Wednesday 29 June 2011

June round-up of images

June has been an annoying month, mainly because the weather has not been favourable, but also because my macro lens stopped working.  Just at the wrong time.  Nikon informed me there was condensation inside the lens which had stopped the motor working, no wonder I guess in the monsoon-like conditions we get in our summer.  So the images below have been taken with Kate's 105 macro, a borrowed 60mm macro and my 300mm f/2.8.

They are a bit of a mixed bag, something for eveyone I guess:

Spotted Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid in Somerset


Marsh Cinqfoil at Goss Moor

Fly in macro on a twisted blade of grass (one of my favourites this Spring).

Frog at Windmill Farm, Lizard

Small Skipper in Kent

Marbled White in Somerset

Common Blue

Silver-studded Blue in Cornwall

Silver-studded Blues at dusk, just prior to roost, all females.

Silver-studded Blues resting on Spotted Orchid, Cornwall

Monday 20 June 2011

Large Blue at Collard Hill, Somerset

We were lucky on Friday to see four male Large Blues at Collard Hill near Street last Friday.  I say lucky because we had a two hour window of no rain.  The high wind also made viewing and photography difficult as well.  We were also grateful that the warden of the site put us on to these ultra-rare insects.

The life-cycle of the Large Blue makes incredible reading and it is this that makes the species so vulnerable.  Indeed, the Large Blue became extinct in the UK in 1979.  The photos below are a result of the Somerset Wildlife Trust funding a reintroduction programme of Swedish origin. 

Male Large Blue resting on Self-heal

The complicated life cycle begins with the eggs being laid on Wild Thyme. When the caterpillar emerges it feeds on the thyme for up to three weeks before falling to the ground. The caterpillar then tricks a passing ant into believing it is an ant grub.  It produces chemicals that smell like an ant grub, as well as secreting a sweet fluid that the ants "milk". 

The ant carries the caterpillar to the nest.  The caterpillar becomes a carnivore and eats the ant grubs.  It hybernates in the nest in the winter and turns into a chrysalis in spring.  The butterfly emerges from the nest in June but lives for just five to seven days.

If this life cycle isn't complicated enough, then in addition, the red ant itself requires a specific habitat of short grass and warm ground, specifically kept short by cattle within defined dates!  A massive amount of study work has been undertaken and can be found via the link below.

A full detailed history and ecology of the Large Blue in the UK can be found HERE

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Silver-studded Blues

These shots were taken this evening with a 105 Nikon macro.  The weather was dull and drizzly so these delightful insects were completely at ease and unwilling to fly. The lens was about six inches from the subject. 

Sunday 5 June 2011

Red Kite influx in West Cornwall

On Friday 3rd June, approximately a dozen Red Kites were seen over Nanjizal, West Cornwall.  I went on Saturday 4th mid morning to the "Raftra viewpoint" overlooking Sennen, Skewjack and Nanjizal.  After twenty minutes wait I was pleasantly surprised to count at least 46 individuals fly past me.  There were three groups of a dozen or so, the rest singles or pairs.  Some were within 30 metres of me and just above eye level, giving incredible photo and viewing opportunities. 

Three birds came out of Nanjizal woods so presumably they had been roosting there.  The majority were very worn with heavy abrasion, with feathers missing in the wing and tail.  Only a handful had bright red upper-tail feathers; most were very dull.  The photos below show the generally poor state they were in. I also saw two birds with small plastic markers in the wing.

When the movement finished, I went to St Just to buy a pasty and saw another (or same) group of twelve between Cot Vally and the airfield.  John Chapple also saw another seven at St Buryan.  Many more sightings of ones and twos the length of the county were reported, so I guess the total number probably reached a good hundred birds. 

The general consensus is that these wandering, non-breeding birds are from UK stock rather than from the continent. 

Green Hairstreaks at Porthgwarra

These two shots were taken this afternoon on the moor at Porthgwarra, Cornwall.  I saw about five in total feeding and resting on the gorse and heather.  Green Hairstreak is not common in Cornwall, in fact this is the first time I've photographed the species.  All past sightings have come from west Cornwall on the coast.  From memory, I have never seen one inland.  The species is single brooded and is mainly seen in May and June.

Summer plumage Snow and Lapland Buntings

Below are four images of some stunning summer plumage Lapland Buntings and female Snow Bunting.  This is the first time I've seen these species in this plumage.  The male Lapland Bunting is handsome for sure, but the Snow Bunts take some beating as well.  These were taken at Nesseby, Varanger.  I've also put a link to Martin Garner's blog, who was also on the same trip as me to Arctic Norway.  Martin was live-updating his blog via iPhone. Link is HERE 

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Kittiwakes in northern Norway

It always pays to review past images.  The poor weather over the weekend allowed some time to review the hundreds of images from my recent trip to Arctic Norway.  I came across these three images of Kittiwakes, one of the most common seabirds in northern Norway.  We visited several colonies holding multiple thousands of these delightful seabirds.  They are indeed an icon of the area.  The noise, smell and activity of these birds is memorable.  I like the shots below as the adults carry nesting material in the Varanger Fjord.

Common blues

A pair of Common Blues mating on Bank Holiday Monday in the dunes