Monthly Archives: March 2012

Things that Spring

The days have been getting longer and the anticipation has been growing stronger. Spring is here! The time of year that delights everyone! Migrant animals start arriving, the hibernating beasts awake and the naturalist relish every minute.

 

Frog SpawnA mass of tadpoles!

 

 

 

 

Froglet

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the time of year where you can watch spawn turn to tadpoles, tadpoles to froglets, froglets to frogs.

 

Young Smooth Newt

 

 

 

Smooth Newt

Smooth Newt

 

 

 

 

 

Common Newts wake from their muddy winter hibernation and migrate to local ponds. A new generation is brought about by captivating flashing of tails.

 

Dung Fly

 

New sightings can be made. To me, cow pats are something to avoid rather than take a closer look at, otherwise I might have seen this odd looking Dung Fly before. There’s always something new to find in this big wide natural world.

 

PeacockSmall Tortoiseshell

 

 

 

 

Speckled Wood

 

 

 

 

 

Peacocks; Small Tortoiseshells; Speckled Wood start appearing and flitting about!

 

Blue Tit fledglingGreat Tit

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Tit and Great Tit chicks are heard and then seen. Some are keenly watched by millions from egg to first flight; others families are the private delight to a loyal naturalist visiting their treasured local spot.

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Eight Legged Freaks

Having used a spider photo in my previous blog, and after reading a blog @aBugBlog about spiders, I thought I would share a few of my favourite spider photos and memories!

Mary-Jane 2Mary-Jane 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary-Jane 3Mary-Jane 4

 

 

 

 

 

Mary-Jane, an Orb Web Spider, named by my flatmate in honour of Spiderman‘s girlfriend/wife (depending on which graphic novel/film/cartoon you like!). She sat in our porch all winter, hunkered down, legs tucked in under her body. My flatmate recounts how I walked up to Mary-Jane one night – her front legs were splayed out, and as I approached saying ‘look at you all spread out’ I threw my arms out and went ‘RAGH’ at Mary-Jane in mimicry of her posture and attitude. This rather amused my flatmate who still likes to remind me of the day I forgot myself!

Garden SpiderGarden Spider and Ladybird

 

 

 

 

Garden Spider and WaspGarden Spider and Honeybee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn of 2010 saw the UK entertain a huge population of Garden Spiders; I was finding them everywhere as they dined on ladybirds, wasps and honeybees. Looking at these spiders was my turning point, I had never really taken to spiders till this influx. Taking a closer look I realised just how amazing these creatures are as my skin-crawling feeling dissipated.

Nursey Web Spider

Nursey Web Spider

Then, of course, we have Nursery Web Spiders. They are diligent parents, carefully carrying their huge white egg sacks underneath their grey and brown striped body.

Harvestman

Not all spiders are compacted tough looking things, some look delicate and intricate! I found these Harvestman on a walk at local Nature Reserve. I very nearly missed them even though they where sat right beneath an information sign!

Tiny Spider 1Tiny Spider 2

 

 

 

 

Tiny Spider 3Tiny Spider 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are tiny spiders that we walk past every day, so often ignored or unnoticed. It’s only when you take a closer look you appreciate the intricate pattern and beautiful structure of both the animal and its web!

Crab Spider

One weekend I headed out for a drive looking for somewhere nice to explore with my camera, and I didn’t get far before an opportunity arose to capture an image of a fascinating creature! This Crab Spider sat on my red car couldn’t have stood out more if it had tried!

Bonfire Spider

This delicate little spider, silhouetted against the orange light of a roaring bonfire caught my attention in the middle of a fireworks display! It is amongst my favourite photographs, in a set of photographs I call ‘Bonfire Spider’! I’ve never tried to make an identification of the species, I’ve never wanted to! Despite my scientific background, sometimes it’s okay to let a spider just be a spider!

House Spider

And finally, an Autumn Watch favourite, the House Spider! The spider that can make a pitter patter from walking on a plastic bag; set your watch to their daily patrol; climb your curtains. These are pets that allow you share their home!

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Yellow-browed Warbler

You like your birds don’t you Lu?” a colleague asked me Wednesday evening as I packed up my things ready to leave work.

A bit,” came my understated reply.

Did you know that there’s a Yellow-browed Warbler in town?”

WHAT?!” I exclaimed!

I’ve never managed to make my way into the world of ‘twitching’ because, as a general rule, I never make a plan on my bird watching excursions. Occasionally I’m told of a spot a few miles away, but somehow I never manage to make the journey there. This however was a different case; the bird was actually in my home town. I had to see this bird!

But that particular Wednesday evening I‘d promised to have a beer with a friend. It was the same friend who later waved an article about the warbler from the local newspaper tantalisingly in front of me between gulps of ale. Upon my return home I resolved to leave work early the next day and make my way to the housing estate in which the warbler had been spotted!

The Yellow-browed Warbler, as the name suggests, has a yellow eye stripe, or brow. It is not much bigger than the Goldcrest and gives a similar call to the Coal Tit.

The reason why spotting a warbler of this kind has caused such excitement in my Midlands hometown stems from the fact that this bird is more at home in the far distant lands of Nepal and Siberia. Normally if it lands in the UK it gravitates to coastal woodlands. Only 5 have ever been recorded as being seen in Worcester! This Yellow-browed Warbler is a very rare and special visitor indeed!

Thursday my resolve was still strong, but I’d resigned myself to the fact the bird would have probably moved on by now. Morris-Henshaw, a local author and friend on Twitter, had expressed an interested in joining me on my first ‘twitch’, and I was only too happy to share my excitement with someone! Within minutes of our arriving at the reported area the bird was heard and shortly after seen; we got a brilliant clear view of that striking yellow eye stripe…

WALLOP!

A dog walker kicked a florescent orange football into the bush that Morris-Henshaw and I were peering at, and then a dog followed in hot pursuit! In hindsight, it’s quite enraging to think back on! The little bird vanished from sight and sound! But I was so excited to have seen the bird I didn’t care about the football at the time! I decided to return to this housing estate at the weekend for second search…

and so today I armed myself with my camera and made my way to the local cycle path that is now home to a tiny Warbler blown off its migratory course. I walked the length of the path but nothing was seen – ‘it was a long shot’ I thought to myself as I walked back.

Then I heard something new…

I stopped and looked – ‘that’s a Sparrow‘ I thought as I quite definitely heard a Sparrow’s call above my head, but I stayed put nevertheless. Then a tiny bird bounced round the back of the hedgerow, barely visible. It called as it hopped to a branch; giving me a clear and lingering view… it was the warbler! Grinning from ear to ear I took a few photos before it flew off.

I happily headed back towards the car, being stopped along the way by a curious local resident who, on seeing my photographic kit, asked me if I’d managed to spot the city’s new VIP. I beamed a smile back and replied “yes”, then the resident and I viewed my photos as we happily chatted away.

Just before I reached my car the Yellow-browed Warbler bounced back into view, right in front of me! It gave me a far closer view than I’d gained from the other side of the hedge! I took a few more photos before it finally departed. Then it was my turn to depart too… with a little celebratory dance!

Though this photo is not of framing quality (nor my best), they are a record of the Yellow-browed Warbler’s visit to Worcester in March 2011…

and of my first, and very successful, ‘twitch’.

Yellow-browed Warbler - Phylloscopus inornatusYellow-browed Warbler - Phylloscopus inornatus

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-browed Warbler - Phylloscopus inornatusYellow-browed Warbler - Phylloscopus inornatus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In going to find this warbler I ventured into an area of my town I don’t normally visit. That will not be the case from now on! I set out to that cycle-path to find one particular bird, but I found so much more! Sandwiched between a main road and a housing estate, the cycle-path is a wildlife haven, a green corridor, full of life! Goldfinches, Great tits, Blue tits, Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds to name a few. I have no doubt there will be much more when the other migrant warblers arrive. Oh, and we mustn’t forget ‘Marmalade’ the cat!

Robin - Erithacus rubeculaBlackbird - Turdus merula

 

 

 

 


Marmalade the cat

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