Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Tree Year (4): A New Visitor to the Larch

Wildlife seen on or around the Larch to date ...
Goldfinch: the new kid on the block

The Larch is bursting with new foliage and cones.

Previous TTY Posts

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Beautiful Birds (24): Pied Flycatchers

Last weekend ...

We noticed a flash of black and white ...

... as a male Pied Flycatcher appeared in a favoured nesting spot.

He flitted from tree to tree ...

... and it wasn't long before we saw the female.
The two were preparing to mate, with much flapping of wings in a kind of air dance. They were too quick for us to catch on camera, but it was a joy to behold. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Eye-catching Insects (4): Hoverfly with stripes

Helophilus pendulus Hoverfly, I think

I came face to face with this tiger-like apparition, deep in the woods, along the boardwalk at Dinefwr on Monday afternoon. How amazing to have stripes going in two directions!

Henry Walloon ('Life on an Oxfordshire Lawn') has an informative post about insect mimicry, including those wasp-like stripes - here.

Best of the Rest ...
  • An intriguing (but tragic) murder mystery out on the moors. What would Sherlock Holmes say?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Wild Flowers (1): 2011 count

Yellow Pimpernel, beside a stream in South Wales, April 2011

When I was in junior school in Kent in the 1960s, we had an ongoing wild flower count one summer term. Each pupil had to find as many species of wild flowers as possible. We recorded our finds after every weekend, and attempted to learn the names of ten new species for a test each Friday.

During the course of the term, I noted a total of 144 species, including a few garden escapes. Perhaps inevitably, we picked one or two Daisies and Buttercups along the way, but we soon learned that some plants were rare, and that e.g. the sight alone of an Orchid was more than sufficient for our purposes.

I thought it would be interesting to note the wild flowers I see this year. I used The Concise British Flora in Colour by W.Keble Martin when I was at school. Once again, I will be happy to include any plant featured in that book.

The list to date is as follows (and - just to underline this - I have no intention of picking these flowers!) ... I shall add flower names as I come across new species. I don't intend to post a photo of every 'find', but I will add the occasional picture, and I plan to include livelinks when there is a photo available.

  1. Snowdrop (South Wales, location A) - January
  2. Primrose (ditto) - January
  3. Cowslip (ditto) - April
  4. Daisy (South Wales, location P) - 26 February
  5. Dandelion (garden!) - April
  6. Wild Garlic (South Wales, location A) - April
  7. Bluebell (ditto) - April
  8. Wood Anemone (ditto) - April
  9. Wood Sorrel (ditto) - April
  10. Toadflax (ditto) - April
  11. Herb Robert (ditto) - April
  12. Pink Campion (ditto) - April
  13. Solomon's Seal (ditto) - April
  14. Cow Parsley (lanes, South Wales) - April
  15. Wild Arum (South Wales, location A) - April
  16. Cuckoo Flower | Lady's Smock | Cardamine pratensis (South Wales, location W) - April
  17. Coltsfoot (South Wales, location A) - April
  18. Speedwell (South Wales, location A) - April 
  19. Violet (South Wales, location A) - April
  20. Poppy (South Wales, location A) - April 
  21. Dog's Mercury (South Wales, location A) - April
  22. Snakeshead Fritillary (South Wales, location A) - April
  23. Horsetail (South Wales, location W) - 21 April 
  24. Lesser Celandine (Yorkshire, location M) - April
  25. Wild Wallflower (Yorkshire, location S) - April
  26. Marsh Marigold (South Wales, location A, D1) - April
  27. Gorse (South Wales, Gower lanes; Yorkshire coast) - April
  28. Yellow Pimpernel (South Wales, location D1) - 25 April
  29. Buttercup  (South Wales, location D1) - 25 April
  30. Early Purple Orchid (South Wales, location A) - April
  31. Yellow Flag  (South Wales, location W) - 31 April
  32. Groundsel (South East Wales, location C) - 2 May
  33. Dove's Foot Cranesbill (South East Wales, location C) - 2 May
  34. Yellow Trefoil (South East Wales, location C) - 2 May
  35. Fumitory (South East Wales, location C) - 2 May

Monday, 25 April 2011

Odonata (2): Damselflies - and other creatures - at Dinefwr

Large Red Damselfly, male
With shadow ...
Query female Common Blue
P.S. My thanks to Stuart who said...

Caroline: I just realised you have a query on your Common Blue Damsel. It looks like Azure Damsel to me (the first black mark on the abdomen is shaped like an underlined U. In Common Blue, it's an oval on a stalk.)
A bit of a jigsaw puzzle!

There were very few Dragonflies flying about, but we saw a couple flit through the trees.

I also saw the following creature, presumably depositing eggs as it she flew up and down numerous times within a small radius of weed. I would be glad to have an ID!

I assume the following is a nymph of some kind, but I don't know whether it is a Damselfly or some other creature ...

We also saw a few Orange Tip butterflies and a Red Admiral. A flash of crimson caught my attention as a Burnet Moth fluttered by the waterside. It was enjoying the warm sunshine, and was too quick for my camera!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Ladybird Alert (2): Spring 2011

Spotted (sorry!) on 30 March 2011 ~ indoors on a cushion cover

I have got rather behind with Ladybird postings for 2011.

I think the one above has 18 spots. In some respects it resembles the Harlequin ladybird, f. succinea (or Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis var. succinea), but I think it was rather small and the spots do not quite correspond. 

Roche Abbey, Yorkshire ... where on 2 April 2011 we saw the following Ladybird ...

Possibly a fairly common Seven-spot ladybird, Coccinella 7-punctata

This shows a bit more of its habitat.
The next Ladybird we noticed (6 April 2011) was Queen of Scarborough Castle ...

A rather ragged Queen! (10-spotted, f. decempunctata)
The following Ladybird was seen at Mount Grace Priory in Yorkshire, UK, on 7 April 2011:

Coccinella 7-punctata

Monastic ruins seem to make good Ladybird homes. This insect was seen at Byland Abbey on 9 April 2011:

I'm not sure whether the faint 'spots' are significant.

Byland Abbey, Yorkshire

Ladybird pages (do record your findings ...)

Eye-catching Insects (3): Dock Leaf Beetle at WWT Llanelli

I am not entirely sure whether the top two photos show Dock Leaf Beetles (Gastrophysa viridula). I think they do, but thanks to Stuart's photo and commentary here, I feel relatively certain about the ID of the Beetle in photos 3 and 4.

You can read more about these beetles in the Cabinet of Curiosities blog belonging to Phil Gates, a Guardian Country Diarist ... here

Mystery (1): WWT ... animal or vegetable (not mineral) remains?

What is this? Spotted in the WWT Llanelli lake where we often watch dragonflies ...

Is it just a decaying leaf or is it some kind of cocoon structure?

Do leave a comment to let me know your thoughts!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Odonata (1): First Dragons and Damsels of 2011

I took a stroll around WWT Llanelli in the late afternoon sunshine, and was delighted to watch my first Dragon- and Damsel-flies of the season, which I have posted below. I am finding blue Damselflies particularly hard to identify!

Incidentally, my last 2010 sightings are here
You might also enjoy these previous posts:

I think these are examples of the Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula (see 'Star of the Month')

As yet unidentified Blue Damselfly

A Blue Damselfly on a Horsetail

Blue Damselfly, with furled wings ~ not sure which species

A Hawker Dragonfly ... of some sort!

... and another shot of it.

Female Large Red Damselfly

... this time with wings outstretched.

A Hawker Dragonfly of some sort, possibly a female Emperor Dragonfly, Anax imperator*

P.S. My thanks to Neil - see his comment below and help with identification. I can now see those hairs!* You can check out the ID here.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Seasonal Splash (8): Tadpole Time

We went to North Gower, and watched the Starlings cadging a ride over the saltmarsh ...

We were delighted to find our first Tadpoles of the season. We have since seen more in Carmarthenshire.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Beautiful Birds (23): it's those Puffins again!

Those of you who are familiar with my previous posts (e.g. here) will know by now that I love Puffins!

Puffins at Bempton (these were photographed in spring 2009)

We have just returned from the RSPB Reserve at Bempton Cliffs off the Yorkshire coast in the north of England, where these small clowns of the air were beginning to parachute in. We saw the odd Puffin here and there, but my hope is that these birds will actually be returning two by two by two by two by two ... from the ocean to their favoured nesting sites. It would be encouraging to feel that Bempton was supporting a healthy clutch of Pufflings this season.

Gannets were already laying eggs in their precarious precipice nests, but on our first visit, we only saw one Puffin, and that was at some distance. However, later in the week once the temperatures had soared, we managed to spot a few more; though for the most part, we had to shoot our photos straight into the sun. Some Puffins were very hard to find: the photo below was taken from one cliff face to another, requiring my maximum zoom.

A small cute face!

Other Puffins were not so camera-shy, and were busying themselves in closer holes and on nearby cliff ledges.

This Puffin arrived to check out a familiar haunt ...

It fluffed itself out, and looked inside ...

... then it peered out again, perhaps looking for its mate.

It was time for a little preening ...

... one good turn deserves another!
It was soon time for a well-earned rest.

 Unlike our observations on previous visits, we failed to see any pairing Puffins, but there was definitely some serious spring-cleaning going on in the rocky burrows.

These were the pairing Puffins we watched in 2009.
  • You will find my Puffin poem, 'A Chink in the Sky', in A Pocket Full of Spring Fever (ed. Sue Kendrick, 2010), available for purchase as a download or a small anthology here
  • David G's Puffin pic. (in mid air) here.