Thursday, 9 October 2014

Hoopoe





Last Friday and over the weekend I noticed reports emerging on the local yahoo group and other various bird groups that a Hoopoe was showing well at a location about 30 minutes drive away from my home.

On Tuesday the reports were saying that it was still there and showing well. Now, I don’t normally attend ‘twitches’ but on this occasion, as Hoopoes don’t put in regular appearances in this neck of the woods (they are classed as mega rarities) and as I’d never had the opportunity of seeing one before, I made an on the spot decision to go and see if it was as good as they were saying…and I wasn’t to be disappointed!



Once I arrived at the location the bird was easy to find…I just had to follow the direction in which all the ‘scopes and cameras were pointing and there it was, busily feeding on the ground in a small horse paddock next to a farm house, about 10 meters in front of the gathered throng and seemingly oblivious to the constant rattle of the camera shutters!



I was lucky enough to find a space between two fellow photographers, who kindly shuffled along to let me in, when to my amazement the bird came even closer, too close in fact, as it momentarily ‘disappeared’ behind the small picket fence in front of us. However, it was soon back out and giving us all good close views once again.



Slowly it worked it’s way over to the other side of the paddock and disappeared from view underneath a gate. It was eventually relocated about ten minutes later on the other side of the farm buildings (where it was less windy!).



I’d spent the best part of two hours admiring and photographing this amazing little bird, and I’d got my life tick, so decided it was time to head off home.





Hoopoe (Upupa epops)



Hoopoe 1





Hoopoe 2





Hoopoe 3





As an added bonus this long staying Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) was giving good, if rather distant, views as it flitted between the ground and the fence posts in an adjoining paddock.



Hoopoe - Wheatear







And now a little rant……..



While watching the Hoopoe I witnessed some behaviour that made me realise why I don’t normally attend ‘twitches’. By their very nature twitches usually involve lots of people gathering in one particular place to observe a rare bird. The normal situation is that they watch/photograph the bird (which on most occasions is already lost, stressed or confused) from a respectful distance. Unfortunately some people cannot help themselves and try and get as close to the bird as possible.



On this occasion I witnessed somebody, a renowned and self styled guru  of British birding (you know who he is!), and who frankly, should know better and at least try to put on a better example, crawl along on his belly into the owners property to get closer to the bird and by default keep it from moving closer the the other watchers who had respectfully stayed back waiting for the bird to ‘come to them’. Sadly this is not the first time that I’ve seen this person display this sort of tactics.



Hoopoe Closer 1



Hoopoe Closer 2



My advice is if he wants to get better/closer photographs he should invest in a better camera and a ‘bigger’ lens and respect the birds space!





Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A FEW FUNGI



Over the past few weeks I’ve spent several days out and about looking to see what fungi I could find. It’s probably a bit early yet but I did manage to find a few. However, for the most part, they had already been ‘found’ and nibbled by the slugs and squirrels, so not many pristine examples.
I also noticed, on more than one occasion, that where fungi have appeared close to footpaths they had been kicked over and destroyed. I fail to see what pleasure, when they’ve obviously come out to walk in and enjoy the countryside, people derive from doing this sort of thing and destroying what they’ve come out to see?

Something else that I noticed was how dry the ground is at the moment, especially in the woods, normally when I’m out photographing fungi I usually get wet and muddy knees and elbows…all they’re getting at the moment is dusty. Out of interest I dug down into the leaf litter and it was about 10 to 15cm down before it started to get really damp, and that’s before the imminent new fall of leaves.

The Fungi…..

Fungi 1  Am Dec
Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)  The colour of this common fungi is more noticeable in young specimens as it quickly fades to a light tan colour. Grows to about 10cm tall, usually in small groups in deciduous woodland. It’s also quite common for the cap to be misshapen. Edible, but not a culinary delight.

Fungi 2  Club F
Club Foot (Ampulloclitocybe clavipes)  A flat topped fungus with a distinctive club shaped stem. Grows to around 7cm tall with a brown cap of about 8cm across in deciduous and mixed woodland. Edible, but can cause a very severe reaction if consumed with alcohol.

Fungi 3  False DC
False Deathcap (Amanita citrina)  This common fungus grows in deciduous and mixed woodland. 8cm tall with a 10cm diameter cap. It has a strong smell of raw potatoes and is mildly poisonous.

Fungi 4  Hon W Cap
Honey Waxcap (Hygrocybe reidii)  This small red to orange/red fungi is commonly found in pasture and grassland. Reaching a height of 5cm the 5cm diameter cap flattens out with age and sometimes cracks appear around the edges. As it’s name would suggest it smells strongly of honey and is edible, but of poor quality.

Fungi 5  Sul Tuft
Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare)  This very common yellow/orange fungus is most notable for forming dense and spectacular clumps on dead and decaying wood of both deciduous and coniferous trees.

Fungi 6  Beech Sick
Beechwood Sickener (Russula nobilis)  This poisonous brittlegill is the deciduous woodland relative of the Sickener (Russula emetica) that is found in pinewoods. Mostly bright red in colour ( all white specimens have been noted) with a white stem. Grows to around 5cm tall with a cap diameter of 7cm. It has a faint smell of coconut.

Fungi 7  Gry Spot Am
Grey Spotted Amanita (Amanita excelsa)  Grows in deciduous and mixed woodland. The grey/brown cap with patches of grey spots grows to around 10cm in diameter and flattens out with age. The stem is white to grey in colour and 12cm tall.

Fungi 8  Blk W Cap
Blackening Waxcap (Hygrocybe conica)  One of the most common waxcaps, seen in various colours from yellow through orange to red however, the irregular shaped cap discolours to black and becomes dry and cracked with age. Can be found in grassland and reaches a height to around 10cm.

Fungi 9  Bit Bol
Bitter Bolete (Tylopilus felleus)  This large greyish brown fungus is found in deciduous woodland and occasionally with conifers. It has a stout club shaped stem growing to around 10cm long, yellowish in colour and covered with a coarse brown net. The cap. up to 12cm in diameter, matures to a flat shape with a dark brown coarse/cracked texture. As the name suggests it has a very bitter taste.

Fungi 10  Unkown
Unknown (help needed)  This one I found in mixed woodland but so far it has eluded any of my attempts at an ID. so, if anyone has any ideas?……


Notes/ Disclaimer…Although I have given indications of taste and edibility of some of the above fungi I would strongly advise that, unless you’re 100% sure of what you’re doing, you DON’T attempt to taste/eat any fungi/mushrooms that you may find.  Just admire their beauty, they look much better growing in the wild than they do sizzling in a frying pan!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Ah!…Grasshopper.



Master Po to young Caine;  Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?
Young Caine;  old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Master Po;  young man, how is it that you do not?

Quote from the 1970’s cult t.v. series Kung Fu   (I’m showing my age now!)

Not only have I been listening to the grasshoppers I decided to photograph a few too.


Grasshoppers belong to the order Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets)
There are around 10 different species of grasshopper found in the UK. Some can be found in abundance in all areas while others only in localised areas around the country. Most lay their eggs directly into the soil and when hatched the resulting nymphs are small versions of the adult.
These nymphs will grow through four (or more) ‘moulting’ stages before becoming adults. It is during these stages that, for the species that have them, the wings will develop.

There are many colour and pattern variations among grasshopper species varying from green/brown through to pink/purple.

Common Field Grasshopper (chorthippus brunneus) This is the UK’s commonest grasshopper and is found in dry, thin grassland from June to December. It is noticeably hairy below the thorax and is also a good flier. colours range from brown to orange and purple it can also be striped or mottled.


Grasshopper 1 cf-n
An early nymph…no wings have developed yet.

Grasshopper 2 cf
A few days after the final moult the abdomen develops an orange tip.

Grasshopper 3 cf
Masters of disguise!


Lesser Marsh Grasshopper (chorthippus albomarginatus) Mostly restricted to southern parts of the UK but is slowly expanding it’s range northwards. Found, from July to October, in many grassy habitats..dry, damp marshy, coastal dunes and salt marsh. Only the females display a white line along the wing and are also bigger than the males. The colour is mostly brown/straw but is variable and both sexes can range from brown to green.

Grasshopper 4 lm

Grasshopper 5 lm
Note the damaged/deformed wing.

Grasshopper 6 lm
My camera bag is a good place to pose for a portrait!


Meadow Grasshopper (chorthippus parallelus)  Found in moist well vegetated grassland from June to September. The female is larger than the male and both sexes are flightless although the female has very small wings and the male’s wings extend  almost to the tip of the abdomen. Again the colour varies through green, brown, purple/red to pink but green is the more common colour. Some populations can show high numbers of the pink form.

Grasshopper 8 m-n

Grasshopper 9 m-n pink
Beautiful in pink?


Stripe-winged Grasshopper (sienobothrus lineatus)  Mostly found, between July and October in the south of the UK, below a line drawn from The Wash to The Severn Estuary, in marsh and chalk grassland. Colour ranges from green to brown with some orange/red on the abdomen. Both sexes are winged.

Grasshopper 10 st-w

As  you would imagine photographing something small that spends most of it’s life buried in the depths of the grass, and also has the annoying habit of disappearing at a great rate on knots just as you manage to get it into focus, is not an easy task? So I decided to give it a go (rolling/crawling around in the grass seems to be my forte?) It was fun but I did encounter a few pitfalls notably…kneeling in/on thistles, brambles, stones, ants nests and a rather annoyed and angry bumblebee…being scratched and poked in the eyes by grass and twigs…and being bitten and stung by all manner of bugs that had decided a big meal had just arrived at their doorstep!
Then there were the looks I got from the passers by, they had no idea what they were missing!…but it was all good fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

All images were taken with a Canon 100mm Macro f2.8 L IS USM lens fitted to my Canon 50D and mounted onto a sturdy support….ME!


As usual all ID’s are derived from my library of books and my limited knowledge and I would welcome your input if you think I’ve got anything wrong.
















Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Still here….



Just in case you were wondering where I’d gone…don’t worry, I’m still here!
I haven’t ‘done’ a post for a few weeks now (I’m sure that you’ve noticed?) and it’s mainly down to my apathy and the the fact that I haven’t been able to get myself into the mood.
Since returning from holiday I haven’t been able to find or make the time, although I’ve had no major problems or jobs to sort out, it’s just been a lack of finding the ‘right time’ to sit and do a post.
I have been out and about to many of the local wildlife sites and taken loads of photos of butterflies, wild flowers etc. they’re all still sitting on the computer waiting to be sorted, as are the photos from my holiday!
I have however been keeping up to date reading and enjoying all of your excellent posts. Please forgive me if I haven’t left any comments.
Hopefully I’ll get the photos sorted and back into the blogging mood soon? In the meantime I’ll leave it to all of you to keep up the good work….[;o)

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

LITTLE PURPLE MEN



What would you think if I told you that when I was out and about a few days ago I encountered lots of little purple men wearing pink onesies (that’s jump suits to us older generation!)? Your first thought would probably be that I’d had one glass too many or maybe I’d been partaking in a few puffs of a certain recreational weed. So, before we go any further let me put the record straight, I neither drink alcohol or smoke.
Now that we’ve established that I wasn’t under the influence of booze or drugs and, as we all know, I’m as sane as the next chap, if I said to you again ‘I saw lots of little purple men the other day, they were wearing pink jump suits and hanging around in the hedgerow’ you would have to take my word for it, wouldn’t you?

I knew that you would be hard to convince, so I took some photographs to prove that I wasn’t just making up a story.








Purple Man 1
I told you they were just hanging around.

Purple Man 2
Here’s some more…they were everywhere!

Purple Man 3
I asked nicely and one let me take his portrait.



Yea!…okay! so there wasn’t really any little purple men, but there was lots of….

Hedge Woundwort (stachys sylvatica). A hairy perennial with creeping stems and upright flower stalks. When bruised it gives of an unpleasant smell. It can be found growing, often on disturbed soil, along roadside verges and under hedgerows. It flowers from June to October.

So the next time that you’re out and about keep your eyes peeled, you never know, you just might encounter some little purple men!


Yipee! it’s holiday time!….From this Friday I shall be away on holiday to spend a week exploring the North York Moors. I’ll try and catch up on all your posts when I return. 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Jewels in the grass



As we walk around our various nature reserves and wild places admiring the vast diversity of flora and fauna that’s laid out in front of us how often do we take a closer look at some of the smaller wild flowers that grow low down in, and partly hidden by, the vegetation?

I spend quite a bit of my ‘walking time’ crawling and sometimes laying stretched out (no!…it’s not just an excuse for a rest!) searching for and photographing some of these little jewels, every one a delicate and beautiful example of natures art.



1 Jewels 1 Mouse ear
Mouse-ear Hawkweed (pilosella officinarum) A creeping perennial that often forms mats. The flowers are about 2-3cm across. May-Oct.

1 Jewels 3 Germ Speedwell
Germander Speedwell (veronica chamaedrys) A very common and widespread creeping perennial that often covers a large area. The flowers are 10-12mm across. April-June.

1 Jewels 4 R Hawkbit
Rough Hawkbit (leontodon hispidus) Perennial, grows on dry calcareous grassland. The golden yellow flowers, 20-30mm across, are born on solitary slender stems. June-October.

1 Jewels 6 Scar Pimp 
Scarlet Pimpernel (anagallis arvensis) Annual, low growing on cultivated and disturbed ground. The scarlet flowers are 10-15mm across and only fully open in bright sunlight. June-August.

1 Jewels 8 P Flax
Pale Flax (linum bienne) Found in dry grassland the lilac-blue flowers are12-18mm across. June- August.

1 Jewels 8a F Flax
Fairy Flax (linum catharticum) A small and delicate annual which is easily overlooked in the long grassland. Flowers 4-6mm across. May-September.

1 Jewels 9 Grass Vetchling 1

1 Jewels 10 Grass Vetchling 2
Grass Vetchling (lathyrus nissolia) My favourite wild flower at the moment, hence the two images. Another small flower that is easily overlooked, especially when in bud, but once in flower it shines like a little ruby in the long grass. Flowers 18mm long. May-July.  *The little black blob in the first image is a bug of some sort that I failed to notice was there when taking the photograph.

1 Jewels 11 C Vetch
Common Vetch (vicia sativa) A scrambling downy annual of grassland and hedgerows.Flowers 2-3cm long. April-October.

1 Jewels 14 L StitchW
Lesser Stitchwort (stellaris graminea) A perennial that grows in open woodland, meadows and along hedgerows. Flowers 5-15mm across. May-August.

1 Jewels 15 G StitchW
Greater Stitchwort (stellaria holostea) Found in the same habitat as it’s cousin above but is much taller at up to 50cm. April-June.

1 Jewels 16 C Marsh-bedstraw
Heath Bedstraw (galium saxatile) A dense mat forming plant found on heathland and along woodland rides on poor acid soils. The flowers are small at 3-5mm across. May-August.

Now two plants that are a little taller.

1 Jewels 17  Nipplewort
Nipplewort (lapsana communis) An upright annual that grows in cultivated and disturbed ground (my garden!) The flower heads are1-2cm across. July-October. *True fact!…It’s name is derived from the shape of the flower bud which is said to resemble the shape of a nipple!.

1 Jewels 18  Salad Burnet
Salad Burnet (sanguisorba minor) a perennial that grows to 35cm high on chalk grassland. If crushed it gives of a scent resembling that of cucumber. The flowers are tiny and form in dense clusters on rounded heads. May-September.


So, the next time you’re out walking take a little time for a closer look, maybe kneel down or even lay down…but be mindful that you’ve got to get up again!…and don’t worry about what other people are thinking as they walk by!…and see what little gems may be hiding low down in the grass, you never know you might just be surprised at what you find?




Wednesday, 28 May 2014

WET BIRDS


It rained today, as it did for most of yesterday…and the day before that. I guess tomorrow, it will rain again?

So, stuck indoors looking out at the watery view I noticed that the birds coming to the garden feeders were struggling to keep dry. A lot of the the birds were recently fledged youngsters and it was noticeable that they were suffering the most.

This young Blackbird was continually running backwards and forwards across the shed roof trying to shake off and dodge the raindrops.
Wet Birds 1  BB

A recently fledged Robin looking rather grumpy!
Wet Birds 5  R

One of the many (wet) young Starlings that were in the garden.
Wet Birds 6  S y

The adult birds were not doing much better at keeping dry.
Wet Birds 2  WP
                     Wood Pigeon 

Wet Birds 2b  CD
                     Collared Dove

Wet Birds 3  HS
                     House Sparrow

Wet Birds 4  S ad
Starling

So what do you do if you’re soaking wet and stuck out in the rain?…..

Wet Birds 7  S y wish
…..Cast an eye to the heavens, like this young Starling, and say “I wish this bloody rain would stop”….

Wet Birds 8  BT shake
….Or, like this Blue Tit, just shrug your shoulders and shake it all off…

Wet Birds 9  G twizzle
….Or maybe, just give it a bit of a ‘twizzle’ like this young Goldfinch?

Or perhaps like this young Starling….
Wet Birds 10  S y sleep 
….you tuck your head under your wing and go to sleep!

For one visitor to the garden the hard work has to go on come rain or shine. This Blue Tit (there appears to be only one) has, for over a week, been coming to the garden at regular intervals, from early morning to late evening, grabbing some food and quickly flying off…doing the ‘food run’ as I call it.  This morning he/she was being closely followed by five, very newly fledged and noisy, youngsters? I hope they survive the rain and make mum or dad’s hard work worth it?
Wet Birds 11  BT ad

Sorry for the dark and grainy images but they were all taken through the double glazed windows.
Oh!…and did I mention that it was overcast and RAINING?


I’m off to polish my wellies now!!