I had the most beautiful encounter with a family of whitethroat at Papercourt Meadows last Friday. I’d missed the arrival of these wonderful summer migrant birds while I was shut indoors, shielding. What a wonderful and welcoming return for me to one of the local birding sites, being greeted by these gorgeous fledglings! The adults are starting to look rather untidy (pressures of parenthood and the start of the moult!) so I will keep their modesty intact and not share their photos. The fledglings are doing quite well picking insects from the buddleja and brambles, but they’re still demanding plenty of feeds from their parents!
The meadows are looking wonderful! A great variety of grasses and wildflowers that provides such a fantastic habitat for lots of insects and birds. Distant, but wonderful sighting of the kestrel, hovering over the grassland, and so many wrens singing their little hearts out!
A fabulous array of butterflies greeted us too! Peacocks, red admirals, gatekeepers, commas, large and small whites, skippers and absolutely stunning ringlets! They have fabulous false-eye markings and really shimmer in the light.
I shall definitely be returning soon to collect numbers for the Big Butterfly Count for Butterfly Conservation! You can join in the annual citizen science survey HERE. Have a great week everyone!
Finding a family of whitethroats (one of our many summer visitors from the warbler family) living next to the bird hide at Heather Farm has been a real treat! They’re actually behind the hide which makes it harder to hide from them. They, however, are very adept at staying hidden even when I can clearly hear them. Often the first clue is the tutting noise from one of the adults as they call the fledgelings out. Eventually one will make an appearance as I keep as still and silent as possible!
The next clue is the rustling and shaking in the brambles. The juveniles are in there somewhere! They eat a mix of insects and berries so are really enjoying feasting on the early blackberries. I watch the trail of movement through the brambles until one of the youngsters finally pops into view!
They don’t see me as a threat as I stay in the shadows of the hide, still and silent. Soon three fledgelings are bustling about on the brambles, before moving up into the branches of the three silver birches in this little grove. They really seem to enjoy the seeds of the birch trees! Two of these trees have been greatly affected by this summer’s heatwave. The seeds have matured early and the leaves have browned as the tree sheds them to conserve it’s dwindling water supply. The birds are easy to spot in the green leaves but utterly camouflaged against the browns, as you can see in my lead image!
Eventually the adults led their brood into the reeds near the boardwalks at the entrance to the wetlands centre. The reeds swayed and shook for a while to show their progress but they were soon well hidden from my sight or that of potential predators. I loved watching the little family and hope to see more of them before the end of the season. The previous morning I had attended a bird-ringing event at the centre, led by Surrey BTO, Horsell Common Preservation Society and The Thames Basin Heath Partnership. We had ringed lots of blackcaps, tits, reed warblers and wrens but the whitethroats had evaded us! It’s wonderful to see the success of this recently created nature reserve growing year on year. Today I’m sharing my camouflaged whitethroat as part of WexMondays.
This is my third image from my encounter with this dear little blackcap. After feeding and cleaning it’s beak, it hopped up into the branches of the shrubs, in the the riverside hedgerow, to preen. Some of those feathers are still quite downy and the gape (oral flanges) in the corners of the beak are clear to see. I have no idea exactly how old this fledgeling is but it certainly seems to be fending for itself well! The brambles were providing a feast for bees, butterflies and birds. My mum might just have sneaked a few ripe berries for herself too!
I’m sharing this second image of the juvenile blackcap, that I encountered yesterday, for today’s Fotospeed challenge. I haven’t had to crop these images much at all. I was so close to my subject I could hardly believe it! The blackcap was very aware of me and the numerous passers-by on the Thames Path, but was completely unfazed, gorging itself of the bountiful berries before hopping further up into the brambles to clean it’s blackberry-stained beak. I loved the way the light caught it’s face as it turned and stared straight down my lens!
Last week brought so many fantastic photography opportunities, but the ones that I most want to share in this weeks Monday photo-challenges are among the last few images that I captured yesterday in the late afternoon. I was with my parents at The Weir in Walton, on the banks of the Thames, near Sunbury Lock. There was an abundance of wildlife in the brambles and trees along the river path. I almost missed this juvenile blackcap picking blackberries. It’s often the song that first alerts me to the presence of a bird but this little one was being very quiet. It’s efforts to pick the blackberries where rather clumsy though and the sight of a shaking bramble bush gave the game away! I took a closer look and a shaft of sunlight caught upon this cheeky little face. I was pretty sure the youngster was a blackcap having seen an adult male in the vicinity earlier on. It’s perfect habitat for them as they feed on both berries and insects! I’m sharing this first image for Wex Mondays. More to follow!
Whilst on a family day out at Newlands Corner, a beauty spot with wonderful views, in the Surrey Hills, I went butterfly chasing. I thought I’d spotted a skipper so I tried to weave my way through the brambles and nettles to get a photo. What I saw had me quite perplexed as it clearly had markings that I didn’t recognise for a skipper but was the same shape and size. I managed to get a few photos of several of them flitting among the brambles and wildflowers.
When I got home and onto the computer, I brought up the UK Butterfly and moth identification guides and got to work. It didn’t match any of the skippers, coppers or fritillaries so on the off-chance I went over to moths.
The result was thoroughly unexpected! I’ve never seen one of these little beauties before but it is, indeed, one of our day-flying moths! It’s called a Speckled Yellow, scientific name: Pseudopanthera macularia. I hope you’ll agree that it really is a little gem 🙂