Thursday, 28 August 2014

Sandwell Valley - August 2014

On Sunday I was back volunteering at RSPB Sandwell Valley once again. Alf and I started with our usual walk around the reserve as there were plenty of volunteers in the hide. Very soon we were enjoying a most excellent surprise! As we made our way along the bank of the River Tame at the bend known to some as Kingfisher corner, Alf spotted a pair of Spotted Flycatchers in the trees above the path! It was a year tick for Alf and the first time I had seen this species on the reserve - they are infrequent visitors.

Here be Spotted Flycatchers!
We continued on our way feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves, and before long were enjoying another pleasing sight - a Small Copper butterfly, which eventually settled on the grass long enough for me to get a photo.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas).
There were definite autumn vibes in the air, with many colourful berries ripening up nicely!

Spindle (Euonymus europaeus).
Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) on Bramble (Rubus fruticosus).
Lovely shiny Elderberries (Sambucus nigra).

There were still plenty of flowers to be found though, this was a new one to me to try and identify:

I think it might be Red Bartsia (Odontites vernus).

On the way down to the hide at lunchtime, we spotted the Greenshank that had been loitering in the marsh for a few days now. From the hide, the autumnal feelings persisted - there were a fair few House and Sand Martins, Swallows and late Swifts feeding up preceding their migration, a pair of Shoveler still in eclipse had appeared, and we had superb views of a Snipe feeding right next to the hide. Alas my attempts at digiscoping it proved pitiful, but I did get a few OK (if very vignetted) shots of a nice Lapwing:

Digiscoped Lapwing.
Digiscoped Lapwing.
I also messed around digiscoping the foliage on the bank, I like the resultant shallow depth of field:

Digiscoped wildflowers growing on the bank.
An obliging family of Mute Swans came and had a good splash around in front of the hide, before settling on one of the islands for some serious preening. I had a go at drawing them, I really enjoyed this - their large size and close proximity meant I didn't even have to look through my scope and I was quite pleased with the results.

Mute Swan family chillaxin'.
Preening Mute Swans sketches.

Preening Mute Swans sketches.
Preening Mute Swans sketches.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Devon fun!

Over the weekend, we went to north Devon to visit friends - we'd been around the same time last year and were super-excited to see our friends again, enjoy the beautiful surroundings, and stuff our faces with delicious food!

I was as always on the lookout for birds, butterflies, geology and new plants to learn too, and I was not disappointed. Here's some of the stuff I found:

The first place we visited was Watermouth Bay. Several Fulmars were gliding around the cliffs the whole time while we were there.
I think this is Betony (Stachys officinalis).
Part of a mystery sea creature, we found various bits of its shell. Anyone know what it is?
Cepaea nemoralis, been a bit obsessed with these and their sibling species C. hortensis of late as I'm doing an Open University project about them.
Lovely fissile slates with nice alignment of mica, giving bright shiny surfaces!
Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis).
Great quartz veins in the slate.
Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum) looks great against the shiny surface of the slate!
Fossils (I think) in the slate - not sure what of though, maybe trace fossils?
The next place we visited was the Valley of the Rocks. Bird sightings here included Gannet, Redstart and Raven.
Sheep's-bit (Jasione montana).
One of the wild goats that live at Valley of the Rocks.
I think this is the caterpillar of the Knot Grass moth (Acronicta rumicis).
Dodder (Cuscata epithymum).
The next day we went to Saunton Sands. While everyone else went in the sea, I went to explore Braunton Burrows! Bird-wise it was pretty quiet apart from some Linnets and Stonechats. Also spotted a Common Lizard!
Sea Stock (Matthiola sinuata).
Yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata).
Common Restharrow (Ononis repens).
Sea-holly (Erynium maritimum).
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) butterflies were everywhere!
Male Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) on Traveller's-joy (Clematis vitalba).
A new butterfly for me, Wall (Lasiommata megera)! Yippee!
I think this is a Dor Beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius).
Another new butterfly for me, Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja)! I can't handle the excitement!

Sea Rocket (Cakile maritima).
I could wander Braunton Burrows for days, what an awesome place!