Thursday 30 June 2022

In The Mountains.

During our stay in Transylvania a friend of Anna invited us to use his weekend retreat in the mountain region in the Lonely Stone National Park.

What an amazing place this turned out to be. Peter was there when we arrived to show us our rooms, and he had also put some logs on in the hot tub!! From the balcony I could see a rather good looking meadow just a few hundred metres away and he told me there was no problem me going into the meadow to explore. This turned out to be the best little spot for me. Peter then left for a couple of hours, he was returning later with his wife and was going to cook us a barbecue. 

The view from the balcony of the meadow and mountains.
(On our last morning just before we left a Camberwell Beauty was seen flying around from this very spot).

In the meadow.

Whilst Peter was gone I was keen to get to the meadow as the sun was beginning to go down and the meadow was partly in shadow already. Before I had even reached the meadow I was seeing roosting Woodland Ringlet, Marsh Orchids and a Mazarine Blue!! Once inside the meadow though I was seeing lots of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and Black-veined Moths. I managed to visit the meadow 4 times during our stay and each time threw up more species. 
The barbecue was also fantastic, and that was after a quick soak in the hot tub. Heaven came to mind!!

Mazarine Blue.

Woodland Ringlet.

The following morning I was up early and back in the meadow. Amazingly I didn't have a hangover following quite a bit of beer and schnapps.

Oberthur's Grizzled Skipper (probably).

A freshly emerged Heath Fritillary.

After a couple of hours in the meadow and after breakfast Chris, Anna and I climbed to the top of the mountain (in the top photo). Going through the treeline was rather interesting as it was mega steep and very uneven. On the way up a Large Blue was seen and photographed and further up we saw several Orange-tips. Many more Woodland Ringlet including one that posed open winged high up the track. Just above the treeline was a very large Fritillary, but it was distant so I couldn't see if it was Silver-washed or a Cardinal. A probable Mountain Green-veined White and some Speckled Wood were also about.

Large Blue.

Woodland Ringlet.

The view from the top of the mountain was also very special. The only downer for me was seeing how many large areas of trees on the sides of the mountains had been cleared, one would think that they should be reasonably safe in a National Park? All the time we could also hear chain saws going so the area will unfortunately be poorer due to this destruction.

On the way back down the mountain Chris spotted a Black Woodpecker. It was feeding on a large Anthill so using trees to hide me I managed to get just about close enough for a couple of photos. These even made Matt a bit envious when he saw them.

Black Woodpecker.

Once back down the hill I couldn't wait to get back in the meadow, and this visit was even better!!

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Transylvania Adventure.

 We arrived at our destination, Anna's parents home at around 5.30am so we were all a bit shattered, but being met by Anna's Mum and having a little breakfast we went for a bit of a kip.

At this point I wasn't sure how much exploring I would be able to do on my own, but I needn't have worried at all as the family were so welcoming and encouraging. The daily tipple of Schnapps were very welcome as well as the superb beer out there. Anna's Mum was also a great cook and each day she  went to great length to make us all feel at home.

After seeing the Black-veined Moth the previous week in Kent, a moth which is extremely rare in Britain, I did suspect that I might see one or two in Transylvania, but I wasn't expecting it to be the first insect I was to photograph, although much better photos of this species would follow later in the week.

The first butterfly I photographed that I hadn't seen before was a Chestnut Heath. A very common species over there.

Chestnut Heath.

Walking in the meadows were amazing with insect life all around. What a difference to Britain where insect life seems to be vanishing. Of course with the abundance of insects come so many birds with so many Swallows and House Martins flying around. White Storks were also very numerous with all the small towns having nesting platforms for these impressive birds. On the 2nd early morning session with a roosting Silver-studded Blue a White Stork landed on the house and I managed a quick photo before it flew.

White Stork on the house.

Silver-studded Blue waking up in the early morning glow.

The sun is up and the Silver-studded Blue opens up.

On the meadows just behind the house I could wander anywhere I wanted and it was great to explore and find some wonderful butterflies and other insects.

Black-veined White.

Sloe Hairstreak.

Oncocera semirubella

Pale Clouded Yellow.

It was a really good start to the trip, but much better was to come including 2 nights in the mountain area and a very productive meadow.

Sunday 26 June 2022

Red-backed Shrike.

 I have recently returned from a fabulous trip to Transylvania with my son Chris and his girlfriend Anna. The main purpose of the trip was to meet Anna's parents and I was amazed at the super welcome and generosity of them and her sister.

I will be posting a few entries about this trip over the next few days as I was able to get out into the beautiful countryside there and see many insects and birds. A truly memorable trip and one I hope I may be able to do again in the future.

There were several special bird sightings but the one species that allowed me to get close enough for some decent images was the Red-backed Shrike, of which there were possibly 3 pairs in the vicinity of the house.

Male Red-backed Shrike.

Male Red-backed Shrike with a Cricket for tea.

Female Red-backed Shrike.

An unfortunate end for this Chafer that had been skewered onto the bush. The Shrike living up to it's reputation as the 'Butcher Bird'.

Such a fabulous looking bird.

Tuesday 21 June 2022

Kent Butterflies, Orchids and Moths.

 With my good friend David going away to Bempton, the same time as I was going to Transylvania, he invited me over to Dinner before we went following a trip to Kent looking for Heath Fritillaries and Orchids. 

As the forecast seemed ideal, sunny intervals and light cloud all day, we headed off hoping the forecast would be right!!

As we approached the Heath Fritillary site all the clouds vanished and it became very sunny, not quite what we wanted but better than going the other way!! Of course when we entered the woodland the butterflies were waking up and were reluctant to show their beautiful under-wing patterns. However, at least they were there in pretty good numbers. After an hour of watching them and hoping for a bit of light cloud cover a couple of wardens turned up to survey Woodpeckers, so we decided to head further into the wood to see if we could find some more clearings where the butterflies would be. This worked in our favour as we soon found a couple of other quiet sites with plenty of Fritillaries. The cloud also started to build up so we stood a chance of the butterflies slowing down a little. With a lovely White-spotted Sable micro moth also flying in the clearing we had another great hour or two and some lovely images were achieved.

Some of my best ever images of the beautiful Heath Fritillary.

We then headed south for some of Kent's special orchids. The Monkey Orchid was first on the agenda, a difficult one to get in full flower as my butterfly visits to the county never seems to coincide with the best time for this species, either being too early with the Duke of Burgundy, or too late most years with the Heath Fritillary. Once again most of the Monkey Orchids were past their best, but a couple were just about okay still. The weather had now taken a turn though with heavy clouds and light rain on and off.

Monkey Orchid.

Following this we headed to a site for Late Spider Orchids. The problem now was opposite to the start of the day as it had now started to rain heavier along with a bit of a breeze. As we arrived at the site the rain had stopped fortunately and as I entered the meadow where the orchids are found I spotted what appeared to be a Small White butterfly flying. Looking closer though it turned out to be the very rare Black-veined Moth. This was the first of 5 of these moths seen during the visit. One of them was seen at roost when the rain started up again and a few photos were achieved of this fabulous moth following photographing some wet Late Spider Orchids.

Late Spider Orchid.

Female Black-veined Moth.

If we had known the weather was going to be like it turned out we would probably not have gone, but as it was it was a fabulous day finished off by a lovely meal from Jennie.

Friday 3 June 2022

Damsel Delights.

 Last week I met up with Nigel for a walk in one of the local woodlands. The weather was not exactly warm or sunny and sightings were few and far between. Probably the most interesting thing was a mass of baby Frogs exiting the lake. It really was very difficult to avoid treading on them but I think we just about managed to avoid them all. There were probably 1000s walking and jumping across the paths all around one corner.

Of course, with it being a bit cooler some of the insects were a little easier to get close to and this included some of the Damselflies. The Azure Damselflies have now been joined by the Common Blue Damselfly and a shot of each species were achieved by both of us.

Azure Damselflies in tandem. (Male at the front).

Immature Common Blue Damselfly.

After a couple of hours we decided to call it a day and we headed back to the cars. As I had my lunch with me Nigel headed off, and I was planning to as well after lunch, however, the sun came out for a short while and as I had nothing to head home for I decided I may as well have one more circuit on my own. I'm glad I did as along one ride I came across a beautiful female White-legged Damselfly that posed very nicely for me.

Female White-legged Damselfly.

Yesterday morning with the wind being very light I decided to have a go at finding roosting Banded Demoiselles. Something I normally try to do earlier in the season before the vegetation gets out of control. Of course, I should have realised it would be a little damp walking through the long grasses and after just a couple of minutes I regretted not putting the waterproof trousers on. Still, very cold wet legs was a good way to wake up a bit as I had arrived on site at 5am. The vegetation was very dense and I didn't rate my chances very high, but eventually I found a lovely male Banded Demoiselle that performed very well as the light gradually improved. By 6.30 I had taken over 100 photos and I was back home before 7am. With the light being quite poor it was as well I took plenty of shots as many were a little soft, but I ended up with nearly 20 worth keeping. A cracking morning with great views on the way there as the sun was coming up. Later in the day I did pay for it though as I was really feeling the early start.

Male Banded Demoiselle (and dew).

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Looking at Spring.

 With June now here I thought I would post a few of my Spring highlights that I for some reason hadn't posted before. 

The season certainly has moved on apace and is generally ahead of where one would normally expect, although most years it seems we say that nowadays so I guess it is what we have to get used to.

I have had some great days getting close to nature with most of my exploits being close to home with the odd day further afield with my survey work at the private wood and a few days working for Naturetrek too.

Scarce Chaser.

Mother Shipton on Wood Spurge.
 (Look for the face of a witch on the wings, where the moth gets its name from).

Mating Large White.

A confiding male Orange-tip.

Scorpion Fly. (Many of these about this year).

A confiding female Grizzled Skipper.

A late season Grizzled Skipper.

A fresh 2nd brood Speckled Wood.

Black-headed Cardinal Beetle on Oak leaf.