Wednesday, 29 July 2015

28th July - Sometimes You're The Windshield

After the rain on Sunday came the wind, and quite a strong wind varying from the north west, to a westerly.  Totally unseasonable more like October than the the middle of the Summer.  Temperatures haven't been much better struggling to get into the high teens.  From my office window there have been sightings of a single Red Kite once again over the garden early afternoon, and a Sparrowhawk skimming the tree tops along Lymington Bottom, I can also see plenty of House Martins high in the sky, around and over the roof tops.  

Regardless of the weather I was determined to get out later in the afternoon with the objective of looking for Roe Deer in Old Down, they should have started the rutting season by now and I was interested to see if my latest toy would work.

As I stepped out into the garden late in the afternoon I was greeted by some pleasant sunshine, so despite the still fresh breeze,, any sheltered spot had the potential to be warm.

As I mentioned previously there have been plenty of Goldfinches and Greenfinches in the garden using the feeders, and as I set off there was a group of Greenfinches in the conifers, obviously waiting for me to leave.

It was quiet walking along Brislands past the recreation ground for the first time in quite awhile.  Up to lately there has always been a a Song Thrush singing or Robins since the start of the tear, but today there was a stony silence.

As I passed the Gradwell turn I could see a pink haze in the distance that belonged to a large patch of Rosebay Willowherb.  This tall flower has now replaced the foxglove as the dominant flowering plant around the area.

A little further along a male Blackbird was on the road with a bill full of insects and worms that was more than likely destined for yet another brood.  Blackbirds have been busy with probably as many as three broods, maybe more since March.

The sun was intermittent now, and as I walked down the main path into the woods I was surprised to see butterflies along the path.  Mostly Whites there was also a few Meadow Browns.  One large White settled on one of the leaves as the clouds once more rolled over the sun.

My original plan had been to walk around the woods, but with butterflies about and the skies clearing and revealing more sunshine I decided to change the plan and walk the areas where there was the potential for some butterflies.

This change of plan took me down the Kitwood path where I hoped I might find White Admiral, however after the rush along the main path, this area was completely devoid of literally anything.

Coming out into the field the sky was full of hirundines.  I could see Swallows and house martins but with there having been a significant movement of Sand martins recently scanned the birds in the hope of finding one which would have been the first of the year.

There were plenty of stubby tailed individuals with what appeared to be chest bands that were worth checking but on a closer look they turned out to be juvenile Swallows.

The attraction to these birds was the ripened Barley that looked quite stunning in the sunshine and the distant clouds and trees.

I was crossing the field to spend sometime in the flower meadow at the corner of Kitwood.  there was still a fresh breeze but a lot more sunshine now so I was hopeful of finding something interesting.

Stepping over the style I could see plenty of Meadow Browns flying, and also settled on the Knapweed flower heads.

Other immediately obvious butterflies were several Small Whites.

I walked through the grass and flowers, and came across a dragonfly that while it never properly stopped allowing clear identification, from the colour I suspected that it was a Southern Hawker.

With a little bit more searching I managed to find a Small Skipper again on the flower heads.

And hiding amongst the grass a Green-veined White.

Butterflies have a habit of appearing here, and from no where this Peacock flew in, and settled to nectar on the flower heads.  I got down low in the grass to get a different perspective on an often photographed butterfly.

Whilst there were many butterflies, mainly Meadow Browns there were by far plenty more bees.  Dominant were the Red-tailed Bumblebees, and again I got down low to photograph this large one making its way through the knapweed.  Bumblebees feed on nectar, using their long hairy tongues to lap up the liquid; the proboscis (you can just it visible here as a red line in amongst the flower petals)  is folded under the head during flight.

Bumblebees have round bodies covered in soft hair which are long branched setae, called pile, making them appear and feel fuzzy.  They forage using colour and spatial relationships to identify flowers to feed from.

What I was hoping for here in the meadow was some Common Blues and Small Coppers, all seen here in previous years.  I was able to find any, and this maybe because the kidney vetch and birds foot trefoil that has grown here in previous years is absent this year.  It may still be a little early for the second brood of Coppers, we shall just have to wait and see.

I left the meadow and headed towards Swelling Hill Pond, over the lawn on the opposite side of from the pond there was yet another concentration of young Swallows.  They were swooping low over the grass and around the old nissen huts.

On the pond there was little of note, just this Moorhen hiding amongst the Iris leaves.

I wanted to head back into the wood, but before I did I walked along the edge of the field where the sun was warming up the brambles and knapweed.  Once again there were plenty of Meadow Browns, but I was pleased to see a single Marbled White fly past me even though it would not stop for the photograph, would this be the last one this year?

I turned back into the wood where I was greeted by a singing Chiffchaff, the first bird song I have heard today.  The bramble once again was lit up by the sun, and there were plenty of butterflies about.  I was looking for anything that wasn't brown, and quickly found a Small Skipper.

And then an Essex Skipper complete with black clubs!

The butterflies were then joined by a dragonfly, that circled around over the bramble and them came out over the grass and started to stop very briefly on the grass and then flying off deflecting the grass as if looking to disturb anything that may have settled on it.  I have seen this behaviour last year conducted by the same species.

It then fortunately settled on a bramble branch and i was able to get in close, it was a Southern Hawker, the same species I suspected was flying around the meadow.

i was able to get in really close, and focused on the head.  The major part of the head of a dragonfly is the frons, or forehead, which includes a pair of antennae; a pair of large compound eyes, and three simple eyes, the use of which is not clear.

In this close up you can see the segments of the compound eye, and the antennae.  A compound eye may consist of thousands of individual photoreceptor units or ommatidia. The image seen is a combination of inputs from the numerous individual "eye units", which are located on a convex surface, thus pointing in slightly different directions. Compared with simple eyes, compound eyes possess a very large view angle, and can detect fast movement and, in some cases, the polarisation of light.  Because the individual lenses are so small, the effects of diffraction impose a limit on the possible resolution that can be obtained. This can only be countered by increasing lens size and number. To see with a resolution comparable to our simple eyes, humans would require very large compound eyes, around 11 m in radius.

In this view you can see the area where the mouth parts are.  The mouth parts are extremely strong and are made up of the labrum, mandible, and labium.  Behind the head are a pair of plates that allow the head to turn like a neck, and connect the head to the Thorax.  

The thorax houses the locomotive organs, which are mainly the wings, and also the appendages.  There are three segments to the thorax, each of which bears a pair of legs.  The two rear segments also carry the wings.

Up close a completely fascinating animal.

Leaving butterflies and the dragonflies I turned down the west path.  I had with me what is known as a Buttolo Blatter, a rubber bulb that when squeezed gives off a sound extremely close to that a Roe Deer would make.  The hope was that if there were any deer about they would show themselves.  Unfortunately it had no effect what so ever and I didn't see a single deer!

Walking along the path the Foxglove blooms have all gone, and all that is left are tall green spikes.  That isn't to say that they do not look as good.  With the sun on them they still definitely look spectacular.

At the bottom of the path the sun was lighting up a clump of Bracken, and sitting on one frond was a Comma.

And that was about it, I made my way back home via the Gradwell footpath.  There were a few Chiffchaffs calling,and more meadow Browns but nothing to attract the attention of the camera.

It looks like I have missed out on White Admiral this year, my fears of the opening up of the trees and bushes in the area having proved right.  I am also a little concerned about the Small Copper too, but there is still time.  

It was good today to get in close on some of the insects to reveal some of the parts that you don't always get the chance to see.

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