Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Herald

'The Herald' moth, in the Forest of Dean last night. This colourful moth overwinters as an adult, and as a result, can be one of the last species to be seen in one year, and one of the first in the next. It is also sometimes found hibernating inside barns and outbuildings.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

This Pearl-bordered Fritillary was photographed back in May this year. They are found in isolated colonies in recently coppiced or felled areas of woodland. Once considered common and widespread, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary is now one of our most-threatened species. The cessation of coppicing which resulted in the loss of suitable habitat is believed to be one of the major causes of this drastic decline. It is the earliest of our fritillaries to emerge.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Hazel Dormouse

A Hazel Dormouse in the Forest of Dean photographed back in September. Dormice feed high up in the trees on a variety of food. They eat flowers and pollen during the spring, fruit in summer and nuts, particularly hazel nuts, in autumn. It is thought that insects are taken too. This variety of food must be available within a small area, a requirement which limits the suitability of some sites for dormice.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

European Cave Spider

The European Cave Spider lives exclusively in dark and damp places, such as caves, mines, sewers, etc. I found this particular one in a cave in the Forest of Dean. It feeds on hibernating moths and butterflies, millipedes and slugs, etc. A few egg sacks were also suspended from the cave ceiling. Although they are photophobic, they will emerge from their caves around dusk to hunt.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Wild Boar

A male Wild Boar in the Forest of Dean. This was photographed a couple of years ago, and we haven't really had a decent fall of snow since, so I'm hoping for more this winter. The snow doesn't really hinder the Wild Boar in their search for food, and they certainly endure colder and more harsh conditions in other countries. In fact, rooting in the snow also has the added benefit of exposing food to birds that would otherwise be unable to reach it. A Robin can be seen in this photo waiting for the boar to move along, but in fact there were 5 or 6 Robins following this boar around the woods.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hawfinch

This photo was taken in June, whilst watching some recently fledged young Hawfinch. They are easier to see in the winter however, when they are more likely to come down to the feed on the forest floor.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Red Fox

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Photographed back in May, a Pearl-bordered Fritillary in Gloucstershire. This butterfly was once very widespread but has declined rapidly in recent decades, and is now highly threatened in England and Wales. It flies close to the ground, stopping regularly to feed on spring flowers such as Bugle. It can be distinguished from the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary by the two large silver 'pearls' and row of seven outer 'pearls' on the underside hind wing, and also the red (as opposed to black) chevrons around the outer pearls and the small central spot on the hind wing.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Wood Mouse

Wood Mouse in the Forest of Dean. I noticed this Wood Mouse was regularly using the same hole, so getting the photo was simply a case of leaving the camera pre-focussed near the hole, and watching from a distance for the mouse to move in to position before firing the shutter remotely. The Wood Mouse is our most common and widespread wild rodent. It is an inhabitant mainly of woodland and fields but is highly adaptable and is found in most habitats if not too wet. It is rarely recorded on higher exposed ground with little cover. Wood mice are essentially nocturnal but some individuals may venture out in daylight.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hawfinch

Photographed back in July, a juvenile Hawfinch in the Forest of Dean. The young bird came very close while the typically more shy adult birds kept a greater distance.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wryneck

This Wryneck was feeding on ants in Berkeley back in 2013. Wrynecks are small sparrow-sized birds, appearing greyish overall, with brown and buff mottling. They have a contrasting dark band running down from the back of the head onto the back. They feed almost exclusively on ants and unlike other woodpeckers, are seen mainly on the ground, and do not often climb up vertical trunks or branches.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Wild Boar piglet

A young Wild Boar in the fallen leaves of the Forest of Dean. Although there's a large peak of boar born in the spring, there is a smaller peak in the autumn, but they can actually be observed all year round.

Pool Frog

This Pool Frog was photographed at an undisclosed site in Hampshire. They are particularly rare, once presumed extinct. Small ponds adjacent to woodlands or in meadows are the preferred habitat although the Pool Frog may inhabit larger ponds if in a mixed population with edible frogs.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hazel Dormouse

This photo was the result of many hours stood at a tree in pitch black, waiting for a dormouse to move along the right branch and stop moving - they're far to fast to capture in motion! Dormice feed high up in the trees on a variety of food. They eat flowers and pollen during the spring, fruit in summer and nuts, particularly hazel nuts, in autumn. It is thought that insects are taken too. This variety of food must be available within a small area, a requirement which limits the suitability of some sites for dormice.

Wild Boar

I've already uploaded this photo before, but this is just a quick note to mention that this image has been included in the BWPA Awards book for 2015.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Norfolk Hawker

The Norfolk hawker is a large hawker dragonfly which is on the wing for a short period during June and the very beginning of July. A rare dragonfly, it is found in the marshes and fens of the Norfolk Broads along ditches where the aquatic plant, water soldier, grows. It needs unspoilt grazing marsh with non-saline water to survive. Having spent up to two years in the water, mature dragonfly larvae climb on to emerging vegetation at night, where they moult into adult dragonflies, leaving behind a cast known as an 'exuviae'. Newly emerged Norfolk hawkers wait until early morning to fly off to other areas to feed but will take another two to three weeks to reach maturity.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Eurasian Beaver

I saw my first Beaver in Scotland earlier this year, but was unable to photograph it. I've since made four visits to Devon getting to know the river down there. While I'm sure there were some near misses on at least a couple of those trips, and although Mink and Otter were seen, it took until the fourth trip to finally see Beavers. This is a kit which was born earlier this year. Not a great photo as it was almost completely dark.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Hawfinch

Another shot of one of our local speciality species, the Hawfinch. You can often find them in deciduous mature woodland with large trees, they prefer Cherry, Beech and Hornbeam. They are difficult to see, as they are shy and very well hidden in the undergrowth, if you approach with great care, you may see them feeding, but the least movement will disturb them, and off they go. You can see Hawfinches all year round; usually more easily seen outside the breeding season when trees are leafless and they feed more regularly on the ground.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Stonechat

A small, dumpy chat, the stonechat is a little smaller than a robin. Stonechats have quite a big head and short tail. They can frequently be seen sitting on the top of gorse bushes, flicking their wings and making a sound like two small stones being hit together. Stonechats inhabit heaths, bogs and conifer plantations. They eat invertebrates, seeds and fruit such as blackberries. Stonechats will breed in any open rough country with scattered bushes for nesting. As well as heathland, they breed on the chalk downs and along the coast in scrubby grassland.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Edible Dormouse

The Edible Dormouse was regarded as a delicacy by the Romans, giving rise to their common name. They are widespread on the continent, but only exist in Britain as a very localised population south-east of the Chilterns. They are nocturnal, and spend virtually all of their time in the trees, making them very difficult to spot or indeed photograph. Their bushy tails lend a squirrel-like appearance that is further enhanced by their dexterity in climbing and leaping through the trees of European forests. As the weather cools down during late autumn, edible dormice go into hibernation in underground tunnels, often in family groups.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Common Guillemot

This Common Guillemot was photographed on the Pembrokeshire coast. With a flight speed of 80kmph they're pretty fast, but not especially agile. The Guillemot has perhaps the smallest nesting territory of any British bird, extending a beak length round its nest (about 5cm) and its egg is so shaped as to roll in circles, rather than off the narrow cliff edge on which it is laid. It's a pursuit-diver that forages for food by swimming underwater using its wings for propulsion. Dives usually last less than one minute, but the bird swims underwater for distances of over 30m on a regular basis. Diving depths up to 180m have been recorded.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Chalkhill Blue

This Chalkhill Blue was photographed last weekend at Compton Abbas. The visit was primarily aimed at finding Silver-spotted Skippers, which was partially successful, in that a reasonable number were found, but the photos left a lot to be desired. At some sites many hundreds may be seen in August, flying just above the vegetation, searching for females. Large numbers of males may also congregate on animal dung and other sources of moisture and minerals. Females are much less conspicuous, being duller in colour, more secretive in their habits, and spending less time than the males in flight. The butterfly is confined to calcareous grassland in southern England and has declined in some areas during recent decades.

Monday, August 17, 2015

More Nightjar pictures

With the end of the Nightjar season fast approaching, this was probably my favourite shot of the year, though I still have a number of images and hours of footage to work through. They're fascinating birds, each an individual in their own way, and constantly raise questions the more they're studied. This is the same female bird that featured in the footage from the nest-cam that I recently posted. The following picture was taken from a different site, also in the Forest of Dean, and shows a male perched whilst singing.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Fallow Deer

Fallow Deer in the Forest of Dean. Like many species of deer, the Fallow Deer is active throughout the 24-hour period, but in areas where human disturbance is high, they tend to be more active at night. They typically graze on grasses and rushes, but may also browse on young leaves, and also take cereals, berries and acorns.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan photographed in the Northern Corries on Cairngorm mountain, beginning to lose the ermine phase plumage of winter. The Scottish race of the Ptarmigan is found only in Scotland, and is the only bird in Britain to turn white during winter. This gamebird has a rounded body, a small head and feathered feet that act as snow-shoes, allowing them to walk on soft snow. During summer, both sexes become greyish-brown, and females have more coarsely barred plumage with an overall yellowish hue. They blend in with lichen-covered rocks. In winter they turn totally white except for the short, black tail.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Pine marten

Pine marten, photographed in western Scotland. Until the 19th Century, pine martens were found throughout much of mainland Britain, the Isle of Wight and some of the Scottish islands. Habitat fragmentation, persecution by gamekeepers and martens being killed for their fur, drastically reduced this distribution. By 1926, the main pine marten population in Britain was restricted to a small area of north-west Scotland, with small numbers in N Wales and the Lake District. They have now increased their range in Scotland, and now occur throughout the Highlands, N of the Central Belt but remains one of the rarest native mammals in Great Britain, with a total population of around 3-4,000, but Ireland probably also has as many.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Duke of Burgundy

The Duke of Burgundy is the sole representative of a subfamily known as the "metalmarks", since some of its cousins, particularly those found in south America, have a metallic appearance. A curious characteristic of this subfamily is that the female has 6 fully-functional legs, whereas the male has only 4 - the forelegs being greatly reduced. The Duke of Burgundy was once classified as a fritillary, given the similarity with those fritillary species found in the British Isles.

Monday, August 03, 2015

European Nightjar nest-cam

Many evenings this summer have been dedicated to studying the Nightjar here in the Forest of Dean. As the sun goes down and the light fades, the Nightjar activity begins. We managed to find a nest this year, and took the opportunity to install a motion sensitive trail camera on it. This video summarises a huge amount of video clips (over 9 hours in all), starting from a day before hatching, and finishing with a hurried desertion of the nest site due to the risk of being trampled by Fallow Deer. Earlier in the sequence, a similar fate almost occurs, but the chicks are immobile, leaving the male bird to harass the deer away. Lots of other interesting behaviour and vocalisations were recorded. The bird pictured in the previous photo is the female parent that features in this video. More photos to follow soon...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

European Nightjar

The European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus can be a tricky species to study. Often, the male Nightjar’s unique churring call is the only sign that these migrants have arrived in the UK for the summer, unless you are lucky enough to see one silhouetted against the moonlight. This is a species associated with myths and legends. In many European languages, the Nightjar is known as the ‘goatsucker,’ with the genus name Caprimulgus deriving from the Latin for ‘milker of goats’. It was believed that Nightjars fed from goats due to often being found in close proximity to livestock. In reality, this insectivorous species would have been searching for prey associated with domestic animals. Others believed the calls of the Nightjar were the sound of witches hiding in the bushes.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Red Fox

Red Fox in the Forest of Dean setting out on its nightly hunting. The Red Fox mates from January through March. The female will make one or more dens right after mating. The extra dens are used if the original den is disturbed. A little less than two months after mating, the female gives birth to a litter of between one and ten kits. The male brings the female food while she is caring for the kits. The kits start playing outside the den when they are about a month old. The mother begins feeding her kits regurgitated food, but eventually she will bring them live prey to "play" with and eat. Playing with live prey helps the young kits develop the skills they will need for hunting. The kits leave their mother when they are about seven months old.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Large Blue

The Large Blue is widely distributed throughout Europe except for the extreme north and southern parts of Spain. The Large Blue became extinct in the UK in 1979, but has since been re-introduced, though it still remains a rarity. The best local site to me to see them is Daneway Banks managed by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hawfinch

The Hawfinch is a shy species, and therefore difficult to observe and study. It spends most of the day on top of high branches, above all during breeding season. During the course of the hawfinch's life it can only be seen on the ground while looking for seeds or drinking water, always near trees. While drinking and eating it is fairly aggressive and dominant, towards both its same species or different ones, even bigger birds.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mating Glow-worms

I've been spending a lot of nights recently on a Nightjar study in the Forest of Dean (photos to follow), which, due to the crepuscular nature of the Nightjar, often gives opportunities for other interesting wildlife sightings, such as these mating Glow-worms. The light from glow worms is cold, and is a form of bioluminescence. It is far more efficient than most light sources we are familiar with. It is caused when a molecule called luciferin is oxydised to produce oxyluciferin, with the enzyme luciferase acting as a catalyst in the reaction. Adult Lampyris noctiluca do not have the same control over the oxygen supply of many fireflies, which can switch their lights on and off in an instant, and take minutes to switch on or off. Larvae, however, have smaller light-emitting organs and can twinkle briefly. Male glow worms have the same ability, but it is rare to see them glow.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Adder

The female adder usually reproduces once every two years, returning to the site of hibernation towards the end of August or early September to give birth. The adder is viviparous, giving birth to between 3 and 18 live young which are initially encased in a membrane. After giving birth the female must feed intensively in order to build up sufficient reserves for hibernation (3). The young adders do not feed until the following year, but live off the yolk sac and fat reserves that they are born with. The adder reaches sexual maturity at three to four years of age.

Harvest Mouse

The harvest mouse is the only British animal with a truly prehensile tail that can be used as a fifth limb. When wrapped around a stem it can act as a brake or anchor. This makes it very nimble travelling and feeding in stems of cereals and grasses. They have a remarkable ability to sense vibrations through the soles of their feet. Larger animals in the vicinity can be sensed by vibrations passing through the ground and up the plant on which the mouse is feeding.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Golden-ringed Dragonfly

The golden-ringed dragonfly is a very large dragonfly which is on the wing from May to September. It is a dragonfly of small, acidic streams in moorland and heathland and may be found away from its breeding sites. The female of this species is the UK's longest dragonfly because of her long ovipositor. Golden-ringed dragonflies are voracious predators, feeding on large insects such as damselflies, other dragonflies, wasps, beetles and bumblebees. They are fast, agile and powerful flyers.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Marbled White

The female Marbled White was freshly emerged, and was in the process of drying out her wings after eclosion. At this stage she is unable to fly. The keen male spotted her hanging upside down, and they were instantly in copulation. However, the process of manoeuvring her in to position made her lose her grip and they both fell to the ground. Her soft wings crumpled and folded, meaning she had to crawl to the nearest blade of grass as quickly as possible, or she would never have been able to fly. She managed to do this, carrying the attached male as she climbed, and as shown in the photo, her wings unfolded perfectly.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Goshawk

A Goshawk chick, which has been lowered from its nest high in the canopy in order to be processed (ringed, measured, etc) as part of the work we do at http://glosraptors.co.uk/. Goshawks are still persecuted and their nests are frequently robbed.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Common Blue

Common Blue butterflies, in the process of making the species even more common. The brightly coloured males are conspicuous but females are more secretive. The colour of the upperwings of females varies from almost completely brown in southern England to predominantly blue in western Ireland and Scotland, but the colour is variable within local populations with some striking examples. Unlike Adonis and Chalkhill Blues, the dark veins do not extend into white fringes of wing margins.

Red-eared Slider

The population of Red-eared Sliders in the UK is largely a result of the illegal release of unwanted pets, where they exploit an ecological niche, as yet, untouched by any other species. In the UK they are omnivores, occurring in lakes, watercourse and wetlands; seeking out sheltered, sunlit areas where they often bask for hours. Branches over water, rocks and structures such as bird nests provide preferred basking areas. Red-eared Sliders target invertebrates e.g. dragonflies and their larvae, also bird nests and young birds. Their impact on birds is partly due to basking Sliders pushing nests down into the water together with any eggs; and partly due to predation of young birds by pulling them under water and drowning.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Red Fox

A Red Fox photographed during the onset of dusk in the Forest of Dean.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Norfolk Hawker

Norfolk hawkers are one of the first dragonflies to emerge on the wing, between May and August. They are one of only two brown hawkers found in Europe, the other being the more common brown hawker. Norfolk hawkers stand out in areas crowded with other dragonflies because of the yellow triangle on their abdomen and very prominent green eyes. In Britain, this small hawker is rather scarce living in and around the wet areas of the Norfolk Broads. Here the waters are clean and unpolluted, with a rich covering of plants to rest on and space in which to hunt.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Swallowtail and Large Blue eggs

I've made a number of dedicated butterfly outings again this year. Along the way I've been able to photograph the eggs of a number of species, including two of our rarest butterflies.
The previous post related to the Swallowtail in Norfolk. During that same trip, hours before finding any actual butterflies, we came across the eggs of the Swallowtail. In Norfolk, the swallowtail lays its eggs on milk parsley as this is the sole food plant of the caterpillar in Norfolk.
The Large Blue is single brooded with adults flying from mid-June until late July. Eggs are laid on the young flower buds of Wild Thyme. The larvae subsequently burrow into the flower head to feed on the flowers and developing seeds. Females lay eggs on plants growing in a range of vegetation heights, but survival is best in short turf where the host ant M.sabuleti is most abundant. When the larvae are around 4 mm long they drop to the ground and wait to be found by foraging red ants, attracting them with sweet secretions from a special 'honey' gland. The larvae are picked up by the ant and placed below ground within the brood chamber. The larvae then feed on ant grubs to achieve most of their final body weight, hibernating deep within the ant's nest. The larvae pupate in early May within the nest and the newly emerging adults have to crawl up above ground before expanding their wings.

Swallowtail

Swallowtail butterflies are large, colorful butterflies that form the family Papilionidae. Swallowtails differ from all other butterflies in a number of anatomical traits. Most notably, their caterpillars possess a unique organ behind their heads, called the osmeterium. Normally hidden, this forked structure can be everted when the caterpillar is threatened, and emits smelly secretions containing terpenes. The adults are often tailed like the forked tail of some swallows, giving the insect its name. Photographed at Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Razorbill

Razorbills are pursuit divers that propel themselves through the water with their wings. They are capable of diving to 120m depth, but mostly forage nearer the surface. They spend most of their lives at sea, only arriving ashore to reproduce. During the prelaying period, they never spend a night in the nest, and even after the egg is laid, only one parent remains in the nest. This species is not particularly vocal, but a deep creaking 'urrr' is produced by breeding individuals.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Large Blue

Yesterday I went in search of the Large Blue. I first photographed the Large Blue this time last year. A return to the same site this year took a lot more effort to find any at all, but eventually 2 or 3 were seen, all very active either nectaring or laying. Photo opportunities were limited, especially when there was thyme between the butterfly and me, as potentially treading on the valuable eggs is a sacrifice not worth making for a photograph. It's early days still, and I'm sure more will emerge in the coming week, so a re-visit will have to be made. The species became extinct in the UK, and now exists again here thanks to a very successful reintroduction. The Large Blue caterpillar hatches on thyme buds and then tricks the ants into believing it is one of their own grubs. Ants then carry it underground to their nest where it feeds on the ant grubs for 10 months before pupating and emerging as a butterfly.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

List update

The last week or so has provided me with a number of new species to add to the list, taking the British total of species I've photographed to 567. Recently I've been leaving the lights on outside the house to watch the Foxes and Badgers that are now visiting daily, and this has attracted some new moths, such as the Pretty Chalk Carpet, and last night, the huge Fox Moth. Immediately after finding the Fox Moth, it landed, posed for photographs, then promptly started to lay eggs. A trip to Norfolk produced a few long overdue species, some of which I'd seen before but never photographed, and others that were new to me. Most notable was probably the Swallowtail butterfly, of which I saw two feeding amonth the Ragged Robin at Strumpshaw Fen. The Scarce Chaser was another addition from the same trip, along with the increasingly common, but until last week, un-photographed Tree Bumblebee. Pictures of most of these will be added to the blog sooner or later - it's very rare for me to post my photos chronologically or promptly!

Hawfinch

The Hawfinch is our largest Finch, up to 18cm and has a huge strong bill, it is large headed and bull necked. It is very shy. It is an uncommon British breeding resident with around 800 pairs. It occurs in deciduous woodland habitat throughout the country, however, although widely distributed, it is very localised, shy and difficult to observe. They are particularly attracted to stands of Hornbeams, Elm and Cherry. Their shy and retiring habits and lack of conspicuous song make it possible for people to live for years without discovering the presence of hawfinches. This one was photographed locally in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.