One ladybird, two ladybirds, three….

I’ve started to take a keen interest in the local weather maps.  Those with the moving graphics where you can track the clouds, the rain and if you’re lucky, the sun.  Now that the temperatures have started to rise it means that with a bit of sunlight streaming down I can concentrate on the photography that I really enjoy – reptiles!

Before I go on though, I need to make something clear to anyone reading this or any of my posts.  Although I am employed by Dorset Wildlife Trust, this is very much my own personal blog -and postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions.  Don’t worry, it’s not like I’ve said anything wrong or upset anyone (that I know of at least!).  It’s just that the Trust has a media policy and as such I’m obliged to make that bit clear to you. 

Anyway, back to me and my love of hunting out reptiles. I am struggling a little bit this year.  It’s the middle of March and I’ve yet to see a snake, leave along getting a photograph of one.  I’m not too sure why it should be the case – as I’ve spent many an hour staring into likely looking basking spots, but all in vain as yet.

Still, on the upside I’ve now managed to see all the lizards after finding a female slow worm today.  I started off the other day with a trip to the lower end of Upton Heath and was rewarded almost immediately with a ……………….. peacock.  No, not an escapee from Upton House (I think they have all gone from there now anyway haven’t they?).  This was a peacock butterfly.  I’m not so sure it could be described as enjoying the sun – as the poor thing was a bit ragged around the edges and was rather weak.  I’m hoping it was just a little dozy having only recently emerged from its winter slumber tucked away in a shed or behind a bit of bark, and has since recovered a bit.

Peacock butterfly. The newer versions will be out in a few months

By now the sun was fully out  and I was ‘in the zone’ – treading really quietly as I made my way around the ‘never fails’ site for spring adders.  Well, it failed..  Or maybe I should be a little more forgiving and just say that I failed.  Either way, it means no adder pics so far.

Lizards were showing well, so I’m sure my reptile hunting technique is still working ok (fingers crossed!).

No, it's not a big belly - it's flattened out to catch more of the sun.

A female sand lizard, catching some rays (although the sun had gone in at this point!)

One thing I have noticed, and I have to say I’m amazed at – is the huge number of ladybirds out there!  It seems that every few paces there is yet another splash of red on the gorse.  I did start to try and work out how many there might be on Upton Heath by counting them in a small area and multiplying it up – but gave up when it meant I’d have to take my shoes and socks off to count past 10, and from my previous experience with gorse there was no way I was doing that even if it was for science (or sort of science!).

Right, start counting. That's 1......

I finished off my morning with a bit of a delight. Hearing the distinctive call of a long tailed tit in the gorseline I could tell it/they were heading my way so I set up the camera/long lens/tripod combination and waited for them to reach me in the hope that I would be able to get a decent shot of these never stay still birds.  I knew they were around as I could hear them calling for ages, but I just could not see them anywhere..  After what seemed like hours (probably felt like a lot longer because I had to deal with a steady stream of walkers giving me odd looks as I sat there with a camera and long lens pointed at what was basically a scraggy bit of hedge/gorse) one of the birds suddenly popped it’s head around the side of a branch.  It was quickly followed by another about 2 feet further along – and both of them had a downy white pigeon feather in their beaks.  They were building a nest!  That’s it then Spring must be here.

Aaawww! How cute!

I left them to it, not wanting to disturb them in their time of toil and wandered off towards my car – happy that I’d at least got a nice shot of one carrying it’s pigeon feather.  Just then, out of the blue, another long tailed tit appeared just ahead of me and posed for a while as I took several more shots.  I like to think it was karma, that I was being rewarded for not hassling the nestbuilders…

The real deal, so to speak..

There’s news on the starling nestbox.  A few weeks back, they emptied the box of the bits of straw etc that had accumulated over the winter.  Then, all of a sudden the single bird that had been roosting there all winter was joined by another bird.  They have continued to roost together every night since and are much more settled than the previous attempts at sharing a roost – when they spent all night squabbling!  They still don’t get much sleep though as the local foxes are making a huge din every night, so the poor starlings spend most of the time at their wits end hoping that whatever is outside doesn’t get them before daylight!

Grabbing 40 winks before the foxes start up again..

Today I noticed that the floor of the box is starting to fill up again with straw and feathers so I guess we are approaching serious nestbuilding time.

In the meantime, the quest for an adder continues.

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3 Responses to One ladybird, two ladybirds, three….

  1. Chris Senior says:

    An excellent report as always. I was with you as you sat waiting for the birdie. Great photos of the LTTs – I’m not quite as keen as you on the lizards but those were good too. 🙂

  2. Jane says:

    Great blog post Steve. You are ahead of me – I haven’t even seen a lizard yet! However, I have seen a small tortoiseshell, comma and peacock butterfly and today I had a feather-footed flower bee in the garden! Spring is sprunging…

  3. spudders says:

    Thanks for the comments Chris and Jane. Always very welcome, and valued. Steve

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