Tuesday, 27 March 2012


There wasn't much to be seen on the river this morning, maybe it had something to do with this handsome Fox on the opposite bank. It looked in great condition and very clean, except for its paws! A couple of Shelduck dozed and preened on the island exposed by the tide, confident that a stretch of water was enough to deter Reynard.

At last, my first Peacock butterfly of the year, I think I only saw two or three at New Hythe last summer. Even this one refused to bare all, but sometimes less is more.

The Peacock was soon joined by another first for the year. A Red Admiral looking just a tad worse for wear. I'm presuming this would be an over wintering specimen as opposed to a migrant, so its tardy appearance isn't surprising.
I spent some time scanning through the many Black-headed Gulls on Brooklands lake in the hope of finding a Mediterranean Gull but only found Commons and Herrings.

But the gull watching time wasn't wasted. As I stood on a fisherman's platform, I noticed a couple of Wrens flitting about in the reeds and the male presumably, was busy nest building, probably one of several that he'll construct for his lady to choose from.

I kept low and perched on the narrow edge of the platform for about 45 minutes and managed to get a couple of shots. In the one above he is exiting the nest, I watched this happen a dozen or more times but it was always so quick that I only managed to get this one picture. Eventually, a numb bum, cramp in the legs and freezing cold hands got the better of me and I moved on.

The sun was a welcome relief and this Comma butterfly was equally pleased to soak it up on a reed stem alongside Abbey Mead lake. Its colour is stunning and looks as if it could warm your hands up if you held them close enough.
While I was basking in the glow of the Comma, two Bullfinches landed in the tree alongside me and once again I found myself crouching down out of sight to try and get a picture. Glimpses of the male's striking pink breast against the bright blue sky, as he fed on buds in the top of the tree, were just a tantalising insight of what a great picture it could have been, if only. Interesting though to be able to hear their quiet conversation as they fed together, I don't think i've heard that before.

When the Bullfinches departed and the blood had resumed its flow around my legs, I turned my attention to this pair of Gt Crested Grebes. They really do make a fine sight this time of year, their elegance only enhanced by the raucous squabbling, fighting and posturing from the Coots close by.

If you've ever wondered why you don't often see GC Grebes on land, here's why. They're ashamed of their gloriously bizarre feet. This one looks as if it's had a cooking utensil shoved up its back end.

I thought I was in for a bit of courtship dancing when Grebe number one dived beneath the water and surfaced with a piece of weed. Surely it would be presented to its partner and I would be witness to this fascinating display. But Grebe number two wasn't impressed at all, so Grebe number one dived again, surfacing empty beaked, having returned the present for a refund no doubt. Normality ensued and I made my way back to the mound for a short skywatch.
Along the path between the two lakes I heard a short but quiet burst of song which sounded familiar. I investigated further and confirmed my 76th species of bird at NH this year, it was, as I thought, a Blackcap, newly arrived and not quite in full, glorious voice.

There was nothing much of interest in the sky, but this little creature caught my eye. It's about the size and shape of a ladybird, but it's actually a Pied Shieldbug (Sehirus bicolor) I think. It's a poor picture as I didn't have a macro lens but I've never seen one before so i've included it anyway.

My trio of first butterflies of the year at New Hythe came in the shape of this lovely Small Tortoiseshell, which posed briefly on the path by the small wood as I returned to the car park. A male Brimstone in my garden later in the day made it a quartet.

Last, but definitely not least was this Common Lizard, again my first of the year, which I spotted basking among the vegetation and a few feathers just before the fisherman's hut.

"Oh to be in England, now that Spring is there" ...........I know it's a misquote but April's not here yet.


Greenie said...

Phil ,
Definitely a good day with the butterflies , well done .
Interesting to hear you have Herring in Brooklands Lake , I always thought they were a salt water species .
Don't think cooking utensil people will be very happy with your analogy , or Grebes come to think of it .
Wouldn't argue with you Pied Shield Bug , well spotted . I haven't managed one of them .

Bob Bushell said...

Brilliant photos Phil, spring is here.

ShySongbird said...

Yes, Spring is here and all's right with the world when Phil starts seeing Lizards again :-)

A very entertaining read again Phil and beautifully illustrated as always. I haven't seen a Comma yet this year or a Brimstone.

Lovely to see the Wren with nesting material, it's ages since I got any sort of photo of one. I wondered what on earth that was hanging off the end of the GCG! I remember reading that they are extremely clumsy on land as their feet are set so far back on their body.

Well done on the Pied Shield Bug, I confess I didn't even know it existed!

Alan Pavey said...

A nice varied post Phil, like the Pied Shieldbug, never come across that before. Some really great pics all the way through :-)

Warren Baker said...

I know the feeling of freezing hands, numb bum, and bloodless legs Phil, all ingredients of a decent photo..............sometimes!!