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ShareMondays2019 – Jewel In The Grasses

Male Banded Demoiselle

ShareMondays2019 – Jewel In The Grasses

I’m taking part in the Wildlife Trust’s challenge 30DaysWild this June. The challenge is to do something wild every day! There are lots of ideas for exploring wildlife and nature on the website and app. I like to get outdoors as much as possible but, sometimes my fatigue stops me from doing much.

Having a lot of local nature reserves is a big help! If I can manage to spend just an hour or so at Wisley or Heather Farm on Horsell Common, I feel so much better, physically and mentally. It gives me the opportunity to survey the areas for the wildlife that I love and just to breathe fresh air and relax to the peacefulness and sound of birdsong.

This male banded demoiselle was my first challenge image that I shared straight to Twitter. Everyone has really loved it so I’m sharing it again today, with a wider audience and for the ShareMondays, Wex Mondays and Fotospeed challenges.

The females are quite stunning little jewels too!

Female Banded Demoiselle

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ShareMondays2019 – Beauty And The Beast

Ichneumonid parasitoid wasp and common blue butterfly

ShareMondays2019 – Beauty And The Beast

The beauty is a common blue butterfly, a real favourite of mine! The beast in question is an Ichneumonid wasp. They are parasitoids, meaning that their larvae infect and feed on other invertebrates, eventually killing the host. I think this particular wasp is Apechthis compunctor, which lays its’ eggs in the pupae of butterflies. The adult often emerges from the butterfly itself. No small wonder that I would see them at NT Denbies Hillside, amidst the wonderful array of blue and copper butterflies that were on the wing. I can’t be 100% on my ID as these insects aren’t a specialist knowledge of mine, also there are well over 2000 species of ichneumonids in the UK! Watching this wasp actually fly right up to the common blue that I was photographing was fascinating, even though it gave me the creeps. I just kept photographing, hoping that I could capture a shot that told a story of the interrelationship between invertebrate species. This has to be my story and photograph of the week, even if there is an undercurrent of horror about it! Ecology is all about the interrelationships within specific ecosystems. Every time I get to watch something like this I learn more.

Ichneumonid parasitoid wasp and common blue butterfly

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ShareMondays2019 – Ringing In The Rain

Bluebells

ShareMondays2019 – Ringing In The Rain

I thought I’d join the bluebell party this week! I found these little bells at the Valley Gardens, which are linked to Virginia Water and Savill Garden, part of Windsor Great Park. The azaleas and rhododendron are absolutely glorious but the bluebells were totally enchanting!

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ShareMondays2019 – Watching The Whitethroat

Whitethroat at Heather Farm

ShareMondays2019 – Watching The Whitethroat

I’ve been watching the whitethroat at Heather Farm again this week. There are definitely two pairs nesting within a short distance from the carpark and cafe. You can watch them flying across the reeds and singing in the silver birch while sitting outside the cafe enjoying a drink (and maybe a cake!).

Whitethroat at Heather Farm

Whitethroat from the birdhide

For a closer look, head to the birdhide and look behind you, into the shrubs and up into the birch. There’s another pair in the thicket and reeds by the boardwalk, over the pond, as you enter the wetlands from the carpark.

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Whitethroat in shrubs seen from the boardwalk

They’re not the only birds busily building nests or feeding young in these thicket havens. Wrens, robins, dunnock, goldfinch and reed bunting are all sharing these patches, regularly popping up to the top of reeds or shrubs, to join their voices together in a wonderful chorus!

Whitethroat in the reeds at Heather Farm

Whitethroat in the reeds near the birdhide

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Out Of Africa

Whitethroat

Eye to Eye with Sylvia

Out Of Africa

No, I’m not in Africa, but this little whitethroat (Sylvia communis) was until just recently! They over-winter in sub-Saharan Africa before returning to breeding grounds, across Europe, in mid April. Whitethroats are warblers and have such a beautiful song. They’re similar in appearance to reed and garden warblers but have a longer tail and much more defined white throat. They are quite short-lived birds, usually about 2 years, so I suspect that the ones returning to this exact same nest-site, at Heather Farm wetlands centre, are the juveniles I saw fledging last summer.

Whitethroat

Female Whitethroat

I spotted the first male on Easter Sunday when out with my hubby. I wish he could feel as excited as me about such sightings, but he was very happy that it was sunny and warm, with a spot of grass to lay out on and the cafe for an ice-cream! Yesterday wasn’t quite so warm and bright but I am pretty certain that this whitethroat is a returning female. It’s slightly less defined in colour and markings and was busily collecting soft nesting material that it took back into the shrub that it’s perched on.

Male Whitethoat

Male Whitethroat warbling

Male Whitethroat

Perched in the birdhide, looking out through the way in, I can watch these wonderful little birds flitting in and out of their nest site, stopping to sing or feed, for hours. I’m certain they’re aware of me, in fact they often look me straight in the eye, with head cocked questioningly, but if I keep perfectly still they’ll just carry on about their business. I love these little moments of connection, it’s almost as if you’re having a silent conversation through mere eye contact! I can’t wait to see how this pair develop and really hope that I will get to see fledglings again later in the Summer.

If, like me, you love birdsong, why not head over to the RSPB website and buy or stream the single Let Nature Sing! You can help us get birdsong to the top of the charts by listening to something truly beautiful by May 2nd. I would encourage you all to visit their page on warblers and listen to the amazing songs of these natural-born singers!

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Brimstone On Bluebells

Brimstone On Bluebells

Brimstone On Bluebells

I think the sight of British bluebells in Spring is only completed when adorned with a brimstone butterfly! This sight is definitely one of my favourite things 🙂

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Be The Canvas, Embrace The Colour!

Amy Turk - Be The Canvas, Embrace The Colour!

Be The Canvas, Embrace The Colour!

It’s the wee small hours of the morning but I just wanted everyone to start their Monday off with the joy of colour, collaboration and art. Amy Turk, you were an absolute joy to work with. This is the final image from the day when all the paint and Holi powder had been (literally) thrown into the mix of our painted canvas backdrop and make-up done by myself and Julia K. Our team was completed by videographer, John Hoskinson and my wonderful hubby, Simon Williams. Turns were taken mixing paint, placing and holding the backdrop, setting lights, making tea, chucking paint and powder about, all whilst looking like a bunch of extras from Breaking Bad or CSI in our blue boilersuits, gloves and shoe protectors! What a BRILLIANT way to spend a Sunday 😀

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Something To Shout About!

Something To Shout About

Something To Shout About!

This resplendent pheasant at RHS Wisley Gardens definitely had something to shout about last Friday! It was delightful to watch him strutting about in the hazy sunshine. All the birds seemed to be enjoying a brief respite from the cold, wet snap we had. April showers have put quite a damper on birding! There’s still plenty of colourful blossom and magnolia to see around the gardens. Trees are coming in to leaf and Spring is well under way!

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ShareMondays2019 – Uncommon Beauty

Uncommon Beauty

ShareMondays2019 – Uncommon Beauty

I spent much of my birthday on Thursday at Thursley Common NNR, near Elstead in Surrey. I went in search of dartford warblers, curlew and lizards. The lizards managed to evade me, although other visitors did spot a couple on the boardwalk when the sun  came out! The curlew flew over me twice which was a treat to see and I found my dartford warblers at the far end of the boardwalk, near the dragonfly sculpture. Other signtings included stonechat, chiffchaff, goldfinch, redpoll, great and blue tits, greylag geese, mallard, wren and a bit of smoke on the horizon.

After the recent, devastating wildfire on Chobham Common, the sight of smoke on our heathland is a bit worrying! It was soon apparent that this was a small contained fire, most likely where the ranger was doing some land management. 325 hectare of woodland, peat bogs, heathland, ponds and ditches is a huge area to manage so the ranger, James Giles, organises volunteer workparties to maintain this precious resource. The wispy smoke created a atmospheric haze through the distant pines. Once I knew it wasn’t a concern, I was able to sit back in my wheelchair and marvel in it’s uncommon beauty.

Dartford Warber