30 Days Wild – Day 8

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_08Day 8 and I’m still ploughing my way through the IDs from the weekend’s bioblitz – maybe shouldn’t have taken quite so many photos! But it’s all good and discovering some new species for the garden list. It being Wednesday though, I dragged myself from the computer and headed over to take my Dad out for our weekly pub lunch – no hardship there!

Dad by riverAs it was a lovely hot day we decided to head to one of our favourite pubs The Riverside at Aymestrey in North Herefordshire – the pub is by the river Lugg and you can sit outside right next to it for your lunch. Today they had Herefordshire snails on the menu, so I went for those (with a big pile of chips of course!), while Dad went for some smoked salmon.

It is a fantastic spot and we go there quite often in the summer to watch the dragonflies, butterflies and once a kingfisher that darted down the river under the bridge and away. Sadly today all you get is a photo of the bridge!

River

The little river has fish and lots of insects, which in turn attract plenty of birds. Today we saw nuthatches and yellow wagtails, plus lots of sparrows chirping non-stop. Today’s real prize was the Beautiful Demoiselles. Having chased them around for ages on Sunday at Knapp & Papermill reserve, here they were landing within feet of me, while I tucked happily into my snails. Not only that but there were mating pairs (the Demoiselles, not my snails!)

Beautiful Demoiselles Aymestrey

Feeling full and happy after lunch, I took Dad home, then decided to stretch my legs to work off those snails! I headed to Bodenham Lakes, which are about a mile from where I grew up, but once again I’m ashamed to say this is somewhere I’d never visited. Funny how you often don’t visit the things that are on your own doorstep! That’s one of the great things I’m finding about 30 Days Wild, that it’s getting me to do some of these things – finally!

Lake

Bodenham Lakes are actually old gravel pits that have been flooded and are now managed by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust. They are apparently very good for bird spotting and even have otters – not that I saw any of those today. I did though hear my first cuckoo not only of the year, but probably the first one I’d heard for about 30 years! I then managed to find the bird hide which has splendid views, in this case of the Canada Geese.

Geese

The meadows by the lake were full of flowers including these beautiful Common Spotted Orchids and the whole place was buzzing with bees, most notably these Red Tailed Bumblebees.

Orchid

Red tailed Bumblebee

But the stars for me today of Bodenham Lakes were the damselflies and demoiselles. They were everywhere! It felt like I could hardly take a step without disturbing them – I kept seeing flashes of blue all around me. As at Aymestrey there were even mating pairs. I thought all of these below were Common Blue Damselflies, but I’ve already found out from the very helpful people on iSpot that the bottom ones are Blue-tailed Damselflies instead!

Common Blue Damselfly

Mating Damselflies 2

Mating Damselflies 1

Not only damselflies, but I also saw Banded Demoiselles (thereby completing the set of Demoiselles in one day – I think there are only 2 species – Beautiful and Banded). Didn’t manage to get a brilliant photo – I need to drag Chris back to Bodenham with his steadier hand for photography, but hopefully it is at least recognisable.

Banded Demoiselle

There weren’t that many butterflies around today, although I did see another Painted Lady, some speckled woods, what can only be described as a “brown one” and some Common Blues. The Common Blues were flighty as ever, but I did pursue one long enough to get this just about identifiable shot.

Common Blue Butterfly

So all in all a particularly good day today. I shall definitely be heading back to Bodenham Lakes soon and also no doubt back to the pub too!

 

Ladys MantleAnd finally as always the latest weed in my 30 Lazy Weeds from our garden – Lady’s Mantle. I like the subtlety of this gentle looking plant. I love the soft wavy pleated leaves, especially the way they catch droplets of water like this. They provide lots of ground cover and are quite happy in the shade as well as in sunnier spots, so suit pretty much any garden. Time to give room to less showy plants like Lady’s Mantle!

 

 

30 Days Wild – Day 5

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_05Day 5 of the 30 Days Wild Challenge and it’s a beautiful sunny Sunday in Malvern – a rare thing indeed! After the slightly frenetic activity of the Bioblitz yesterday (I’m still working my way through all the photos for IDs), today we’ve had a much more relaxed, laid back kind of day.

We started with a walk at The Knapp and Papermill Nature Reserve, which is run by Worcester Wildlife Trust and is very handy for us – just the other side of the Malvern Hills. It’s a gorgeous reserve that’s got pretty much everything you could want – meadows, woodland, orchards, a small river running through a valley.

Meadow 1

River at Knapp

Speckled WOodYou know it’s a good place when butterflies start landing next to you as soon as you get out the car – cue Speckled Wood. We’ve been there before and walked around pretty much the entire site, but today we just did a small section of it, alongside the river near the old orchards and meadow.

Our main memory from the previous visit was of the Beautiful Demoiselles. This was the first time we’d ever seen them and were blown away by how beautiful they indeed were. They seemed so exotic flapping all round us by the river, it felt like we’d been transported to some far away tropical location. So they were our main target species for today – and they didn’t disappoint. I know I tend to gush that everything is beautiful and amazing, but these Demoiselles really do live up to their name.

The adult males are a dark iridescent and glorious blue. They are quite flighty so it takes a while and more patience that we can normallly muster to get really good shots, but we managed in the end to get these.

Male Demoiselle 3

Male Demoiselle 2

Chris even spotted this one devouring some poor unfortunate insect – only the wing remains sticking out of its mouth.

Demoiselle eating

As is so often the case in nature, the females are less showy than the males, having a more bronzy brown coloured wing, with white spots near the end.

Female Demoiselle

I honestly could have sat and watched these flying around for hours. But they weren’t the only large insects flying around – damselflies were abundant today too. We saw some bright blue (possibly Azure) ones which refused to land for photography purposes. More obliging were the Large Red Damselflies.

Red Damselfly 2

So relaxed indeed were the Large Red Damselflies, that they continued unashamedly about their business even with me taking photos like this.

Mating damselflies

The reserve is generally teeming with insect life. Here’s just a few that we snapped today – a Red Headed Cardinal beetle, hoverfly and May fly.

Soldier Beetle

Hoverfly

May Fly

Not surprisingly the reserve supports a wide array of birdlife too. The air was full of bird song as we walked around, although few showed their faces. One obvious arrival though was this Buzzard, which was being mobbed by a very brave crow.

Buzzard

On the way back we stopped at the visitor’s centre, which has lots of useful info. It also has this fantastic bat box on the wall – never seen one like it before!

Bat Box

CasablancaWe were supposed to round off our lazy day with an open air screening of the classic film Casablanca. Amazingly the sun was still shining as we settled down with our picnic on the grass. Not sure whether the organisers of 30 Days Wild had expected Humphrey Bogart to join in, but we were looking forward to seeing him on the big screen. It happens to be my Dad’s favourite film, so it ended up a family outing with my sister making up the 4 with me and Chris. Unfortunately, and I never thought I’d say this, the weather was too good! The organisers announced they couldn’t start screening the film as the evening was too bright and the black & white film wouldn’t be visible on the screen! We waited and waited (consuming our own body weights in sandwiches and scones while we did) but eventually had to give up as my Dad was getting a bit cold and still no sign of the film starting. The evening wasn’t a total right-off – we all enjoyed our picnic in the park and the crowd waiting for the film were all quite jolly. But we’ll now never get to hear Sam play it again in the open air!

 

Red valerian 30 WEEDS

Day 5 of 30 Lazy Weeds from our garden and here’s one that is taking over – Red Valerian. Fortunately it is not only beautiful but very popular with both bees and butterflies. It’s formed a flower bed all of its own at the front of the house – which looks great – one neighbour even asked whether we’d planted all these lovely flowers! These bright pink flowers look as good as anything you’d go out and buy, but are much better for the wildlife and they’re free!

Out and About – Penny Hill Bank

You know how it is, you wait a lifetime to see a Green Hairstreak, then see them two days in a row! Flushed with success of finding them at Cannock Chase the day before, we ventured forth once more – this time to a small reserve in Worcestershire – Penny Hill Bank.

Penny Hill Sign

Penny Hill is an area of grassland that has apparently never had pesticides on it, so has a very diverse flora, including several types of orchid. We were probably there a bit early in the year to see many of them, but we did spot this Common Twayblade orchid (Listera ovata) and there were lots of pretty blue Bugle (Ajuga reptans) flowers.

Common Twayblade orchid (1)

Bugle (2)

The diverse flora of course in turn attracts a wide variety of insects, particularly butterflies. We’d only been there a couple of minutes before Chris spotted a Green Hairstreak. Perhaps now, having got our eye in with them at Cannock Chase, we’ll be finding them everywhere!

Green Hairstreak Penny Hill Bank

This was soon followed by another relatively unusual butterfly, the unfortunately named Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages). The skippers look a bit more like moths than butterflies, but have the typical butterfly antennae – smooth with a slightly bulbous tip. The Dingy Skippers are actually quite pretty in a subtle kind of way. They were also quite flighty, so not easy to photograph – this was the best we could do.

Dingy Skipper

We saw several other species of butterfly – Orange Tip, Green Veined White, and a possibly Large White, but none of them stopped long enough to get a photo. A Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) was however much more obliging.

Large red damselfly

The field was generally very tidy, with thankfully no rubbish, but there were a few old bits of farm debris lying around, so we checked underneath them. The first revealed a newt, but the highlight of our day though was finding another lifetime first – a slow worm! Neither of us had ever seen one, so we were both squealing with excitement (even Chris although he probably won’t admit that!) when we lifted an old metal sheet and found the slow worm underneath.

Slow worm

We hurriedly took a few photos, before carefully lowering his “roof” back down. As we’d been walking around Penny Hill, it had seemed like possibly adder territory, but the slow worm was a complete surprise. Penny Hill is also home to glow worms – so we may be back there one night in the hope of bagging another first!

The views from Penny Hill Bank were stunning, you could see for miles across Worcestershire. The photo below doesn’t really do it justice. It’s a small site tucked away off the beaten track and not that easy to find (thanks go to a local who pointed us in the right direction), but it’s a lovely, peaceful place to just sit and enjoy the view, whether you’re interested in plants and animals or not.

Penny Hill View