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August 29, 2016

Zugunruhe

Autumn is creeping  in and August is fading out.  I have never liked August it seems a nothing time so am well pleased to see the first trembling  of Autumn.  

There is a general restlessness amongst the birds, butterflies and moths that they feel before migration, as the nights start to draw in and the days get shorter.  The swifts are the first to go and soon all the martins and swallows will follow. 

BUT......  winter migrants are already coming down from the north as this photo shows on a recent visit to RSPB Burton Mere.......there are  Spoonbills in this photo, which has generated great excitement.


There is a transparent iridescence to the long  sunsets as they look more like stained glass than paintings.  AND  the Robin started singing loudly early this morning, not just a quick burst  but a long melody.  The day started very well.

There have been a large number of dragonflies and damsel flies,  whether this is because it is a good year or because I notice more I am not quite sure.  Taking photographs of such fast moving objects is a serious challenge so when one settles it is jumped upon.
 
Hawker, male



The last burst of butterflies is nearly over as their favourite buddleias start to turn to seed,  I was very fortunate to capture  3 species on the same bush, a Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Peacock.   Also with energetic chasing found my very first Small Heath.  Bearing in mind they are roughly the same size as  rabbit dropping it is amazing to be seen at all.


In all it has been a poor year for butterfly and bee surveys, possibly due to wet weather, but so many people sadly  seem to be hell bent on disposing of their gardens and creating back yards, that it is hardly surprising. 

Juvenile Goldfinches, Bluetits, Robins and Dunnocks are eating us out of house and home, their parents seem to bring them in hoards all together to show them the delights of the garden.  Juveniles appear to enjoy being together and are quite happy to muck in. 

Photo through kitchen window

The large bird bath seemed too scary  for the youngsters so we put out a tiny training one in which they all delighted taking their first baths.  Off course like all teenagers this is baby stuff now and they all bathe together in the big one.  The female Blackbird occupies the small one for a long soak.

August 8, 2016

Collecting and Scattering

As a daily observer of the ever changing moments of the seasons the year progresses at an alarming rate. One moment enjoying the delight of tree blossom from the top of the bus, then bending down collecting nuts for the squirrels on my daily walk.  Time never stands still for nature, but neither is it ever boring.

There is a very distinctive feel of autumn in the early morning and late evening air.  Wild winds are scattering apples before they are ripe and blackberries are ready for collecting.  Yesterday  it was  sandals and t-shirt,  today trainers and fleece.



Last year I scattered a few teasel seeds in my impromptu wildflower border.  Alarmingly they kept  growing in height for a very long time but in the end they budded at about 6 feet.  Amazingly they have turned out, next to St Johns Wort the most popular plant for numerous wild bee species.  Despite being particularly difficult to access because of the numerous sharp spines, the bees have developed a strategy of pulling out the flower petals to give them more room to access the the pollen.  It was only when I started to photograph them that I realized how many there are.

It is time to broaden the choice and collect some more wild seed varieties for next year.



Black/brown headed gulls are loosing their summer plumage and starting to turn  snowy white. Other birds such as Swift, Swallow and House Martins are starting to collect together in small groups in preparation for their great migration. Just born and thrown into thousands of miles of non stop journeying is an amazing feat beyond imagination.

By the end of August the birds will start singing again, thank goodness.  It has been such a  lonely  garden without.

Meadows are at their peak this month with a full variety of wild flowers. Butterflies, bees and other insects have done their job of pollination by now so are winding down and not so active.  Many will die, some will migrate (Painted Lady) others will find safe protected places to hibernate over winter and re-emerge early March next year.(Peacock)

Painted Lady



Willow Herb

Evening Primrose

July 23, 2016

Verges and Set Asides

http://www.plantlife.org.uk/publications/road_verge_management_guide

This campaign by Plantlife is to encourage councils to manage the maintenance of roadsides with regard to wildlife and fauna.  Field set asides and road verges all seem to be cut regardless of the need to wildlife and seeding wildflowers, not to mention the numerous ground nesting birds and pupating butterflies and moths.  All it needs is a little attention to timing and all will be catered for.     Please consider signing the petition.



I   very much dislike July  as all is silent  as the birds become reclusive  during their annual  molt.  Fotunately the Dunnocks and Goldfinches appear to be  doing an occasional eruption of song at sporadic intervals.  The Jackdaws follow their own rules and are still trawling the neighbour-hood  gutters very loudly. 

 

It was with great excitement I managed to achieve a long time coming photograph of a pheasant (male and female).  In the wild they are very secretive and illusive apart from their  call, so the following photos were a real tick off the list.


 

As you will notice from the data recorded at the bottom of each photograph these were caught on a Mammal Motion  camera from Aldi, in the early evening at Ness  Botanic Gardens, (but I set the camera so take the reflected glory).

The next few weeks are the best   time for visiting wildflower meadows as pretty much everything is or has been in full bloom.  


 

June 27, 2016

Corncrake, Linnet and Mosquitoes

June has been a bumper month for finding new and old friends.  Many of the visitors have had their broods and are already feeding up for their very long journey back to long distant lands.  The Swifts stay only  a few weeks before setting off back to Africa in family groups.  Resident birds are now into their second broods  but our unfortunate Blue tits decided not too.

It is wonderful to hear the songbirds singing again such as the Thrush, Blackbird, Wren and Dunnock, as the last few weeks have been so silent with increasingly exhausted parents having to  feed their young.

At  Ness Botanic  Gardens I saw my first ever RSPB red status bird, the Linnet.  Red status because they have been  in massive decline.  The excitement at taking this photograph is far more memorable than coming out of the EU.


Another red status bird is the Corncrake which again I had never seen but heard, but was fortunate to see one at Simonswood Moss when undertaking a follow up survey.  It was running a few feet ahead of the landrover but as soon as I got out to take a photo it disappeared into the undergrowth.  Will try again next time.

We do have a Tree Bee nest in the eaves this year.  Last year they settled in  the bird box, but the box was occupied by the tits this time.  The bees do not cause any bother and ignore us completely when we are in the garden. The male bees do not live long maybe only 3 weeks, so there are many corpses around under the nest. Last years queen will be replaced by a  new queen from this years brood who will take over the cycle for next year.


Mallow


July is the month for full-time wildflower spotting as the the meadows come into full bloom.  It is also the time when all the insect larvae hatch into biting insects.  Unfortunately this seems to be a good year for them.  








I was stung by a bee recently and the first cream I put my hands on was a cream used for mouth ulcers.  It was truly amazing, the pain went as fast as it came and  the swelling went down within 15 mins.  I wonder if the company know about this additional beneficial side affect.

Juvenile Goldfinch
It is fashionable for the growing of wildflower plots and meadows for the benefit of the bee population, but there is a serious knock on affect for ground nesting birds such as the Corncrake, Oyster catcher, Lapwing and Skylark.  Undisturbed grassland is just what they need to breed safely, so we may see some birds come off the red list over the next few years.