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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A bit of 'Feelgood' music, abroad in the New Forest & Cranborne Chase and a possible Adonis Blue!

Been so busy recently ... I never expected semi retirement to be so time consuming! In between some big recruiting events with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and beginning to get another band together, I've done 2 trips in the camper ... I popped down to the New Forest and South Downs a couple of weeks ago and then up into the Dales for a night last week, all great fun but it don't get the grass mown!

A few selected pics from those trips later but I'm feeling in a musical mood today and casting about for material to work with. You know how it is ... a u tube trawl, spotify playlists, and in my case also scraps of lyrics and chord progressions jotted down and filed away. Too much sometimes, but hey let me worry about that, in the meantime here's a couple of gems, both oldies, both goldies that have jumped out at me and reflected strumming today!

I can feel another timbobaggins song broadcast coming on ... maybe later and don't groan too loudly folks, I don't do it often and you don't have to listen to the end!

The New Forest, South Downs, Salisbury Plain

The New Forest is one of our biggest and best wildlife reserves and I'm sure there are still places where you can loose yourself, but my oh my it has changed since last I was down there some 15 years ago .... so many people, too many of them walking dogs and so many more intensively farmed tracts of land around the edges. I found it really difficult to get away from the beaten track and sense some degree of the magic I remember.

That said, I did hear Nightjars churring (and lots of them) on my first night there and one has to remember that mid June is always a time when birds n beasts alike go quiet and are naturally elusive whilst getting on with the business of breeding, so it was always going to be hard work, and add to that a hastily purchased guide to wildlife sites down there that turned out to be hopelessly inadequate, and already I'm feeling redeemed for not capturing a full on Honey Buzzard or a beautifully posed Dartford Warbler!

Not a glimpse of either sadly and bird pic opportunities were scarce but there were some awesome floral displays, one or two nice butterflies and best of all the sun shone throughout!

Birds first (hehe .... that'll be on my gravestone!), here's a smashing male Stonechat, a bird that seems to be doing much better down here than it is up North.

Hobbies are the falcon of choice in the New Forest and although I stalked this one hoping to get a full on 'in flight' close up, it never quite happened and this was taken almost at dusk and hence a bit grainy but its caught something in its talons and is munching away in mid flight!

...... on a similar theme this Common Buzzard seems to be transporting what I think is a Slow Worm to its nest, its not a snake but far too big and thick to be an earthworm ... what do you reckon?

Out of the skies and back down to earth, I couldn't resist taking a couple of pictures of the famous New Forest ponies, not least because one of them seemed to charging headlong towards me and the camera just came up in time!

More serene and typical shots of the ponies here ... they really are iconic creatures of the forest and always lovely to see.

Skulking through another, much smaller forest at Pamber, again trying to get off the beaten track and maybe spot something unusual, I just came across the usual .... common warblers diving for cover, a few Great Spotted Woodpecker nests and this nice Roe Deer that was looking at me as if to say 'what the feck are you doing in here!'

After a day and a half of trying to dodge the dog walkers and early morning joggers in the New Forest I decided to head into Dorset and Cranborne Chase .... it was like stepping back in time travelling through some of the leafy villages in this most idyllic of English counties. I saw an old style wooden bus shelter in one such village and in the next I swear I saw Miss Marples!

Adonis Blue?
Cranborne Chase is just lovely, typical south downland with chalky hills and steep grassy valleys. I was after some good butterflies ... anything blue basically and I think I got lucky with this one. Could it be an Adonis Blue?

Somewhat less colourful but no less beautiful, there were several Dingy Skippers knocking about and this one turned out nicely in the frame ..... a bit brown and easily overlooked but hardly 'Dingy'!
Dingy Skipper

Large Tortoiseshell
This is what I'm pretty sure a Large Tortoiseshell I snapped whilst I was having a sandwich and a cup of coffee at the top of Cranborne Chase, and whilst I was up there I took a landscape looking over Downs and towards Salisbury Plain.

Got my best bird of the trip here too but sadly no photograph .... a fleeting but definitive glimpse of a male Cirl Bunting, heard it calling too!

Salisbury Plain
Salisbury Plain itself was pretty disappointing to be honest .... hardly saw a thing apart from a couple of nice passing Ravens and a few singing Skylarks, but it was midday and my recently sprained ankle was hurting after I'd walked too far in the sun, so I didn't pursue to any great extent, preferring a nap in the camper instead -  to recharge the batteries before driving back up to Yorkshire . Nice to be there again though after many years ... so quiet!

Common Raven
Lets end with a bit of colour and a few selected wild flowers, only a few because I haven't identified them all yet and some of these Orchids are devils to get right!

This one for instance could be a Man Orchid but its more likely to be some sort of Helliborine, I've tried to look it up but its a tricky business with it not being in full bloom.

This one could very well be a Long Spurred Orchid, and if it is then its a good find on Cranborne Chase
?Long Spurred Orchid

These are Marsh Orchids for sure!

Yellow Flag Iris
Yellow Flag Iris is everywhere in suitable habitat at the moment and you don't need to go far to see some... lots of it at my local reserve at Askham Bog for instance, along with various Orchids and of course Water Violets


Stroll through any decent sized deciduous wood at the moment and you should see clumps of ground hugging Bugle, one of flowers that's easily overlooked but reveals such beautiful detail when you get down and have a good look.
This last one has me stumped though ... there were maybe 3 or 4 clumps just like these in damp boggy ground and amongst Marsh Orchids and Yellow Iris. Another one to post on to the flower experts out there in cyberland!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Spring catch up - Water Violets, Butterflies and Avocets in muddy ponds!

I can distinctly remember a certain weatherman saying about 3 weeks ago .. ' be patient, Spring will return!' Well I guess on the law of averages this was a pretty safe missive to put out to the long suffering British public because the warmth just has to come doesn't it? Better late than never I suppose, almost June and the longest day just weeks away but YES we have warmth in the air, and with it finally we have bees a buzzing and butterflies a fluttering in some numbers, why I even smelt a BBQ in the village this evening!

And to celebrate here's a few late Spring pics I've been meaning to post starting with some stunning Water Violets that have been pushing up through the water at Askham Bog over the past week or so

A true bogland speciality flower that does well at Askham and very pretty don't you think?
Somewhat under rated and also a flower that proliferates on the bog is Lady's Smock (sometimes known as the Cuckoo flower because it tends to bloom when these birds first arrive) .. they're also a favourite destination of Orange Tip Butterflies and I was lucky enough to capture both here.

Been stacks of other butterflies on the reserve including Speckled Woods, Brimstones, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Commas. The Comma's often bask in the sun on the fence posts just like this one ...
......... but more often than not they're laid flat on in the undergrowth like this
Away from the bog, I had a pretty decent Adder experience on Hatfield Moor recently .... walking along the much improved tracks there I spotted this beastie and, risking a trip to Doncaster A & E, managed a half decent close up of this particularly fine looking specimen snaking towards me!

Maybe stupidly I tried to get closer for a head shot before beating a hasty retreat when I saw his tongue forking out, but I never felt threatened  (I'm a Yorkshireman for god's sake!) and anyway it was worth it for this shot.

Precious few bird shots of late but maybe this is evidence to the contrary, in my daughter's eyes at least, that I'm totally obsessed with our feathered friends ... hehe I AM Ruth! I can't let a post go by with at least a couple of bird pics, rubbish as they may be!

Here's one of only 2 Sedge Warblers that have returned to Askham Bog this year so far ... really disappointing but maybe this is a sign of the times.

On a brighter note (though sadly this adjective does not apply very well to the photograph!), here's a couple of Avocets that plopped into a small pond adjacent to Fraisthorpe beach a couple of weeks ago as I was leaving .... it was very late on, about 8.30pm so the light wasn't great but awesome really as this was no more than a muddy pond in a farmer's field. Avocets are doing very well these days!