I’ve already been away in our caravan since my prostatectomy but the caravan is still a very personal space. However, last weekend was another milestone of sorts in that we ventured over to near Ipswich where we would be staying with some old friends in their space. When I stay old friends, I mean friends of long-standing, of course. 😉 Our friends still work but, courtesy of the long awaited – at least, it seemed long-awaited – Royal Wedding, they’d be chez-eux on Friday so they didn’t mind when we turned up. We thought we’d take advantage of our route and check the RSPB’s HQ at Sandy, Bedfordshire, en route to see who might be hanging around before descending upon them in the late afternoon.
Also courtesy of the Royal Wedding, the roads were very quiet – reminiscent of travelling in France. In this respect, we should have Royal Weddings more often. On second thoughts, maybe not, since they let Satan’s Little Disciples out of school. Anyway, it seemed most of the wildlife was also inside watching the pomp and ceremony. I spotted a Stock Dove (not a Woodpigeon) but it was a very poor specimen, poorly positioned photographically, that would have been better off in some stock. I also caught the green flash of a Green Woodpecker flitting between trees but all in all, it was very quiet bird-wise. Disappointing. My highlight was a small pond where, above a few Smooth Newts in breeding plumage, a Pond Skater (Gerris) seemed to be tucking into a hapless Alder Fly (Sialis). On the surface (pun intended), Pond Skaters look fairly harmless but they are actually pretty fearsome creatures; I’ve seen a picture of several overpowering a dragonfly.
On Saturday, strong winds screaming in off the north sea at Aldburgh provided a refreshing blow along the very pebbly beach. Watching seagulls flying backwards was quite amusing. I think this one, a Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), is trying to look behind itself to see where it might be going. 😀 Just kidding, it was making slow forward progress. Less amusing was our attempting to walk back to the car into the headwind. I understood the seagull’s concern.
Another wild and windy but clear day on Sunday proved Alton Water Reservoir to be far more successful on the bird front than the RSPB reserve at Sandy on Friday. A couple of years ago in France, we spent many hours trying to identify the owner of a particularly piercing, melodious voice. We were a little surprised but delighted to hear that same, haunting melody ringing out around the wooded edge of the reservoir. They are secretive birds that normally remain steadfastly hidden in foliage, even at a distance of 3m/10ft, making a photo nigh on impossible. When one obligingly hops onto a branch right in front of you and begins singing, however, one’s chances improve dramatically. 🙂 The tuneful culprit is a Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos). Here’s a sample: Nightingale song
The luck wasn’t over yet. Back to our friends’ back garden for a sunny Sunday barbecue and good ol’ Hawk-eyes Carol spotted what at first looked like a Hornet (large flying thing with yellow on it) buzz into the garden. It alighted on a shrub (don’t quote me about the shrub) and said, “photograph me please”. You can see how the yellow might cause confusion from a distance but this is a magnificent, young and therefore pristine, male Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa). Mature males develop a blue pruinescence (powdery coating) on their abdomens and look very different. I confess to initially thinking that this was a female, since I’ve only previously seen older pruinose males, before being corrected by my good friends at iSpot. Live and learn!
Another great weekend, if a little on the wild side, and all went well, as expected. How long is this ridiculous but beautiful weather going on, though?