show your kids some. Or, for different species like the Gatekeepers or Ringlets, go to the corner where the path enters the nursery on the other side. Just enjoy the butterflies, and the flowers, and everything else.

Monday 11 July 2011

Using nature as a tool of seduction

If nature is good for the soul, then surely it can be good for the heart too.

I've been entertaining the possibility of hitching up a young lady to the back of my bicycle  - more likely, she gives me a lift as I can't drive - and heading for a pleasant, wildflowery spot at RSPB Langford Lowfields, or at NWT Willow Holt - and producing a decently classy picnic and classically decent bottle of wine, and settling in for a chat about the glorious sights around us, classical composition, high art and brilliant literature, or she sits there adoringly listening as I misidentify warblers to her in an oh so bound to succeed attempt to impress her.

Perhaps I've done this already. Lots of times. I wouldn't want you to think that I was a complete no mark no mate anorak whom the local equivalents of Scarlett Johannson (Ha!) wouldn't touch with the proverbial excremental stick.

This isn't true, d'you hear me! I've done this loads, and it has worked beyond a charm every time, it so has. I recommend you do the same, even if you've got no one to go  to, fae it you're not likely to see anything prettier in the course of your normal day, and the exercise is good for you.

But if you do take a picnic, remember to clear up your mess or by all the gods I'll haunt you in a most cruel way!

ID this interesting purple flower at Besthorpe

RSPB Langford Lowfields Reedbed

Sunday 10 July 2011

Moths and other sinister brown spiny things!

Those bizarre flying sticks I photographed a little way below turned out to be moths. I brazenly spent forever in WHSmiths reading a book about UK insects, going through the endless pages of sinisterly brown and hairly moths sat a-silent on tree bark, seemingly waitingto leap off and entangle themselves forever in your hair, or fly straight into your mouth like a big furry gobstopper.

But anyway, I found those beauties in there, and they are moths but they don't have any name other than some latinate tongue twister I've forgotten. I ;ove moths I've decided, and wish to photopgraph more of them! using incompetent trps like a bicycle light not working though!

Friday 8 July 2011

And who is about in the pouring rain?

Me. Stupid me. Stupid paranoid about my fitness me, who thought they could have a 5 mile run or so in gaps between the downpours.

No chance! As I got onto the bike path by London Road Lake, it began to rain quite hard, which didn't bother the ducks, grebes and all but grown up Coot chicks. By the time I entered Beacon Hill reserve by the lower entrance, it was thundering and the rain was coming down like the wrath of Odin or some other divine hammer wielder. None of the usual multitude of bunnies were out, no birds, no butterflies, just a brain dead runner in an exposed place in the highest part of town as the thunder rumbled. Smart smart smart!

The only colour in the grey were the Ragwort and the Thistles.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Butterflies take the back seat

As I ran along Clay Lane and through Beacon Hill I looked at all the Butterflies flying about, and the birds trying to fly against the blustering wind, and even the plants and all the bacteria and micro organisms existing beyond my perception - not difficult - and wondering what they were all thinking.

The Meadow Browns in the long grasses and the Ringlets circling just off the path, I reckon they were thinking..."This great clodhopper isn't thinking about us today. He has a mind full of press scandal and closing newspapers, why do we bother, nature should go on strike today."

Actually they were wrong. I was thinking, engrossed even, in script and relationship troubles. But the butterflies had a point.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

The Dragon among the damsels

Ran about 10-11 miles today, took me about 1:35 anyway, out to Hawton then across to Farndon and back along the river. That route.

In Willow Holt, the sun was out and in that delightfully attractive meadow, the second field along, the Meadow Browns were out in abundance, as well as the mousier brown ringlets. Everywhere there was vegeation today, all along the river, there were Meadow Browns, as well as some specimens with slightly thicker dark edging to the wings that I figured might be Gatekeepers.

But once I'm running, I don't like to break my rhythym for anything unless it's a real beaut to look at - when you stop when you're running that far it gets harder and harder to get going again. But I did briefly, as I ran along the stretch of river across from the Gotham City construction of Staythorpe Power Station.

On that section of path, the Common Blue Darters were about but in huge numbers - I reckon the swallows that were slicing the crisper summer air than of late were after them, there was a lot of them about - sunning themselves on the dirt path before being disturbed by the Godzilla of cross country running and fleeing for their insectoid lives as I approached, probably into the beak of a passing swallow, so I apologise to them for that.

But also sunning itself on that path, bringing me to a halt, was another neon blue creature, it's outstretched wings indicating that it was a Dragonfly, rather than a damselfly. It was a fair chunk bigger and broader as well, and blue as a tarty nightclub sign. I've just used my comprehensive sources to identify it (wiki again!) , I think, as a Broad Bodied Chaser which is nothing very exotic but I'm pleased to ID it as I'm not great with these fantastic insects.

I'll keep my eyes open for more as summer lengthens, I reckon there will more to see as the year to go on. And more to misidentify, get over excited about, exagerrate and inflate and conflate, same as everything else I go to look at!

Tuesday 5 July 2011

I'm going to play with moths tonight

I wonder what the results will be - me, a bicycle light and my mobile camera phone. And a glass of Pimms and Lemonade. Come out and play, oh weirdest moths!

Sunday 3 July 2011

Yesterdays Run

Again, not a wildlife spotting trip - headed up along the roads to coddington and back over about 7-7.5 miles although I did duck through Beacon Hill by that time I was struggling a bit. The main thing I noticed was running up the hill the back way into Coddington was that there was a little flock of long tailed tits "zurring" their way along the hedgerow on the right hand side.

Pretty little things - like pink and white marshmallows on a feathery stick!

Anyone tell me what this lovely moth is?

Isn't he a beauty? Like a Vulcan bomber, just saw a pair of these sat on my stepfathers car tyre at 7pm  - this was the larger of the two.

Friday 1 July 2011

The other way up the path

Wasn't really a very naturous nature run today, I felt more like people watching on what was a really nice, but not too hot afternoon. The cycle path going the other way up to Cotham via British Gypsum though is in slightly wilder territory than the other way, and especially when you get out into the sticks proper - as I said when I did that suicidal 16 mile run there were all manner of wildflowers and butterflies to look at as I went past in not terribly Sebastian Coe fashion.

No folk thieving chain link fencing to look at today either! I just ran to British Gypsum then across Grange Road to Sconce Hills. Not really a wildlife route, although you can enjoy looking at the House Martins and Swifts gadding about.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday at Besthorpe was the number of Common Blue Damselflies I saw sitting on the paths - noticed this on the path by the river at Farndon. They must like it, nice and warm compared to the grass!

Lots of Buddleiah in bloom again - must try and get a nice pic of a peacock butterfly!

Must think of other reserves to visit out there - it's doing me good this lark, I've lost 4 inches round my waist since I've been doing this!