Monday, July 20, 2009

This badger image was taken last night by Graham Saxby during a badger photography one-to-one session. It was taken using manual flash and is the first time Graham has done this. I think he would have preferred a lower viewpoint for a more intimate portrait but the wind was not friendly and we had to change position to the top of the viewing platform. However, I think he's done an excellent job and was surprised at how easy it was once certain rules were obeyed.
If you wish to learn more about badger photography please email me via the website

Friday, July 17, 2009

The heat wave definitely seems something in the distant past with much lower temperatures and reasonable amounts of rain, especially last night. That being said there is still plenty of woodland butterfly life with many silver-washed fritillaries and white admirals mating and laying eggs. I have a brood of white admiral caterpillars in a breeding cage in the kitchen feeding on honeysuckle, their larval foodplant. I've also got a couple of commas muncing away on nettles
The image is of a silver-washed fritillary; I often get asked 'why are they called silver-washed when they're mainly orangey?' All fritillaries are 'orangey', so they have to be named after more subtle markings and in this case its the lovely effect of silver washed over the hind-wing. Its a tough butterfly to photograph and you can often chase after them in vain. My tactic is to set up at just one flower and wait for the butterflies to come to me.
I have just bought a load of native pond plants from Pete the Pond. He has a fantastic small garden with 42 ponds in it! they are packed with pond plants so if you want to buy from him call him on 07970 891711; he also refurbishes and sets up new ponds. All my plants are now in the mud around the edges and I'm hoping they at least get half a season's growth this year to become established. I'm seeing at least 4 dragonfly species around the pond and I saw southern hawker laying eggs in the margins. I also had a sizeable grass snake and 2 baby 'boot-lace' grass snakes under a couple of the corrugated iron refuges. I've come to realise how important these refuges are for the reptiles and also how they get used; if the metal is either too cold or too hot the creatures are in the surrounding vegetation and with this in mind I now know how important it is to have log piles and piles of bracken close by to allow the snakes and slow worms to move around making the most of each feature. In the late autumn, therefore, I shall be enhancing and adjusting what I have done so far.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The return of the Emperor!

With a combination of factors; cold winter, warm progressive spring, the recent warm/hot weather, there has been an explosion of woodland butterflies; white admirals, silver-washed fritillaries, purple hairstreaks and of course most spectacular, or at least the most elusive, the noble and royal purple emperor!
I have now, amazingly and beyond my expectations, identified at least 3 master tree areas resulting in some incredible aerial and ground level views. This butterfly does not nectar and normally just stays high in the canopy which is why they are so elusive. Yesterday at Scrag I counted at least 6 adults including violent aerial clashes between territorial males. This is indicating that there is a good population in the wood complex overall as I am only able to see the insects from ground level vantage points where there is a clearing that allows me a view; there are probably many more areas that I cannot see.
I am not ignoring the other butterflies though; I have a female white admiral that has laid eggs on some honeysuckle in a breeding cage in my living room. I'm hoping to watch the life-cycle right through to emergence next year; its a good way to learn more, get some photographs of various stages and release a good number back into the wood.
Anyway, I'm back up there now to chase the emperor!