Two Emporers And An Admiral.

Butterfly silhoueete In a recent post I wrote about a visit to a local nature reserve called Monks Wood. I’d managed to find and photograph a Black Hairstreak butterfly which is an elusive butterfly that can only be found in a couple of locations in the UK. I decided that I would return to Monks Wood to look for White Admiral butterflies –  a species I hadn’t  photographed before. I’d seen White Admirals during my last visit but they seem to stay quite high in the trees, no good for photography.  There were loads of Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies which are large striking butterflies with bright orange and black markings.

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A stunning Silver-washed Fritillary

I found a small clearing in the wood where there were puddles of water. I saw a White Admiral having a drink so I thought this would be a good place to linger to see if there were any more butterflies around.

White Admiral Drinking
A White Admiral showing the underwing markings

Within a few minutes five of six White Admirals started to fly around, eventually some of them settled on low bushes which allowed me to get quite a few shots of this butterfly.

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White Admiral

So, why is my post titled Two Emporers and an Admiral? Well, the Admiral refers to the White Admiral. The two Emporers are a butterfly and a dragonfly I saw the next day at the Woodwalton Fen nature reserve.
Purple Emporer butterflies were spotted around Rothchilds bungalow so I thought I’d take a look. On the way I spotted a big dragonfly which I originally thought was a Hairy dragonfly but I got the identification wrong and found out later it was an Emporer dragonfly – Britains largest dragonfly.

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The impressive Emporer dragonfly

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Emporer dragonfly – closeup

I was in luck, there was a Purple Emperor butterfly flying around the bungalow, it landed on the balcony and remained there for at least 10 minutes which gave me a great opportunity to get some closeup shots.

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Purple Emperor butterfly with a glimpse of the upper wing colour

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A Purple Emperor showing the underwing markings

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Up close to a Purple Emperor

After about 10 minutes the butterfly flew off and disappeared in the treetops.

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More Record Breaking Temperatures.

Thermometer silhoueete Back in February I wrote a post about the record breaking temperatures in the UK for that time of the year. Here I am in July writing about record breaking temperatures again. This time the highest temperature ever recorded in the UK (38.5 degrees) is expected to be exceeded today. Walking in temperatures like that is uncomfortable and potentially dangerous  so I decided to go for an early morning walk to Woodwalton Fen before the heat of the day set in. I finished my walk about 10:00am and it was already 32 degrees. Did the temperature break records? Read on to find out.

A few photo’s from early morning at Woodwalton Fen.

Dragonfly Pano
Woodwalton Fen is teeming with Dragonflies at this time of year

 

Banded Demoiselle
A beautiful Banded Demoiselle taking a rest

 

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The Peacock is a common but colourful butterfly

 

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A busy time for Reed Warblers

Were there record temperatures today? Well, officially the highest temperature today was 38.1 degrees recorded at Cambridge – not the hottest temperature ever recorded in the UK but the hottest July day on record. Having said that I only live a few miles from Cambridge and later in day the thermometer on my car showed a temperature of 39.5 degrees – definitely the hottest day of the year.

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As usual with these hot spells of weather, the day ended with rain and thunderstorms.

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Rainbow over local fields

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Victorian walled garden, Ramsey, Cambridgeshire

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Hunting For Hairstreaks.

Butterfly silhoueete I’m lucky enough to have a few National Nature Reserves within a short driving distance from my home. There’s one called Monks Wood that I don’t visit that often but it’s a good place to see Black Hairstreak butterflies – one of the most elusive butterflies in the UK. I managed for find a few of these butterflies a few years ago so I thought I’d give it another try and maybe get some photo’s as well. Did I find any Black Hairstreaks? Read on to find out.

Monks Wood Sign
One of the three entrances to Monks Wood

These butterflies are mainly found in thickets of Blackthorn in woodlands on heavy clay soils between Oxford and Peterborough in the East Midlands of England. The adult butterflies spend most of their time in the canopies of trees where they feed on honeydew secreted by aphids.

Summer At Monks Wood
Summer at Monks Wood

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Blackthorn thicket – a favourite place for Black Hairstreaks

I wandered around for a few hours and saw plenty of butterfles, including White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries. I saw a couple of Hairstreaks but they were higher up and couldn’t get any decent photographs. I wasn’t going to give up so I decided to come back the next day.

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Distant view of a Hairstreak

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A bit closer but in the shade – not the best light for photography

Day Two
I came back the next day to continue my hunt. My luck was in, I bumped into a volunteer who does regular butterfly counts at Monks Wood. He showed me a good location where the Blackthorn had been cut back and was much lower. There were also femail Hairstreaks laying eggs and then resting on branches which would be great for photo opportunities.

Low Cut Blackthorn
Low cut Blackthorn gave a great place to see the Hairstreaks up close

At last I managed to get a decent shot of a Black Hairstreak.

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At last, a decent image of a Black Hairstreak butterfly

I’d left it a bit late for Black Hairstreaks, their flying season was almost over so I was lucky to to see them and in good condition as well. I’ll definately be visiting Monks Wood more often – my next little project is to photograph the Silver-washed Fritillaries and another butterfly – the White Admiral which I’ve never photographed before.

Shady Seat
A shady seat for a rest

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A Day At The Raptor Foundation.

Owl Silhouette For a birthday present this year I received a voucher for a photographic day at the Raptor Foundation near St Ives in Cambridgeshire. There are several of these days throughout the year, I booked for Friday May 17th. As my birthday is in January I’ve been looking foward to this day for quite a few months.

The day started with a cup of tea and a safety briefing from one of the keepers who was going to be with us for the day. We then went to a small wooded area where there were  perches for the birds.  The keepers then proceeded to bring out various Owls and Hawks and positioned the birds on the perches and some in the trees so we could get some natural looking shots.

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Placing this Great Grey Owl in the tree makes the photo look more natural.

It was great to get so close to these amazing birds.

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A White Faced Owl named Goliath

Not only could you photograph the birds but the keepers we on hand to answer any questions and give you information about each of the birds.

Hawk

There were native birds as well as the more exotic species from abroad.

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A Barn Owl and a Tawny Owl

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Barn Owl – a beautiful bird when seen close up

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Tawny Owl

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One of the photographers enjoying his day out

After spending an hour and half photographing various birds it was time for lunch in the  tea room -it’s hungry work taking all these photographs!

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Lunch and hot drinks were included

I had a few minutes spare after eating my lunch( thanks to the cook Violet for a great chicken curry) so I headed to the Meerkat enclosure to see if there were any of these little critters around – I was in luck there were two in the outside enclosure.

Meerkat
Meerkat

After lunch we were treated to our first flying display of the day. As we were part of the photographic day we could move around the display area which isn’t allowed for regular visitors.

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On the way to the flying display

The keepers bring the birds to the display area.

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Precision flying

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After lots of missed and out-of-focus shots I started to get the hang of photographing birds in flight.

African Owl 4

There were two more flying displays during the day.

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Flying displays

Hawk Takeoff

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All the keepers are trained to handle large birds of prey

Keeper

The staff really made the whole day enjoyable and are all just so passionate about their work in looking after these amazing birds of prey.

If you’re going to book a photographic day, a bit of advice. Clear your camera’s memory card and take extra batteries. I took 1500 photo’s over the course of the day!

For more information click on this link –  Raptor Foundation

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Busy Time For Marsh Harriers.

Marsh Harrier silhouette Spring is a busy time for wildlife particulary for the Marsh Harriers at Woodwalton Fen.
These Harriers are now resident all year, they nest and roost in the northern reedbed. There is an elevated hide that is great for viewing the Harriers as they nest build and come home to roost in the evening.

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The north hide provides great views over the reedbed

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The northern reedbed, seen from the hide

North Hide View 1
Looking east over the reedbed

The northern reedbed is closed off during the nesting season so as not to disturb the Marsh Harriers. This offers a great nesting site for the Marsh Harriers.

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The northern reedbed is closed off during the nesting season

 

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Marsh Harriers at Woodwalton Fen

This time of year the female Marsh Harriers are busy building nests. They can be seen  collecting reeds to make their nests.

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A female Marsh Harrier busy building a nest

Nest Building Pano
Flying low over the reedbed

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Record Breaking Temperature.

Snowdrop Silhoueet February in the UK has been the warmest on record. On a recent outing to Woodwalton Fen I noticed the outside temperature registered by my car hit 18 degrees celsius – unbelieveable warm for this time of year – I’m not complaining though, it was nice to see the sun and have a bit of warmth.

The warm weather has triggered some birds and other wildlife to start thinking about nest building, this might be a bit premature as the weather can still become very cold this time of year. I watched a pair of Long-tailed Tits flying to and from a Bramble bush with moss in their beaks busily building a nest.

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A Long-tailed tit thinks it’s time to start nest building

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Long-tailed Tit with nest building material

On the same day I noticed a couple of Nuthatch’s checking out holes in trees to see if they would make suitable nesting sites.

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Could this be a suitable nesting site?

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A Nuthatch at Woodwalton Fen

I also noticed a hole in a tree that was being used by Honey Bees as a nesting site.

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Honey Bees at Woodwalton Fen

The same time last year was in complete contrast when we had the ‘Beast From The East’ There was snow and sub zero temperatures.

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Sub zero temperatures the same time last year

Muntjac In Snow
A Muntjac in the snow a year ago

 

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Woodland Winter Birds.

Little BirdI headed out for a winter walk at Woodwalton Fen but this time instead of heading for the hides I went to a quieter part of the reserve to see if there were any woodland birds around. At first all appeared quiet but then a group of Long Tailed tits started feeding in the trees close by.

Pair Of Tits
Blue Tit and Long-tailed tit

Often other birds follow the small groups of Long-tailed tits so I kept a look out for other small birds that might be around. I saw a Treecreeper close by and managed to get a photo (below).

Tree Creeper
Treecreepers sometimes follow groups of Long-tailed tits

I caught a glimpse of a Goldcrest – these small busy birds don’t seem to stay still and can be hard to photograph.

Goldcrest
Goldcrest

I also noticed a Nuthatch on a nearby tree – a species I haven’t seen at Woodwalton before.

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Nuthatch – also known as the upsidedown bird

There were a couple of Marsh Tits flying around. They didn’t seem bothered by my presence or hadn’t noticed me, either way they were feeding from branches right in front of me.

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Marsh Tit on a nearby branch

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