Monday, 18 April 2016


18th April and spring brings with it a new determination to better record the wild life here at Tyntesfield; all being well there'll be an improvement in frequency, quantity and hopefully quality.

I spent much of the winter waiting for queen bumblebees to emerge after reading Dave Goulson's excellent book 'A Sting In The Tale'. I've been delighted to see them bumbling about, but have so far failed to take a decent picture. Happily, Bluebells are less mobile and now resplendent in Truckle Wood and elsewhere on the estate.

Bluebells in Truckle Wood, Tyntesfield

Wood Anemones in Truckle Wood, Tyntesfield

Blackthorn blossom (blossom before leaves)

Hawthorn leaves (leaves before blossom)

At the start of April I noticed a shrub outside my house swarming with insects enjoying the early food supply from its flowers. These are just a few of the animals observed (the 'just about in-focus' ones). There were many more that evaded my available technology and skills, but I intend to persist and improve.

A Mason Bee I believe - hairier and smaller than a Honey Bee

Honey Bee with loaded pollen sacs

Nectar supping fly (unidentified)

Robber Fly?

Roe deer startled by man taking pictures in a bush

A Bee Fly. About as cuddly as flies get, apart from the spiky proboscis

2015 Kitchen Garden time-lapse

In February 2015 I installed a solar powered time-lapse camera in the kitchen garden at Tyntesfield. Programmed to take 4 pictures a day, it ran until the end of September when the battery ran out of sun and steam.

The first thing I have done is taken out the images obscured by rain or condensation fog. In fact, that's all I've done so far... there are various processing measures I can take to improve the results, but as it involves a fair amount of manual labour I have opted to post the interim 'rough' version, not least so the gardeners and volunteers at Tyntesfield are able to see it.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Late June

Long before now, with July turning into August, May was busy turning into June. This was the time of dragonflies emerging. Climbing clear of their watery nurseries, breaking out from their larval cases and taking to an adult life on the wing.

I was staking out the kitchen garden pond whenever I could. By my reckoning about 60 Emperor dragonflies emerged over a 10 day period, either side of a peak on June 1st. The process from leaving the water to flying off takes around two to three hours, but varies greatly between individuals. My own observation leads me to believe that the the bigger the nymph, the quicker the process. Also the failure rate (individuals that failed to break free of their larval cases) seemed to increase towards the end of the period of emergence.

After a few years watching, I have failed to detect an obvious correlation with either weather conditions or time of day providing triggers for the process. It does though seem that they are encouraged by my failure to get out of bed of a morning, or by my needing to be elsewhere at any given time of day. Thanks to the Tyntesfield gardeners for tolerating my pond loitering.

The first picture below is a female Broad-bodied Chaser, taken by Tyntesfield gardener Joel Bunting. Then my own Emperor shots from the pond, a late emerging damselfly and a random green bug to finish.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) female (photo by Joel Bunting)

Newly emerged Emperor dragonfly (on its own larval case)
Emperor dragonfly (Anax imperator)
Common Blue Damselfly female

Green Nettle Weevil (Phyllobius pomaceus)

Monday, 25 May 2015

Spring Forth

After some time away, I've been enjoying playing with a macro lens once again on the estate. Also in late April I managed to get some video of 3 tiny badger cubs who were up and out before sunset (between 7 and 8pm). 

The woodpecker below is from Wraxall Piece, a small woodland not on the estate, but very close. I stood at the bottom of an old dead beech tree listening to the incessant calling of an unseen chick. The adults then both visited the very high up hole with food every 2 minutes or so. 

I'm hoping now to have some time to film Emperor Dragonflies emerging in the kitchen garden pond over the next coupe of weeks, results to appear here if I'm successful

Dandelion head

Dandelion seeds

Herb Robert




Great Spotted Woodpecker

Absolutely no idea... bug on apple tree

Unidentified bug on apple tree

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Here Be Dragons

Lots of Dragonflies flying around my garden this week, too fast to photograph unless they're taking a rest. The one below obligingly stopped for a while on the washing line. I was astonished by the detail and colour, serving only to increase my fascination with these creatures. I think this is a Common Darter, but I'm not absolutely sure, the abdomen was red but I neglected to take a picture of the whole thing.

Also unidentified is the bug further down found on garden safari. It's not in my Collins field guide so, until proved otherwise, I shall claim it as a new discovery to science...

Common Darter (?) Dragonfly on clothes peg
Common Darter (?) Dragonfly

Common Darter (?) Dragonfly
Bug awaiting identification
Bug awaiting identification

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Big Small Things

Thanks to ebay and a 40 year old lens I am now equipped for macro photography. My technique thus far is frenzied paparazzi snapping, focus achieved (or not) by swaying backwards and forwards whilst pressing the button a lot... Bigger animals or smaller ones further away were taken with a different lens, but generally a similar technique (or lack thereof).

A home reared froglet on small finger

Poppy and Hoverfly

Anatomical Allium Flower

Badger at dusk with mercifully poor eyesight

Fly on Teasel

Unknown Flower

Horsefly bites Me


Friday, 13 June 2014

Time flies and Dragonflies

On the run from a dark edit suite, I took a moment to take some pictures at the Kitchen Garden pond this morning. I may have missed most of the Dragonflies emerging over the last couple of weeks, but was pleased to find and adult Broad-bodied Chaser patrolling as well as many many Damselflies... and a Frog.

Broad-bodied Chaser with attendant Common Blue Damselfly

Broad-bodied Chaser

Wide Mouthed (Common) Frog - ("you don't see many of those around do you?")

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Perseids Over Tyntesfield

I've wanted to try some night time star time-lapse photography for some time and the arrival of the Perseid meteor shower in the middle of August gave me an extra incentive. The sky here is too bright at night for really amazing stars, with light pollution from Bristol and Nailsea, but this does serve to light up the clouds with pleasing effect. There are several shooting stars in this video clip, but it admittedly takes a forensic eye to see them. There's also a couple of aeroplanes low down and perhaps a couple of satellites, but blink and you'll miss them.

After this initial encouraging result I decided to try again on the following night, which promised to be the final flurry for the meteors and the last clear night for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, on my way to set the camera up, I stumbled across two very relaxed badgers out on a dusk snuffle (below). I managed to film some very poor video and then, in a hurry, forgot to re-adjust the settings on the camera and recorded an entirely black time-lapse. The lesson I learnt was not to rush and don't get distracted from the primary mission, though perhaps I should have already known that.

Still frame from video of distracting Badgers

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Nectar Fest

Just butterflies this week, no gruesome insects and only one slightly gruesome ending. The author Simon Barnes has written on why it is useful to learn the names of things in that it's the key to recognition. Once you can recognise things you can then find a greater connection. Beyond the obvious (big mammals and regular birds), my mind has always been particularly porous with nature's names, including butterflies. I'm hoping that through taking photos and then posting them here, that I can finally plug the names firmly into my memory.

Large White (Cabbage White) female

Comma Butterfly (comma mark on underside cunningly hidden)

Meadow Brown no longer causing cosmic ripples

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Long Legs And Long Days

The long length of the days has increased the chances of seeing at least one wondrous or weird thing whilst wandering. The lavender is a-buzz (as more worryingly is the roof above my back door) and what a pleasure to see a daddy long legs actually outside and not careering around a light bulb.

Six Spot Burnet Moth

Carder Bee
Daddy Long Legs (Crane Fly)

On two nights I've spotted badgers out well before dusk. Both times I've been able to walk within 12 feet of them and barely be noticed (no camo required). The dry weather makes earth worms hard to find, getting a meal becomes more important than avoiding humans.

I'm not here
Off for breakfast

On the macabre front, I attempted a wildlife rescue for a Red Damselfly who had ditched into our paddling pool. I took some pictures whilst I assumed he would recover. Alas, he never did. 

Paddling pool victim
Bejewelled Damsel

More gruesome than taking portraits of the recently dead though, was witnessing an unfortunate spider join the ranks of the living dead. Completely overwhelmed by a solitary Pompilid Spider Wasp (clearly not needing any friends), the spider could do nothing as the wasp injected her egg inside. The future for the spider is not bright, it'll be eaten from the inside out.

Ninja Wasp...
...tackles not so Ninja spider
Dropping the kids off