Sunday, 30 August 2009

Bug Hunting

Once again I feel that I should start with a warm vote of thanks to the EDDC team for a fantastic day - Charlie is bound to be reviewing those salaries shortly!!!
Seaton Marshes is a well managed and stocked Nature Reserve set adjacent to the equally impressive Axe Estuary. It hosts a large water filled pit with an island for the local wildlife to enjoy some privacy! The site is choc full of Flora and Fauna delights, and every step you will find something - if you are looking. You can dip the pond for an introduction to yet more minibeasts, of which there are many. There are wildfowl at the pond and a hide from which to observe those on the estuary. Should you wish to, it is equally adept for a nice summers day walk and maybe even a picnic
We started off with a quick peek to see what was about before the hoards decended and were instantly met by Common and Bluetail Damselflies, before walking on and bumping into a Ruddy Darter.
The verges were full of Fleabane, Knapweed and Willow Herb which in turn were covered with a multitude of nectar collecting hoverflies and butterflies, most notably Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Large White.
Shortly after, the Pond dipping began in earnest and we soon had quite a collection of Waterboatmen, Screech Beetles, Mayfly Larvae, Diving Beetles, Hog Louse, Saucer Bugs and a fantastic Dragonfly Nymph, a later sweep would see Stick Insects pulled in as well.

Following the dipping, sampling of the meadow wildlife was undertaken and many finds were quick to come in, an assortment of Grashoppers including the pictured pink one, a Silver Y Moth, Spiders, Bush Crickets and other inverterbrates swiftly ensued for expert identification.

All in all a very productive day with some great finds from a very well managed and furtile spot, I for one shall be returning with my youngsters to investigate further what we can find and just for the sheer joy of the surroundings.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Wet and Wild at Seaton Marshes

I,d like to start this post with a big thankyou to East Devon District Council's environmental department for a wonderful day, all four of us were entertained throughout the day as well as our knowledge levels ever increasing. Definitely a good day out.

So what was it about? Well 3 days of various wildlife and nature orientated events set in the glorious surroundings of Seaton Marshes Nature Reserve - in Seaton if you were wondering! With Moth trapping, Bat walks, Bird Ringing and watching, bushcraft skills - Mel's Favourite, she is now definitely a fan of the nettle! Without a doubt the star of the show for my kids anyway was the pond dipping. The 3 year old stripped down and waded in - not necessarily advisable but an indictment of her willingness to get involved. The 7 year old could not be torn away under any circumstances, hats off to James Chubb for his patience and attentiveness to her continuous string of enquiries and presentations of "another" net full of creepy crawlies.

What was great to see was the sheer diversity of live around the pond site still for 5 minutes and look carefully at the stands of grass, thistle or fleabane and you will soon tune into the sights before you - Bush Crickets, Damselflies, Dragonflies, Bumble Bees, Drone flies of several types, several kinds of Beetle, innumerate other flying invertebrates that I can not list as I don't what they are!!! and of course a fair splattering of butterfly varieties. I'm told the area holds a fantastic array of birds, more than enough for any twitcher, unfortunately I was unable to take time to appreciate this but will be sure to try next time.

It's a place well worth visiting even if event is on and I will be sure to go back for a lone session of photography - Children can prove distracting when trying to get high quality shots, especially when they wave a wet pond net over your head at the crucial moment!

In search of Snakes

This outing saw me taking the bull by the horns and seeking out my nemesis - well a subject that I have yet to add to my image library despite many cursory attempts. I say cursory as I am maintaining my position of indifference about having actually attempting properly to obtain a shot. Anyway acting on a hot tip about Fire Beacon Hill, thanks to EDDC for the tip, I trooped on up there. What a cracking sight, views across the bay, wonderful swathes of heather, sounds of the Dartford Warbler and Stonechat to completely overwhelm the senses - so what first?

Alas I made yet again the fatal mistake of towing along the family, a 3 year old excitable then bored then excitable then bored etc..etc.. , mother not knowing why we are there and a 7 year old as keen to get the shot as me is very distracting for photographer and for their subjects!

My second mistake was lack of preparation, in as much as I had no idea where to be looking! I found several disappearing tails, proof positive of Lizards, I have plenty of shots of those, but not a Dickie bird from the Adders. So I contented myself with the odd shot of a gatekeeper, an unknown caterpillar, (I'm still awaiting ID - if you can help please do!), plenty of grasshoppers and a rather unusual small copper that had a near white fore wing.

Needless to say I will now have gained the additional information required and so will shortly make the trip back and get the shot I have only just decided I shall attempt - there are some out there who know what I mean!!!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

DWT - The Rough

Today, I found myself driven to find a meadow type landscape in search of butterflies and so it was Devon Wildlife Trusts site The Rough I turned to. Mainly due to lack of travelling distance but also, I had not visited for a while and was curious to see how it had developed. Surrounded by Beech trees and an understory of Hazel with views across the Otter valley it has the potential to offer a lot.

WOW.....what an entemological bonanza!!! my head was spinning faster than Peter Mandelson! All around me were Painted Ladies, Wood whites and Meadow Browns intermingled with Common Blue, Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies and probably more but I could not keep up!

On top of this were copious sounds and sights of Crickets and Grasshoppers including, common green, meadow and Bog Bush-Crickets. Craneflies, Hoverflies, Bumblebees, (too many varieties to mention!), Click Beetles and even golden Ringed Dragonflies. That is just a taster of what can be found with very little effort - one warning though, "the Rough" is aptly named, you will need stout, waterproof footwear and a sense of balance or a stick!(maybe two!)

The flora does not disappoint either with Birds-Foot-Trefoil, Meadowsweet, Selfheal, Greater Knapweed, Thistle, Oxeye Daisy, Umbelaforms aplenty, the smell and sight of Corn Mint and Marestail to 4 feet!!!. I even found the seed pods of a few Spotted Orchids.

Buzzards soared overhead as Squirrels hunting down Hazelnuts, deer hoof prints in the mud and as I was leaving a Tawny Owl decided to announce it's presence, for a little exploratory outing this was quite a result, needless to say I will be returning shortly for a longer spell.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

River Dipping

A slight variation on the theme of pond dipping, same equipment, even some of the same animals to be found. This visit was to be on the River Tale at Escot Estate with my daughter, (as a birthday treat!!!). Having bought some bits and pieces for me.... errr I mean her, we set off full of enthusiasm despite the threatening weather. En route we found many insects some we were able to catch and examine and some to photograph. Large White butterflies feeding on the thistles along with a 5 Spot Burnet Moth, numerous grasshoppers, hover flies, damselflies and even a fleeting glimpse of a dragonfly!

5 Spot Burnet MothLarge White

On arrival at the riverside we dispensed with our sodden footwear, (somebody forgot to pack the wellies!!!), and proceeded to prod, sweep and generally churn up the bottom of the river to see what we could turn up. Indeed what we caught was a large amount of Bullheads, Stone Loach, an Eel, Minnows, several Mayfly Nymphs, Nematodes, Screech Beetles and a stunning Damselfly larvae, all in all a very successful dip, until we were disturbed by some out of control Labradors!!!. So lunch had, wildlife viewed, identified and returned we headed to the gardens to see what we could find of the Lizard variety.

This turned out to be particularly successful with 6 adults found and a dozen 1-3 week old babies, I'm sure there are more, last year saw over 60 individuals in a single survey, however the weather was not in our favour nor the time of day. They like to bask in temperatures between 9 - 21 Celsius and have an optimum internal temp of 30 degrees, so in the middle of the day tend to seek shade or hunt for small insects rather than sit invitingly for us to view.

Baby Lizard Adult Lizards