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ShareMondays2020 – The Skipper And The Copper

The Skipper and the Copper

ShareMondays2020 – The Skipper And The Copper

What a joyous few days spent amongst the butterflies last week! It started with a first for the camera with this stunning white admiral in the woodlands of Bookham Commons. The commons have the ideal habitat with dappled shade, bramble blossom that adults sip nectar from, and honeysuckle where they will lay their eggs.

White Admiral in woodland

The chalk slopes of the Surrey Hills AONB have the ideal grass and scrub for meadow butterflies like the small, large and Essex skippers that I saw. I stayed away from the hundreds of people heading for the top of Box Hill and took Simon over to Denbies Hillside, near Ranmore Common. Such fabulous views across to Leith Hill, down to Dorking and views up The Pilgrims Ways toward Guildford.

Essex Skipper

The marbled whites emerge, en masse, and are drawn to purple flowers to feed from. They are stunning and ethereal, the spirits, or sylphs of the hillside.

SylphMarbled WhiteMarbled White

There were only a few people out at these National Trust managed sites and I was so relieved to be able to get outside again safely! I can’t resist leading with my image of the chance meeting of the Essex Skipper and Small Copper on the grass seeds. They stopped briefly, at a safe social distance, greeted one another and then took flight again.

 

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ShareMondays2020 – Skipping Through The Meadows

Small Skipper

ShareMondays2020 – Skipping Through The Meadows

I ventured out of the house for the first time since March 22nd last Friday! I’m still shielding, but we have been advised that we can go outside once a day, for health benefits, as long as we follow strict social distancing. It was so nerve-wracking, but the wildlife at the Heather Farm Wetlands area welcomed me back with what felt like a huge hug to the senses. The sights, sounds, scents, space and the feel of the breeze was just the therapeutic boost I needed. It’s peaceful in the wetlands, with only a few visitors, who were all keeping a good distance. I felt safe and that was really important!

Skipper and Flower Beetles

I didn’t have to go far before seeing skippers flitting about all around me among the grasses. It was magic! A mix of both small and Essex skippers were so abundant in this perfect habitat. One obliging small skipper allowed me to get close-up with the macro lens and I hope this shows you why I just adore them. So fluffy, with the most enormous eyes! They were adorning the thistles along with thick-legged flower beetles, spiders and froghoppers (the larvae produce cuckoo spit!). See if you can spot them!

Skipper on Thistle

Grasses are so important to skippers! Small skipper larvae usually feed on Yorkshire-fog grass, and Essex skipper larvae will usually be found on Cock’s-foot grass. Both species will also use Timothy, False Brome, Meadow Foxtail and Creeping Soft grass. Aren’t they just the most wonderful names? Both the Woodland Trust and Wildlife Trusts have great information about grasses and sedges!

Essex Skipper on grasses

It’s really difficult to differentiate between the small and Essex skippers! It’s actually a bit early to be seeing the Essex on the wing, they would usually appear in July. Many of our butterflies have been emerging early this year, after the hot month of May. I am pretty sure that a number of the skippers I saw were the Essex, as a head-on view showed me the black-tipped antennae. The small skipper has an orange-brown tip.

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#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Hanging On

Hanging On

#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Hanging On

Hanging On

The winds are blowing
We’re hanging on by a thread
The times are changing

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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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ShareMondays2018 – Where’s Jenny?

Where's Jenny?

ShareMondays2018 – Where’s Jenny?

Spot the wren! Not too hard to find with the Fujinon 100-400mm with a 1.4x tele-converter, but it is quite a challenge finding and following these birds in the grasses and reeds of Papercourt Meadows, alongside the Wey Navigation, with the naked eye. It’s a haven for wrens and I would estimate that there was an individual wren every few metres along the short stretch between Papercourt and Newark Lock. My tips for finding them are to find a good habitat spot, go early morning or evening, listen for the chatter or song, keep very still and look for movement (perhaps with binoculars or spotting scope) in the area where you can hear them singing. In this case I tracked the wren’s position by watching the grasses moving and kept the camera focussed on those areas, waiting for little Jenny to pop up into view. Be patient, let the wildlife come to you! Information on habitat can be found on the RSPB and BTO websites.

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ShareMondays2018 – Ghosts And Echoes

Ghosts

ShareMondays2018 – Ghosts And Echoes

Ghosts: A colourised, black and white image of seed-pods ghosting among the grasses at Heather Farm Wetlands Centre. I loved the way they moved in the breeze, seemingly detached from the rest of the plant. The scene called to my memories of black and white film photography and experimenting in the darkroom. As I looked through the lens I could see high key, stained and etched, showing the pods off like fireworks or bursting stars. Really happy with the end result!

Echoes: One of the things that I loved doing in the darkroom was multiple exposures, either from one negative, or several, to create my art. Echoes was created from three exposures, one with more contrast and two slightly offset exposures that shifted the focal point of the subjects. This image is a homage to the way I used to work in film, now created using digital processing. Digital doesn’t dilute the origins of creative photography, it has provided me a way to recreate darkroom processes as well as opening up so many more ways to be creative with post processing in colour as well as black and white.

Echoes

Ghosts and Echoes are a memory of the past, a celebration of the present and excitement for the future of the photographic process.

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ShareMondays2018 – A Photographic First

Brown Argus at RHS Wisley Gardens

ShareMondays2018 – A Photographic First

For ShareMondays and Wex Mondays this week is this perfect little brown argus butterfly in the grasses at RHS Wisley Gardens last week. This was the first time I have seen this species at Wisley, the first time I have been able to positively identify the sight of one in the UK and the first time I have photographed one! I was very excited. Then I realised that there were two! I almost did a little dance but my legs had seized up from trying to crouch. A great species to be able to add to my Big Butterfly Count this past week.