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Green Meanies and other Wiveton Beauties

A nice morning so re-visited Wiveton Downs for a couple of hours butterfly hunting.  The Downs is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and is an esker, in layman’s terms a glacial crevasse which was filled in and forms a winding ridge.  Situated a mile or so inland from the Nth Norfolk coast.  The top of the ridge is mostly Gorse and on the north side the lower slopes are clothed in Bluebells and well sheltered.

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi). How innocent does this tiny butterfly look?

My target was seeing the Green Hairstreak.  Spurred on by Mike’s post yesterday https://alittlebitoutoffocus.com/2021/05/10/green-hairstreak-butterfly-val-dherens-switzerland/  I was hoping the locals would be out and about, I was not disappointed.  I have posted about this species before and have mentioned their rather nasty temper (yes B in Illinois, hard to believe but true).  These butterflies are the size of a thumbnail but that doesn’t stop them from beating the living daylights out of each other and attacking any thing else that flies past!

Seconds out, round two!
Spot the Ninja

All the butterflies were condensed into one area near a flowering Hawthorn and a bank of Bluebells.  There was more than Hairstreaks though, in all I saw ten different species.

The first of an influx? Reports of Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) have come in from southern Britain. I spotted this one. Worn and faded but considering the migration journey it has just had that can be forgiven
A new season Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) risks the wrath of the Hairstreaks for a sip of Hawthorn nectar
Migrant or local? A slightly worn Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) enjoys a Bluebell

Flights of Fancy

I have not done one of Lisa’s challenges for a few weeks.  When the sun’s been shining and the temperatures managed to get above the dizzy heights of +12c (not often!) I have been engrossed in chasing butterflies.  And now Mrs H has kicked my butt into getting some more decorating done which is taking longer to do than anticipated and filling the whole house with dust!

Anyway Here is my offering, with a twist  https://oureyesopen.blog/2021/04/30/bird-weekly-photo-challenge-birds-in-flight/

Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

To A Skylark

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
 
Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
 
Percy Bysshe Shelley
 
 
Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

 

The Owl

When cats run home and light is come,
And dew is cold upon the ground,
And the far-off stream is dumb,
And the whirring sail goes round,
And the whirring sail goes round;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Curlew (Numenius arquata)

The Curlew

The curlew’s trademark, long down curved bill

Delves deep in mud, belly to fill

Heath and moorland breeding ground

Mating calls eerie sound

And then chicks arrive

Oh how they thrive

Birds anew

Curlew

View

Simon Rogerson

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

The Windhover

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple – dawn – drawn Falcon, in
his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, Gerard Manley Hopkins
 
 

Orange & Blue

Last week had a look at Wiveton Downs up by the north coast.  A bit chilly with the breeze off the sea but ok in sheltered spots.  Slightly early for some of the new season butterflies, in fact I only saw three species though one was a first for the year.  This April sets a 60 year record for the most frosts!  It’s also been very dry a trend set to continue into May.

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) getting stuck into a bluebell

Sometimes it’s easier to approach lunch upside down

The new one for the year, Speckled Wood (Pararge aegaria). These are quite feisty and territorial. Males will spiral away kicking lumps out of each other but always return to the same leaf or twig ready for the next fight

More Spring Butterflies

Took a drive over to Foxley Wood this morning.  My first visit for a couple of years and the furthest I’ve been this year thanks to lockdown.  It was a cool start but unbroken sun and this was enough to stir a few butterflies into action.  Cold weather forecast for later this week so it’s still stop/start.

Several Brimstones were patrolling the woodland rides and were civil enough to stop and nectar on dandelions allowing me the chance to photograph them.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamani)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)

A couple of Orange Tips passed through, not stopping, but a larger white butterfly caught my eye.  It was a female Large White and had probably only emerged from it’s chrysalis this morning.

Peacocks (Aglais io) aplenty

Comma (Polygonia c-album) one of the hibernators to emerge

Back home and Mrs H was quite excited to show me something in the garden.  There was a newly emerged female Holly Blue on the patio.  We put her in a flower container to keep her out of the way.  Sad to say after a few hours the wings were still not fully inflated.  Such is nature but I’m sure there will be many more.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus). Newly emerged but failed to inflate it’s wings

Butterflies, Bugs, Birds & Blooms

Easter Sunday.  Taking advantage of lockdown easing we went a few miles out of town to have a walk around, what is for us, a new nature reserve.  Southrepps common is a 14 acre site now run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.  Parking opposite the school you start on a boardwalk through reedbed and wet marsh.  The 3.5 mile circular route then takes you through mixed woodland and agricultural land, then on ‘quiet lanes’ around the pretty village of Lower Southrepps with it’s napped flint cottages.  This was the childhood haunt of our walking buddy Mick so he pointed out who lived where and the places he played.  Take a look at a small sample of the wildlife we encountered.

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Snakes-head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris). This beautiful and unusual flower is something of a rarity in the UK so I was delighted to see this specimen

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This tiny hoverfly is a species of Eupeodes possibly latifasciatus.  Love the colour the sun brings to it’s wings

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Little bird, big voice!  A Wren (Troglodites troglodites) poses for a quick shot

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I like to keep my eyes open for the unusual and this fits the bill! It is a type of ichneumon wasp possibly Spilichneumon occisorius (according to a fb group). The flower is Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) a common plant of roadside verges near the coast. It was introduced by the Romans and is edible

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Straight out of hibernation most butterflies seek sunny spots to absorb the warmth just like this Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

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Found a nice sheltered hollow for a coffee and cake break. Several Peacocks (Aglais io) were enjoying the newly opened sallow flowers

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Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

When we completed the loop we decided to go a bit further to see the farm Mick grew up on.  It was a good move.  As we walked by the steep bank near the railway bridge Mrs H called out “butterfly!”  I was not expecting a cracking fresh male Orange-tip!  Considering we have not had a sustained spell of good weather it was very early to emerge.  Normally these (my favourite spring butterfly) fellows would be wandering here and there not stopping.  This one was attracted to a bed of Red dead-nettles and was still there when we returned some time later.

You will notice from the images it was a lovely sunny day.  Yesterday and today we have been ‘enjoying’ heavy snow showers and a strong north/westerly with temps just above freezing.  I don’t think that first Orange-tip has a great chance of survival.  The Peacocks and Tortoiseshells on the other hand will just return to hibernation, and life goes on.

Another False Dawn

24c!  Forget spring let’s go straight to summer, well for three days anyway.  Today is less than half that value and next week a quarter, 5c and wintery showers forecast.  Spring is a bit hit and miss at the moment.  These past days have been great though, time to dust off the macro and go hiking.

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Not sure of this tiny bee species but it’s had fun with the pollen! (update Andrena flavipes Yellow-legged mining bee)

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A Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) shares a lesser celandine with pollen beetles

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Male Great Tit (Parus major) against a stark backdrop of an old industrial unit

It was good for butterflies.  They awoke from hibernation in large numbers.  Strangely, we saw more in the urban areas than the countryside.  Four species noted, the most numerous being Peacocks.  They were all a bit hyperactive and getting any good photos was going to be tricky, never mind plenty of time for that.  It was a joy just seeing them.

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A Peacock (Aglais io) takes a breather on a fallen tree

During this last lockdown I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the garden ‘pond gazing’.  Watching the water plants I put in for signs of growth, delighted to have the first lily pad break surface, but also looking for what might be lurking beneath the weed.  Really pleased when I saw the first Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) and now there are loads of them all getting a bit frisky!

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Underwater world. A pair of Smooth Newts in my pond

Really wanted frogs to come and breed but no joy yet.  Plan B, Rose and Mick have two young cats that are pretty efficient at hunting frogs, where they come from who knows.  So I have adopted a couple of recent captures which were totally unharmed.  I think both were females and there has been no sign of any males so it looks like no tadpoles this year unless I can locate some spawn in the wild.

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Give us a kiss!

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Spring colour. When we moved in there were no flower beds so it’s nice to see our efforts bloom

Mono? Tricky Challenge

I always shoot my nature photography in colour.  Well why wouldn’t you?  Colour is what nature is all about.  For sure there are some stunningly beautiful butterflies and birds that are black and white but the habitat adds that splash of colour.  So when Lisa launched her latest challenge  https://oureyesopen.blog/2021/03/19/bird-weekly-photo-challenge-birds-in-black-white-or-sepia/  it got me scratching the old noggin.  Any files I choose would have to be converted to monochrome and re-processed, what would work best?  I think I hit upon a formula.

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Juvenile Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

If I was to pick a bird that wasn’t very colourful to start with, add in a neutral background it might work.  I started with this gull image and was astounded how beautiful it looked.  It’s actually better than the colour version!

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Male Ruff (Calidris pugnax) non breeding plumage

If I was to pick a dull, dreary day perhaps mono could give those rubbish shots a lift?  I remembered a trip to Titchwell RSPB reserve when it was like that, so applied the treatment to a few images.  In breeding plumage this Ruff cries out to be photographed in colour but on a murky brown lagoon on a misty day?

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Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

And a black and white wader from the same trip, an Avocet.  To be fair this image is not too far removed from the original!

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Female Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

My last offering is perhaps my favourite bird image.  It was shot against a bright blue sky in winter.

Thanks for the tricky challenge Lisa.  I have been looking at these shots and realising there is potential for even more mono, I actually really like them.  Would I go out and photograph purely in mono?  Probably not, but with the software in post processing to convert them you can have the best of both worlds and even give so-so shots a big boost!

Check out Lisa’s challenge and why not join in?  https://oureyesopen.blog/2021/03/19/bird-weekly-photo-challenge-birds-in-black-white-or-sepia/

Making the Most

It’s often said that us Brits are obsessed with the weather.  It’s true, always the starting point of any conversation no matter what’s going on in the world.  I’m as guilty as the rest of my country folk.  Too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy (I particularly hate strong wind).  So it’s fitting that I sit here typing this post as the rain pours down and the winds build up to gale force, nice.  So when things are pleasant you have to make the most.  Here’s a few shots from recent walks.

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Some Robins are fearless. I thought this chap was going to sit on the end of my lens!

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Approaching Ebridge Mill.

This old water mill on the North Walsham & Dilham canal used to make animal feed.  It was run by Cubitt & Walker from 1869 to as recently as 1998.  It then became a bit of an eyesore until it was turned into luxury apartments overlooking the mill pond.  The lock is to the left by the road bridge.

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Hello deer (I love using that line)

A couple of years back I featured in a post a cute, teddy bear faced deer with fangs,  https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/01/an-anniversary-upton-fen/   Well this is the other mini deer I mentioned then, the Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi).  They were introduced to Woburn estate in Bedfordshire in 1838.  Not much bigger than a retriever dog they soon got fed up, escaped, and started to explore the country, breeding merrily along the way.  They are now considered a pest in places as they munch through trees and crops.  Can often be seen having their final sleep besides or in roads.

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Blue Tit in the Alder catkins = Spring

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Mystery plant

Competition time.  Who can name the mystery plant above.  What’s the prize I hear you ask?  I’ll think about it.  There were two patches of these by the canal and I don’t recall seeing them before.  I’ve checked my wild flower books without luck so maybe a garden escapee?

Newsflash.  Evening update. CJ over in Holland  (https://thecedarjournal.com/) has identified the plant it is, drum roll, petasites japonicus otherwise know as Giant Butterbur or Sweet-coltsfoot.  Not native to the UK you should see what the above plant grows into!  Visit google to check it out.

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Buzzard (Buteo buteo). Early spring is a good time for watching raptors display

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Breaking out. Seeds erupting from a Reed Mace head

Last Sunday’s walk broke new ground.  Rose added in a new loop to our canal hike which brought us in at just over 10 miles (16km).  I felt that one!  But the sun unexpectedly broke through so it was very enjoyable.  Take care all.

Spring is in the Air

Just over a week ago we were under several inches of snow and ice with the temperature struggling to get above freezing.  Yesterday the wind fell light, the sun was out and it was in mid-teens centigrade.  Time for a long overdue walk.  Will nature have recovered quickly?  What will we see?

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Robin (Erithacus rubecula) in full flow

Everywhere the Robins were announcing their claim to territory.  Their glorious song filled the air.  Full volume now, not the subdued version they will utter even in the depths of winter.  They mean business.  To our ears beautiful music, to a rival a challenge, throwing down the gauntlet!

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A pollen laden Honey Bee investigates the Snowdrops

Banks of snowdrops and crocuses filled country gardens, groups of daffodils in sheltered spots already in bloom.  Wild flowers starting to appear on the verges of the country lanes, Bright yellow lesser celandines, small blue speedwells, daisies and dandelions.  New growth pushing through and in the warmth you could literally smell it!

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A perky Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus). In our new garden they are investigating the nest box I put up

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Hazel, catkins and swelling buds

Along the 7 mile walk my eyes were peeled.  I just felt the conditions would awaken a hibernating butterfly.  Like last year it was Mrs H who spotted the first, a Peacock, and as is her way kept reminding me of it (didn’t think it was a competition).  A few miles further on, as we were admiring the local Alpacas, a lemon yellow male Brimstone danced past right under our noses and did a circuit of the paddock.  I got my first butterfly photo of the year just a mile from home.  A fluttering by an ivy hedge caught my eye and there a Peacock in pretty good condition (considering it spent the winter possibly in a hole in a tree) sat in the sun, posing, allowing me the pleasure to capture the moment for posterity.

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The Peacock (Aglais io) performs to it’s admirer (me!)

Hopefully this isn’t a false dawn and we can enjoy more days like this in the weeks to come, I can’t wait!

Love Birds

This is a difficult challenge from Lisa this week.  The reason is that, like butterflies and dragonflies, there are many species that cause my heart to go all a flutter.  There are a few that stand out, unfortunately I don’t have any images.  For instance the European Bee-eater.  Fond memories of this multi-coloured beauty from holidays to Greece and Spain.  Or the Robin sized Red-flanked Bluetail from deep in the Siberian Taiga, this once near mythical bird is now an almost annual vagrant to these shores in autumn but still gets the pulse going if one is found nearby.

There are two families of bird that I really like, the waders and warblers.

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Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Nearly all the warblers are spring migrants from sub-Sahara.  Unlike the colourful New-World counterparts they are mostly brown jobs that like to skulk about but their songs lift the spirits after the long winter months.  The Sedge Warbler inhabits the reedbeds of wet lands. It’s song a fast scratchy affair sounding like cha-cha-cha-chi chi-chi-chicka-chicka ending in a flourish as the bird rises from its oft hidden position to ‘parachute’ back down.  It can also mimic phrases of other bird songs.

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Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

Waders are a diverse bunch and that, to me, is their attraction.  Not all are found wading either.  The Snipe above was photographed on the lawn of our previous home.  This was March 2018 and the weather this week has been a carbon copy of then.  I wonder if the new owners had any surprise visitors!

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Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Some birds are always exciting to see, like the Barn Owl.  Not uncommon but it’s usually out at night.  We were fortunate where we used to live that there was a resident owl that at dusk hunted the fields opposite our old home.

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Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

The Waxwing is a thrill to see.  This is a Scandinavian bird that in some years comes to the UK in big numbers, other years none.  One of my earliest memories was being taken by my father to see a flock on our small holding back in the early 60’s.  Who can’t be impressed by this beauty.

But it’s not just the birds, often it’s the place as well.  To be somewhere special and see special birds is the icing on the cake.  For me to wander about the wetlands in spring listening to those newly arrived warblers and watching the years first dragonflies when a graceful Marsh Harrier drifts by sends me home a happy bunny!

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A Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) over Hickling Broad, nothing better on a spring morning

Check out Lisa’s latest challenge.  https://oureyesopen.blog/2021/02/12/bird-weekly-photo-challenge-birds-you-love/