Comet trails, Covid tales and wildlife oblivious to human travails.


It's time for a look back at the second half of Summer in these extraordinary times.

Long haul trips to distant shores were 'banned', regular visits to Skomer to see the Puffins, chances to watch Sea Eagles on Mull and Gannets plunging into the sea off the North Yorkshire coast were all stymied by Covid19 restrictions, travel challenges and even ... the weather!

2020 has been the year of getting close to nature and our great British wildlife closer to home ... in fact our gardens and surrounding areas have provided a whole new world of wildlife experiences.

Our wildflower meadow became a second home with the arrival of a Bell-tent, with warm summer evenings camping out bringing some great 'decompression' from the daily routine and permanent TV bad news grumpiness!

We were even graced with the presence of Comet Neowise blazing through the night sky above - a fantastic sight on a clear night.

'Project Fox' continued through July and August, with (I think) at least a couple of our shy rural Foxes plucking up courage to come close enough to the house for me to watch and record their visits.

My very basic lighting set up presented some challenges to get any real variety in the shots, however I quite like some of the real close-ups of their faces, with the jet black background offered by nightfall.

The Muntjac Deer were also regular visitors, with our Foxy friends keeping a wary eye on their presence as they shared the wildlife friendly food left to encourage them to visit.

I managed just the one mid-summer photographic trip, to see some Little Owls at Gary Jones' hide near(ish) Wrexham.

Always a delight, the adults were busy feeding their young and whilst I was a bit too early to see them at close quarters, the adults kept me nicely entertained that morning.

Frustrations with the limited opportunity to get out with the camera, were offset by a growing fascination with wildlife of the 'micro' size captured with a 'macro' lens.

The detail revealed by this specialist lens has been a both a revelation and an incentive to work harder to master the new techniques required, to make the most of every tiny detail of the natural world.

My favourite shot in this format, has to be the capture of a white crab spider ambushing a Bee, having waited patiently in the Lavender (the Spider not me!) growing near our top pond.

Some people seem to recoil from spiders, but getting a close up view of these perfectly evolved predators, proves that you don't have to be cruising through the Masai Mara in a LandRover to go on safari.

The 'prettier' end of the insect world is represented by colourful Butterflies and Moths. I claim no significant expertise in either area, but was able to identify a few rarer visitors who joined the Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and Peacocks fluttering on the summer breeze.

A Silver-washed fritillary and Holly Blue Butterflies, were trumped in the 'wow' department by the sighting of a daytime flying Garden Tiger Moth, with it's startlingly bright black, crimson and gold markings.

A second half of Summer delivers a further festival of colour with the arrival of Dragonflies at our garden ponds.

All that careful sifting through the debris to rescue dragonfly larvae netted from the ponds through the winter months pays off, when you are treated to the emerged adults aeronautical display, as they chase down their prey.

Hovering above the lily pads or perched on an Iris leaf, the Common Red Darter was a true summer spectacle.

Banded Demoiselles visited for the first time for as long as I can recall too. Perfect tiny creatures, fluttering around the pond flowers and grasses.

A quick trip down to RSPB Otmoor near Oxford, provided a great view, but not a great photograph of a (not so) Common Crane pair, flying above my viewing point - great to see the reestablishment of these charismatic birds progressing well.

As summer drew to a close, our local Farmer visited again to 'top' the meadow, leaving me with just under two acres of back-breaking Hay collection to ready the ground for a fresh flush of wildflowers, next Spring.

This is a real labour of love, rewarded by the chance to record the species taking advantage of the natural habitat and to rescue those displaced by the cutting, to safer spots nearby.

I had been delighted to find some Toad spawn in the ponds this spring alongside the masses of Frogspawn.

Toads spend most of their time in dry places, woodland, under a cool rock etc, but also benefit from the cover provided by our undisturbed wildflower meadow.

I found both huge adults and delightfully, a dozen or more small juveniles this year, who seem almost miraculously to survive the flailing process and the full size tractors, as I carefully follow them around as a one man wildlife rescue service.

Recovered and relocated to suitable habitat, I took the opportunity to grab a couple of photos, before they hid themselves away for the winter.

The adult was a huge creature, apparently utterly unfazed by the kerfuffle, with the juvenile being a perfect wartily-skinned replica of the beast to which he was to grow.

The meadow is full of Field Mice, Voles and Shrews, with one of the later species rescued from its slightly bewildered shock at having survived the Farmer's tractor.

Ok ... so it's not a Lion striding purposefully across the Mara plains, but I was no less bewitched and delighted to be able to hold the warm little creature in my hand ... something not recommended to try with a Lion!

The young of this years successful breeding season are starting to become clearly visible with a seemingly lost Deer and bold Green Woodpecker topping the list of youthful appearances.

To bring this blog update to a close, there's always room for a bedroom balcony Raptor sighting.

I've seen Red Kites more often this year than any previous year and hope that the pair seen recently dancing an air ballet above the house might turn out to be a breeding pair, unlike the solitary forays witnessed in previous years.

The Sparrowhawk family seem to have been successful again, with a hilariously inexperienced youngster to be seen diving and lunging at everything with feathers, with more hope than judgement or success. I managed to catch this one as it briefly cruised across the tree line, scanning for its next target.

That's all for now I think, with the sun setting on a most peculiar summer, albeit full of wildlife surprises found closely to home as comforting consolation.

Here's to the Autumn's season of mellow fruitfulness, (as someone once said).

 

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