The Swifts are moving on. 16th July 2014.

The Southern Hawker numbers emerged from the pond (that I am aware of) is now up to 15! WOW.
Lovely to see so many butterflies around the garden, with Small Tortoiseshell making up 90% of the numbers and the rest are Peacock,Red Admiral and Comma. Sounds like another brood in the hedge and could be Dunnock, there has been a noticeable amount of Swifts passing overhead and quite a few Swallows, all heading south sadly. 

Wednesday 09th July 2014. New one from the garden.

Whilst sitting in the garden with a mug of tea and a very nice cigar, a Curlew flew over heading north/west, no more Hawkers in the pond today.

Rose Chafer and Hawker numbers rise.

Last week I came across some large insects flying around when out for a walk, not knowing what they were I was eager to get a close up, so when they landed on some thistle heads I moved in. I only had my mobile to capture a picture but was successful in getting a couple of shots. There were quite a few flying around and appeared very large in flight. I then checked the books and found them to be Rose Chafers.
Back at home the Hawker numbers from the pond has now risen to 11 emerged dragonflies, by far the best ever, and also a second frog was present which may bring some little uns' in. My first Hobby of the year was seen from the back garden whilst watching a Sparrowhawk circling.



Emerging Hawkers in the pond. June 2014.


 Monday 30th June 2014.
The Saturday just gone, whilst showing a couple around the garden, I came across the first emerged Dragonfly from the pond. The weather had been showers and cloud so it was still there Sunday night. This morning whilst having my morning cuppa, I headed off to the pond for a look as usual and low and behold I saw another Southern Hawker behind the 1st one drying it's wings out, then on closer inspection another had not long emerged from its larvae casing and still had milky coloured wings. In the image above you can see the 3 in a row. And if that wasn't a pleasing sight then as I scanned the pond I found another on the underside of a reed, but this one was still in its larvae stage and hadn't as yet started to break out. That was me set for the morning, the camera was grabbed and I then took up position laying on the decking around the pond. 
 The image above was the 2nd Hawker to emerge, it was well on the way to fully drying out.
 The 3rd Southern Hawker above had not been out for long, with the wings fully extended they now had to dry and harden.

 With the sun flitting in and out of the reed plants, I took as many pictures as I could, keeping an eye on the last one still waiting to emerge.




 The positioning was good for a change, as they tend to stay towards the back of the pond, but this one was next to where I was laying so all I had to do was make sure I didn't lean over too much and fall in!
 The above images shows it intact, but in the image below you can see the head starting to break through.

 It proceeded to slowly push out and then the head was free from the casing.

 Then one leg opened out
 Followed by the second
 Then all of them.

 As the colour started to change on the eyes and head, the wings then took on a different colour and look as the legs hardened it seemed to clean the feet. Then presumably the legs had hardened enough for it to finally escape the last section and grab the head of the larvae casing, where the wings could now be unfolded. This literally took a few seconds, and I was just checking the other fresh one to see its progress, and upon looking back now found it up the opposite way, I was a bit miffed to say the least but couldn't believe how quick it had moved out of the casing!


 It took such a short time really to get the wings pumped up and fully stretched out, mind you it is obviously vulnerable at this stage. Each of these following images shows it a few minutes apart, you can see the progress in the unfolding. 



It was then just a case of drying out before departing, and slowly they all moved off leaving just the empty alien like cases on the reeds. What a privilege it was to watch this event happening, and a lucky encounter considering how quick they can transform.


Wispy Clouds.

 One day last week the Swifts were screaming overhead as usual, and I can never not take a look up and watch them, I find it relaxing just watching them swoop across the sky. Well on this occasion I was greeted by some lovely looking cloud formations, and if I'm not watching the swifts I love to study the clouds and just chill. So with my camera now in my hand I started to try and capture some of the wispy clouds and if it included a swift in the image then even better. 








Short Toed Eagle

*MEGA MEGA MEGA*
SHORT TOED EAGLE ASHDOWN FOREST 2014
My last night shift was upon me and I had a early finish at 4am the next morning, so I took advantage of being closer to East Sussex and set off. I arrived at 05:30 and decided upon starting at Gills Lap car park, the Short Toed had a routine of being at the Long car park first before moving onto Gills, but the day before it had not been seen there or in the area from 4:05pm. There was a lot of fog hanging around the valley and a couple who had gone straight to Long car park had said it was fog bound so this higher view point at Gills was not a disappointing start. 
The scenery was beautiful with pockets of fog hanging between the woods and villages around. 
A stunning start and I hoped the eagle was still around. As birders scanned the area, the sound of a Turtle Dove filled the background noise as plane after plane flew over. But after a couple of hours and still no sign of the Short Toed Eagle, people began to move around search. I too decided that I might as well grab a few images of the birds present around there.

As the temperature began to rise and the sun beat down, the insects began to show, there were a few Large Skippers along the grasses bordering the hedge lines, and a dragonfly caught my eye before disappearing, but I managed to locate it resting up and after a couple of shots I realised I hadn't seen this variety before. I later was informed by someone photographing insects that it was a Downy Emerald, so at least I had seen a new dragonfly if nothing else.

I venture around the tracks off of the car park, and found a family of Stonechats moving around the gorse bushes. The males were in stunning colour in this light, and a juvenile Woodlark was a bonus as it moved along the track ahead of me.


It was nice to watch the young Stonechat flitting around after the parents calling for food. But after 3 hours and nothing I was beginning to wonder how long before I moved on home, I would give it a while longer for the morning traffic to quiet down though. Then I heard some voices from the road area and scanned around but my position was away from other birders so checking my pager, read the message I was hoping for..Short Toed Eagle 2s still, from Gills lap car park... I scanned but could not see anything let alone a birder to ask. 


So I headed towards the main track and was met by two birders, have you seen it? can you see it from here? well they had seen it but distantly and informed me from here I would not be able to see it, I would have to gain some height and look across, so I trailed behind them hoping to connect. 

And as we gained some height up the track they pointed out a small clump of pine, but they could not point it out as it was still obscured by another tree, by now I was soaked in sweat and hot as hell, but a short walk on and they could now point out where it was. What a relief and what a sight wow, how long had it been there? the two birders informed me that a couple had their scope on it for some time, but thought maybe buzzard and hadn't told anyone, but regardless here we were with a real rarity, it was a thumbs up moment all round. The heat haze had built up a lot in the valley and it was still a way off but close enough to see and grab a shot. There was a couple sat up in the heath around the bend from us and we could see a couple walking beyond the eagle, it seemed to notice them and it took to the air and started to circle up, I grabbed some images of this stunner, at the same time listening to the birders talking through the finer points of the birds plumage, notably how white under the wings and the chequered tail. What was looking like a morning 'dip' had finished in a great addition and a great morning out. I headed back to the car to dry out and grab a drink before heading home knackered. Thanks to the 2 blokes who led me to view it, much appreciated ( I think I heard someone call one of them in a cap Smithy?, so if that was you and your mate cheers).