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Blue Monday: Colourful Corvid

Jay

Blue Monday: Colourful Corvid

Most people think of members of the crow family as being large, black and raucous. Whilst the Jay is not a small bird by any means, it is definitely the most colourful and shy corvid family member in the UK. It was a treat to watch this beauty in the Wild Woods at RHS Wisley Gardens last week, as I slowly wended my way back out from volunteering with Butterfly Conservation in The Glasshouse. That flash of blue on the wings of the jay is just as startlingly beautiful and iridescent as the wings on the Blue Morpho butterflies, flying in the tropical zone of the glasshouse at the moment.

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Wings Of Love

Atrophaneura semperi - Big Billy or Red-bodied Swallowtail

Wings Of Love

This seemed like the perfect butterfly image for the Fotospeed challenge this week. With Valentine’s Day approaching how could I not share my love of lepidoptera with you all?

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Malachite Macro

Malachite Macro

Malachite Macro

One of the great joys of visiting a butterfly house is the ability to see large, tropical butterflies up close. Every single tiny and perfect detail of these beautiful creatures is revealed. The wings are a mosaic masterpiece of scales and hairs that will allow the butterfly to blend perfectly into its’ surroundings, or send a bold warning to potential predators. The malachite is a master of disguise but the macro lens allows me to bring you the finer details of it’s camouflage. This was taken at RHS Wisley Gardens last Monday while I was volunteering for the Surrey branch of Butterfly Conservation UK, helping man our stand in the Glasshouse, during the annual Butterflies In The Glasshouse event. I really enjoy engaging with the public at this event, sharing my passion for butterflies of the UK and Europe, as well as the tropical species. I’m sharing this macro for Wex Mondays this week and I hope it will inspire others to look more closely at butterflies too.

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The Unexpected Grass Snake

Grass Snake in The Glasshouse

The Unexpected Grass Snake

If you go down to The Glasshouse at RHS Wisley Gardens for the Tropical Butterfly event, you might just spot the local grass snake who has been coming into the warmth of the tropical zone for the last few winters. It’s currently the hibernation period for our native reptiles. This clever snake has found a great place to keep warm as well as being able to keep feeding on any insects and small mammals that have also found their way into the shelter of the glasshouse.

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Blue Monday: Big Garden Birdwatch

Blue Tit

Blue Monday: Big Garden Birdwatch

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is a citizen science project that has been running for almost fourty years and helps provide a “snapshot” of bird numbers across the UK. The data collected helps inform the RSPB of any problems in bird numbers. Steps can then be taken to identify the reasons for these problems and find resolutions. The data collected over the years can also provide us with some great success stories. Since the start of Birdwatch, blue tit numbers have actually increased by twenty percent!

On Saturday morning I joined a group of wildlife enthusiasts at RHS Wisley Gardens for a tour of the grounds, identifying different bird species, led by experts from the North West Surrey branch of the RSPB. The highlight of the morning for me was a flock of siskin found near the bottom of  Battleston Hill. They were very silhouetted againgst the morning skies but I finally managed to get a shot of one to show you the wonderful yellow colourings. We estimated there were around fourty birds in the flock.

Siskin

Siskin

On our way up to the orchards we saw a mistle thrush in the oaks. I shall be looking out for it in the area as I couldn’t get a close enough view for a photograph. The flocks of fieldfare and redwing were also keeping their distance from us in the orchards but we witnessed them swooping and diving to outwit the local buzzard. Quite a sight! There are more flocks of redwing feeding on the lawn areas at Seven Acres and around the lakes. Recent rainfall has turned the ground marsh-like, bringing up plenty of insects and worms for these hungry winter visitors. Among the flocks are other thrush, robins and blackbirds all taking advantage of this feast. I was delighted to see the Egyptian Geese have returned to the lake again! Hopefully they will have their goslings at Wisley again this year.

Egyptian Geese

Egyptian Geese

We finished our birdwatch at the birdhide situated at the far end of the Pinetum, on the banks of the Wey. With so many of us in the group it was hard for me to get many photographs but we were all delighted to see the nuthatch, chaffinches, robins, parakeets, ducks, moorhens and very healthy numbers of tits. There were great, blue and coal tits all visiting the feeders and flitting around in the trees and scrub. I’m putting one of my shots of a blue tit, with absolutely wonderful colouring, into this week’s Fotospeed challenge. A perfect example of a citizen science success story!

Many thanks to Amy from RHS Wisley for organising the workshops and educational events at the gardens, and to NW Surrey RSPB for leading the event and providing some great information and close-up views with their spotting scopes.