Thursday, 18 July 2013

Swanning around

I went looking for Blues this afternoon as the sun continued to beat down on Tropical Island UK.  Four years ago we celebrated Penny's birthday in this part of the world, at Tadpole Bridge on the Thames, and the meadows up the river to Radstock Bridge were bright with blue butterflies. I called my subsequent post on the blog Meeting the Blues, and meet them we certainly did.

None today, however. I am being impatient as it's a bit early. But there was plenty more to enjoy in an amble lasting less than an hour. Lots of Hedge Browns, like the one at the top, together with Meadow Browns, Large and Small Skippers, Speckled Woods, Commas and Marbled, Small and Green-veined Whites; in the second photo, a mixed couple of the last two obligingly show their underwings, which distinguish them from one another.

I also found these voracious beetles on the top floor of a multi-storey wildflower and this happy family of Swans on a bend in the river, below. The adults were behaving in a curious fashion, ripping out reeds from the river and tossing them over one or the other shoulder to a spot behind their tails.

The process was so curious yet so deliberate that I used the the camera's dying battery power to make this very short film, below. Hope it works on your computer. Does anyone know what they are up to? Building a larder? Cooling off?

Shortly afterwards, I saw a blaze of red from a Scarlet Tiger high up in a tree and then found this Peacock caterpillar on a blade of grass and carefully took it home to photograph there, with my camera battery imminently dud. And there was one more piece of excitement which was too fast and far away to photograph. At first, I thought I had seen two mating dragonflies in flight but as they swooped briefly down, I realised that it was one dragonfly with a butterfly in its jaws.

Yes, that is our washing in the background

Up they whirled, captor and prey, far into the top branches of a tree, and I was set to carry on down the path. But my eye was caught by what appeared to be a leaf, floating slowly down between the shafts of sunlight through the trees. As it twisted gently closer, it turned out to be the forewing of a Ringlet which presumably was the dragonfly's high tea. Here's the evidence with the camera's expiring shot.

Natural history in the UK has often been described through the medium of a short country walk. No wonder.

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