Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Testicular Flowers

Orchid - the name comes from the Greek "órkhis," literally meaning "testicle," because of the shape of the root.

Yesterday after we left Aylestone Meadows, Dave eventually headed over to some prime north-west Leics. woodland and ended up re-finding a single flowering spike of legendary orchid for the county and the first recorded for c20 years. It's not colourful, pretty, big, brash or sweetly scented, and doesn't even have a nice flowery sounding vernacular. However it's rare so me and John joined Dave this morning to twitch it. I've never twitched a flower before as such, thankfully it was still there this morning and showing well down to millimeters - a damned site easier twitching flowers than birds, don't know why I ever bothered with the former.

The woodland was absolutely wall-to-wall with Bluebells, Yellow Archangel, Lesser Celandine, Dog's Mercury, Cleavers along with a few Lords and Ladies, Greater Stitchwort, Red Campion, Herb Roberts and other stuff. Great to see, but generally ignored as Dave lead us to the target. Despite the crappy dapple light and my complete ineptitude with a camera, I got some identifiable shots though none are as good as I would like.

Bird's-nest Orchid - mega

Also good numbers of Early Purple Orchids around with their spotted leaves, another new one for me. They were all past their best having flowered early this year, and pleasing shots were even less likely as everything was swathed in silk. I tried anyway.

Dave also showed us where the Greater Butterfly Orchids are shooting up, with one or two in bud already though a couple of weeks away from being at their best I guess. I'll go back for those.

Friday, 29 April 2011

A grand day out

After emptying the moth traps this morning (not sure 'emptying' is the right word given that there was only 4 moths of 3 sp.) I got out and about and spent the day flitting from one site to another in the county, enjoying some good company on the way and seeing some nice things. Most importantly, I avoided that wedding bollocks.

Started off at Birstall Meadows. Hadn't even got my bins out of the car when Dave Gray pulled up for a like-minded squint around the area. Nothing too exciting here though, aside from a couple of Common Sandpipers and the LRPs again. We then had a quick look around the horse fields - nothing there either, before nipping over to Watermead CP South. Immediately picked up a few Swifts, a City Yeartick, but no sign of any terns and the conditions were not really suitable for any potential movement either. We had a good walk around but nothing else noteworthy, apart from the resident drake Red-crested Pochard and a plastic Snow Goose.

Next we headed across to Aylestone Meadows. Despite some thorough scanning of the horse fields and meadows, no sign of anything interesting (ie no Wheatears, Whinchats or Ouzels!). I did pick up Linnet for the City Yearlist though. Otherwise the most exciting thing was a Fox openly foraging and sitting by a den entrance with three playful cubs. Always too distant for proper shots, though I tried at full optical zoom and then realised the digital zoom went up to x96 (but with expected deterioration of image). Better than nothing though (but the cub shots were too crap).

By now it was early afternoon and the sun was breaking through. I decided that it was time to head east whilst Dave headed back to Wanlip. I decided to go to Ketton Quarry, but drove along the Stockerston road to have a quick look at Eyebrook on the way. Driving along the gated track a large raptor drifted low over the field and perched on a fence post. This was some way from the reservoir, but it was an Osprey. I scoped it for a few minutes but it was going nowhere, just sitting there with the sun on its back. I carried on to the reservoir and bumped into Andy Mackay who was just scoping a superb full breeding plumaged Slavonian Grebe. I got set up and, after a couple of minutes got great views of this superb bird. A fair few Common Terns kierricking up and down the res, and an odd 'flock' of 33 Great Crested Grebes all bunched up in one small area. Not a lot else though, so off to Ketton. Andy decided this was as good an idea as any and came along.

By the time we got there it was warmer and the sun was trying, but it was windy. No sign of any snakes or lizards in the usual area, though I picked up a single Grizzled Skipper which was nice.

Walking around the reserve yielded no further Grizzled and no Dingy Skippers, and not a lot else flying either other than a couple of Common Heaths. I did manage to pot up a couple of micros, with the best being Pancalia leuwenhoekella which I'll get a shot of tomorrow along with a couple of other bits. The Manx Loaghtan sheep were in the donkey paddock, but they didn't bother us whilst we had a mooch about. I lifted a tin sheet expecting nothing underneath, but just saw a small tail under an adjacent rock. After a bit if careful coaxing we got brief but superb views of a juvenile Adder. Way too fast for any shots and hard to accurately estimate the size, maybe 25cm long at most but much smaller in body size. Usually these are born in the late summer / early autumn, so this would have overwintered. No idea how long it takes to reach adulthood.

Next we had a mooch about looking for Scarlet Tiger caterpillars, finding one which looked pretty much full grown. This was in a different area to the one I found a couple of weeks ago so definitely worth searching for adults this year. The other main interest came in the form of a very squawky Jay that was definitely riled by something, a flyover pair of Ravens, and later a Raven going back the other way with a pair of Peregrines not far behind. Superb. Also a few plants worth mentioning ..

Lords and Ladies

White Briony

Japanese Knotweed - despite the bext efforts of the trust this parasite persists.

By now it was late afternoon and time to head home. Had the conditions have been better I'd have been up for some mothing tonight. But they're not. I decided to have another quick look at Watermead CP South - still no terns. I also had a look around Birstall Lodge farm. No City Yearlist ticks but I found a plant that shouldn't be growing wild along a rough bridle track alongside more expected fare.

Greater Periwinkle

Common Vetch

Thursday, 28 April 2011

How to survive that bloody wedding ...

Today was bad enough in terms of pre-wedding televisual nonsense, but tomorrow is going to be a complete media washout. Here then is your guide to avoiding the whole thing.

1. Do not, at all costs, switch on any radio, television or satellite channels between the hours of 06:00 on Friday 29th until next year. You may well be intent on watching or listening to something interesting, but during the ads or between programmes there will be 60 second news clips about the dress, the hair, the crowds, the guests .. any tiny aspect that has not be wringed of every last drop of hype and bollocks will be rolled out for weeks to come.

2. Do not buy any newspaper. Of course, if you normally buy the Daily Mail you will not be reading this and you will be happily hanging out the bunting, making jugs of Pimms and preparing triangular cucumber sandwiches at this point.

3. Ensure that your i-Pod is fully loaded with at least 30Gb of your favourite aural pleasure. I have pasted a few recommendations further on, or perhaps you will go for some serious French revolutionary stuff. Just ensure that it's fully charged and you have some means of re-charging that does not involve turning on the PC and internet, which will also be afflicted by the nasty 'wedding special' virus.

4. Ensure that your cupboards are fully stocked and car fully loaded with fuel. You cannot risk going to the shops as there will undoubtedly be newspapers on display with wedding bollocks on the front, or TVs for sale showing any channel in the world which will have something on debating whether Kate really was virginal or had secretly played away with Harry whilst Bill was playing with his copter joystick. Or something.

5. You now have two choices: either stay in bed all day with the curtains closed, nothing but the i-Pod on and all windows and doors locked, or go out very early to remoter areas, like ancient woodland or vast moors and heaths, where you are unlikely to encounter random street parties and cooing women wittering on about the dress, the hair, the crowds ......

6. In the unfortunate event that despite your best laid plans you run into crowds or individuals plagued by royal wedding fever, just shut your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and very loudly shout 'la la la la la la la la la FUCK OFF' until you think they have dispersed in tears. Or fear of their lives.

"I've been dreaming of a time when, the English are sick to death of Labour, and Tory, and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell, and denounce this Royal line that still salutes him ......."

"So I checked all the registered historical facts, and I was shocked into shame to discover, how I'm the 18th pale decendent, of some old queen or other ......"

"How can you stay, with a fat girl who says would you like to marry me, and if you like you can buy the ring ....."

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Do me a flava

After posting all that rock pool nonsense earlier today, the sun finally broke through and it looked worthwhile heading out for some pseudo-birding (with boys in tow). First up, we headed over to Birstal Meadows and I was in luck. A Common Sandpiper was still loitering, along with two Wood Sandpipers (two more or the same two as last week - who knows, either scenario seems equally unlikely). Even better, at least two Yellow Wagtails were knocking about.

Next we headed over to Watermead CP South. It was a lot quieter than recent visits (knobhead wise) but also little of birding interest aside from numerous singing warblers including Garden Warbler. Only one or two Sand Martins and Swallows noted, but no terns, Swifts or House Martins. The only worthwhile things that hit the digital sensor were these ..

Mating Harlequin Ladybirds, female form conspicua, male form succinea

Scorpion Fly

Also got around to photographing this male Eyed Hawk-moth that was waiting for me in the rearing box on Monday, having been reared from a larva found last year on the Sallow overhanging the garden.

Cockles and Mussles .....

On Sunday we enjoyed a gloriously sunny and hot day on the beach at Woolacombe. Lots of others did aswell, but it's a big beach and there's plenty of room. I can only stand sitting/lying/sleeping on a beach for so long though, and inbetween ferrying kids to and from the sea I spent some time pottering about the rock pools. No idea what I'm looking at in the main, but enjoyable nonetheless. I did find a couple of small fish and shrimps but with no net it was impossible to catch them for a shot. Here's far too many photos interspersed with one or two beach/sea themed tracks.

Bladder Wrack Spiral Wrack!

A feeding Beadlet Anemone

Beadlet Anemone out of water

Acorn Barnacles

Common Limpet

This is like a big coastal woodlouse, known as a Sea Slater (Ligia oceanica) - this one was about an inch long, which is not the biggest!

Blue Mussels

Presume this is a cockle shell

Dog Whelk

Found this Dog Whelk with odd pink bits stuck to it ...

..then found a load of the pink bits which I think are Dog Whelk eggs

Some sort of snail or Periwinkle