Sunday, 22 May 2016

Thinking Small

The weekend began with a walk around the long river loop. On the high field (where the muck heaps were) a corn bunting was jangling it's song from a wooden fence. This is the first one I've seen since the beginning of January and the only one I've seen alone... in Winter they congregate in groups of ten or twelve birds over the stubble fields.

The plants must have needed the rain that fell during the week. The growth since last weekend is quite astounding and I was caught out wearing just my walking boots; by the time I completed the walk I was soaking wet to well above the knee. There were lots of birds singing and calling, but nothing new and all from cover. Opportunistic bird photography gets hard at this time of year as the leaves hide the birds while they go about their business... a change of approach is required.

Catherine suggested taking the kids to RSPB Saltholme at lunchtime and I was happy to oblige; my Twitter feed was full of reports of Whiskered Tern; a lifer for me. The kids had a great time romping around the reed-beds, splashing in the puddles and playing in the park, despite the rain. I was struggling to find the terns, which the guides reported were on the main lake. I searched for ages before checking my phone... they'd moved! A march round to the correct lake yielded instant reward, a bird quartering the lake immediately in front of the hide.

Back at home, I headed out again and once again was unable to get any photos. It's time to put my hides out and attract the birds to me, but that can take a few weeks before I get reliable results, so in the meantime I vowed to forget about the birds, think small and take my macro lens with me instead.

Before this weekend, I'd recorded 8 butterfly species this year: peacock, small tortoiseshell, orange-tip, green-veined white, brimstone, speckled wood, large white and red admiral. June is the best month for butterflies (more species can be seen in June in the UK than any other month), so I'm going to have a change of focus.

There are still lots of orange-tip about, though most females have probably laid their eggs by now. This handsome male is showing the mottled green and white patterned underwings that camouflage them while they roost; a perfect match for the cow parsley or hawthorn flowers in which they hide.

I always check the flowers of lady's smock for orange tip eggs; they're particularly obvious protruding from the green sepals underneath the flower heads. So efficient and meticulous are the butterflies that you're more likely to find an egg than not, and rarely two on the same plant. More unusual is to find a caterpillar feeding:

Relearning how to use my macro lens (they're a fiddle to use with good results), I explored the small flowers in the grounds of the church. Henbit with its long flower heads, reminded me how hard it is to control depth of field at high magnifications:

And this dark fly on bright forget-me-not tested the dynamic range of the camera:

Also in the churchyard was small white, though it was far too flighty to photograph! Finally I headed to the large oxbow to see if any warblers had moved in to breed; they hadn't. I did manage to see the first wall butterfly of the year though and this flag iris, which I'd never have believed (before getting to know my patch this year) could be found growing so close to home.

1 comment:

  1. Great shot of the Tern! The photo of the Orange Tip is beautiful, I sometimes spend so much time looking up for the birds I forget what's around my feet!