Friday, 6 November 2009

Mixing the Seasons

It has been very quiet in the garden lately and I haven't had to fill all of the seed feeders daily, as I usually do. I think the Sparrowhawk may be around but of course there is also an abundance of hedgerow fruit to keep the birds happy.

I took quite a lot of photographs in the Summer which I haven't posted yet so I hope to include some of them over the next few weeks. Among the butterfly photos I was pleasantly surprised to find a Small Copper which I don't think I have ever seen before and which I didn't realise I had even photographed!

Small Copper Butterfly

Comma Butterfly

This lovely butterfly (Polygonia c-album) was almost extinct in Britain 100 years ago. It is unclear why this was but there were only one or two sightings in the southern counties of England between 1830 and 1920. Thankfully their numbers started to increase again around 1930. It gets its name from the small white comma or 'c' mark on the underside of its wings.

In Winter it hibernates on the lower branches of trees and with its wings closed it is perfectly camouflaged as a dead leaf! When Hops were commonly grown in this country they were the host plant for the Comma caterpillar, hence its nickname hop-cat. Now there are far fewer Hops grown they make do with Stinging Nettles. The black and white caterpillars resemble bird droppings!

Peacock Butterfly

'Fair Child of Sun and Summer! we behold
With eager eyes thy wings bedropp'd with gold;
The purple spots that o'er thy mantle spread,
The sapphire's lively blue, the ruby's red,
Ten thousand various blended tints surprise,
Beyond the rainbow's hues or peacock's eyes.'
(Joseph Warton)

Common Blue Butterfly

The next two photos are pretty awful but are of a bird I have always longed to see. They were taken in August in a small wooded area in the grounds of a National Trust property we were visiting. I suddenly heard a slightly muffled tapping noise behind me and taken completely by surprise I hastily fired off some shots. These two were the 'best' of a bad lot and I have been sitting on them in the hope of seeing another and getting a much better photograph but so far to no avail. I know some people are lucky enough to have them visit their gardens but I have never seen one in mine. I assume the slight tapping I heard was its beak as it probed the bark of the tree for insects.


'In summer showers a skreeking noise is heard
Deep in the woods of some uncommon bird
It makes a loud and long and loud continued noise
And often stops the speed of men and boys
They think somebody mocks and goes along
And never thinks the nuthatch makes the song'
(John Clare)

On one of our visits to Draycote Water I took this photo of a Lapwing and while it doesn't portray the bird itself very well I was pleased with the way the colours of the bird and its shadow are echoed in the ripples of the water.

Talking of unexpected effects the next photo almost looks like it is in black and white. It was taken in the daytime and I haven't done anything to it but I quite like its moody look!

On our last visit to Draycote I was thrilled to see another bird which I have never seen before (at least not knowingly) it really is a place rich in bird life. The Lesser Scaup is still there but has eluded me so far. Every time I hear of its current location, I find that by the time I get there it has been moved on to a different part of the water by the fishermen or boats and as it is about a five and a half mile walk all the way round it is not easy to locate one bird! There has also been a Black Redstart there recently but I have not been able to visit since it was spotted. It is more difficult now with the shorter days.

Anyway, back to my new bird, which I nearly missed as I was so busy scanning the water. I suddenly heard twittering sounds coming from the grassy bank, to the right of the path which runs alongside the water, and saw a flock of Meadow Pipits foraging amongst the grass, presumably for insects, and every time they were disturbed they would soar up en masse and land again a little further on.

Meadow Pipit

This lovely Robin posed beautifully for me near the feeders at Draycote on what had been quite a dull afternoon. I spotted it perched in a hedge with a sudden burst of late afternoon sun shining directly onto it.


'I wonder how a robin hears?
I never yet have seen his ears.
But I have seen him tip his head
And pull a worm right out of bed.'

This Black-headed Gull was showing off its acrobatic skills! Unfortunately the light wasn't good and the photos aren't very sharp.

I always find Pied Wagtails difficult to photograph probably because they are rarely still but this one posed long enough for me to get a half decent shot.

I think there is something delightful and rather elegant about the Great Crested Grebe although on land they are clumsy due to their feet being so far back on their bodies!

They get their name, of course, from the elaborate head feathers which appear during the breeding season. This lovely bird was almost extinct in the 1800s due to demand for the head feathers as decoration for hats! By 1860 there were less than 100 breeding pairs in the UK. Thankfully attention was drawn to their plight by conservationists and the Great Crested Grebe made a successful comeback.

They have a rather spectacular courtship display which involves beak to beak head shaking which enhances the appearance of their crest feathers and both sexes dive underwater to fill their beaks with pondweed. Then raising themselves out of the water they paddle rapidly breast to breast, heads swinging from side to side.

Young grebes are attractively zebra-striped and capable of swimming and diving almost as soon as they hatch. For the first 2 or 3 weeks of their lives they ride on their parents' backs but are soon discouraged and thrown off to fend for themselves!

While on one of our walks the Shield Bug in the following photo attached itself to the back of HLH's sweater!

Forest Bug (Pentatoma rufipes)

Finally two more photos from Draycote, the first is a Coot looking as comical as they usually do

and this one which shows that people go there for many diverse reasons, here is just one of them!

I hope he wasn't exceeding the speed limit!


  1. Good Morning Jan, thank-you, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your wonderful photo selection and read with my breakfast cuppa :-D

    I loved the butterfly shots especially the blue as I’ve never seen one. I’ve never seen a nuthatch either so that too was a treat and I can completely understand how you’ve been holding on to these shots. I am delighted that you have shared them now :-D

    I loved you Pied Wagtail pic too, they are tricky to catch staying still long enough too. A very entertaining bird I think.

    Fav pics go the Meadow Pipits!! I love sightings like this that you almost miss. I particular love spotting birds on the ground like this just doing their thing right under our noses! I can imagine this was a delight to see and would have made my day :-D

    Haven’t seen the forecast for the weekend this morning but hope it is good in your area… wishing you a good one :-D

  2. Hi Jan
    Great selection of photo's again,and the butterflies are supurb,hope to concentrate more on them next year.Fine on the Lesser Scaup not an easy bird to find and identify, so hope you get it next visit. Great text content to go with your post, it must take a lot of time and effort to put it all together well done.

  3. HI SSB.

    A great collection of fantastic photographs and text. The Pied Wagtail is a are right when you say they are difficult to photograph well. I think you will have to employ some *beaters* if you want to find the Lesser Scaup.

  4. Those butterflies bring back memories of days gone by Jann. I can't wait to see them again.

  5. Beautiful photographs, even the ones you say are "pretty awful." I love the action shots of the gull! I'm so glad you posted all of these and didn't leave them in your computer files instead. So interesting, too, to learn about some of the habits of the birds and a little history. I'm trying to imagine people using grebes' feathers for their hats--good thing hats have gone pretty much out of fashion!

    The peacock is an amazing butterfly; it's one that we don't have here in the Midwest, or at least I've never seen one here. I was lucky to see a comma in my garden this year. Butterflies were scarce here this past year, so I appreciated every one I saw.

    This was a great way to start my day!

  6. The peacock butterfly is certainly striking. We have similar commas in my area. I love the shape of their wings. The first little bird is a pretty thing with a narrow black mask around its head.

  7. Lovely photos and commentary again Jan. Well spotted with the Nuthatch. I have never seen one.
    I wonder what attracts Shield Bugs to cloth. The only time I saw one it was on a towel drying on the line.
    The Meadow Pipit shots are real crackers.

  8. This is another beautiful post !! Shots are amazing and colorful !! Great..

  9. An excellent post; both words and especially pictures.
    A superb Blue Tit to start with, and everything just got better.
    Really enjoyed it.

  10. Hi ShySongBird - what a lovely post, I love your photos of the butterflies - I've never actually seen a Comma before but they are one of my favourites! You were lucky with the Pied Wagtail, as you said they never usually stand still long enough to take a photo so well done! I look forward to seeing more of your photos soon.

  11. Hi Jan....beautiful selection of birds and butteflies. I am very fond of the small copper, its depth of colour is just so pretty. I did not see any this year sadly.

    I did not know the hop was the host plant of the Comma. I grow hops in my garden and get many Comma butterflies have got me thinking now!!

    I have never seen a Nuthatch in the wild....they are stunning birds. My brother used to get them in his garden but sadly not for the last two years....

    Lovely post Jan and some beautiful favourite the Lapwing......

  12. You take beautiful photos. I really enjoyed looking at them.

  13. Hi Jan. A lovely series of 'flutters' and birds. Particularly liked the Meadow Pipit shots. Thanks for holding these back and cheering up a very wet day. FAB.

  14. have a lot of information here and wonderful and beautiful photos. Your butterflies are particularly pretty, and I love your little blue nuthatch. He is so much bluer than ours. I too love the little nuthatches. They are so sweet (and feisty!).

    It's so nice to read about the birds (and butterflies) coming back from extinction. Here also the hat trade nearly wiped out many of the herons. A group of women conservationists came to their rescue--thank goodness they did, or we would miss so many beautiful birds.

  15. Your butterflies are beautiful. The Peacock butterfly reminded me of our own Peacock pansy...those eyes at the back! Loved the gull acrobatics. Your bird pictures are amazing. And before I forget,let me also mention the torn spider webs on black background. Can never resist spider webs too...find them fascinating.

    We have a lot of small blue butterflies here too but I love the fact that your photo of the same has a bee/fly in the background.

    Have a great weekend, Jan!

  16. So many lovely photos Jan, I particularly love the Comma, cobwebs on the dead flower...

    My absolute favourite bird has to be Nuthatch.... I really wish we had some here, but the surrounding area just isn't suitable for them, so I'll sit and sulk some more. It's probably the main reason I regret moving! ha ha, forget the fact I now have many new and interesting bird species visiting, I still want my Nutties :(

    Amazing to have such a close shot of a meadow pipet too! I don't think I've seen one before, or it's highly likely I mistook one for a song thrush lol

  17. Great photos!! I love all the butterflies especially the Peacock..and you got some great gull action shots! I added a the pygmy nuthatch to my life list this yr when I was traveling...didnt get a photo of that one but did get one of the mountain chickadee that was also a new bird for me. Thank you for sharing these great shots with us!

  18. very much look forward to your posts shysongbird, on these cold grey days your colourful photos and well chosen words are heart warming.


  19. Shirl,

    Thank you very much for your lovely comments and I hope you are enjoying your weekend :)

    The common blues are pretty, quite small though. Ah yes, the Nuthatch, it was the first time I have ever seen one (I am so envious of those who have them in their gardens) and was so unexpected and such a thrill...if only I could have got better photos!

    Yes, indeed, the Meadow Pipits were a thrill too, again my first sighting and yes, I could easily have missed them, it is quite possible I have in the past!

    It has been cold but beautiful sunshine here today, I hope it has been nice where you are too. Enjoy the rest of the weekend :)

  20. Hi Jan,

    Lovely photos, you blog always brightens my day, I thought you had gone into hibernation for the Winter ;-) The Butterfly photos are delightful, nice to look back on. I cannot get a photo of a Pied Wagtail they never sit still long enough.

    Lovely post.


  21. Monts,

    Thank you very much Monty, you are very kind. I have really enjoyed taking the butterfly photos this year and I am already looking forward to next in the hope of seeing some new ones. I still have a few more left to put on my next post.
    Having checked the Draycote birding website it seems the Lesser Scaup may have moved on as there have been no sightings in the last few days :(

    Yes, it does take some time to put my posts together and I have wondered whether to do simpler, more frequent postings but then I suppose they wouldn't really be me!

  22. The Abbot,

    Thank you very much for your very kind comments Trevor. Yes, I have taken some Pied Wagtail photos which make the bird look really odd :)
    I fear I have lost my chance to see the Lesser Scaup :( as there have apparently been no sightings in recent days, I smiled at your suggestion of employing 'beaters'.

    Warren Baker,

    Thank you Warren, they do indeed and I am looking forward to seeing them next year too. I hope you are feeling better now!

  23. Rose,

    Thank you very much for your lovely comments. I have lots of photos which I Haven't shown for various reasons, usually because I don't feel they are good enough :( but some have just slipped through the net somehow so perhaps when there is not so much opportunity for photography in the depths of Winter I can use them then.

    Yes, I agree about the hats with feathers, I hope we never see that fashion again! I assume it is totally illegal now.

    Unlike you we seem to have had quite a good year for butterflies which is lovely because the previous two had been very poor. I hope you see more next year.

  24. Roses and Lilacs,

    Thank you very much Marnie. I have noticed your Commas look very similar to ours, yes, it is the wing shape which I like too.

    I'm so sorry, I should have named the first bird, I will amend that shortly, it is a Blue Tit and related to your Chickadees I think.

    Midmarsh John,

    Thank you very much for your very kind comments John. I was so thrilled to see the Nuthatch and also the Meadow Pipits, both firsts for me! That Shield Bug was not easy to shift! We were in danger of bringing him home with us :)

    Unseen Rajasthan,

    Thank you very much for your kind comments Bharat, they are much appreciated. :)

  25. holdingmoments,

    Thank you very much for your very generous comments Keith, it is much appreciated particularly coming from such a fine photographer as yourself!


    Thank you very much for the lovely comments. I have really enjoyed getting to grips with photographing butterflies this Summer. I am already missing them and looking forward to next year! I hope to put a few more which I have, on my next post.

  26. Dear Cheryl,

    Thank you very much :) I really didn't realise I had the Small Copper photo and had even said to other bloggers that I had never seen one so it was a real thrill to find it among some unsorted photos!

    I should think the Commas are thrilled to find their original, preferred host plant in your garden and I know you grow nettles too so they must be in paradise there.

    That was my first ever sighting of A Nuthatch so you can imagine how pleased I was, I just wish I could have got a better photo!

    Enjoy the rest of the weekend and have a lovely week :)

  27. A lovely set of images. Love the Meadow Pipit and the butterflies are fabulous.

  28. oldcrow61

    Thank you very much OC and I hope things are still improving with you.

    The Early Birder

    Thank you very much Frank, I'm glad I helped to cheer up the day :) I was very pleased to see and get photos of the Meadow Pipits. Wishing you (and Anita of course) all the best for your retirement.


    Thank you so much. I really hope to see another Nuthatch before too long and get better photos but I suspect at this time of the year that will mean wading through muddy woodland unless I am ever as lucky as you and have one visit the garden of course!
    I agree completely that we have a lot to thank the early conservationists for but how sad that there are still, today, birds, and animals in general, being trapped or shot to satisfy man's selfish whim!

  29. Kanak Hagjer,

    Thank you very much for all your lovely comments Kanak. When you mentioned your Peacock Pansy I thought you were referring to the Pansy flower so was very pleasantly surprised, on looking it up, to discover yet another, lovely, 'foreign' butterfly...thank you for drawing my attention to it!
    I agree, there is something fascinating about spider's webs, they are so intricate.
    Have a lovely week, Kanak.


    Thank you very much for your kind comments. I have never seen a Nuthatch in my garden and doubt I ever will, as apart from my own garden, there are just not enough mature native trees around any more :(
    Yes, I was thrilled to see the Meadow Pipits, like you I may have seen them before but not realised what they were, I can see why you liken them to a Song Thrush but they are much smaller, about the size of a sparrow so if you saw a small flock darting up from the ground it would be easy, I think, to mistake them for sparrows.

  30. Dixxe's Doodles,

    Thank you very much Dixxe. The gulls can be very entertaining, I just wish the light had been better and consequently the pictures sharper but it is fun 'having a go'!
    It really is exciting to see 'new' birds isn't it? and even better if we can manage a photo as well :)


    Thank you so much Denis, what lovely comments! You made my day when I read them...and I really mean that... thank you :)

  31. John,

    Thank you very much, how kind! Your comments have brightened MY day :)
    All sorts of boring things made this a late post not least of which this miserable dull weather, I do hate the days with hardly any light so yes, hibernation does rather appeal! ;)
    I have quite a collection of strange looking Pied Wagtail photos! I really should get round to deleting them :)


    Thank you very much, I am so looking forward to the return of the butterflies next year, I just hope it is a good one for them!

  32. Your photos are incredibly beautiful and have enjoyed seeing them immensely! I was just thinking today about how few birds I have seen in our yard, then late in the day a woodpecker and cardinals appeared! Your robins look so different from ours.

  33. Hi,
    This is a lovely collection. I love the great crested grebe and the robin... Is till did not managed to get the robin turning around Reykjavik!! He is teasing me all the time!

  34. Lovley lovely photos, your butterfly shots would make great art quilts! Thanks for sharing.

  35. Hi
    I have really enjoyed looking at all your beautiful photos, I especially love the butterfly's and all the info.
    the nuthatch is so pretty another bird I have never seen, Thank you for letting me visit and for your kind comments on my blog, look forward to seeing more of your work

  36. Dear Jan,
    Thank you for this post. All the birds are delightful. I become bird dependant in the winter when the bugs are hiding!
    I really enjoyed the photograph of the Little Copper. I have never seen the Coppers that are in my area. Every year I hope to see one. I also love the Lapwing....
    It gets dark so early now. These last days of Autumn are always so diffucult. As soon as Winter Solstice comes I have a feeling of hope.
    Your stunning photographs filled me with joy!

  37. I've just found your blog through Monty's. There are some great photos there and you sound like you really enjoy what you do.
    I love the Pied wag and particularly the cobwebbed umbellifers.

  38. lovely series of birds, the landing sots are fantastic.

    Love the macro works very much too.

  39. Nan and =^..^=

    Thank you very nuch, you are very kind. How lovely to have Woodpeckers visit your garden, I would love that. Yes I have noticed how very diffrent our Robin is, I don't think they can be related at all.


    Thank you very much for your kind comments. I do hope you manage to get your Robin soon, as you say he is definitely playing games with you!

  40. Iowa Gardening Woman,

    Thank you very much, I wish I was clever enough to be able to use them to make quilts, a fascinating idea!


    Thank you very much Mary, I thought the reminder of the butterflies might help to cheer up the dull November days a little. That was the first time I had ever seen a Nuthatch too, I have a long list of birds I am longing to see!
    You are most welcome to visit any time :)

  41. Q,

    Thank you so very much Sherry. The weather has been so nasty here the last few days that even the birds are hiding :(
    It is the short dark days that I find so difficult too but I try to look forward to Spring, as you say Winter Solstice is a turning point.

    St Ives Birds and Photo Journal,

    Welcome and thank you for 'finding' me and for your kind comments, I'm so pleased you enjoyed the photos, I nearly didn't include the cobweb photo so I am glad I did now. I do hope you visit again soon.


    Welcome and thank you very much for your generous comments. I shall be popping in to visit your blog soon :)

  42. these are amazing shots of the butterflies. i love seeing them since most seem to have fled this area for now. every season has it's differences. i really like seeing the shore birds too. hope all is well and you are enjoying autumn.

  43. Thanks for your comments Ms Songbird. I shall watch with interest.
    Oh by the way, the Northern edge of the Cotswolds isn't such a bad place either. I know the area quite well as I grew up in Worcestershire.

  44. A beautiful set of pictures Shysongbird x I particularly love the robin and pied wagtail pics, just lovely xxx

  45. oh WoW...its just like going through a joyride of nature in its full beautifully captured!

  46. I'm a bit behind on my blogs. Another fantastic post, the photos are excellent.


  47. What a delightful post and beautiful photos.
    The peacock butterfly is so gorgeous, I've never seen one.

  48. marmee,
    Thank you very much for the lovely comments, I thought the butterflies would bring a little colour to the rather drab days.
    Our Autumn has turned rather nasty with lots of heavy rain and high winds so I am looking forward to Spring :)

    St Ives Birds & Photo Journal,
    Thanks for popping back. You are quite right ;) the Northern edge of the Cotswolds is actually a very nice place to live but St Ives is, I think, very special.

  49. Karen,

    Thank you very much, I always think there is something very special about our lovely Robin and it certainly brightens up these drab days.


    Thank you very much for your kind comments.


    Thank you very much. No worries at all, I'm often behind with commenting and posting ;)


    Welcome and thank you for visiting and also for your very kind comments.
    I think the Peacock is one of our most beautiful butterflies, last year I hardly saw any but this year there seemed to be a lot. If you pass a Buddleia bush on a warm and sunny Summer's day you may well see one on it.

  50. I have enjoyed my first visit to your lovely Blog garden. Beautiful descriptions and great photos. I LOVED the Robin, one of my favorite birds :)

  51. Alina,

    Welcome and thank you very much for visiting and for your very kind comments. Also apologies for taking a while to reply.

    I too love Robins, such cheerful little birds and so colourful at this rather dreary time of year :)


Please feel free to leave a friendly comment and thank you for taking the time to visit, it's much appreciated and I try to answer each one although it may sometimes take me a few days to do so.

PLEASE NOTE: Any comments which include unrelated links will be deleted!