Friday, June 27, 2014

Birds but no bees...

I have to start this blog update by sharing part of an article I read in the Guardian newspaper recently. It had been written by Patrick Barkham, a natural history writer.
He writes:
Focusing on one small area of nature helps us make connections and interpret interesting behaviour because we soon acquire a bit of expertise. Some people just love birds of prey, others obsess over orchids or a limited group of insects.
At first, my identification skills were rusty (I mistook moths for butterflies and spent ages trying to identify a common "cabbage" white) and my mission was a bit embarrassing. Soon, however, the pleasures of lingering in sunny meadows in scrappy corners of London and more conventionally beautiful nature reserves surpassed any lingering discomfort about explaining to passersby what I was doing. I met some lovely fellow obsessives but most of my joy was a more solitary communion with the countryside.
And he concludes:
We need to feel we belong to human society, and sometimes nature watching can make us feel we are eccentrics on the margins of conventional life. But we also at some fundamental level need to feel we belong to the natural world. Being in nature, allowing the near or distant wild to seep into us, is wonderfully liberating. We see ourselves as we truly are, a small living thing, part of much grander and older forces all around us. It's an appreciation for something that in other eras people might have called God. I don't call it that (although I've no grudge against people who do) but I worship this greater society of living things of which we are but one small part. It makes me feel much better about myself and much fonder of the world around me.
I hope this moves you in the same way it does me...
Right then! On with the update...

Click any photo for a larger view on black

What could be more apt to accompany that writing than this field of poppies I saw close to the Hothfield Nature Reserve in Kent recently? 

Whilst scouting around the reserve itself, I found these brilliant sundew plants...

This is Broad-leaved Sundew, a carnivorous plant that inhabits the acidic bog of Hothfield. Once an insect gets stuck, the plant will curl itself around it and devour!

This is one of the few places to find Keeled-skimmer Dragonflies in Kent too. It seems to be more common across the west of the U.K.  I struggled to get close photos on the day as there was a survey of the orchids taking place and I didn't want to disturb that, or get in the way...
A male Keeled-skimmer Dragonfly

This is doing my usual thing of jumping around subject-wise/mixing it up, but I just wanted to share this little toadlet I photographed because, I don't ever recall having photo'd one before. That doesn't mean I haven't though, I could well have done and forgotten...

I have been making a concerted effort to try and get into taking some bird shots of late, and although for the most part I have only been taking garden birds, I thought I'd share them with you here. A departure from my usual macro photography of insects, but the next update will be all invertebrates (you have been warned.)

A young Starling

A Jackdaw

A Sparrow dust bath

A Blackbird sunbathing

A juvenile Sparrow

A baby Robin
And just because the robin is my favourite, another to complete the set...

Back on the invert trail-you don't often see these next creatures looking quite as clean and tidy, normally they are sporting all kinds of excrement on their backs...

Green Tortoise Beetle larvae

There are a couple of things that I can almost guarantee I will come across every time I go out walking locally; it's not as if I have to go hunting either, they are present in large numbers...

A Dock bug
These dock bugs (Coreus marginatus) if I have remembered the Latin name correctly,are all over the dock and bramble and most seem to be engaged in a personal mission to create yet more dock bugs. I always look for the nymphs as they are amazing little creatures...

And then there are the sawfly larvae; several species to see and causing havoc by completely defoliating some of the shrubs

A Sawfly larva
A different species...

And a closer look...

A couple of things to end with then, I couldn't resist including this goat that belonged to the farm where we recently stayed for a few days...

And then my dismal attempt at capturing a bird in flight. It's a lot harder than I thought; this photo has been heavily cropped and as you can see, it is already on its way out of shot...

Until the next time when I shall be back with an update all about weevils; unless I change my mind beforehand that is...


  1. Great set of photos of things I've seen and would love to see, one is the Sundew plant and the Dock Bug, I have been checking Dock leaves but no luck yet.
    Moving word from Patrick Barkham, thanks for sharing.
    Amanda xx

  2. Thanks Amanda-try bramble for dock bugs.

  3. Wonderful post and your bird images are fantastic, you shouldn't put yourself down over the one in flight because it's really good. I got thrown by the name Dock Bug so had a quick read of them and aha, they are the ones I find in my raspberries a lot when I'm picking them. Although at the moment I seem to put a hand in to pick a raspberry and come out with a mating pair of what I think are the common Green Shieldbugs! :-)

    Adore the tortoise beetle larvae! I found my first T. beetle about a month ago - it's the one with red on it and I hadn't a clue what the strange thing was but my insect book came to the rescue. Would love to see a nymph. And your photo of the dock bug nymph with the droplets with reflections in is sublime! I love trying to shoot droplets and get reflections. It would help if we had some decent rain or dew here!

    And I like those words written above, very true. :-)

    1. Thanks for the comment. Oooh, would love to see those red tortoise beetles, haven't managed to find that species locally (yet). Rained today here ;-)

  4. Brilliant and fascinating as ever JJ! Love those words you've included from Patrick Barkham. Wise words indeed and ones I wholeheartedly agree with too!

    Wonderful set of bird shots and as Millymollymandy says, nowt wrong with the flight shot so you shouldn't be so critical!

    Wonder if the 'red' Tortoise beetle was the Fleabane Tortoise beetle (Cassida murraea)? Only ever found it once in Cornwall.

    The poppies are sublime! Nothing quite like a field of poppies! Wish there were more around. Don't see much Flax about now either which is something else I love!

    Can't wait for the weevils!!!! ;-)

    Best wishes


  5. Beautiful shots and those sawfly larvas are amazing.
    birds in flight, I have come to recognise mostly two kinds of shot opportunities. Easy and Impossible. Easy are with distant, non cluttered background, flying not too near and in fashion where you can track bird for long before pressing shutter and then crop heavily. all other are Impossible. I mean, your shot is really good. Inspires me to shift some of my ‘Impossibles’ to difficult and try harder in future.

  6. Thank-you. Yes, bird photography is kind of new to me and a whole other discipline.


Please feel free to comment on my blog. I am always grateful for any feedback, good or bad. Commenting should be fast and easy. Just enter your comment in the box, then click on the drop-down box beside 'Comment as'. You can use your Google ID if you have one, or just choose 'Name/URL and enter your name (URL is not needed). You can also just choose anonymous, if you would rather not be identified.

Regards 'JJ'.

If you do experience any difficulties, you can contact me directly from this blog and I will try to help.