Wednesday, 1 June 2011


I stood on the southern edge of the sunken marsh at about 08.30 this morning, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. There were two Cuckoos calling near the river, a Turtle Dove purred from the wires over the marsh and a Nightingale was singing from the dense undergrowth. "Oh to be in England, now that Spring is here." Robert Browning actually wrote "now that April's there" in his poem, Home Thoughts From Abroad. But you get my drift, it was a nice day.

The undergrowth was teeming with insects of all shapes, colours and sizes like Harlequin Ladybird above and the as yet unidentified caterpillar below.

Damselflies, like the Red Eyed below, lifted in clouds as I made my way along the path from the raptor viewpoint along to Abbey Mead.

It was along this path that I came across a family of Whitethroats who tempted me to hang around and try to get some pictures. I did manage a couple, but mostly they stayed behind the leaves, just revealing themselves briefly to be fed or for the adults to zip out and catch a fly. It was here also that I saw Alan Woodcock who was on his way to the river. He hadn't seen much at that point, just the same Common Tern that I had seen on Brooklands as I started my walk.

I crossed the railway line and immeditaely found a Grizzled Skipper, below. Surprisingly, this was one of very few butterlies seen today, with just a couple of whites and a couple of Red Admirals making the notebook.

Dennis and Doreen turned up as I watched a Nightingale fly past me carrying a beak full of food. They walked with me to the west scrub to locate a Bee Orchid, pictured below, which they had seen earlier, what a super little flower. There were also a few Pyramidal and I think Southern Marsh Orchids nearby too.

Here's a strange thing. There was a Nightingale singing as usual from around the pylon in the corner of the east scrub and while we stood and listened I saw it fly up and land on the pylon itself. They're not supposed to do that. They're supposed to be shy and mysterious, a fleeting glimpse is all we should get. But this chap not only came well out in the open but he stayed there for some time and sang his head off, as you can see below.

At this point I left Dennis and Doreen and went to look for Water Voles, easier said than done. The stream where I have been seeing them is now so overgrown along the banks that it's virtually impossible to see anything unless you trample it down. I wasn't about to do that, so no Voles for me today, they won't mind the privacy though, i'm sure.

The stream is adjacent to Johnson's Lake, which is home to quite a lot of ducks, geese and coots, courtesy of the bread and stuff thrown in from the busy footpath. There are plenty of young Coots all over the site and i've pictured one below. It's like i've said before, only a mother could love them!

I've been trying to get a picture of a family of Grebes on the Railway lake, so that was my next stop. I saw them heading towards the sw corner of the lake, Mum constantly diving and the little Grebelets making a right racket every time she surfaced, whether she had a fish or not. I hid myself in a small reedbed and waited for them to hopefully get close enough for some pictures. It didn't happen for a while and I soon got cramp from crouching down, so I stood up briefly and found myself face to face with the lovely Four-spotted Chaser below. What a superb beast.

Eventually my luck changed and the Grebes got closer. The first picture below is of two of the youngsters waiting for mum to surface. In the second one junior has just been presented with a decent sized fish, and in the third, the said fish is just going down the hatch. Probably best viewed with a left click.

The caterpillar above is of the Peacock butterfly, it and a few others were chomping their way through the nettle leaves when I got back to the raptor viewpoint where I again met Dennis and Doreen. We sat for a while there and watched two Hobbys hunting for insects directly above us before I made my way back along to the car park at Brooklands.

I stopped on the way to get a picture of the Swans, who after losing their brood last year have now got six healthy looking cygnets, and also to take a picture of this dragonfly which was watching me from a reed stem. It flew off immediately after the picture was taken, while I wasn't looking, so i'm not really sure what it is. Broad-bodied Chaser maybe?

I noted 35 species of birds today, it's quite a good start to June and I will be looking to beat the May total of 67. It should happen because I wasn't here for half of last month so i've got no excuses!


Chris said...

Excellent and beautiful post Phil.. The chicks are wonderful, we are starting to get them in Iceland too!

ShySongbird said...

What a great 'back from holiday' post Phil!

Those 'Oh to be in England' moments are magical, I know that feeling... so special. Such a shame that non Nature lovers will never experience it.

Lovely photos, I particularly enjoyed the Whitethroat, the Nightingale (I wish they would show out in the open like that for me!) and the Bee Orchid.

Lovely to see all the youngsters and good news about the cygnets, I hope they continue to do well.

I had a try at identifying your caterpillar but couldn't be sure so will leave it to someone who is :)

Warren Baker said...

Hi Phil,
Quiet for flutters here too at the moment.

What a chance in a lifetime to get the Nightingale photo's ( well maybe not a life time, but a long time!) you have to be out there to get the chances though! Good luck with June :-) said...

Phil, these are all splendid, what a great series of wonderful finds. I enjoy viewing insects and the very first one, certainly opens up this series with great colouration~

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Great post and pictures , I really enjoyed it , some super finds .
Can't help with the caterpillar , but it looks very interesting , most probably a moth .
You beat me to the Bee Orchid .
I'd agree with the Broad-bodied Chaser ID , looks like an immature male , just starting tpo 'blue up' .
Would love to get a Nightingale out in the open like that .

Bob Bushell said...

Wow, you have the temperament to see many creatures in your travels. Beautiful.

Paul said...

A great set of photos Phil, and the Nightingale shots were lucky for sure. Its all about being in the right place at the right time, and unusual sights are there for the taking.

Alan Pavey said...

Great post Phil, with some great diversity there, how about that Nightingale, I've not seen that behaviour before :-)