18th September 2019

There is a juvenile Grey Heron fishing regularly on Monyash village pond where, incidentally, there are numerous breeding Goldfish, as well as native fish, due to someone in the past unadvisedly dumping their pets, which now thrive several generations on. This is probably a second year juvenile as, though it hasn’t yet got the glossy feathers and black markings of a fully adult bird, it does have the beginnings of a

Heron, juvenile

Heron, juvenile

Heron, juvenile

Heron, juvenile

. Even though not fully mature, its wingspan is huge, as the photos show. Conditions: Sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 15 Min 8C.

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16th September 2019

Common Frog, with mouth open and tongue extending for its prey

Common Frog in process of swallowing

Common Frog

The Common Frog’s sticky tongue. I was watching a Crane fly (daddy longlegs) skipping along the surface of a friend’s pond the other day, when this Common Frog, previously invisible, popped its head out of the water and, in an instance captured the Crane Fly. When I looked at the photo’s I had caught something I had never seen before in real life- the inside of a frog’s strange mouth and its tongue. The frog has evolved something we human have never been able to invent yet, a substance, the saliva, that can change from being very thin and fluid, for catching the prey, then very viscous and sticky for holding onto it before returning to being thin to relate the prey in its mouth so the frog can swallow it, all in a split second. The tongue is also very soft, allowing it to rapidly change dimensions– from being inside the mouth to extending a third of the length of the frog’s body, the equivalent of ou

Crane Fly, Daddy Longlegs

The frog appears

r tongue reaching our belly button! As you can see from the photo’s, in the process of swallowing the Frogs eyes move up and down, too! An extraordinary creature all round. Conditions: Cool and mostly cloudy. Temperature: Max 14 Min 7C.

26th August 2019

Common Darter Dragonfly- as its name indicates, this is the most common Dragonfly in the UK and can be found around almost any sort of body of water, even stagnant pools. Darter’s are a group of Dragonflies which do just that- they hover and then dart forwards to catch their prey mid-flight, before returning to a favourite perch to consume it. If you notice these Dragonflies, look out for their perches, often atop a plant or fence-post, but they can even be on wooden board-walks, heating up in the sun. Darters aren’t as restless flyers as Hawkers. The Common Darter female and juveniles are yellowish-brown bodied but the males are red-bodied. They can be distinguished from the less common Ruddy Darter by the former being smaller and having black legs. The only other thing you might confuse them with in flight is the Large Red Damselfly which has a longer, narrower body and, like all Damselflies, rests with its wings folded, while the Darter typically rests with its wings held forward.

Male Common Darter

Male Common Darter

Female Common Darter

Male Common Darter

Conditions: Too hot and sunny for words! Temperature: Max 27 Min 13C.

2nd August 2019

Mating Damselflies are always fascinating to watch. On the Chesterfield canal we watched Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies in their tandem flying mode, as well as in the ‘wheel formation’ when they are actually mating. The male Damselflies, typically more brightly coloured than the females, use their claspers, at the end of the abdomen, to clasp a special ‘shield’ on the females thorax, and the connection is strong enough for them to fly in this formation, as well as to land, rest and mate. Some species mate quickly and separate, while others remain linked for several hours to deter another Male from mating with the female. In fact, some males dig out the sperm of a previous Male In order to replace it with their own. You can watch this tandem flight and wheel along many slow-flowing streams and canals or pools. Conditions: A more normal summer day, with sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 23 Min 13 C.

Common Blue Damselflies in tandem flight

Blue-tailed Damselflies in mating wheel

Blue-tailed Damselflies in tandem at rest

23rd July 2019

The Banded Demoiselle is a large damselfly with a beautiful, flitting flight with which the male attempts to attract a female. It occurs on slow-flowing rivers, canals (as this one was, on the Chesterfield Canal) and pools, unlike the similar Beautiful Demoiselle which frequents faster flowing water. Highly territorial, if you watch it from the bank you should be able to work out its territory, as well as where it rests and takes off from, as I did to

Male Banded Demoiselle

Male Banded Demoiselle

Male Banded Demoiselle

Male Banded Demoiselle

Male Banded Demoiselle

photograph this one last week. Very sensitive to pollution, they are therefore good indicators of clean water. They are an absolute delight to watch, as the sun glints off their metallic green/turquoise bodies and the fingerprint wing-patch on the male, which gives them their name. The females have uniform coloured, greenish wings. Conditions: Very hot with sunny periods. Temperature: Max 30 Min 18 C.

18th July 2019

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly, drying its face with its front legs

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly, dried out and ready to fly off

The Brown Hawker is a large dragonfly with beautiful bronze-coloured wings, that frequents pools and slow-flowing water, hence the number we saw along the Chesterfield Canal this week. Try as I might, I could not get a photo of this fast-flying insect that hawks along its territory and sometimes into wooded glades, until I saw this one drowning. Every time it struggled to move itself onto some weed, it floundered and went back into the water until it was near enough for me to extend my monopod and slowly move it towards the bank, where it gradually dried out, using its front legs to clean all round its head and  with the sun drying its filigree wings before recovering enough to fly away. This was a male, as can be seen from the blue patches on its thorax. Conditions: Warm sun and cloud. temperature: Max 22 Min 12 C.

 

 

17th March 2019

Another beautiful, bright gold spring flower with deep green, glossy leaves is the damp-loving Marsh Marigold. Many small insects crawl over these big, shiny blossoms, gathering pollen and incidentally and valuably pollinating the flowers. Marsh Marigold, in flower now and for several weeks, are commonly named ‘King-cup’, derived from the Old English “cop” meaning a button or stud, as once worn by King’s. Farmer’s would hang a bunch of King Cups in their cow-byres on the first of May as a protection against the evil spells of fairies and witches and they may be the flowers Shakespeare wrote of in Cymbeline: “winking Mary-buds begin to ope their golden eyes”. Their flowers are smaller in the north.

Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold- the flowers are larger in the south than north

Marsh Marigold, or ‘King-cup’

Marsh Marigolds of stream- and pond-banks, and wetland