Thursday, 5 November 2015

As luck would have it.

Well we have had a bit of an Indian Summer haven't we? Day after day of sunny weather with a fair few still days thrown in. But as luck would have it I have been almost completely unable to make hay whilst the sun shone due to a clumsy accident with my camera kit whilst out doing some macro work on the park near my house.

Whilst out on the park I saw a lady with two dogs coming towards me, I know that some dogs seem fascinated by my camera on its tripod, some bark at it, some sniff it some even try to cock their leg on it. Mostly whilst I've got a firm grip on it. These two dogs were two smallish terriers, so I thought I'd stand the tripod up and kneel down and stroke them, thus keeping them off the kit. however something went wrong, I don't know if I knocked the tripod or the ground was uneven but suddenly the tripod was laying flat on the ground slightly behind me. Worse still the flash unit was not on the camera.

Once the lady had gone and I'd spouted off a few silent expletives I went home to check the kit. The flash unit was clearly a right off, the hot shoe had broken into two pieces. but on the face of it other than the hot shoe housing on the camera being a tad wobbly, it didn't appear damaged.

Unfortunately though when I next used the camera with not only the macro lens but others I realised that all was not well. So an insurance claim it had to be. I'm with a company called Home Protect, but they are underwritten by Axa Ins, and once again despite claiming for my lens last year, I was not let down by them they agreed to repair the lens and camera and replace the flash unit at a total cost of £880 all bar a few pence. I got the camera back on the 7th Oct.

I was without a camera and very frustrated as my Hoverfly list wasn't getting any bigger and the end of insect time is fast approaching. I have purchased a Fuji finepix bridge camera to play with but, its only any good for standard photos.

Since getting the camera back I've been mostly tied up with Fungi. I now have over 60 confirmed types of fungus on my website. I have about as many again that I've not been able to positively identify, even with the help of the fantastic Jo Weightman who I've told you all about before from the Hereford Fungus Survey Group. Fungi identification is very hard when you get beyond the obvious species and as Jo says even the best photo and description of where it was taken can't beat having the specimen in hand. Jo has a fabulous knowledge of the subject and thankfully doesn't mind too much that I send her photos of what I've found after I've done my best at identifying what it is myself. Sometimes it's just a case of asking her for confirmation and then I'm really chuffed if I've got one right.

I finished the season off with  34 confirmed hoverfly species on my list. I also purchased a fabulous book written by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris, Britain's Hoverflies, a Field Guide, 2nd edition. Possibly the best 20 odd pounds that I've ever spent on a nature book, available from Amazon. Roger is a moderator/administrator on a Facebook group for Hoverfly enthusiasts. Again his knowledge of the subject is just fabulous. Check the group out.

I'm now desperate to get back to the birds. I'm trying to identify a spot where I can set up a feeding station, I've got permission to use a local wood but I'm after a nearby orchard, I have yet to see the owner and ask permission but he/she has sheep in there at the moment which I know from last year are not there all winter, so I'm just waiting my time for another week or two.

I also intend to re-join the WWT this year and make many visits to Slimbridge etc. I have a job, I don't start until early December, no it's not Father Xmas. I have to do some training  courses first. This will hopefully give me a bit of spare cash to finance the regular trips to Slimbridge.

Here's a small selection of the Fungi I've found recently, but for a more extensive list have a look at my website galleries,

Haresfoot Inkcap

Magpie Inkcap

Stump Puffballs

Common White Saddle


Monday, 24 August 2015

Looking forward to an Indian summer.

What a changeable month August has been. Very few sunny windless days and quite a few completely unworkable.

I have concentrated mostly on the small stuff. I have been doing a bit of a project on hoverflies. There are over 280 UK species of Hoverfly so I'm told and 40 are considered common. I have been trying to work up to 40 and have been quite successful, I'm up to 26 at the moment and again I'm told that September is a good month for hoverflies so I'm reasonably hopeful that I can increase on that number. You can see my results on my Smugmug website.

Whilst doing hoverflies I've also seen a number of other critters, wasps, bee's, beetles and the like so it's been a great time. I've also had a few butterflies.

Common Blue and Painted Lady

Black and Red Squash Bug aka cinnamon bug.

Turnip Sawfly

Green Lacewing


Sawfly, Tenthredo notha

I have been amazed by some of the stuff I've seen, Stuff I've never seen before and didn't realise that was there if you just looked in the right places.

But unless we get the Indian summer I mentioned in the header for this post it will all to soon be over for another year and it will be back to fungi and then the birds.

Still I'm enjoying it whilst I can. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Make Hay......

The weather has not been bad at all has it? I can't believe it's been so long since my last post either, I've been a busy bee when the weather has allowed so that has been most of the time, but the one thing I've noticed is we seem to be getting a lot of gusty wind. Does make macro stuff difficult. However I've had some good stuff and have enjoyed the last few weeks on the whole.

Firstly, let me start with an answer to a question on my last post, the caterpillar with all the twigs on it was a Bagworm moth caterpillar.

The Dragonflies finally arrived.

Four Spotted Chaser, Broad Bodied Chaser and Club Tailed Dragonfly were amongst the first. The Club Tailed I was particularly pleased with as I had never had them before. My grandson Kenzie helped me find them, he has really good eyesight and was able to see where they landed when we saw one drop from flight.

I spent a great 2 days down with Chris G in Devon, we had some really good views of 4 Spot, Broad Bodied, Black Tailed Skimmers, a female Emperor ovipositing, and my first ever Hairy dragonfly.

Female Black Tailed Skimmer,


Hairy Dragonfly

Chris put out his moth trap and although it was pretty disappointing we did get a beaut of a Poplar Hawk Moth.

There have been lots of other small stuff to keep me happy, in fact I've been in my element this last few weeks, I really do like to get the small stuff.

The first is the larva of a 7 Spot Ladybird, the second is a Dagger Fly, it is genuinely hanging on with one leg whilst eating it's prey held in the others. This is allegedly common practice.

I'm hoping to get to Gloucestershire soon for some White Admirals so make sure you come back to see if I was successful.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Still waiting for a dragon.

It's may the 24th and I'm still waiting to photograph my first dragonfly of the year and truly envious of those that have already done so. I've seen two, probably 4 spotted Chasers, in flight but none at rest.
Damselflies have not been so scarce, I've seen a lot of the common ones. Blue tail, Common Blue, Azure, Red Eyed, Beautiful Demoiselle and Banded Demoiselle.

This is a female Red eyed.

I've seen some nice butterflies too, Painted Lady, Pearl Bordered and Wood White being amongst the best.

I've been up to the Elan Valley to do birds and I have to say I was mildly disappointed with the numbers. I saw all the usual suspects, including the Red Kite nesting again in their usual spot. but numbers were very low.

The Jay and the Whinchat were nice bonus birds though.


Back nearer to Home I've had two firsts this month, The first was an Orange Ladybird, the second a fungi, Helvella lacunosa, or Elfin saddle as it's more commonly known. It's only the second recorded find where I found it, in Herefordshire. so I'm quite chuffed with that. The orange Ladybird came as a shock because initially I thought it was a cream spot, but after a bit of research I discovered that the cream spot always has 7 spots on each wing cover, this definitely has eight.

The little critters have kept coming with a few nice ones amongst them. The first are a mating pair of Woundwort Shield Bugs, although Collins Complete guide to British Insects has them down as Bronze Shield bugs, which they look more like. The second is a cardinal beetle, Pyrochroa Serraticornis, the third is the caterpillar of the Drinker moth, and finally a Mayfly, Ephemera Danica.


The swans on my local pond have brought 7 new cygnets into the world and my hasn't dad been a grumpy thing for the last few weeks prior to them hatching? He has been chasing everything around the pond, he has been witnessed killing at least one Duckling and unbelievably swallowing it whole. Mind you he's not been the only one at it, another friend of mine witnessed a Mallard drake kill a duckling too. Presumably wanting to breed with the female himself. The death rate of Duck and Moorhen chicks on the pond is currently 100% there have been 10 ducklings seen on the pond and 4 Moorhen chicks, not a one has survived. I have said before that the Pike are believed to have killed a few and having seen numerous pike in the margins and shallow water spawning over the last 3-4 weeks some of them were of a size that makes that believable. Here's a shot from another water that I got this week of a young pike. Perfectly formed and yet only 3 inches in length.

So beautiful at this size.

Now, I need help. Can any of you help me out with identifying this strange caterpillar. I've not sent it to Ispot yet as I wanted to add it to this post. It seems to have camouflaged itself with twigs. Works perfectly, if I hadn't seen it moving whilst photographing something else I'd have passed it by.

Weird thing, not sure if it's a butterfly or moth, could be a sawfly or something similar. Any how, that's me finished for today, I've put lots of stuff on Smugmug over the last couple of weeks so if you haven't had a look for a while, go treat yourselves.


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Busy busy busy.

Wow, what lovely weather we've had for April. It's been fabulous for getting out and about. It's been a busy period with lots of miles walked and lots of photos taken.
All of the birds seem to be in, I heard my first cuckoo yesterday (21st Apr). The only thing I haven't heard or seen yet are Sedge Warblers. Whitethroat and Reed Warblers are in on the Gravel pits near Hereford but no Sedge. I don't doubt they are there though.

I spent two fabulous days in Devon with Chris G and Mike S. Thanks Chris and Lynne for your hospitality. We went after Dartford Warblers, not really knowing how we were going to do.

We were on to them pretty quickly, although distant and characteristically skittish. I had never seen a Dartford before so it was a thrill to see them. This is a considerable crop.

When the Dartford weren't around, the Dunnock kept us entertained with their singing.

There were also plenty of Stonechats milling around too.

we also saw a single Yellowhammer and a very pale Kestrel, so pale in colour that we weren't sure what we were looking at for a while. It was distant.

The following day saw us back at the reserve, and after a quick trip away for a McDonalds breakfast as the mist was too thick, we were soon back amongst the Warblers. we also noted that there were quite a few more Yellowhammers around.

All in all a brilliant 2 days of birding, finished off with a quick detour to see Dippers near Honiton.

Back at home I set myself a target of Orange-tip butterflies. I only had a couple of shots of this quick moving beauty, so it was going to be a challenge.

The female I caught on some Red Dead Nettle flowers,

The male on some Cuckoo (aka Lady's Smock) flowers.

My next targets were slightly larger and I wasn't even sure I was going to photograph either of them, I just wanted to confirm that they were in so that I could save myself a journey into Powys to Gilfach Farm NR. I was pleasantly surprised to find both, and to manage a shot or two of the one. Yes Redstart and Pied Flycatchers were my targets. The Pied Flycatcher was singing his little heart out, but the female that was near him seemed to be unimpressed and whereas he clearly favoured one nest box, she much preferred another, I can see heartache if one of them doesn't compromise.

I have spent almost a weeks worth of evenings watching badgers on a Herefordshire Nature Trust reserve. I was going to do a project on them and try to photograph them but I have been asked to hold off by the trust as they have a family viewing evening planned in June and have their own plan in place. Shame as I had already managed to attract the badgers very close and was just about to start implementing lighting. However the nights I sat there for 3 hrs a time were very rewarding, with some really nice viewing.

I have another target species in mind. Yellow Wagtail. I know a site a couple of miles away from me where there are usually a pair. I have already had clear viewings of one bird, although only managed one frame. I need to dedicate a few more hours to this project.

One of the critters I love at this time of year is the Bee Fly, at another HNT site there are two types,  Bombylius Major and Bombylius discolor. I have provided HNT with images of both and they are going to use them in their Spring newsletter hopefully, so for the first time I may get a picture in print. You can see the images on my Smugmug site Just like buses you don't see anything for ages and then 2 come at once and hot on the heels of the request from HNT to use my images came a request from Hereford Fungi group to use an image of a Fishy Milkcap, Lactarius volemus, in their newsletter. How will I cope with the fame??

With 29 images on Getty images now and as yet no sales (not that I'm expecting any), my feet are well and truly planted. I am told by some that my images are of a great quality now but I still don't think that they are anywhere as good as a great deal of others. I get my pleasure from getting the images and sticking a few on my Smugmug site. there is a link on this website.

Now to finish, the highlight of this last week or so was getting a call from my son who was observing Wild Boar in the forest. He said could I get down there and if I could he would stay with them and keep me appraised of their position. Too right I could get there, and at something slightly over the speed limit for a portion of the trip. I was soon with him and feeling blessed to witness one of the best groups of Boar I've seen, three sows and fourteen piglets. Clearly a group that was thrown together as the Piglets were of two different sizes and all three of the sows appeared to be lactating. we spent an amazing 45 minutes or so watching and in my case photographing them, and once again I was never in danger from the sows. They knew I was there and yet they allowed my to get so close that on occasion the piglets were too close to get fully in the frame. The piglets themselves were amazing, inquisitive and delightful to watch. I was so enamoured that I often found myself forgetting to press the camera shutter. In the wake of some bad press relating to a dog being seriously injured, I wish more people could have watched the group as I photographed them. They really are no threat if approached carefully, quietly, and slowly. Here are just three of the hundred or so images I took.

The Sow pictured was the biggest and oldest of the three, and she was big. It was a brilliant experience and one that neither I nor my son will ever forget, in deed my son was so impressed he rushed home to fetch his girlfriend and returned a short while later to find them not far from where we'd left them, so she could see them up close too.
There are and will be more shots on my Smugmug site.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Hurry up and wait.

Hurry up and wait was a term we used to use in the army all the time. It invariably meant a period of intense activity followed by a long wait.
Well this last few weeks have been a bit like that, I've been wishing for Spring to hurry up and arrive, and it is, I have a Blackbirds nest in my garden and the Blue tits seem to be in and out of my nest box quite a bit. But I'm not able to do anything with it as I've had to wait for bits of kit to be repaired.
I've had both my 600mm lens and my 5D mk 3 in for work.

I was having problems with the 600 lens, the tripod leg collar would not rotate around the lens 360 degrees. Apparently the bearings were shot and there was grit in the collar. That was fixed and the lens returned to me on Tues this week (24th).  The camera, has been an issue since I bought it. I was never truly happy with it, I did not think that the auto focus was as good as it should be and I believed there was too much noise/graining at low ISO's. It has worked intermittently, clearly, or else I would not have any shots to put on here or on the Smugmug galleries. I visited Clifton Cameras in Dursley after a visit to Slimbridge with Mike and Chris, The chap there could not see any issues but I asked him if it could be sent off anyways for a check. He suggested it would be a good idea just to give me peace of mind. If there was nothing wrong it would prove it unquestionably. There are issues with it and hopefully I should have it back next week. However for both lots of work I'm now over £400 lighter in the pocket.

The day at Slimbridge that I referred to with Chris and Mike was a bit of a let down. The weather was not great and most of the migrants have left. However it was a day out so that's not all bad. I have also spent a day with Chris and Mike this week at the Photography show at the NEC in Birmingham. Wow, if only I was a lottery winner or had a rich sugar mummy. There was some fabulous kit on show. I think Chris and Mike enjoyed it more than me though, they both have an interest in Studio type photography and a lot of the show is geared for just that, but there was enough to keep me interested. That said, I'm not sure there was enough to make me want to go again next year.

The only photos I have to show you are ones that I got on my last visit to the Forest.

I'm looking forward to getting everything back and getting out there and doing some summer migrants. Don't you just love Spring?