Monday, 24 May 2010

Hobbies prospecting and - are 'our' Buzzards nesting?

...Evidently by this picture of an adult bird carrying nest building material they are! So we now have some real evidence of Common Buzzard attempting to breed in the parish. Watching from the garden deck this morning, with two Hobbies circling high above, I noticed above them one of our local Buzzards much higher again. Only when checking these images later, did I notice the stick in the talons. A Cuckoo called in the background but yesterday's Spotted Flycatcher seems to have gone for now.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Spotted flycatcher in the garden

The hottest day of the year so far, has brought a welcome summer visitor to our garden today - from dawn to dusk we've had a Spotted Flycatcher flying from TV aerial to Oak tree canopy and then to the back garden Poplar (all high vantage points). As I've mentioned in postings before, this once common summer visitor is now scarce, so to see one back in the garden after a couple of years absence is great news. If it was to pair and breed, its biggest obstacle to success may well be the garden squirrels who easily raid eggs and young. My photographs are distant, as the bird always stayed high -up or at least roof top level. With luck it'll stay with us a little longer.

Top picture taken during morning, flycatcher in Oak canopy pics taken during the evening

Friday, 21 May 2010

Mystery fly and Damsel fly

Smouldering summer like temperatures and weather have arrived after weeks of chilling North East winds. Our spring which always felt as cold as winter, has suddenly turned to summer - (for now)! Under mostly blue skies at the top of our Blackthorn trees, a small swarm of weak flying black flies (15 mm long) with shiny irridescent wings and long black antennae 40- 50 mm have danced, basked and displayed together. They have in fact slowly moved from tree to tree down the garden boundary with the paddock (following the sun). They remind me a little bit of the Solomon Seal Sawfly or St Marks fly, but then close observation shows them to be more like a Dancer fly. They are structurally different though and as yet I can't put a common name to them. Their attention has not gone unnoticed by others with big eyes around the garden to - see below!

The flies seem to dance around each other and also flick their wings in display too. But the warm sun has also brought a rush of adult Large Red Damsel flies to the garden and pond margins too - and as you can see a dancing delicate fly doesn't always just attract a mate!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Norwegian spruce - Red pine cones

Gardens always have the ability to throw something new at you. In this case, our tall and gangly Norwegian Spruce has about a dozen crimson red 'baby' pine cones growing. Against a blue sky with strong sunshine on them, they're very beautiful; - almost glowing such is the intensity of their red hue. No doubt, this is probably a common phenonemon but I've never noticed them before in fifteen years of living here.

I'd like to get better pictures but the cones are quite high up and out of reach. I stood on the boys' old climbing frame, armed with a long telephoto lense to get these pictures. Quite a silly risk for a picture of what is after all - a pine cone!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Starlings hawking St Marks fly

The near return of typical May temperatures has seen a big increase in insects on the wing. Amongst the Swallows and House Martins over the garden, the Starlings, with hungry chicks to feed, are every bit as adept at taking insects on the wing as their more aerial and exotic cousins. The insects they're hawking are clearly visible as they drift haplessly across the garden at tree top level. I believe that they're are catching mostly St Marks fly, a medium sized all black insect usually on the wing in swarms at the begining of May.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Albino Grey Squirrel

This pure white Albino Grey Squirrel has been present in Shadoxhurst for about three years now. Its surprisingly wary and has only recently allowed such close scrutiny. Locally, Squirrel numbers seem very low these days, and I can only guess some one has been using them for shooting practice. Good! (Sorry Squirrel lovers) Perhaps this ones white coat is continuing to yield it some good luck and protection? I don't have much time for Squirrels, for I know the damage they do to bird populations - even this albino one however cute remains an uninvited guess.

Resting Orange Tip Butterfly

The first Orange-tip butterfly in spring is to me as joyous an event as the first Cuckoo call of the year. They seem to be perpetually restless, never really wishing to rest, and when that you see the orange tips flash by i an instant, its such a beautiful sight. This I think is the first time I've found one that was resting with its wings folded up and showing its designer camouflage.

I took this picture some weeks ago, and thought it would be good to take a few more of the same species over the early spring period. Sadly, a wretched cold wind for most of the spring, put an early end to the flying season of this delicate butterfly. Orange Tip butterflies appear to have a short flying season and I fear they may have had a rather poor season this year.

Fledgling Robins venture forth

Our pair of garden Robins who boldly take raisens from an arms length away, have raised probably three young. They have been foraging food from us and the lawn margins and feeding the fledglings from hidden sanctuary within the garden hedges for the last 10 days. Now the fledglings are big and confident enough to explore the lawn and try finding food for themselves.

With hourly visits from our Sparrowhawk, the parent birds are never too far away to warn of the danger.