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Friday, 28 June 2013

Great Crested Grebes

                                                               Great Crested Grebe

As far as I am aware, We have only 2 resident Grebes in the UK. They are the Great Crested Grebe (Above) and the Little Grebe (Below). We also have the Black Necked Grebe, Red Necked Grebe and Slovenian Grebe during the winter mainly in the East of the UK.

                                                                            Little Grebe

 I haven't had much chance to observe the Little Grebe so can only relate that which I have read in books, The Little Grebe is Common to the whole of the UK, it has 1 brood of about 3-4 eggs in March-July.

 I have been fortunate to observe the Great Crested Grebe far more. They have a wonderful courtship ritual Which consists of a lot of entwining of necks and Dancing with beakfuls of weed. (I apologise for the poor quality, they were a fair distance away from me)

 They will dance with the weed for a while until the Female signals acceptance by dropping Her weed.
                                      The Female accepts His proposal (He's pulled a bird! )

                                                There then follows another bit of Dancing..

 And, inevitably they do what comes natural ( you know, the Birds and the Bees stuff), They then construct a floating nest from weed and reeds, the Female will then lay 3-4 eggs.

 The Eggs will hatch in 10-14 days and the young will be able to swim almost immediately, although they spend a lot of time hitching a lift on Mum or Dads back.

                                                                  Diving for Weed

                                                 Bringing home material for the Nest.

  I hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy sharing my pics with you all. :-)

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Small Skipper

About two weeks ago I briefly spotted a 'Small Skipper' butterfly and unfortunately had forgotten to load the memory card into my camera and was unable to get any pictures. So I have been out almost every day since, looking for it in order to get some shots.

                                                               A Male Small Skipper

The Male has a Black bar on the leading edge of it's wings and the Female doesn't, they are in flight between June and August and overwinter as a caterpillar.

Whilst I was taking the 2 shots above I started getting a stinging sensation up my Right leg, when I looked down I found that my Right foot was on an ant hill and there were ants all over my foot and lower leg. there then followed a demented demonstration of morris dancing as I hopped about shaking my leg and brushing ants off me.

As I moved further down the track I saw this information board...
Yep, thanks for that! 

  My favourite pic of the day (Well, almost, but my favourite is hopefuly going to win me a competition so I won't be posting it here. )
I love the detail in this pic, especially it's probiscus which is amazingly long.
 Well worth the ant bites I think. :D

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Swanning Around.

Who doesn't love the sight of a Majestic Swan, Just their size alone is impressive and seeing them in flight is amazing. In the UK there is a misconception that ALL Swans belong to the crown, This is not quite correct, under an ancient law dating back to the 15th century all UNMARKED Swans belong to the Crown.

 As far as I am aware there are 3 breeds of Swan in the UK, the most common being the Mute Swan, there are also the Whooper Swan and Bewicks Swan. They all have a brood of between 5 and 8 eggs.

                                                                 Male Mute swan

The way to tell Male and Female Mute swans apart is by the knob on top of the beak, in the Male it is significantly larger.

                                             Male and Female Mute Swans (Male on Right)

                                                  Female Mute swan with young Cygnets


                               I love this picture as it gives an idea of the size of the swans wings.

 People have asked me many times how I get my close ups, so here's a short video which should answer the question...

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Here be Serpents!

OK, Heads up for those that don't like Snakes, there will be pictures of Snakes and Slow Worms on this page after the Lizard's, you have been warned! :)

 OK, Lets start with Lizards. I was surprised to find that we have Lizards in this country, in fact the wildlife area opposite Our flat is teeming with them as well as Slow Worms and Snakes. Until recently I had associated Lizards just with warmer climes.

                                                                Common Lizard
 They are very skittish and can usually be seen sunning themselves on logs and stones. I have had many a pleasant time just sitting and watching them scurry about, sometimes fighting over the best spot to sunbathe.

Another Lizard we have here is the Slow Worm, Most people wrongly call them snakes, but they are in fact legless Lizard's (Kinda like me on a night out! lol) The area opposite me has been recognised as one of the most important breeding grounds for Slow Worms in Suffolk.
                                 This picture gives a reasonable idea of the general size of them

Here are a couple of close ups,

                                                  How many can you count in this picture?
 Did you know that we have three types of snake native to the UK?  They are the Grass Snake, Adder and Smooth Snake. The Grass Snake can be found all over the UK as can the Adder, but the less well known Smooth Snake is limited to very few areas of heathland in southern England.

 The Grass Snake is harmless and if caught will wriggle like mad to get free, if that fails it will squirt a really foul smelling scent from it's anal glands and if all that fails it will feign death by going limp with it's tongue hanging out until you place it back on the ground, when it suddenly rises from the dead and slithers away.
 The Adder is venomous and can kill, however a fatal bite is rare and usually happens when the victim either already has underlying heart problems, is young, or is old and frail. However I have no intention of ever picking one up to find out!
 The Smooth Snake kills by Constriction and is harmless to humans, other than that I know nothing more about them.

                                                  This is a Grass Snake sunning itself.

 I nearly trod on this one which is probably why it has adopted a 'Striking' pose ready to defend itself.

 As yet the Grass Snake is the only Snake that I have managed to find and Photograph close up, although I did manage to Get this shot of an Adder.
It may look harmless, but I don't believe in taking chances so I kept well clear of it!

Friday, 21 June 2013

We look, but do we See?

 As we go about our daily lives we are constantly scanning around us, looking but never really seeing. For the vast majority of people, lives are too busy to stop and actually SEE what it is we are looking at.
Let me give you an example here, how many of you would have seen this Grass Hopper?

   The reason I spotted this Grass Hopper is because I wasn't just looking AT the undergrowth, but was looking INTO  it. I will often spend an hour or more just slowly walking maybe 100 metres peering into Trees,Bushes, Undergrowth etc..  There are so many incredible things around us that we just don't register. Most people will have access to a green area somewhere, maybe a Wood, or a Meadow or a Local Park or even your own Garden. Get out there and spend time actually looking and seeing the amazing flora and fauna that surrounds us all.

One of my pet hates are people that kill insects like Bees and Wasps because they are scared of them, I understand that some people are allergic to their stings, but in the main part they are killed 'just beacause', My philosophy is..'If you can't make it, don't break it'. One of my favourite things to do during the Spring and Summer season is to pet Bees, Yes you read that right I said 'PET Bees', Picking up a Bee and inspecting it at close quarters is an amazing experience and one that I would recommend to anyone (except those with an allergy to their stings).

Some more amazing Insects...

                                                          The Blue Damselfly

                                                            Hawker (Aeshna Cyanea)

 I know a lot of people struggle to get a decent picture of Damselfly's as they dart around so fast, but if you stop and watch them you will see that they always return to the same resting place, so to get a picture all you need do is to spot their preferred resting place and focus on that, then it's just a matter of waiting.

 A while ago I was at a local nature reserve when I noticed a Hornet on a leaf, or at least that's what I thought I was seeing, This is what I saw..

 Hornet? No! It is in fact a Hornet Moth, This is a little seen Moth and it relies on it's likeness to a Hornet to protect it from predators. The way to tell that this is in fact a Moth is by looking at the antennae, they have a feathery look which is indicative of a Moth. (Butterflies have stalk like antennae)

 But what is the Moth doing? You have all LOOKED at the picture, but how many have actually seen what makes this picture even more special?  Have you seen it yet? No? OK, I will tell you, if you look at it's rear end you will see that it is in fact in the process of laying eggs, a perfect example of looking but not seeing.

As I have shown you all my Hornet Moth I guess I should also share some of my Butterfly's with you as well, but when you look at them take time to see the intricacies of their wings, the shapes, the colours, Look at the antennae, the hairs on their Thorax, all the little wonderful details you may have overlooked in the past. And when you have finished take time to say thank you to your God (or Gods) for all the wonderful things that surround us all.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Gatekeeper

                                                                         Common Blue

                                                                   Black veined White

                                                                      Painted Lady

                                                                         Orange Tip

                                                                    Small Tortoiseshell

                                                                    Speckled Wood

                                                                         Red Admiral

Well I have rambled on enough for Today, I kinda get carried away when talking about wildlife, Thanks for reading and I hope that I have inspired at least some of you to take a closer look at the world that surrounds you.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Long Tailed Tits

These are my favourite of the Tit family, They always remind me of the lollypops that Kojak sucked.
There is no visible way of telling Male from Female as far as I am aware, they usually lay between 8 to 12 eggs, I don't know the hatching and fledging times.

                                                                 A lovely pair of Tits

Long Tailed Tits usualy patrol an area  in groups, they can often be seen moving up and down a row of trees looking for insects.


This one is a Fledgling, I just LOVE the look of it's face, Kind of looks like it's been up boozing all night, I had many a day in my younger years when I resembled this. :) lol

Thus far, I have only managed to photograph the Blue Tit, Great Tit and these little darlings, however we also have Bearded Tits, Penduline Tits (rarely spotted), Coal Tits, Crested Tits, Marsh Tits and Willow Tits. I much prefer our name for them over the American name of 'Chickadee', For a start, how many American Guys can get away with telling the missus 'I'm off out to photograph Tits'?

 I remember posting an album some years ago containing photos of the Great Tit family that were living in our nest box, Within 24 hours of posting it  there were in excess of 30,000 hits, At first I was amazed at the number of bird lovers that had seen my album, but then the realisation dawned.. Just naming the album 'Great Tits' was not the smartest of titles! lol  (30,000 dissapointed Guys I guess!)