Follow in Nigel's Footsteps

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Aberrant Black Head...

Dave Helliar picked up on this aberrant black headed gull, which he'd spotted at Chard res on the evening of 25th September as it passed through on its way to wash and roost. A visit yesterday evening paid off as it dropped in again for about 15 minutes before departing south, presumably towards Axemouth? It looks pretty much like a normal 1st winter BHG but it's incredibly small, not too much bigger than a little gull in fact. There have been records of birds like this before but I've no idea how frequently they occur in normal populations - certainly the first one any of us has seen.

Standing on its own it's hard to judge the size...
...but when closer to other BHGs it stands out.
Just a mini version: R. Harris
Dave was lucky enough to see a 2nd summer little gull earlier in the week too. Obviously a few gulls moving through the area at the moment.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Migrants on the move...

Thanks to Dave Helliar for the following photos taken over the last week or so showing a wryneck and red-breasted flycatcher for Orcombe Point in Devon and a Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar from his garden in Chard.

Red-breasted Flycatcher: D. Helliar
Red-breasted Flycatcher: D. Helliar
Wryneck: D. Helliar
Wryneck: D. Helliar
Orcombe Point, Devon: D. Helliar
Elephant Hawkmoth larva: Dave Helliar

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Mini Beasts...

The fine autumn weather we're getting at the moment is certainly favouring our spider friends. Many species have now reached full maturity and there are some stunners to be seen at the moment. Take the little fellow below - the spider equivalent of a spitting cobra!  This is Scytodes thoracica and despite being labelled 'common' in the books, this is the first one I've seen.

It could just be a simple distribution thing, I found this one while in Kent and maybe they are common in the south-east but not in my part of Somerset. This is a unique species in the UK as it doesn't spin a web but shoots a web/venom mixture through holes at the tip of each fang at their prey from up to 15mm away, glueing them down and allowing an easy snack. This is the reason they have such a large, domed head to accommodate the glands which produce this sticky goo. It's also very strikingly marked, though not big - this one had a body length of just 5mm, which is about as big as they get.

Scytodes thoracica or Spitting Spider: R. Harris

I've found a few crackers locally too. Including some spectacular Araneus quadratus in different colour forms -

Araneus quadratus: R. Harris
Araneus quadratus, yellow form: R. Harris
Araneus quadratus: R. Harris
The first one below is nationally quite scarce but can be found in relatively good numbers in the bird hide at Chard res - that is as long as the warden doesn't try and 'clean it out' too often. Wouldn't want the mums and toddlers getting scared would we?

Larnioides sclopetarius: R. Harris
Nuctenea umbratica from the garden fence: R. Harris

Zygiella x-notata - coming to a house near you: R. Harris
Agalenatea redii - another local spider which loves
gorse and heather: R. Harris
Mangora acalypha, male: R. Harris


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Didn't expect to see one of these today!

I really didn't expect to see one of these today but an initial report of Spotted Crake this morning at Black Hole Marsh turned into a Little Crake by mid-morning. I decided I'd pop down this evening to see if it would put in an appearance. That was until Dave Helliar found it again at lunchtime after it had not be seen in over 3 hours. I'm glad I made the effort as it was showing very well, though distant, when I got there, so hopefully it will settle in for a while.

Little Crake, Black Hole Marsh: R. Harris
I don't think it's worth publishing any more photos as they are all as bad as this one. It was about 100 metres away so the video's not much better but at least you can see what it is. This one was taken on the SX50, hand held so sorry it's not rock steady!


Monday, 1 September 2014

Small but beautifully formed...

As the sun shone yesterday afternoon the insects in the garden started to get active. Ladybirds are particularly beautiful when you look closely at them.:

Two-spot ladybird: R. Harris
Two-spot ladybird. Black and red work so
well together: R. Harris
Seven-spot Ladybird: R. Harris
...and one or two spiders too.
Steatoda nobilis - loads around the garden: R. Harris
Nuctenea umbratica: R. Harris

Snakes Alive!

After what seems like weeks of inactivity due to work commitments, I finally managed to get out for a couple of hours yesterday and decided to go herping up on the Blackdowns. The result was this stunning grass snake Natrix natrix helvetica. It's the first I've seen for a while but they never fail to fascinate me. Nature's great at making you forget about all your worries for a while - getting close to wildlife should be available on the NHS.

Probably the last thing a frog sees...
Grass snake, Natrix natrix helvetica: R. Harris
Grass snake, Natrix natrix helvetica - the tongue length
is always surprising! : R. Harris
Grass snake, Natrix natrix helvetica: R. Harris
Grass snake, Natrix natrix helvetica: R. Harris
Grass snake, Natrix natrix helvetica: R. Harris
Grass snake, Natrix natrix helvetica - portrait shot: R. Harris