Friday, 2 November 2018

2nd November - How Dare The Premier Ignore My Invitations

October turned out to be a very dry month with more than average sunshine.  The buddleia continued to flower, and as a result there were still bees and Red Admiral nectaring on the flower heads late into October.  A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was seen last on the 21st October, but the Red Admiral hung on until the 27th, which was in fact a very cold day with a very biting north easterly wind, but with plenty of sunshine.

Another "Red", the Red Kite has also been about, flying low over the gardens in search of any sign of food.  This one came over the garden one afternoon towards the end of the month.

Such a beautiful bird.

With the clocks going back the evenings have seen some lovely sunsets, the clouds going a stunning purple and red.  This week has also seen the first real frosts of the autumn, with ice on the car windscreens and frozen water in the bird baths.

Our Blackbird is still around, but there is a female Blackbird that seems to have the upper hand, she is clearly the dominant bird, and will chase off our blackbird should they both appear at the same time.  The female knows the call and will appear almost immediately with the male coming after and waiting his turn.  We estimate that he must be going into his fifth year, which for a wild Blackbird is quite old, although the oldest recorded is 14 years old.

With the cold morning weather this week there has been considerable activity in the garden.  On Wednesday there was my highest ever count of 36 Goldfinches around the trees and on the feeders.

While the Rowan berries on the tree outside my office has attracted the Starlings, keeping them away from the meal worms.

I think I prefer the Starlings winter plumage to that of their summer breeding plumage.

The rowan berries were also attracting the Robin, although it was welcome at the meal worm tray.

The Blue Tits though were exploring the buddleia, the density of flower heads probably holding small insects and spiders.

They always look quizzical.

The acer trees still have plenty of their leaves attached, but over the next week I expect them to fall quite quickly as the short days and lower temperatures kick in.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

25th - 28th September - And The Red Sun Sinks At Last Into The Hills of Gold

Following on from the wonderful summer, we are now experiencing a full blown Indian Summer.  The last week has seen cold nights but glorious sunshine through the day with the temperatures reaching as high as 23 degrees in the middle of the week.  The cold nights and lack of rain has also contributed to the leaves on the trees starting to change colour already, could this year see colour in October rather than into November.

With the warmth have come the butterflies, the Buddleia in the garden is flowering again, and is in full sun during the height of the afternoon, and at this time of year we usually get a Painted Lady visiting the garden.  This week was no exception.  As I stepped out into the garden late afternoon on Tuesday 25th I saw one flying around the flower heads, I rushed upstairs to get the camera, and when I came back down it wasn't there.

There were though two Red Admiral, another butterfly that hasn't been that easy to see this year.  The buddleia hangs over the fence,and with the house wall behind it there is a lovely bokum behind the subject.

The Red Admiral looking superb.

The two would nectar on the flower heads, and then spring up and circle around the bushes and then settle once again.

But when they were on the buddleia they were intent on making the most of the nectar.

Finally the Painted Lady returned, for awhile it stayed on thee other side of the fence, but eventually it came around to my side.  This time the bokum was a window reflecting the deep blue sky.

It then settled on a flower head with the orange background.

Like the Red Admiral it would take off and circle around the trees before settling once again.  As it did this it would lift the body upright with the wings spread out.  You can see that in this position it was not nectaring.

While the wings are not being used to warm the butterfly through the veins, they do catch the sunlight and direct it to the body.

The following day at about the same time I noticed another orange butterfly on the bushes.  The weather was just the same, clear blue skies and sunshine, but this time it was a butterfly that I would normally see from March onwards, but this year I haven't seen at all, until this afternoon.  A Small Tortoiseshell.

It would seem that the Small Tortoiseshell has had a very poor two years, this year I have seen figures that state the populations have reduced by 70 per cent.  

It was nice to finally see one this year, I was giving up hope.

With not seeing one at all this year I took the chance to photograph this one.

A Peacock was also about, butt I never managed to pin it down, as it prefered to nectar on the other side of the fence.

At the start of the week just after sunset I had seen a Hummingbird Hawkmoth around the flowers, it wasn't seen Tuesday, but today, Wednesday it was back, and I was able to get some photographs.

Again some lovely backgrounds.

The next day, Thursday, the Hawkmoth was back again, this time preferring to fly around the flower heads in the sun, and with the orange background.

They are the closest we will ever get to having Hummingbirds in the garden, and the way they move around the flowers is exactly the same as the Hummingbirds I had photographed in Costa Rica.

The hummingbird hawkmoth is a day-flying moth with a wingspan of about two inches. It has a brown, white-spotted abdomen, brown forewings and orange hindwings. It is very swift on the wing and an expert hoverer. The wings beat so rapidly that they produce an audible hum and can be seen only as a haze. The darting movement from one flower to the next with the long proboscis uncoiled completes the illusion of a hummingbird.

This species does not normally over-winter here, although some do finding crevices and holes where the over winter in cocoons.  The population is replenished each year by new migrants. However, if winters become milder in future, we may see them over-wintering more frequently. 

2017 was a very good year for sightings, and they may have struggled this winter.  The southerly winds recently have probably brought them into the south of the country.

Finally a different angle.

The feeders are once again busy, dominated once again by the Goldfinches, but also up to four Greenfinches,and a single Redpoll a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately we had a break out of trichomonosis, but after bringing the feeders in for a couple of weeks this seems to have gone.  Please though, do keep your feeders clean, and if you see small birds behaving strangely, and not flying away if you approach them do clean your feeders and take them down for a week or so, the birds will come back.

When we returned from holiday at the start of August the House Martins had fledged and the nest was empty.  However the House Martins then set out to have a second brood.  There are young still in the nest today, you can see one of the young here.

They must be about to fledge as the parents fly around the house calling as if to tell them to leave the nest, where upon they will fly around the estate here with their parents for a few days before embarking on an incredible journey south, across the Sahara and into southern Africa.  When you look at the little bird in the nest you have to wonder how they do this.  They typically are gone by the second week of October.  One day they are all flying around the house, the next they are gone and won't be back until the end of April

Our Blackbird is going through the moult.  He will still come for food early in the morning and last thing at night.  The body feathers are looking very good, but he is currently going through a moult of the feathers on the head and neck which gives him the appearance of a monk!  As soon as he has eaten enough he flys off to the safety of the surrounding bushes.  While in moult the birds are very vulnerable, and careful about where they are.

Here are a couple of photographs of him earlier in the month

We have been feeding him now for at least four years, and we are heading into our fifth winter.  I am not sure how long Blackbirds live for, but he is doing very well.

It has been awhile since I posted on this blog, and as I have said before I am concentrating more on sites away from Four Marks, but every so often I will post and keep providing updates locally.  Lets hope the wonderful weather continues.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

29th August - Just In Case You Forgot, I'm Never Not Thinking Of You

This is just a reminder for those who loyally come here to see if there are any new posts (I thank you very much!)

I have wound down my walks around Four Marks, and have focused more on my trips in Hampshire, the United Kingdom and further a field.  If you have enjoyed my photography around Four Marks and want to see more please visit my "away" blog HERE

Most recently we have been travelling once again in Costa Rica, a beautiful country with so much wildlife, gorgeous food and wonderful people.


Monday, 16 July 2018

15th July - One Step, Two Step

The hot dry weather continues, and the garden has taken on a very Mediterranean feel about it.  The grass is parched dry and yellow, and the plants flourishing are the lavenders and rosemary.  The lavender at times, looks as if it is alive as the Honey Bees constantly move about the flower heads.  there has also been a significant increase in the number of butterflies about.  Mostly Small and Green-veined White there has also been the odd Meadow Brown, a single Gatekeeper, Red Admiral and Peacock.  A single Holly Blue took advantage of the damp floor when I cleaned my car on Sunday morning.  

I spent sometime watching the activity around the plants and with the evening light I was able to get some beautiful colourful backgrounds.  I focused on the lavender and the Honey Bees.

The colours coming from the golden leaves in the flower beds being blurred by the focus.

It was a case of pick a flower stem and wait for the bee to arrive, they did not take long.

I was really pleased with the final shots.

The evening sunshine was also highlighting some of the more spectacular plants in the garden.  This teasel flower head back lit by the sun against a dark spot in the garden.

While this Sea Holly flower head changes appearance depending on the background and angle of the sunlight.

A dark background

And a more colourful background.

As well as the Honey Bees there was a single White-tailed Bumble Bee.

And several Small Whites would come down, quickly nectar and then move on

The antics of the Blackbirds continue to entertain.  "Our" Blackbird has continued to feed his two youngsters, despite the fact that they seem much bigger than him, and also have the capability to feed themselves.  

They follow him about, constantly calling and when there is food about begging with open beak and flapping wings.  We put out the worms, and he takes them straight to them.

We have also observed him "sun bathing" on the shed roof, stretched out wings and tail flat on the roof, and bill open to regulate the heat.  This apparently helps the feathers, spreading the protective oils and also getting rid of parasites.

I must admit at times his plumage looks a lot better, but this is probably down to the lack of rain, and not having to go in and out of bushes.

I sat quietly in the garden after placing mealworms in places where it was a little more photogenic

This is the look that says I want some more!

Interestingly the female, the mother of the two youngsters, appeared in the garden.  She is identifiable by the curled tail feathers.

She was collecting meal worms and taking them away into the hedges.  "Our" male never followed, although they would tolerate each other at the dish.  Either he has totally rejected the brood or they weren't his.  After appearing for a few days the female has now gone missing once again.

With the high numbers of butterflies about I decided to set the moth trap once again.  Surprisingly the numbers were not great, but I did manage to find some interesting moths, and one that was brand new for the garden.

Here is the Poplar Hawk Moth, the previous one a few weeks ago flew off before I could photograph it, this one did too, but I managed one shot on my finger.

Then one in a tree when it did fly off.

A Ruby Tiger.

A Scalloped Hook Tip

Willow Beauty


And a Dusky Thorn

The brand new species for the garden was a Pale Prominent.

It has tufts at both ends which do make you wonder which way the head is., and elongate the body to make it appear larger than it is, and like a piece of dead wood.  A common moth in the south, the caterpillars feed on either Poplar of Sallow, neither of which can be found close to the garden.

With the forecast showing no sign in a let up for the dry, hot weather it will be interesting to see what state the garden becomes.