Sunday, 15 March 2015

AS LOW AS A SNAKE’S BELLY…



…Yep, that’s how low I had to get when I went out and about for a couple of days last week looking to photograph some Moss, Lichen and, as it turned out, some rather special Fungus.


Lowdown6   Broom Fork 1
I’m still not up to speed on the many different types of moss but I think this is Broom Fork-moss (Dicranum scoparium). It caught my eye as the sun was sparkling through the water droplets left over from the early morning frost although, I must confess, I didn’t make the best job of portraying that in the photograph.

Many species of moss are ‘fruiting’ at this time of year where they throw up long stalks (seta) topped by strikingly colourful seed capsules (sporangium).

Lowdown8   Str Hair 1

Lowdown8   Str Hair 2
Strict Haircap (Polytrichum strictum)

Lowdown7   Cap Thread 1
Capillary Thread-moss (Bryum capillare). The seed capsules of this common moss will turn a dark red colour as they ripen.

Next up (or should I say down!) are these three different looking Lichens, or to be more accurate Lichenised fungi. If you want to give your brain a bit of a work out and learn more about what Lichenised fungi are..have a look here

Lowdown4   Clad pyx 1

Lowdown5   Clad pyx 2
Cladonia pyxidata  with cup shaped fruiting bodies.

Lowdown1   Clad flo 1

Lowdown2   Clad flo 2
Cladonia floerkeana with red tipped spore producing bodies.

Lowdown3   Clad unc 1
Cladonia uncialis with antler like branched fruiting bodies.

These three commonly seen lichens all favour heath and moorland habitats.


And now for that something rather special…..


While crawling about (yes, really!) looking for moss and lichen I encountered quite a lot of pony/horse poo, they use ponies for habitat management in this area during the winter, and on one particular ‘pile’ something small and unusual caught my eye….

Lowdown9   Nail 1
…I instantly recognised it as Nail Fungus (Poronia punstata) a small quite rare and declining fungi that only grows on the dung of horses and ponies. This aptly named fungus that, when young, closely resembles a small rusty brown nail will grow to around 80mm tall with a cap diameter of 15mm.
As you can imagine I was rather pleased to find this little gem and so far it’s got to be the highlight of my nature watching year. (yeh, I know I’m a bit sad!)

So, the next time you’re out and about and you come across some old piles of horse poo give it a closer look…you never know what you might find?

Lowdown10   Yell Web 1
Also growing through some horse dung I found these Yellow Webcap (Cortinarius delibutus). This widespread but uncommon fungi is associated with mixed woodland and grows to around 100mm tall with a cap dia of 80mm.

Lowdown12   M Puff 1
This is all that’s left of one of last years Meadow Puffball (Lycoperdon pratense)..a fragile, hollow paper like shell.


Did I mention a snake’s belly? Well….


…less than ten feet from where I’d earlier been laying prone on the ground taking photos of the Nail Fungus I came across three of these…


Lowdown11   Add 1
Adder (Vipera berus) basking in the mid morning sunshine. Not easy to get a clear photograph though as they were partly concealed by the heather and bracken.



Spring is slowly arriving and nature is starting to ‘wake up’ after it’s winter slumbers and hopefully there’ll be many more photo opportunities over the next few weeks….take care and have a good one.














































































































































Sunday, 22 February 2015

A SELECTION



It’s been a while since my last post so I’m guessing that it’s about time I did another one?


Here’s a selection of images taken on my recent wanderings.


Selection One 1 BB
Female BLACKBIRD not black at all but, in the right light, showing subtle shades of brown.

Selection One 2 H
A GREY HERON not looking too happy on a frosty cold morning.

Selection One 3 GLG
Greylag Geese on final approach.

Selection One 4 HG
Immature Herring Gull  As I still find the ageing of gulls beyond me I’ve labelled this one as immature!

Selection One 5 C 
A COOT no doubt on it’s way to a fight somewhere?

Selection One 6 J
The JAY, with it’s stunning markings and colourful plumage, is one of my favourite birds to see.

Selection One 7 J
And another.

Selection One 8 K
A female KESTREL with the sun on her back.

Selection One 9 MS
Not an ugly duckling but an already elegant and graceful juvenile MUTE SWAN.

Selection One 10 S
A STARLING captured in my garden in the late afternoon light showing off it’s beautiful plumage.

Selection One 11 W
A WIGEON flyover.


And finally……


What am I…..
Selection One 12 GL CG
A CANALAG or maybe a LAGCANA?



And….

Selection One 13 Barry BHG
Barry the BLACK-HEADED GULL who’s regretting listening to all his pals when they assured him that doing a barrel roll was easy peasy lemon squeezy.



Monday, 5 January 2015

A Sunny Sunday Outing



Although the title of this post sounds good it doesn’t quite tell the entire story, let me explain…..Last Saturday I received an email from Keith inviting me to join him on Sunday for our first big outing of the year to the RSPB  Frampton Marsh reserve in Lincolnshire and, of course, I didn’t need asking twice!   A check on the weather forecast on Saturday evening didn’t make for good reading.. it was predicting frost and freezing fog for most of the day on Sunday!!
As is usual with our outings we always like to make an early start….so it was up at 4.30am (all bright eyed and bushy tailed!!) a quick check out of the window confirmed that the weather guessers had got it right again….thick fog and, for the short distance that I could see, everything covered in a liberal coating of white icing….lovely?
So, with warm clothes, hat, cloves  and camera gear checked and sorted…and the car de-iced!!  I set off for the frosty/foggy 30min. drive to Keith’s.  After a quick chat and the transfer of all my stuff over to Keith’s car it was just after 6am when we began our journey…into the unknown..fog!   As is usual Keith did a splendid job of getting us safely to our destination and amazingly, after a two hour drive in varying levels of fog and ice, just as we arrived the fog disappeared and the sun started to rise into what would turn out to be, for most of the day, a clear blue sky!  Although the sun was shining it stayed frosty all day, with a high of only 4°.

Frampton1 1  K O'H
Keith watching the birds while topping up his tan!!

Unfortunately most of the birds were concentrated in the distant unfrozen areas of water and so remaining too far away for any decent photographs. However, I did manage a few flight shots…

Frampton1 2  Mutes
Mute Swans making an early morning flight.

Frampton1 3  DBB
Dark-bellied Brent Goose..there were hundreds of these on the reserve with large skeins constantly flying overhead.

Frampton1 4  Curlew
Curlew…lots of these about too, feeding on the wet grassland.


In total we spent 5+ hours exploring the reserve in the sunshine (and cold!) and saw around 50 different species of birds including large flocks of Wigeon, Golden Plover and Lapwing.

And the strange thing?…about three miles down the road on the return trip home, the sun disappeared and it became dark and dingy as we were once again enveloped (all the way home!) by….FOG!!

All in all an enjoyable (sunny) Sunday outing.



Wednesday, 31 December 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR



Happy New Year 2015

                                        Wishing you all a Happy New Year


Thank you all for the kind, and very much appreciated, comments that you left on my posts during 2014.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Walk In The Sunshine



Just lately we haven’t had many sunny days but yesterday, after an early morning frost, the sun rose into a clear blue sky. So I decided that it was an opportunity that was too good to miss and set off for a walk around one of my local nature reserves.

SSNR Sunshine walk 1 view

I spooked a large flock of Yellowhammers that were feeding on the set aside ground by the footpath, fortunately they didn’t go far and settled high in the trees where they appeared like jewels sparkling in the sunshine.

SSNR Sunshine walk 2 Yhammer


A small party of Reed Buntings were making their way along the hedgerow and not giving too many photo opportunities as they kept low down amongst the branches. Eventually curiosity must have gotten the better of this female as she popped up for a quick and nervous look, maybe to see what the strange creature following along behind them was!

SSNR Sunshine walk 3 Rbunting


There were also quite a few Fieldfare and Redwing (and Blackbirds) feeding on the abundant berries along the hedgerow, unfortunately, they are so wary and skittish birds, they always managed to stay safely out of camera range. (After many attempts I’ve still not got any decent images of either Fieldfares or Redwings…one day!!)

Further on around the reserve and I came across a pair of Stonechats using a fence line as a lookout perch to spot and dive down onto any unsuspecting insects. They managed to keep, what they decided was, a safe distance ahead of me by moving along one post at a time. The male did sit still for long enough and allow me to fire off a couple of shots.

SSNR Sunshine walk 4 Schat


As well as the birds mentioned I also saw (unfortunately no decent photographs!) a large flock (50+) of Goldfinch feeding on Teasel heads, a Kestrel perched in a distant tree, an overflying and very vocal Buzzard also numbers of Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow,Blue Tit, Woodpigeon and singles of Wren, Robin and a Great Spotted Woodpecker ‘tapping’ away high up in a dead tree.

And finally… I was treated to a flyby by a fast moving green missile…or maybe it was a Green Woodpecker? I managed to fire off a quick burst of shots and this, massively cropped, is the best one.

SSNR Sunshine walk 5 GWP

If you look closely it appears to have it’s eyes closed…maybe it was scared at the speed it was going or perhaps it was just having a nap with the auto pilot turned on?!!

I was pleased that I made the effort and had a good three hour plus walk in the sunshine (although the breeze was a bit nippy at times) and got to see a good selection of birds. I also didn’t see another human being!!
Oh yeh!…I also saw and photographed quite a few different species of Fungi (wet and dirty knees and elbows time again!) which I’ve yet to properly sort ID’s for…I sometimes wish that I didn’t take so many photographs!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Looking Back 2



In this second instalment of the series I’m again looking back at some of the photographs I’ve taken over the past year, still on the theme of moths but this time looking at some of the larger types of ‘day fliers’.


Day Flying Moths  (part 2)

Just to recap…..What determines a day flying moth?  Some moths are quite obviously day fliers, flying whenever the sun shines, just like butterflies. Others, that don’t normally fly by day, will readily take to the wing on being disturbed from their roosting site as we walk through the grass or brush against bushes etc.

Cream Wave (Scopula floslactata) (1693)
Day Fliers 1 Satin Wave
(Not the best of photographs!)  With a wingspan of 30mm..this moth can be found in broadleaved woodland, hedgerows and on damp rough grassland during May and June. It is common and well distributed in England and Wales but less well represented in the rest of the country.

Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata) (1727)
Day Fliers 2  Silver-ground Carpet
This large moth has a wingspan of 34mm and can be seen flying at dusk, although it is easily disturbed into flight during the day, during mid May to late July. It prefers a damp habitat with tall herbaceous vegetation such as hedgerows, woodland rides, chalk downlands, fens and heathlands.

Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata) (1728)
Day Fliers 3  Garden Carpet
Another `carpet moth’this one is very common and, as it’s name suggests, can be found in gardens, allotments and rough urban areas. It has a wingspan of 32mm and will readily take to flight if disturbed although it normally flies at dusk from April to October. It can often be found perched in the open on garden walls/fences during the day.  
The one in the photograph above flew through the open patio doors into my living room one warm early June evening.

Chalk Carpet (Scotopteryx bipunctaria) (1731)
Day Fliers 4  Chalk Carpet The Chalk Carpet is distinguished from other carpet moths by it’s drab grey colour and the two small black dots on each forewing. Listed as nationally scarce, it is found locally across much of the south of England and Wales on chalk grassland and in old quarries. During the daytime it rests on bare chalk or soil where it can be easily disturbed. It has a wingspan of 36mm and a flight period from July to August.

Common Carpet (Epirrhoe sternata) (1738)
Day Fliers 5  Common Carpet
As it’s name suggests this moth is common in most types of habitat throughout the UK. It has two flight periods the main one is from May to June and another, with fewer moths on the wing, from July to early September. It flies from dusk onwards when it also settles to feed on flowers such as Ragwort. It is easily spooked into flight during the day and has a wingspan of 28mm.

Yellow Shell (Camptogramma bilineata) (1742)
Day Fliers 6  Yellow Shell This distinctive orange/brown moth (bright yellow forms have also been recorded) is common across the UK and can be found in lowland fields, meadows, along hedgerows and also in gardens. With a wingspan of 32mm it has a flight period from June to August. In the right habitat large numbers can be seen flying at dusk but if disturbed will readily take to the wing during the day.

The next two moths are the two most commonly seen members of the seven strong species of Burnet Moth that occur in the UK. The differences between all seven are very small and mainly come down to the variations in the red spot markings on the wings, these also act as a warning to any would be predators that they are toxic. Varied habitat preferences and distribution are also an aid in their identification.
They are both day flying moths (they don’t fly at night) and can usually be seen in good numbers on bright sunny days.

Five-spot Burnet (Zygaena trifolii  ssp. palustrella) (170)
Day Fliers 8a  Five-spot Burnet
Very similar in appearance to the Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet (Zygaena lonicerae) (171) but is likely to have it’s two central red spots closer or merging together. They also have different habitats with the Five-spot preferring chalk downland. It has a wingspan of 38mm and a flight period from June to August.

Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae) (169)
Day Fliers 9  Six-spot Burnet
This most commonly found member of the Burnet family is abundant throughout the UK, although a little scarcer in Scotland. On warm sunny days it can bee seen flitting, just like a butterfly, from flower to flower on almost any grassland where the preferred flowers are those of thistles and knapweed. It is a similar size and has the same flight period as the Five-spot Burnet above.


Moving away from macro moths to a member of the very similar and closely related micro moth group known as the grass-moths..


Garden Grass-veneer (Chrysoteuchia culmella) (1293) 
Day Fliers 7  Garden Grass Veneer
There are many different grass moths of which some are widespread and very common and can often be seen in large numbers. They rest with their wings held in a tent like position over their bodies with the antennae swept back. As their name suggests they are found in grassy areas.

The Garden Grass-veneer is distinguished from the other members of the group by the metallic fringe on the end, and the elbowed cross-line toward the rear, of the forewing. It is easily disturbed into a fluttering flight from its resting place on long grass stems in meadows, chalk grasslands and waste ground. It has a flight period from May to September and a wing length of up to 12mm.