Spring Butterflies.

Butterfly silhoueete It’s May, and spring is well under way and with it butterflies start taking to the air. There are a couple of nature reserves within a few miles of where I live that are good butterfly habitats. Below are butterflies I’ve seen recently on these reserves, starting with the Grizzled Skipper butterfly which is one of the first small butterflies to emerge each year.

It’s a very small butterfly , with an average forewing diameter of 12 millimeters, and closely resembles moths in appearance. Males and females can be differentiated by the shape of their wings: males have slightly more angular wings, while females have a more rounded wing shape.

The Grizzled Skipper has shown a worrying decline in numbers over the past few decades. In Cambridgeshire were only 5 surviving colonies known about in 2003, I’m lucky enough to live a couple of miles away from one of these colonies.

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The Grizzled Skipper is becoming rarer in the UK

Another tiny butterfly I’ve seen recently is the Green Hairstreak. This butterfly is widespread throughout Britain and Ireland but is not a garden visitor and due to it’s size it’s hard to spot. I found the butterfly below clinging to Cowslip flowers – probably taking shelter on a cool spring day.

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Green Hairstreak, the only truly green butterfly in the UK.

The common Orange Tip butterfly can be seen this time of year. The male has the orange tip while the female is just black and white in colour.

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The orange tip can be seen on the wings, indicating that this is a male butterfly

Another common butterfly and one of the most colourful is the Peacock.

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The colourful Peacock butterfly

Two more early butterflies – the Tortoiseshell and Brimstone.

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Tortoiseshell and Brimstome

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Lady’s In Bloom.

Bluebell SilhouetteIt’s Bluebell season!

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Bluebells in full bloom

There are three small woodlands near where I live that are great for Bluebells in the spring. All three are maintained by the local Wildlife Trust. The best known locally, and the most popular for visitors, is Lady’s Wood near the village of Upwood.

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Lady’s Wood

People travel from miles around to see the Bluebells at Lady’s wood. This can cause a problem to local farmers if the car park is full and people park their cars on a farm track outside the official car park.

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The local wildlife trust encourage people to park in the local village rather than block local tracks used by farmers.

Even though I visit the local woods to see the Bluebells every year I still find it an amazing sight to see a carpet of blue.

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A carpet of blue

This year there had been a lot of rain which made the paths very muddy. But the rain droplets make great subjects for photography.

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A raindrop on a Bluebell

If you look carefully you can always see the rarer white Bluebell at Lady’s’ Wood.

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The rarer white Bluebells

About one in 10,000 Bluebells are white.

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A closeup of a white Bluebell

If you need some refreshment after looking at the Bluebells there is a pub in Upwood.

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The Cross Keys pub In Upwood

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Signs Of Spring.

Sun Silhoueete The day’s are starting to get longer and the sun is getting warmer, things are starting to stir at the Woodwalton Fen nature reserve.
Plants and blossom are starting to appear.

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Blossom and bee’s are startimg to appear

Spring can be a noisy season with birds singing, Bitterns booming and toads croaking.
The toads at Woodwalton Fen are quite vocal at the moment, wherever you go you can hear the croaking as they gather to mate.

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A common toad at Woodwalton Fen

Some early butterflies have taken to the air.

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Tortoise Shell and Brimstone butterflies are the first to appear

If can be quite warm if you can find a sheltered spot that’s in the sun but away from the cool breeze – like these two geese have found.

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Greylag and Canada geese having a doze in the Spring sunshine

Even some mammals like this grey squirrel below enjoy the warmth of the Spring sun.

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Sunbathing, Squirrel style

Snakes and lizards that need the sun to warm their bodies are coming out of hibernation.

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The warm weather has brought this lizard out of hibernation

Grass snakes have been seen basking in the sun. I’ve seen a few but they quickly retreat to the safety of long grass – too quick for me to get a photograph!

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The Beast From The East.

SnowflakeAt the beginning of March you would expect the weather to be warming up and your thoughts turning to Spring sunshine. This year was slightly different, icy winds and snow blew in from Siberia. This ‘cold snap’ brought with it chaos –  roads closed, schools shut and trains cancelled. This cold Siberian weather was nicknamed ‘The Beast From The East’. The winds lowered the temperature, due to the windchill, down to -10. You have to feel sorry for wildlife when this type of weather hits.

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A Muntjac deer out in the snow

Hare PanoHares try to keep themselves warm as the temperature drops to -10

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A Hare has found something to eat

Small birds must endure the cold temperature as well. I visited a small wood when the worse of the weather was over. There were a lot of woodland birds flying around so they seemed to have survived quite well!

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A Great Tit on a snowy branch

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Coal Tit out in the snow

With temperatures as low as they have been local rivers and drains have frozen over which can be a problem for water birds.

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A Moorhen is on land as the local river is frozen over

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This Kingfisher has found part of the river that is not frozen

The temperatures are returning to what you’d expect this time of year, hopefully that’s the last of the cold weather for this winter.

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The ‘Upside Down Bird’.

Tree silhouette I’ve always wanted to see a Nuthatch closeup and maybe get a decent photograph. I was lucky on both counts recently when I visited a small local woodland. Not only were there other woodland birds around but also a friendly Nuthatch. I sat quietly while the Nuthatch flitted around fallen branches looking for food.

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A Nuthatch on the hunt for food

It was a cold but sunny day and the sunlight was reaching the woodland floor and some of the trees.

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This Nuthatch has been highlighted by sunlight

Nuthatches have this abilty to cling to tree trunks face down. They almost seem to be able to defy gravity, it’s because of this they are also know as the ‘upside down bird’.

Nuthatches are hoarders, they store food items one at a time. Seeds and nuts are hidden in grooves of trees and also between the roots of trees. Nuthatches also store food in rotten wood which they cover with moss.

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The ‘upside down bird’ lives up to it’s name

While I was watching the Nuthatch a Cole Tit  perched on a small branch right in front of me. I manged to get a quick photograph before it flew away.

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A Coal Tit comes down to say hello

I was lucky I got so close to a Nuthatch. I’ve been back to the Woodland since and this colourful little bird is still there – maybe I’ll see some chicks later in the year!

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Deer, Deer.

CWD sil Over the space of a couple of days I had a close encounter with two species of deer.
My first was with a male Muntjac deer in woods near my home. I was standing quietly amoungst the trees when a Muntjac walked up to within a few metres of me. When it realised I was there it stared at me for a couple of seconds and then trotted off.

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Up close and personal with a Muntjac

My second close encounter with deer was at the Woodwalton Fen nature reserve. It was late afternoon, I’d gone to the reserve to see if there were any Barn Owls out hunting. I didn’t get to see any Barn Owls but I did get close to Chinese Water Deer.

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A young male Chinese Water Deer at Woodwalton Fen

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This water deer hasn’t seen me and is quite happy feeding

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Bit Of Luck With A Bittern.

Bittern SilhouetteFrom the sightings board at the entrance to my local nature reserve I’ve noticed a Bittern had regularly been seen from one of the hides.

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The sightings board at the entrance to Woodwalton Fen

I’ve visited the reserve a few times recently hoping to get a glimpse of this elusive bird.
So far I haven’t had any luck but I headed for the Gordons Mere hide anyway hoping today my luck would change. I arrived at the hide just as two people were leaving. I asked if they had seen anything – despondantly they said they’d been in the hide for a couple of hours and hadn’t seen a thing. I settled down in the hide got my camera ready and waited. Three minutes later a Bittern appeared! At last I got to see the Bittern.

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Bitterns are well camouflaged for a life in the reeds

Bitterns spend most of their time hiding in the reeds, as you can see from the photograph above they are well camouflaged. This Bittern emerged from the reeds very close to the hide so I managed to get some great photo’s and video footage. Things got even better when the Bittern left the safety of the reeds and flew to the other side of the mere.

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A Bittern flying just above the water

The Bittern flew low over the water and landed in the reeds.

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A Bittern lands in the reeds

I was lucky, I’d only been in the hide about 10 minutes and had a close encounter with a Bittern and seen it in full flight. I waited another hour but the Bittern had disappeared in to the reeds.

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