A Staggering Find.

Beetle Silhouette On a recent late afternoon walk around the Woodwalton Fen nature reserve I noticed a huge black beetle on the top of a fence post. It was at the right height to get some photos of this impressive beetle.

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A huge black beetle

I’d never seen this type of beetle before but a quick search on Google revealed this was a  Lesser Stag Beetle – a smaller cousin of the larger Stag Beetle.

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An impressive  Lesser Stag Beetle

They can often be seeing flying around on warm evenings from May to October.

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Resting On A Fence post

Lesser Stag beetles are nocturnal, and are attracted to lights at night. In the daytime they can be found sheltering amongst rotten wood and leaf litter.
Unlike Stag Beetles which only live  a few weeks, Lesser Stag Beetles live for at least a year. They spend the winter under bark, or deep inside rotting wood.

 

 

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Annual Orchid Hunt.

Orchid SillouetteIt’s the time of year when I  visit local nature reserves on the hunt for orhids. It ‘s been another good year for orchids particularly at Woodwalton Marsh.

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Pyramidal Orchid

I found the usual Pyramid and Common Spotted orchids

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Common Spotted Orchid

But there were also four or five of my favourite wild flower – the Bee orchid.
I try not to advertise too much where I find Bee orchid’s to protect the flowers from being picked.

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Bee Orchid

In the case of the bee orchid the single flower is the culmination of up to 8 years growth and, if picked, the plant is unlikely to flower again and has lost its only chance of producing seeds.

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Hairier The Better.

Caterpillar Silhouette It’s that time of year when butterflies and moths take to the air with their colourful  aerial displays. But don’t forget they were once caterpillars – and some of these can be just as colourful in their own right.

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Caterpillar – Six Spotted Burnet moth

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Caterpillar – Lackey moth

Caterpillars make a great snack for some birds and beetles so they tend to hide away in the undergrowth. If you take the time searching you will find some of these colourful creatures.

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Caterpillar – Yellow Tail moth

You’ve probably noticed that all the above caterpillars are very hairy, but why is this? Recent research has concluded this is a defense mechanism to protect the caterpillar from beetles that prey on caterpillars. The longer the hairs the harder it is for the beetle to catch and eat a caterpillar. The Garden Tiger moth has taken hairy defence to the next level! See photo below.

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Amazing hair on this Garden Tiger moth caterpillar

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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.

Butterfly duo
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.

Bee On Blossom
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.

Floating Toad
A common toad at Woodwalton Fen

Some early butterflies have taken to the air.

Butterfly duo
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.

Greylag dozing in the sun duo
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.

Muntjac In Snow
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!

Great Tit In Snow 2
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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