Friday, 30 May 2014

Ross's Gull...

Yesterday morning I was sat at my pc ready for work, when up popped a Tweet saying 'Ross's Gull at Bowling Green Marsh' and a link to a couple of photos. I couldn't believe it at first but after looking at the photos it soon became clear that there was a 1st summer Ross's Gull less than 40 miles from my front door!

It seems the bird had been present for 9 days but had been mis-ID'd as a Little Gull. I'm lucky enough to have seen quite a few Ross's in Canada but this was a UK first for me having dipped them on previous occassions. At least if it had been around for 9 days, it probably wasn't going to be racing off anytime soon. Just as well, as I stood no chance of getting there until later in the day. Leaving work a little early, Andy Grinter and I shot off just after 5pm in the midst of a thunder storm - it wasn't looking that promising. Add to that no news of the bird since it had been seen further down the Exe earlier in the afternoon and we weren't too hopeful. Never-the-less we headed not for it's last reported sighting spot but to Bowling Green Marsh, where we were banking on a rising tide to push it back into the fields with the usual gull flock.  When we arrived we picked it up almost immediately, it seemed to be a bit of a loner, preferring to stand or sit on its own slightly away from the Black-Headed gulls.

A short piece of phone-scoped video - not my preferred way of videoing birds and had to use a different programme to render it. Better viewed on YouTube.

Luckily Dave Helliar got to the bird earlier in the morning after the news broke and got some pretty good shots considering how distant the bird was.

1st Summer Ross's Gull: Dave Helliar
1st Summer Ross's Gull: Dave Helliar
1st Summer Ross's Gull: Dave Helliar
Phone-scoped pic of it later that evening in the roost: R. Harris
Sat on the mud with the Black-Heads: R. Harris
Lovely little gull, hope it stays around for a while. Wouldn't mind seeing it again in better weather!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

More local bits and bobs!

Here's a quick visual round-up of some of the local flora and fauna from the last week. Many thanks to Dave Helliar for supplying the photos:

Roe deer and fawn: . Helliar
Heath Spotted Orchid: D. Helliar
Bogbean: D. Helliar
Cinnabar Moth: D. Helliar
Male Blackbird: D. Helliar
Marsh Fritillary: D. Helliar

Marsh Fritillary: D. Helliar
Common Cow wheat: D. Helliar
Possible Lissonota setosa: D. Helliar
Common Blue: D. Helliar
Drinker Moth caterpillar: D. Helliar

Southern Marsh Orchid: D. Helliar
Black-tailed Skimmer, female: D. Helliar
Black-tailed Skimmer, female: D. Helliar
Harlequin Ladybird: D.Helliar
The Blackdown Hills: D. Helliar
Pied Flycatcher, Quantocks: D. Helliar
Agrion virgo, female: D. Helliar
Wood Warbler, Quantocks: D. Helliar

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Vipera berus...

Adders, loathed by many and loved by a few. Very misunderstood creatures. I happen to love them and when you see them up close they are very impressive snakes. They are our only venomous snake and only representative of the old world viper family in the UK. Their venom is cytotoxic and has a haemorrhagic effect, which means it breaks down the vascular system causing internal bleeding, which in turn speeds up the digestion process of its prey. This huge female (around 65cm) was found on a tin refuge trying to warm up. She's also about to slough her old skin, if you look at her eyes they should be bright red but have instead a milky appearance caused by the old lens separating from the new one underneath. It was early morning when I took these and she was freezing cold, a great time to study them closely as they normally disappear very quickly when humans or predators approach.

Showing the characteristic 'V' shape on the back of the head
R. Harris
Warming in the sun, defensive position: R. Harris
Portrait showing the milky coloured eye, a sign that
sloughing is about to begin.

Female Adder: R. Harris
Ready to strike! Check out the keeled dorsal scales
The deeply forked chemo-sensory tongue  'tastes' the air
and is placed onto the Jacobson's organ in the roof
of the mouth for analysis.
Again showing the milky haze on the eyes.
Adders are particularly vulnerable at this stage
and tend not to move about too much until the
shedding is well under way.
Showing the head scales - note the asymmetrical scales
just behind the two apical scales above the snout.
And a very short (hand held) video clip...

Monday, 19 May 2014

Grass Snake...

Found this beautiful male Grass Snake (natrix natrix helvetica) near Chard this morning. It was in absolutely pristine breeding condition and just looked stunning. Fantastic creatures, technically venomous (they have Duvernoy glands) but with no means of delivering the venom, they are completely harmless to man but you wouldn't want to meet one if you were a frog, toad, small fish or nestling bird. This is one of our two Colubrids - the other been smooth snake. There are just over 1700 members of this family worldwide including the highly dangerous African Boomslang. The UK subspecies helvetica is known as the barred grass snake because of the vertical bars most show along their flanks.

Grass Snake, showing the round pupil: R. Harris

Showing the well mark collar and head scale arrangement.
Note also the keeled dorsal scales on the body.

'Playing dead' is the second line of defence - the first
is covering you in a foul smelling white substance
from their post-anal gland. Not pleasant!

Amazingly long tongue! Forked quite deeply and used
to taste their surroundings.

Showing the fork in the tongue more clearly.

The large supraocular gives a mean look to the face.

The 'checkerboard' ventral scales can be clearly seen here.

Portrait shot of this stunning individual.
As above

Local round-up...

Many thanks to Andy Grinter for another local round-up. In this case he's been trekking around the Wambrook and Hambridge areas and seeing some good things along the way. All photos are courtesy of Andy Grinter:

Fox close to Cotley Kennels...hasn't anyone told him?
Brimstone, female
Hairy Dragonfly, male
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lib depressa, female
Cardinal Beetle
Coenagrion puella, female
White Ermine
Stand of Common Bugle