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

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Bumbling Bloodsuckers

I'm fairly new to photography and my main motivation is just to document what is around me. I'm vacillating between trying to learn more specialised techniques where greater control is available, or whether to make a point of keeping it snappy and real. I guess it's something that can be done on a project by project basis, but certainly at the moment there's plenty of things around me that I've rarely or  never seen and many are not ill-disposed to my camera - so long as I'm quick enough.

A Zebra Spider

Last week a friend lent me a macro lens for close up photography and I've been making frequent use of it to document some of the residents and visitors, welcome and unwelcome, that can be found here at Tyntesfield at this time of year.

First up are the villains. I've lived here at Tyntesfield for over a decade and until 3 years ago I rarely encountered a tick, but for these recent summers they have been numerous. Deeply unpleasant, in the picture you can see the mouthparts and the empty abdominal sack waiting to be filled with my blood.

A tick crawling uninvited up my wrist

I'm well schooled in correct removal measures if I find a tick attached to me, but every so often I flip and attack the unwanted appendage in a frenzy, desperate to be rid of it. I know so very well that this is the wrong thing to do (don't traumatise the tick), that it makes me wonder if I'm briefly under the control of an alien invader? I've always been fascinated by the ability of numerous parasites to influence the behaviour of their hosts, perhaps some organism is directing me to make a mess of myself and the tick as a means of spreading infection? Best not to lose sleep over these things though...

The next garden rogue is the Horse-fly. These hypodermic biters really like to make a nuisance of themselves. I'm still waiting for a realistic alfresco movie sex scene where proceedings get interrupted by these pesky bloodsuckers. They've given me a real dilemma as I've been maintaining a vigilant wildlife rescue service for any animal that falls into my daughter's paddling pool. Every time I fish a Horse-fly out my inner voice is screaming out indignantly 'why? why? why?'. I guess the spiritual answer is that by saving Horse-flies I'm avoiding coming back as one in a future life.

What's not to love about this Fly?
Happily, not everything in the garden is out to get me. I'm aware there are lots of different bee species buzzing around at the moment. My current expertise goes about as far as telling the difference between a Bumble and a Honey, but I intend to resolve this particular knowledge gap this summer.

White-tailed Bumblebee on Clover flower

These three picture (above and below) are all White-tailed Bumblebees. The white tail alone is not enough to identify them, but the similar Bombus hortorum (I only use the Latin name because my book tells me no other) has three yellow bands. My favourite bit of observed behaviour is when, upon leaving the clover patch, the bees do a short orientation flight in all directions to register exactly where they are. 

White-tailed Bumblebee with very fine wings

White-tailed Bumblebee with not so impressive wings