Monday, 14 August 2017

Northern Holiday, 2017 (2): Aberdour Castle Grounds

Painted Lady, Walled Garden, Aberdour Castle

In my previous post I included a photograph of a stained glass window on Holy Island, depicting a Puffin and an Eider duck. We left the Holy Island area and moved north into Scotland.

We had rain most days, but the sun shone for us at Aberdour Castle, a site we had not visited for some years. The warmer weather (and doubtless the nectar-rich flowers) enticed a Painted Lady butterfly out into the shelter of the wonderful walled garden. I have hardly seen any Painted Ladies this summer, so this sighting was a particular joy.

The castle backs on to some fine terraced walks.

David ducked his head and explored the 'doocot'.

A sundial built into the wall. 

I believe I had noticed the spider's web, but I am not sure I had seen the spider (if indeed it is the spider!) when I took the picture...

I'm guessing this is a bat-box in the castle wall. 

I couldn't resist a few more photos of the Painted Lady...

We did not see nearly as many birds as we usually do in Scotland. The particularly unsettled weather will have had something to do with this. However, we did hear a few Curlews calling (such a special and unique sound); and perhaps what we lacked in numbers, we made up for in terms of quality sightings, like this fine king-of-the-castle Robin.

We congratulated the castle gardener on her wonderful planting in the walled garden...

... and we were not the only ones to appreciate the flowers. 

Just as we were leaving, I noticed this little Haiku lurking in the soil. I have just discovered that it is part of the Aberdour Poetry Trail.

You will have noticed that the Painted Lady features prominently in this post. I have been paying particular attention to butterflies this year as a result of reading two fascinating books...
It has been particularly rewarding to read them sequentially as Barkham alludes to butterfly expeditions in the company of Oates

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Northern Holiday, 2017 (1): Puffins

Those who have followed my blog over the years will know that Puffins are my favourite bird. We almost missed these seasonal visitors this year; but, as you can see, there were still a few left at RSPB Bempton Cliffs on the Yorkshire coast when we were there in early July. I'm running very behind, but never mind!

Above: I am intrigued by the feathers on the nape of the neck...

Most remaining Puffins were still taking care of Pufflings.
The cliff-face photo above, taken with my zoom lens fully extended,
shows a few of the adult birds. 
There are also a couple of Razorbills.

Every so often we got a really good view of a Puffin. 

This photo shows the cliff, with Gannets, Razorbills, a Herring gull and a Puffin. I think I can also make our Kittiwakes and Guillemots.

We got the impression that this Puffin was about to fly, but it may have been waiting for its mate to return with sand eels.

We broke our journey south in Yorkshire, so the photos above are actually from our last lap. We had spent the first part of our holiday near, and frequently on, Lindisfarne in Northumbria. I wish I had taken a better photo, but I love this stained glass window, created by Borderdale Stained Glass, in the Anglican church on the island. Not only does it show a handsome Puffin but also an Eider (affectionately known as a 'Cuddy' duck after St Cuthbert) and the haul-out of Grey Seals who sang most beguilingly each evening at sunset.

I shall end this post back at Bempton Cliffs. Do take a look at the Gannet's feet! I have always been so intrigued by their eyes that I don't think I have ever noticed these before. There were plenty of Guillemots on this rock. These are all wonderful seabirds, but the Puffin will always be the show-stealer for me.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

More Butterflies...

Butterflies here in Suffolk seem to be taking advantage of the warm spells in between the wind and rain. We found a sheltered bramble bush and, as you can see, were able to enjoy these Gatekeepers. I am halfway through In Pursuit of Butterflies by Matthew Oates, and am on a fast learning curve. I am thoroughly enjoying all his literary allusions, too. 

Monday, 17 July 2017

First for me: White-letter Hairstreak Butterfly

We came back from the north a few days ago and have needed to attend to various matters (including a poetry reading) since our return. Despite the wild weather we encountered, I am looking forward to posting some photos of our holiday in due course.

Meanwhile, I am delighted to say that I believe I may have seen a new butterfly - well, new for me, at any rate. I watched it flutter into the pink Convolvulus flower above, little realising what it was. We were taking part in the Big Butterfly Count, but it was only when I uploaded my photos that I registered the distinctive hairstreak.

To the best of my knowledge I have only ever seen one other hairstreak butterfly and that was the Green Hairstreak: that butterfly was also here in Suffolk. You can read more about the White-letter Hairstreak on the Butterfly Conservation site here. Since this butterfly spends most of its tine in the tree-tops, I guess we were fortunate to see one nectaring almost at ground level. According to the Wildlife Trusts website, these butterflies have declined by 99% in the last quarter of a century: Dutch Elm Disease may be partly to blame as the eggs are deposited on these trees. I shall be reporting this sighting to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Monday, 19 June 2017

My BBC Springwatch SOS Wildflower Trough (5) - Pollinators!

My patience has been rewarded with spring flowers and pollinators. There were a number of bees and Marmalade Hoverflies around the wildflower trough today - a joy to see!

And finally, just to add a bit more color to this post, these last three pictures were taken today and show an insect, probably a bee of some kind, making use of the insect hotels...

We have small swarms of cockchafers around the silver birch for the last few evenings and a few bats. There have been moths in and out of the window.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

More From the RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden

This was my first 2017 sighting of a (male) Banded Demoiselle.

It was perching above the small pond, while down below...

...two Common Frogs were putting in an appearance.

I am not sure whether this Mayfly was alive or dead. The creature on the left of the leaf is a Ladybird larva: there were several on the willow fronds.