Hello again. Well we've had some beautiful weather haven't we, but this coming weekend looks a little grey and miserable. I'm not gonna let it get me down as I've had some fabulous photography opportunities and have obtained some fab shots.
Firstly "Tree Heron" finally got himself into a position where I could get clear shots of him.
A little distant and a bit of crop but not too much, he's about 4 feet over the water here, but he seemed quite content to stand there for a long while.
The Mallards are losing a lot of ducklings and the locals are wondering if, along with the Pike and the male Swan, he might be responsible for some of them disappearing.
We know the Pike are having some as the bailiff and residents have seen them disappear off the water. We also know that the Swan has killed a couple. He also has driven off one of his own youngsters, treating it very harshly. I know they are not sentimental but is this normal? One of the chicks was not right, it had a deformed neck and a limp, that one disappeared very soon after hatching, but the second one seemed physically ok. But the male really hounded the second youngster, pulling it by its neck and pecking at it.
Anyway, moving on. There seems to be very few butterflies around at the moment, at least in Herefordshire. With the exception of Small Tortoiseshell and Large Skipper, numbers seem right down. 5 Spot Burnet moths are also being seen in very large numbers. A trip up to Whitchurch in Shropshire to spend the day with my brother Alan was a bit of a disappointment, we did get the Silver Studded Blue that we went for. Only males though, no females to be seen.
We then went to Whixall Moss for the dragonflies, in particular Black Darter and White Faced Darter, unfortunately the weather took a turn with high wind and it was really a wash out. All we got was this Emerald
We did get buzzed by something though.
This Helo took great delight in buzzing over our heads, very low. This is full frame taken with the 70-200 lens. I think they are out of Shawbury where there is a training school. He was around for quite a few minutes buzzing back and too, and hovering some distance away from us, in all fairness it was the best thing that happened all day. We did see Large Heath butterfly too, but the conditions and their love for staying low in the grass meant I didn't get a decent shot.
A trip to Gloucestershire to spend the best part of a day with Mike Smith was arranged and very much enjoyed. Two life time firsts were seen and photographed. White Admiral are butterflies I have never seen before, but Mike took me to a spot where not only would we hope to see them but also possibly get a shot or two. They were around, I think we probably saw over a half dozen, but they came to rest on only one or two occasions and then only briefly. I did manage 5 frames of the underside of one.
Stunning just doesn't seem to do it justice.
As if that wasn't enough, after treating me to lunch Mike took me to a spot near his home which we hoped would produce some Blues, again there were a few about, but only Small Blue. I didn't mind as I've never seen or photographed them either. Surprisingly the ones we got to photograph, were covered in Ticks or some kind of parasite.
Photographing them wasn't easy either, steep sided hill, habit of either hitting them or the surrounding grass with my tripod and their desire to fly off everytime I got near soon had me frustrated and Mike laughing at my pathetic efforts. I could not believe how tiny they are, Britains smallest Butterfly apparently. Andy Carey once correctly identified a Common Blue picture I sent to him thinking it was a Small blue, he said at the time that when I saw a Small Blue I would know it. You were dead right Andy.
The Marbled White, of which there were plenty were also suffering with Ticks.
After a brew and sandwich back at Mikes it was off to see the Little Owls which Mike has worked hard to get to accept his vehicle in close proximity. Mike promised me close up stuff and he didn't fail to deliver, with a little patience and a fair few mealworms we were soon treated to visits from what Mike believes was the male bird, and close didn't even cover it.
Using my 70-200 lens this is without doubt one of the best shots of a Little Owl I've got. I also eventually managed to get the timing right to get the owl in flight, something Mike has down to a tee. I've put a shot or two more on the Smugmug site. (see my links).
Thank you Mr Smith for your hospitality and company, it was a great, fun, day with laughs a plenty and some fab photo opportunities. We must do it again soon, although some improvement with the catapult is required.
Finally I've spent a little while doing Dragonflies nearer to home. Here are a couple, The Black Tailed Skimmer and the Golden Ringed.
Come back soon, don't forget to check out the Smugmug gallery.