Monday, 25 May 2020

Picture Post

This morning I was out early. A short drive to a quiet coastal parking spot, and by 05:20 I was birding. It was chilly in the offshore wind and my naked knees weren't happy, but soon enough the sun was up, the breeze a mere sigh, and my old-man's wrinkly parchment knee-skin warm and content...

By 08:00 I was nearly back at the car. The route takes me through a large National Trust car park. Already it was scuttling with life. One 'family' of five had pulled up on a grassy area, arranged a picnic table and chairs next to their van and were firing up a large barbecue of the non-disposable kind. As I drove away from the coast I resolved not to go anywhere near it for the rest of the day.

Now for lots of photos. Apologies in advance for the lack of expertise attached to some of the later ones; I have delved into areas where my knowledge is scanty...

It was great to see a pair of Common Scoter close enough to photograph

The beach flora is bursting with seeds right now, a bounty which many species know how to harvest. But I think it's the first time I've encountered Bullfinches doing so. Normally they are mega-shy and you can't get anywhere near them, but perhaps the seeds of whatever plant this is are slightly intoxicating and they thought I was their best mate..

An awful lot of fluff per seed.

Next I chanced upon a Wheatear. I've seen a female Wheatear in almost the exact same spot the last three times I've walked past it. If I hadn't taken photos of all three I could easily have been persuaded that it was the same bird each time. But no, different birds.

A Linnet, just because. Another seedoholic.
Whatever a Raven perches upon immediately looks rather petite, like these dinky little signs.
A terrified young Raven avoids detection by crouching invisibly in the long grass
A gorgeous male Wheatear in an absolutely perfect setting. Makes me want to weep with joy.

Mrs NQS and I fancied a lunchtime walk, so later in the morning I had a look online for any local nature reserves which might be sufficiently off the beaten track to avoid the bank holiday horrors. I found one which looked promising. In the info blurb it said: 'If you are lucky you may find the rare Marsh Fritillary.' That sounded good. The only Marsh Fritillaries I've seen previously were in a meadow just E of Axe Cliff, on the old Seaton patch, and they were understood to have been released, not wild. So off we went...

Okay, now we are sailing into tricky waters. Plants and invertebrates. At least I know these are orchids. Orchids which had spotted leaves. And that's about the extent of my plant skill...

Pale pinky-mauve orchid sp.
White version of the above, I'm guessing...

The orchids were very difficult to photograph satisfactorily in the harsh sunlight, and while I was faffing with the camera a couple of butterflies sneaked up and landed nearby. One was a Small Heath, but the other was this beauty...

A very lovely Marsh Fritillary, on a baby orchid sp.

Nearby were a load of webs of the funnel type, and lurking at the entrance of one was this magnificent spider. Obviously I have no idea what it is, but I cannot deny it has presence...

Meanwhile Mrs NQS was pointing her phone's camera at a day-flying moth. It never settled well enough for me to get a shot, so here is the phone pic. Despite it being a moth I've not knowingly seen before, I did actually know what it was...

Mother Shipton. Habitat context shot.

Well, I have just confirmed the power of Google. If, like me, you are an entomological ignoramus, just type in the first thing that comes to mind when you look at the creature you're trying to ID. Like this...

Now I can caption my photo like a person who knows things...

Swollen-thighed Beetle oedemera nobilis (male, obviously)
Slightly darker purply orchid sp. Somehow I felt it was different to the one[s] above. Probably wrong though.
Another gorgeous Marsh Fritillary, seen later.
...and just a hint of the beautifully marked underwing.

Dear reader, all too rapidly we are sliding into June, and in the absence of some kind of happy diversion the gradual drying-up of birdy action might see us being sucked into DIY country, or worse. Today's dalliance with other aspects of our wonderful natural world was just a toe in the water really. I would like some sunny-weather options for the next few weeks, and it is very nice to discover such a pleasant spot just down the road. And I don't think it will be the only one...

I am quite keen on the idea of distractions right now. I am too long in the tooth to be surprised, shocked, outraged (or any other wide-eyed response) when it is revealed that a polititian (of any stripe) has lied, been hypocritical, or done just about any self-serving dastardly deed you care to name. In my relatively brief experience of life it has always been so. Disappointing but inevitable. More reliable are the birds, the fish, the plants and creeping things that I cannot name, the nice cold beer and stinky cheese...

And that's probably about as close as I'll ever get to a political comment on this blog.

I'll close with this, a short burst of Garden Warbler from this afternoon. At least, I hope it's a Garden Warbler! It's such a long time since I last heard one, and I now know how rubbish I am at bird sounds...

PS. If any kind soul can put a name to the orchids or spider, that would be terrific.


  1. My first impression of your flowers Gav, the one you thought was different I thought Pyramid Orchid - because of it's shape, the other paler ones maybe a Southern Marsh (?) Though I humbly stand to be corrected!

    1. Thanks for the attempt Derek, but I know Pyramidal Orchid, and that's not it. At least you had a stab at it though, and it's made me get an old book of the shelf. Both had spotted leaves, and I'm going for Heath Spotted Orchid for the first two, and Common Spotted for the last one.

    2. Hi Derek, Karen W of 'Wild Wings and Wanderings' fame has kindly confirmed my orchid ID, which is pleasing, and makes me want to make a bit more effort next time I'm faced with one I don't know.

  2. Your rather marvellous spider is Agelena labyrinthica, there's a page on it at -

    1. Excellent, many thanks Seth. One of the things I really like about this world of online contacts is how willing everyone is to share knowledge so helpfully. Much appreciated.

  3. That female Wheatear photo is very nice. I have seen perhaps 3 Wheatears all year and photographed none of them in any satisfactory way.

    1. Thanks Jono. I do sympathise. I realise how fortunate I am having access to so much coast that is basically deserted first thing in the morning.

  4. More great photos. As for the moth I'm stumped. I used to be quite into such things but I have no clue what that might be.

    1. Cheers Dave. Fortunately I knew what the moth was, mainly because I've seen several recent photos of it on Twitter. As far as I'm aware it's the first time I've seen a Mother Shipton in the flesh though.

    2. Well done, it was bothering me. Most illustrations of moths show wings closed, that made it harder to identify. Well, that's my excuse anyway. Please photograph all Lepidoptera with wings closed in future :o)

  5. A great post Gavin. Loved the ordinary-ness of it, just someone admitting he doesn't know what everything he sees is. One for the common and ordinary naturalists among us.

    1. Thanks Derek. Frankly I am in awe of those naturalists who can ID just about everything they clap eyes on. And the things they can't, well that's because it needs dissection and a microscope - which thay also know! A common and ordinary naturalist is very much what I am. If that!