Cat crisis... but I bagged the female ! 25th April 2011.

Luckily I was able to get down late afternoon to try and get some more Yellow Wagtail images. I had wanted to get down first thing in the morning but unfortunately the day before I had accidentally driven over the cat on the driveway !. The cat had been lazing on the driveway and so I approached very slowly, it usually is aware of the car and moves away, but this time I had stopped to talk to Sarah at the kitchen window stopping short of the cat so I can only presume it thought I wasn't going any further..... but when I moved on the cat got caught. To cut it short, the cat is fine and only muscle swelling to one leg was incurred.

With cat okay I could concentrate on the wagtails, and the female today decided to venture closer albeit cautiously. The male definitely had his work cut out though, now that the female Yellow' was venturing more into the open the other male Yellows' obviously had an interest in courting her. On a few occasions a new male would appear, sometimes without the resident male noticing, and then try wooing her with its puffed up plumage. On one occasion the visiting male obviously knew the resident male was around and it flattened itself on the ground then when the time was right made a move on the female, she remonstrated to this and a scrap ensued only for the paired male to join in and all three disappeared over the fields.

The colour of the male Yellow wagtails is so vibrant on some that images look like they have been saturated in photoshop,especially with the sun setting, but this has not been the case. Most of the time I set my camera manually because the vibrancy of the yellow plumage causes the camera to misread and underexpose, a stunner of a bird for sure. So with a few more new images I decided to go and start my chores at home.

Down at the Dump. 24th April 2011.

I managed to spend a few hours down at the dump, Sarah has a trapped nerve which is restricting her from the simplest of tasks so she has had to endure me moping around doing chores. So on this occasion I visited a couple of hours in the morning and then a couple in the late afternoon. Myself and Nigel Blake had been filling up a water hole to attract stuff in. There were plenty of Hares around, mostly single males tracking their way around the crop fields nose to the ground presumably following the scent of a female, if they weren't tracking then they were sat there static sunning themselves.

The stunning Yellow Wagtails were as stunning as ever. A pair in residence at one heap were active enough and posing every now and again. The male ventured to the pool on a couple of occasions but the female kept her distance. I had probably 2+ different males try to come to the water pool but the resident male was having none of it,especially with the female close by.

Its always nice and challenging to try and capture some bathing shots, and with good light enabling a higher shutter speed,the chance of a few half decent images are obtainable. The resident male Pied Wagtail was always close by, also defending its territory, sometimes having a go at the Yellow'. I noticed that the male Yellow' would also get into a scrap with the local Linnets too, never letting them settle too close for too long. The Linnets though are always jittery, they tentatively approach the pool but if not comfortable they flee immediately, and If they do stay then as soon as the shutter clicks they are gone....a real challenge.

I had noticed that there were a few pairs of Grey Partridge around. They seemed to outnumber the Red legged', at least in this vicinity. Always lovely to see and a joy when able to photograph which is not always easy. Skulking amongst the crops their presence was given away by them peering above to check out the call of another Grey' nearby. Luckily for me one pair stayed loyal to an area close by and after careful maneuvering I obtained great views and some much appreciated images. I captured them dust bathing and calling without any concern for me being there....lovely. I had hoped for some images of the female Yellow Wagtail but hoped I would be able to return the next day for a couple of hours and get some success.

Moths April 2011.

Brimstone Moth.

For once whilst on nightshift I was able to get not the usual 1 but 3 moths, mind you the next night I didnt find any. The lovely Brimstone moth will brighten up any wall. The other two were a nice conditioned Small wave umber and what turned out to be a Common pug. The Common pug was by far the hardest to get to pose and I had to be quick to get the image before it decided enough was enough.

Small Waved Umber.

Common Pug.

Daubentons Bat. 22nd April 2011.

Tonight I took my Bat detector and powerful torch to work in the hope of seeing a Daubenton's bat. The River Lee runs along the back of my workplace and I have seen one a few years ago along this stretch. Just after 10pm myself an a work colleague, Stuart, headed off to the river whilst on patrol. Stuart had not seen a Daubenton's before and it was not a long wait to see one either, within minutes we were watching a "water bat". The brown colouring contrasting with the creamy white underside as it flew back and forth skimming the water like a nocturnal sand martin. We located another further along, this one flying around willow trees on the waters edge and over our heads. A great experience that definitely out done my last sighting.

It's that time of year again.

If upon leaving my house you were to smell 'Dung heaps' then that can only mean I'm back down the dumps again. Its amazing how long the smell lingers for when I have driven through slurry draining off the heaps. But its something Ive gotten used to. And the rewards of returning Wheatears are too tempting to resist. And they put on a show for sure, sometimes they were too close to focus so I just watched as they dived on insects. I really love visiting these places, its been some years now and it still drags me back for just a few more hundred images. Unfortunately the Yellow wagtails were too busy chasing one another but to be honest once my eye was on the Wheatears I might of missed the wags'. There were a few Hares running around the crop fields but I was not able to stop and try for a image. Hopefully I will have a lot more terrific encounters in the next few months to come. And it was nice to meet up with good friend Nigel Blake whom I hadn't seen for some time, and as in previous years I knew I would probably be seeing more of him than my wife on some days now these dumps had come to life... sorry Sarah.

Willington.Bedfordshire.April 2011.

I spent a few hours around the pits from first light. It was bloody cold first thing and a mist hanging around, but I picked up new bird song for the year notably Cuckoo,Sedge warbler,Willow warbler and Turtle Dove. Blackcaps were very vocal and showing well. My first Sand martins of the year despite them being around for some weeks now. I didn't pick up any Yellow wags' in the fields but I knew I would connect with them at the dumps for some images. Nice to be out at this time of year, and I love first light birding.

Sandy RSPB. April 2011.

.Green Tiger Beetle.

With my Mum and Dad staying with me and Sarah, we all decided to go for a walk around The Lodge RSPB on Sunday morning (10th). I was particularly keen on trying to get an image of a Common Lizard, especially after Sarah had photographed one with her mobile just the other day. the weather was nice and warm, Buzzards calling, plenty of butterflies on the wing along with large numbers of Bumble Bees, mostly Red-tailed. On the first stop and search I located 3 Lizards moving through the leaf litter but unfortunately a picture was out of the question, as they kept hidden.

.Green Shield Bug.

Whilst looking for Lizards my Dad and I noticed what we thought was a spider attacking some sort of fly, but as we watched more it turned out to be the other way around. We did not no what the species was so we would have to look that up later, but we looked on as it attacked the spider and either kill it or paralyse it. It then dragged the spider around obviously taking it to home or a safe place to devour. Considering the size of the spider to the attacker the ground it covered dragging it was phenomenal, and when it left it on a few occasions and disappeared it would return and trace its steps back to where it lay and drag it off again. We actually located 2 close by and the other one was busily excavating out a small hole on the sandy path. When we returned to the Lodge shop I went straight to the insect books and found what this predator was, and find it I did, a spider hunting wasp 'Anoplius Viaticus'. I was glad I had gotten a few shots and will definitely keep an eye out for them again.

.Anoplius Viaticus.

Spider - Hunting Wasp

Wagtails - April 2011.

Sarah and I went for a drive to see if we could locate some Wheatear and Yellow Wags'. Just outside our village was the first stop where I had spotted a male Wheatear previously. The Wheatear was still present although the location was not safe for me to try for an image. Luckily close by we saw 3 Yellow Wagtails and one posed long enough for a couple of shots.

We then ventured into Hertfordshire and counted 4+ Yellow Wagtails feeding on a manure heap along with Pied Wagtail,Chaffinch,Yellowhammer and a Dunnock. Unfortunately no Wheatear were seen.