Monday, 16 July 2007

Southern damselflies....

With, at last, a break in the shitty weather, a friend and I set out to hunt down the Southern damselfy at a couple of local sites. The more I find out about this creature, the more I realise just why it's so bloody rare in the UK. It's rubbish at dispersing, flies like a big girl's blouse and gets bullied by every other insect on the planet.

Still, it's very rare and very important and I wanted to see one. First stop was some water meadows along the Itchen Navigation just south of Winchester, also home to Golden-ringed dragonfly and both British demoiselles. An hour of mooching about turned up plenty of Banded and Beautiful demoiselles, a Southern hawker, a host of butterflies including Meadow brown, Gatekeeper, Small tortoiseshell and a presumed Silver-washed fritillary, plus shoals of Minnow, a specimen Perch, Graylings and an Eel.

Southern hawker Aeshna cyanea

With no luck on the Southern damselfly front, we headed off to the perhaps the best site for this species - Itchen Valley Country Park. This reserve, nestled on the edge of Eastleigh and right next to the airport is a gem. The Itchen flows through it, and numerous old drowners and ditches criss-cross the meadows, providing superb habitat for aquatic plants and insects.

Within 10 minutes of arriving, having negotiated our way past the hordes of chav families in Southampton FC shirts having noisy barbeques (the undesirable underclass of Britain is all-pervading), we found veritable swarms of blues....Azure, Blue-tailed, Common and Southern. The Southerns are very soon distinguished by their weedy behaviour.

Being a SSSI, and the species being Red-listed, there was no way to get a really good look without breaking the law and catching one of them. However...spider to the rescue!! We managed to find one of the beasties caught in a web, and with some delicate work we were able to deny said spider of a rare meal - I hate spiders anyway so I don't feel too bad.

Southern damselfly Coenagrion mecuriale

With the damsel in hand, we were able to get a good look at the mercury mark on abdomen segment 2. Sorted!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Bonnet de douche....

It's my last day at work tomorrow and I have 4 weeks of holidays to look forward to! As the missus is off to Les Eyzies in the Dordogne region to measure some bits of old flint or something I thought I might tag along for a week or so and do some more wildlife-bothering. I've been there before in another life and with another woman, and I seem to remember it being rather good for buterflies in particular...mmmm. Plan is to rent a bicycle and get lost.

Problem is I can't seem to find anything on nature reserves/wildlife sites in this area of France...nada, rien, bugger all...can somebody help?

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Hairy plughole

At last...after 2 weeks of waiting for a new router box to arrive from China, turns out the problem was with our fecking internet provider in the UK...makes you proud to be British, how we as a country seem to be spiralling further and further down the hairy plughole of utter incompetence and f**k-wittery. Anyway...

It's good to be back in Blue Chaffinch world and I finally have something to do of an evening other than watch shite TV and smoke. It means I can actually finish off writing the previous blogs and get on with creating some new ones...apparently quite a few people have been having a look at these pages..thankyou, gracias, thanks dudes, cheers y'big galahs etc etc.

The weather in the UK has been bloody terrible, and it seems that anyone without house insurance in the Midlands and Yorkshire has been flooded. Therefore, there's been little in the way of wildlife watching going on here lately. I'm also leaving my current job after 4 years to enter the murky world of ecological consultancy....

About 10 days ago I had the very great pleasure of accompanying a group of expert bryologists for a snoop around the grounds of my place of work, and I have to say it was the highlight of my month...totally fascinating. To my disappointment we didn't find any mosses new to science but at least there was a good range of common and a few scarcer species...I haven't got a clue what they were called but they looked flippin cool!

Apparently the best trees for bryophytes are field maple and ash as the bark has a higher pH than most other tree species. Suitably inspired by this delve into the world of micro-plants, I am determined to be able to name at least a dozen or so species by the end of the year.

Little owl adopting the "I want to kill you" pose.

Whilst wandering through the woodland, we came across our resident Little owl hiding in an old beech tree...after being scared witless by us, it flew into a nearby tree and tried to look like a Scop's owl.

Butterflies, dragons and wildflowers

Having said that I've done no wildlife watching lately, I have managed to get out and about a few times when it's not been raining...and been rewarded with some fantastic views of some of our more obvious invertebrates. In particular, I've enjoyed watching the breathless antics of Broad-bodied chasers on the pond at work. Since mid-June, these high-octane loons have been zooming around the pond and surrounding woodland, with males undertaking incredible aerial dogfights for first-ups on the one or two females present. The lucky stud then has to do some serious mate-guarding in order that a rival doesn't slip in a crafty one...

Female Broad-bodied chaser
Libellula depressa

Marbled whites gettin jiggy widdit.

Gatekeeper on carrot