Friday 31 August 2012

Fighting Dragonflies at Willow Holt

Ran today, a long one after night time - 3am - trips to Asda for snacking purposes have made me feel chubby and guilty.

So it was a punishment run today, radio 4 in my ears, and I headed out along the Hawton Road, a few white butterflies in the air and not much else. I turned onto the Hawton  - Farndon Road and noted that a few Swallows and Martins were about, it was a nice day, and there was a lot of insect life about as I dragged myself over the bypass; there was a rich smell of cheese in the air, a camembert effect drifting on the wind that although strange sounding was rather more pleasant than the manure vomit smell that wafts in from the rubbish tip when the wind journeys from that corner.

Entered Farndon, along Wyke Lane, past smiling folk with dogs - you get a better class of dog owner in Farndon I reckon - and into a boggy Willow Holt, the meadows rather bereft of life, sad autumnal signs despite a shining sun.

A solitary Meadow Brown was flushed by my clanky gate openings. THe fields at ground level quiet. But then, as I went through the next gate, a shower of Common Darters erupted out of the elderberries, a couple of them taking time to study me with insectoid compund eyes. The females are a dullish yellow green, the males a vermillion of rare beauty.

But that wasn't the whole of it, no.

As I went over the marina bridge, past the barge pub that torments me as I pass it yet again without going for a drink there, along the quay, a vivid green dragonfly shot past me, no idea what it was but the green really stood out! And around it, big Hawkers, Southern or Common, buzzed each other aggressively in the air and arched their bodies into this bent mating position. Another bright blue dragonfly went by, like the big boss.

They never ever let me get a close look! Ever!

A few banded demoiselles were about on the water, but their activity peak seems to have been a couple of weeks ago. As the path wended its way towards the power station, more and more dragonflies silently criss crossed and backtracked from the bushes across the path; the meaning behind their movements a mystery to me.

Occasionally they look like Aces High footage of fighting biplanes! Sopwitch Camels of the Trent bankside fighting, as the pleasure barges and cabin cruisers see me wave, but suspect not the war in the air raging but a few metres away.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Red Star dallyings

Had a couple of pleasant night's observings, the low moon not a major hassle but wiping out the slim as paper chance of observing Messier 33 in Triangulum, which is the latest

Messier 15, Messier 31, Messier 39, Messier 34, Perseus Double Cluster, Mirfak Cluster, One of the Cass Clusters, and milky way stars dripping off the obsidian background.

What I have particularly enjoyed looking at in my 10x50s are the various red and orange stars you can see this time of year - Enif and Scheat in Pegasus, Kocab, Alpha Aries, the soft gold Albireo, and harsher orange to be found not far away in the head of the dragon.

The two orange Andromeda stars are a contrast - Beta is a real red head, a stellar Rita Hayworth, whereas Gamma along the way is the lady with auburn hair, a pastel by Renoir I saw in the Burrell in Glasgow and have never forgotten.

The star that interested me the most however lay over in the Mirfak Cluster in Perseus. An interloper, perhaps, compared to the blue white stars around Mirfak itself, but a real deep, near garnet star red cuckoo in the nest, about Mag 5-6. Can't find any kind of name for it, but it's not my imagination, I've seen pictures of it. For once.

I wish I knew it's designation.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Baby Moorhens

They always seem to have a late brood, the local moorhen population. A few days ago, I saw a family of these black feathery pom poms with comedy feet by the windmill on the Trent coming back in from Farndon.

And again on the London Road lake, there's a late family of four moorhen chicks, who are bloody difficult to photograph, I ran past them today, and the Great Crested Grebe family too, diving away as the rain turned to sun and back again in the space of ten minutes.

Other latecomers are The Red Admirals - always the last butterfly to show their antennad faces, there are now plenty on the wing, to go with the last throes of the dragonflies, as summer ends and the berries decorate the bushes warning of colder weather

Thursday 23 August 2012

I Urge You to Visit Butterfly Park

If you happen to be up on Beacon Hill ways, perhaps having just had a refreshing fight round the pub, or an encounter with ghosts in a town centre cellar and are looking for something different to do, just have a little wander into Beacon Hill Nature Reserve (one entrace just after Playschool om Beacon Hill, another a mile further along, one off industrial estate opposite Everyday and go and have a look at the butterflies.

Yes, it's that odd time of the year when for some reason the Buddleiahs by the funny steampunk gas substation have just the right amount of nectar, sugar, or whatever it is, to attract butterflies in huge numbers. A week ago there was barely a butterfly on the flowers, a couple of days ago there were large numers of Peacocks and Red Admirals drinking from the purple, and white blossoms, trying hard to ignore the sweating jogging idiot showing a mobile phone camera up their backsides.

The Buddleiahs were alive with wings of coloured velvet, and for some reason even the ground was busy with Meadow Browns - in a part of the reserve you don't normally see them, with their varied orange brown through mouse to dark wings with a little dark eyes on them. There's all manner of little day flying moths here too, and the Birds Foot Trefoil still just about hangs on low to the ground, yellow and gold.

Just have a little look! A nature reserve next to the industrial estate, and most of you have no damn idea! And soon there might be lots of blackberries too!

Sunday 19 August 2012

Good weather for Dragonflies

Running last three days, first day the full length of Clay Lane route on a dull day, the second was out to Willow Holt and back all along the river, and today was a few laps of a cricket pitch then along the river.

Willow Holt was a great trip. It was really really hot, so progress was slow, but before I even got there spotted a lovely Comma on a Buddlieah, however it didn't oblige me for a photograph. Lots of Peacocks and Whites about as well. Not so much in the Holt meadows though, as previously noted the Ringlets are over. There's still a few meadow browns about, and Peacocks are becoming more and more numerous as summer goes on.

Blackberries are coming through...I vow I will collect some for my folks this year. Got to be quick to get the juiciest, cleanest, non peed on ones though!

All along the river, which as ever this time of year looks cool and inviting, and enlivened by the narrowboats and cabin cruisers that I wish I had.

And the dragonflies are about in great numbers. Down by the water, the Banded Demoiselles dance, choreographed in metallic blue. In the woods, a rather non descript smallish brown dragonfly sat upon a leaf and let me have a really good look - female Common Darter came to mind, but I'm sure they are yellowier.

And the hawkers buzz you all the way along the river path. Never got a good close look at any of them, but I'm guessing it was the Southerns, Browns and Commons that I think comprise the majority of the big dragonfly population round here.

I wish I was better a spotting them and photographing them - the small damsels are often quite obliging, but the Hawkers, no chance! They hardly ever seem to settle! I love them though, these steampunk bio machines of the warm blue skies...

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Hello young bird

Found you in the cemetery - not sure if was a young Woodpigeon or a young Collared Dove. The stupidity of sitting none too discretely says Dove to me, I never regard them as the brightest of our feathered friends; one would think the advice spoonfed to young birds of "Sit still and don't move" would work better in a hedge, not the middle of a well cropped lawn.

Monday 13 August 2012

Mating Bumble Bees

Came across these two loving bumble bees on my wall. Curiously they look like they are off different species, but probably aren't. I like this pic.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Bitten to Death in Langford Lowfields

So, yesterday, tired because of aforementioned late night meteor and rum sessions, got upon my bicycle and headed out for RSPB Langford Lowfields in my denim cutoffs and on my non Wiggins issue mountain bike.

Out at Langford Lowfields, the weather was beautiful...and the reed bed was deserted! Aside from a Swan, an Egret and a Great Crested Grebe.

The Egret however must have known I was there though, and put on a great show for me as I watched through my 10x50s...strutting elegantly through the reed bed, crest drooping right down its neck, and obligingly spearing a small fish as I watched its Max Wall stylee perambulations.

An Egret's plumage by the way, is the whitest thing I've ever seen in the Bird kingdom, and among the whitest things I've ever seen ever!

A Common Tern - think clean seagull that doesn't steal your Rick Stein Fish and Chips in Padstow - then turned up and had a little mosey round.

The Langford bods have refilled the feeders, and flocks of Tree Sparrows and Greenfinches were having a munch, in the non BDSM sense of the word. And also having a munch, on me, were the Vulcan bombers of the insect world, these camo winged flies that take great delight in biting me - I watched one actually make my arm bleed.

Research at home indicates that they are Twin Lobed Deer Flies, and yes they are vicious biters! Today, my arms and legs are starting to come up with the familiar big hot hard lumps. Why can't insects all be like the lovely Common Darters, Common Blue Damselflies and a big Southern Hawker that buzzed me, it's body hooped in turquoise.

Way out over the water, in my 10x50s, I even saw an Emperor, it's body big enough to be seen at 75 plus meters, and glowing blue over the water!

So the bites don't spoil it that much!

Perseids and Alcohol

Hopefully, all being well, tonight will be my fourth night of Perseid watching in a row here in Notts.

The pattern has always been the same. A social drink at the pub along with a read of the lightish but excellent Stuart Maconie book, and then home to what I as always laughably refer to as my garden, get a bottle of cider or a glass of rum and coke, then curse the sycamore tree that hides a big chunk of my western sky as I look up.

Results, well Wednesday saw 7 meteors in about half an hour, at least one of which was a sporadic, and ditto Thursday! Last night, a bright Perseid streaked through Aquila, and then horrible suplhurous yellow clouds rolled in and obscured me completely.

Perseids are not as good a shower as the Geminids at the moment, in my view. The meteors may perhaps be more numerous - debatable - but they are fainter and much faster moving. They are also viewable at more sociable hours.

However, with the Perseids, it's summer, and its nice to be outside, and you can have a drink! And also, revel in the peace and quiet of the dead of night at 2am.

Most of all, I get a big kick of the fact that this is citizen science you can do while tippling, while all the boring people are in bed!

Friday 10 August 2012

Hot Weather! Ha, it worries me not!

Ran to Willow Holt 09/08/12, the long way, heading through Hawton village first on a glorious hot morning. As I arrived in Willow Holt, going through the fields from Wyke Lane, I noticed there weren't any Butteflies in the meadows.

Sad. Must mean summer is coming to an end! Ringlets are gone, I've noticed in general.

However, along the river, many dragonflies were in view. Brown Hawker, well I'd already photographed one of these squashed on the road near Hawton, but live ones with glittering Bronze Wings were seen in large numbers. Few Southern Hawkers, and I think I copped a sighting of a Common Hawker at one point! Broad bodied chasers were also about, and Banded Demoiselles were everywhere.

Beautiful things. I'd rather have a beautiful Damsel, but a Demoiselle runs it close, glittering metallic blue bodies, ultra marine splotches on their wings. Three of them were given the dowdier female a long chase along the calm river.

A lovely day, ruined by me being stupid enough to run ten miles in it.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Naughty Bumble Bees

Today's run was a total washout. The sun was out when I started and hardly a cloud in the sky; within 5 minutes I was getting pelted with rain and hail.

On my wall, a Queen Bumble Bee was being mated by a small male. He was taking his time, for which I hardly blame him as the end of sexual activity results in his own death. The thing that intrigued me, was that the Queen was a big black bee with a red tail, and the male was the standard buff tailed model.

I photographed them. I presume they are actually of the same species, but it did look odd. Wonder if interspecies mating does take place?

The weather was so atrocious, didn't see a single other living thing. A dead toad on clay lane doesn't count.

Friday 3 August 2012

Another tour of the Two Lakes

My shoulder hurts with tourette twitching, but I did 10k round the two lakes today.

Balderton Lake, which has lost it's swans due to fishing line and RSPB removals according to the Newark Advertiser - the article mentioned that poaching has also been taking place - was busy with Canada Geese and I think a few of their goslings. A couple of swallows were skimming the water surface, they are such expert and daring low level flyers.

Soon they will be "Fllllyyyyying for Eeeeeeeggggpyt"

Solitary Great Crested Grebe. Few mallards and hybrids. Nothing earth shattering, oh no.

London Road lake, a GC Grebe chick seemed to have gone missing, but in its stead a few coot chicks seem to have appeared. The banks are lush, you can barely see the water. It's a lovely spot really, but there has been poaching here too. Overnight fishing lines left in. Ah well.

River covered in boats to die for. Damn I wish I had one. Then this would be a mobile blog. I'd be like Rosie and Jim without the bloody puppets. And a lot less creepy too.

Thursday 2 August 2012

Today in Butterfly Land

Today's run took me past London Road Lake, where the Grebe family lookss like it's lost a member alas and huge swan droppings still have to be avoided by the dilligent runner.

Clay Lane is overgrown to hell, still very boggy, and brambles snagging your legs everywhere. Machete job in some places. Speckled Wood butterfly, and a few gatekeepers, looking as ever like Dart Flights.

But Beacon Hill park was filled with butterflies, chiefly Ringlets, Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers amongst the thistles and groundselly stuff in the nursery area. An awful lot of them! An awful load of them. Every step I took seemed to scare up two or three butterflies!

But not in the butterfly park, where the Buddleiahs are in full bloom but the Peacocks, Admirals, Commas and Painted Ladies are not. Lots of honeybees and bumble bees feeding. Watched them rubbing the pollen on their legs. Trying to take pictures.

And then I carried on along the river, loving more boats, and watching a rather chubby looking black headed gull by the locks. Lovely run. Lovely day.

Long Run to Willow Holt

Thought I'd written Logan'sRun in that header. Must be going mad.

Headed out to Hawton first, and watched the swallows carving the air millimetres above the ripening wheat on the road to Farndon, and a kestrel launching from a tree next to the road.

I love Willow Holt. I'd love it even more if I was walking through it or sitting in it with a bottle of wine and a pretty girl, rather than as scudding through it as part of a ten and a half mile run or so. The Notts Wildlife Trust folk have gotten rid of a lot of the Himalayan Balsam pest, but the orchidy, triffidy pink flowers are still evident along the river, as are a fair few chaffinches. It was a dull day, but a few Banded Demoiselles were about, and another couple of the dull bronzey looking big dragonflies, maybe Brown Hawkers.

Lots of  little brown birds caught glimpse of in the corn fields.

I love the river runs. I love looking at the river's peaceful surface, disturbed only by the weir patrolled by herons and cormorants.

I always make a point of waving at the boats. Always.