Sunday 5 August 2012

Lift off!

Today was one of those days where you set off with a bit of a plan but things turn out very differently. In a good way!

As we were running low on bird food for the squadrons of finches, tits, doves and pigeons that visit our garden, Our Lass and I decided to head over to The Lodge shop at RSPB HQ to stock up.

Walking up the path to the shop, I texted JD to see if he was about, as he only lives a few miles from The Lodge. It wouldn't do to miss out on the opportunity to hear some Rotton Yarns at first hand.

JD phoned back to confirm his availability and we agreed to pop in after our shopping trip and a quick visit to the gardens of The Lodge.

The main feature of the garden is an old swimming pool that is now home to an impressive array of wildlife, as well as a hungry shoal of carp. Despite the presence of the fish, this pond is excellent for Odonata and, at this time of year, is good for close up views of Small Red-eyed Damselfly. We have this species in Milton Keynes, but it is often out in the middle of large water bodies and not so easily seen.

On our first lap of the garden, cloud cover was keeping the dragons and damsels quiet, so that all we saw was a Migrant Hawker, plus a few Red-eyed, Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies. Continuing our circuit of the smaller water bodies, the sun finally put in an appearance, so that by the time we returned to the swimming pool pond, some Small Red-eyes were out on the lily pads. I only had the camera on my phone to record images, so didn't attempt a risky leaning-out-over-the-water shot!

Mind you, carefully stalking a Common Darter on a wall delivered impressive results. Just as I pressed the shutter release button, the dragonfly took off, resulting in possibly the best in-flight odo shot I have ever taken.

So why do I usually lug around several kilogrammes of Canon's finest? It's enough to make you weep.

Walking back to the car along a woodland path, I remembered a promise I made to Katie from Nature ID. Following a post about willowherb plants in California on her blog, I said that when next the English varieties were in flower, I would photograph them and post too. To be fair, they aren't a patch on the razzmatazz of the colours of the American species, but my word is my bond.

Rose Bay (Willowherb), Chamerion angustifolium
Some internet sources list this plant as a true Willowherb in the genus Epilobium, either way, it wasn't a common plant in the UK until the expansion of the railway network in the first half of the  19th Century, which helped it to spread. It is often found on waste ground and also goes by the name of bombweed or fireweed.

We do have Great Willowherb, growing in our garden at Tense Towers, but the weather this year has really confused it. It is nowhere near flowering yet. The quest continues.

We met up with JD and explored the fine array of wildlife in his garden at Fort Soixante Neuf. A wonderful spread of corn field annuals harboured all manner of invertebrates, butterflies, moths, beetles, grasshoppers and shield bugs. We then sat by the pond for ages, entranced by all the aquatic goings-on. As thunder rumbled away to the west, we risked setting off on a walk along a few bridle paths in search of butterflies and dragons. JD's excellent route planning ensured that we ended up at an eatery, the Coach House in the town square, where we enjoyed a roast lunch from their Sunday barbeque menu. The only slight downside was the fact that I was driving and couldn't partake of any ale from the local brewery. Oh well, next time :o)


holdingmoments said...

A grand day out.
I must get over to Sandy soon; not been for ages.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Ha! I should have read this post first before commenting on another. June or August, eh? Excellent!

Imperfect and Tense said...

Great for odes!

Imperfect and Tense said...

Ta-dah! Better late than never, eh? The Greater Willowherb at Tense Towers has now flowered. About 4 seconds after I took the photo, Our Lass added the plant to the compost heap. Though she's not allowed to uproot anything that she can't identify. Will post again soon.