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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Dragonfly Sortie

A day out looking for Dragons at East Cramlington  produced a Black Tailed Skimmer , Four Spot Chaser and Emperors along with Common Blue , Large Red and Blue Tailed |Damselflies.  The BTS always kept faithful to a small piece of flat wood that was on the edge of the  pond vegetation  but some way off a bit of interaction with FSC and Emperor but it held its ground , it was a sunny warm day so the Emperor flew most of the time occasionally flying high to chase off another then come back to the pond patrolling the edge looking for females it did eventually land a couple of times but mostly they will perch with backs facing the sun which is not always convenient for photographs. There was 3-4 Four Spot Chasers but most holding a patch away from me and the one nearest was just at the long range of my lens , it's amazing how they have spread so rapidly I remember my first a few years ago and now it seems they are present at most ponds and sometimes in very good numbers.

For Spot Chaser
 Blaqck Tailed Skimmer and it's favoured log
 Male Emperor looking as though it's sporting a metal ring
 And here a Common Blue investigates showing the huge size differance ,its amazing how some people describe to me how they have seen huge blue Dragonflies in large numbers which mostly refers to these Common Blue's

Friday, 26 July 2013

Out on the BIke

A trip over to Thornley woods area with the bikes with the intention of cycling along the Derwent Way which takes you over the Nine Arches Viaduct and beyond never been any further than Far Pastures so it should be interesting. Bikes offloaded at Winlaton Mill we headed South you have to cross the river first then uphill to get onto the old railway track, and very soon over the Viaduct , a detour at Far Pastures so we went into the rather large hide there you need a key which can be obtained from the visitor centre which will also fit Shibdon, Clara Vale , Thornley Feeding Station , but as it happens the door was open and to my surprise about 8-9 Photographers all staring into space hoping for the Kingfisher to appear ,it probably would not stay long once 9 cameras set at machine gun mode all went off together personally although I have spent many an hour in a hide ,I couldn't see the point sitting there on a glorious day when there was nothing to see never mind photograph. Well we continued along the track which eventually petered out and we had to cross the road to rejoin it at a sign which said Shotley Bridge and Consett (route 14)its a very pleasant cycle with only  what seemed a slight gradient and eventually we arrived at the edge of Shotley Bridge  where lunch was finished off . There are many paths off to the sides which would be worth exploring with more information ,but we decided to head back and spend some time at the Arches looking for Red Kites, I was surprised at how fast we headed back seeming to go mostly down hill freewheeling a lot of the time ,till I got clever and tried to video with one hand and brake with the other  I left it to late and came off  having just switched off the video as I might have got £250 from YBF. We watched from the Arches for awhile you can if lucky see Purple Hairstreaks in the tops of the Oaks , only 3 Red Kites visible but two Juveniles in the trees was a nice surprise 
There must have been numerous bridges etc built to span the many gaps, this one just beside Gibside
 Giving views over the surrounding countryside far better than my phone camera can capture
 Not sure why this was so wide looks even wider than a double track
 Numerous bridges cross over the track giving the opportunity to go off and explore further

 A small station or halt platforms still visible with steps up to the road crossing over
 That's and impressive span such is the width of the well wooded steep sided valley not sure if theres a stream at the bottom

 Always amazes me at the finish on the stonework , it's built not just to last but look good to
 An old Loco shed which I had not seen on the way along as it's so overgrown

Juvenile Red Kite camera to the bins job

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Black Tailed Skimmer

While at West Hartford looking for Dragonflies I caught sight of  a Black Tailed Skimmer that landed someway off trying to get a little nearer it took off I lost sight of  it for a few seconds till I heard the whirring of wings and saw clasping onto what I htought would be a female but no it was another Male which it had grasped by the back of the head and procceeded to tug it from it's perch . I took loads of shots but the action was so fast and furious most where blurred ,but what determination was invloved the other Male just seemed to sit there , how the first knew of the seconds prescence I don't know unless it witnessed it land , I have watched them chase each other in the air before and always the interloper will fly off to another part of the pond but never seen anything like this before . Saddly one drawback of the fine weather is the rapid drying of ponds  as at West Hartford which is now dried up ?

Common Blue Damselfly coupled with Female
 Black Tailed Skimmer alighted numerouis times but always to far off, you have to track  them vigerously as they fly if you want to see them land which they do frequently

Eventually the aggressor flies off leaving the other Male to it's perch

And that's how I left it ,as far as I could see non the worse for it's ordeal, they have a brief but tough live !!!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Broad Bodied Chasers

Well with the recent find of a Broad Bodied Chaser at Big Waters that I went along to see I was determined to find my own and after much searching I did on a small flash which had already dried to a third size I had a Broad Bodied Chaser fly right past me after a bit of patrolling it flitted up and caught something bringing it to a perch to devour, no idea as to what it was because most of it was hidden by the Dragons wing so I moved around as best I could for a couple more shots . Suddenly it was off and chasing another Male and a few minutes later it chased something else and grabbed it but this was a Female they locked in a wheel as they flew and I frantically tried to lock the camera on to them but everything was a blur , damn I thought what a missed opportunity, another few minutes later the Female was back and again the Male chased after her and again grabbed her in a frenzied whirl I tried again to lock on getting some blurry images but at least I got something . Female appears  across the water this time ovipositing  by dipping the rear end  in the water so I spent the time trying to get some shots of this , it's very frustrating you just locate it focus and before your addled brain can send a signal down to the finger poised over the shutter button it's changed direction and you start over again , you might think you have quick reactions if you have ever played Wack A Mole (there was also a Thatcher and cronies version which I really liked ) but try photographing Dragons in flight. Well as the morning wore on with the occasional appearance of another Male , which in the end became annoying because the more dominate male would be perched  and I would try and get closer only to have it chase off after the interloper so I called it a day and headed off elsewhere well satisfied with what I had. 
 No idea what it's eating ,it's right rear leg at first seems missing but checking all the shots it's actually perfectly aligned behind the left leg and is visible on other shots but the prey item is not.
 Male and Female coupled in a wheel frantic and brief this is the best I got.
 Female starts to egg lay along the water edge
 Dipping her rear end in the water as she danced across the surface
 Eventually picked her out as she landed briefly
 And back to the task of egg laying legs well tucked up
 I just kept trying and trying to get some shots occasionally the Male would chase after her and they would disappear perhaps in another wheel which I did not see .
Fascinating flight action used to slow down the rate of forward flight and hold for a fraction of a second while she dipped into the water.
 Eventually turned my attention to the Male for some flight shots much harder to follow than the slower Female but I was moderately pleased with this one
 Again back onto the Female and again moderately pleased with this one ,good job it's Digital and not the old slide film .
And the last one as the Male starts to perch more but now tending to go much higher in the bushes and even out of sight . I did look back the next day the water is drying up fast,a single Male present  and only for about an hour and a further visit revealed no sightings as the water has all gone  but there must be more to be found

Friday, 12 July 2013

Bridled Tern

I saw the recent Bridled Tern and you would assume that EVERYONE had eventually caught up with it but apparently not,whereas  I rolled up at Cresswell and waited a mere ten minutes this guy put considerably more time ,effort ,and presumably  considerable expense to finally dip out big style.You have to feel for them but it does make a good read (and it's very funny or is it just me ).
Multi dip trip
Adrian Pitches also wrote this interesting account of seeing the Bridled Tern in two Counties  One Good Tern Deserves Another
Birding it's a funny old game !

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Smardale Gill Cumbria

Last Saturday I joined the ranks of the Newcastle RSPB group for a trip to Smardale Gill near Kirby Stephen not only had I not been there I had never heard of it and initially thought we where going to Yorkshire ?, well a quick look ont net soon put me right . Stopping at Kirby Stephen for the loos Brian the Killy Birder blogger pointed out a Scarlet Macaw sitting on an Ariel and a further two nearby , I was astounded to hear they where free flying and breeding , what a surprise start to the day, shortly after we arrived at the entrance to Smardale Gill the walk is mainly along an old rail track which is fairly level and the cuttings covered in wild flowers and grasses , with Ringlets and Meadow Browns evident .
The usual evidence or railway life with the remnants of a signal box , Quarry , Lime Kilns and an absolutely fabulous viaduct and some fantastic views of the surrounding countryside, not sure how many there where of us but everyone was enthusiastic  debating over the I.D. of flowers and passing Butterflies .Near the Quarry we encountered the first Northern Brown Argus and immediately wished I had brought my DSLR as there was no way I was going to get photos with my compact , plenty of Common Blues also here and nearby I noticed a Chimney Sweeper  Moth. Walking just over the viaduct and then turning back to a path down to the side we headed back to the start this is a bit steeper walk but it does give great views back onto the viaduct, and leads you over an  old pack horse bridge , looking down into the water we saw hundreds of small Brown Trout.
The walk was 6 1/2 miles long it's well worth a visit perhaps to coincide with the emergence of the Scotch Argus , or other Orchids like Bird's Nest & Fragrant, very good day out !! 
 Scarlet Macaws not the best shot as taken with my compact through the bins but it does capture a Swift passing by.
 Image these coming down to your bird table it would have to be well made and that bag of Peanuts perhaps replaced with a sack of Brazils !
 The Cumbrian countryside of  grass fields and stone walls
 Melancholy Thistle which was common, Hoverflies just love it

 Common Blue this only Butterfly I could get near.
 Birds Eye Primrose new for me
Jacobs Ladder perhaps a garden escape as there was an old house here

 First glimpse of the Viaduct through he trees , the track just to the left showing a gradient down slightly
 Not sure what this is ,it's very small and I haven't taken the best photo
 Huge Lime stone Kilns near the track base presumably to take the Lime away
 View from over the Viaduct to the stream below ,surprisingly no Dippers or Grey Wagtails to be seen
 Someone with a keen eye spotted this  Frog
 I saw a couple of people looking intently in the undergrowth , so I asked what they had Greater Butterfly Orchid was the consensus, when I got back on the track the group was now way ahead of of me
 Further views from the Viaduct

 Now we are heading down the track and following the stream , a very large nest of a Crow (3rd from right) which I pondered could be a Raven it had obviously been added to for years with some large sticks ?
 Everywhere you looked was a photo

 Lime Kilns just visible and the track of the railway
 Viaduct visible up the valley, a pair of Common Redstart  here and Tree pipit nearby one of  2 singing birds , also a very close Garden Warbler heard but not seen along the track
Last look as we head back up the hill to rejoin the path and head back to the start