Friday, 29 July 2011

Return Visit

This week with the continuing warm and summery weather I decided on a return visit to the Witherslack area of South Cumbria. Last week I had enjoyed my first look at Foulshaw Moss and its special wildlife so I was keen to return to this lovely part of Cumbria. The weather was cloudy until late afternoon and a walk up onto Whitbarrow Scar looking for butterflies proved fruitless. I had lunch down at Foulshaw Moss where a few dragon and damselflies where on the wing. I enjoyed photographing the large fly you can see above nectaring on hemp agrimony. It's identity eluded me until later at home when I think I correctly identified it as one of the horse flies. Apparently it is only the females that bite to feed on blood and the males feed mainly on nectar. We have all experienced the bite of a cleg which can swell up and be painful for a few days. I can only say I wouldn't fancy a bite from one as large as the one shown above !!
Around mid afternoon the cloud began to break up and I decided on a return visit to the Whitbarrow area to look for butterflies. I went to the opposite end of Whitbarrow Scar and visited Cumbria Wildlife Trust's Reserve at Howe Ridding Wood. Coppice management here benefits a number of butterfly species,including pearl bordered,high brown and silver washed fritillary by allowing sunlight to the woodland floor and encouraging plants to flower. Although the sun was out there were not many butterflies on the wing and I only managed sightings of common blues and a few dark green fritillaries one of which is shown above.
It was now late afternoon and I returned to Foulshaw Moss for an evening's deer watching. The red deer eventually came out of hiding way out on the moss and one of the hinds came much closer to the viewing platform where myself and fellow photographer Richard Witham were waiting for photographic opportunities. We exchanged traveller's tales,Richard having travelled all over the world in pursuit of his passion for wildlife and landscape photography. If my readers are interested they can view Richard's website at We were pestered by a swarm of flying ants which attracted the attention of a group of swallows fattening up for their long journey south. The finale came as an osprey flew in to land in the group of pines still standing out in the centre of the moss. Ospreys are daily visitors to this area and will I am sure soon be taking up residence at this ideal location for their continued expansion from further north. It was a fitting end to another super day out in this beautiful part of Northern England.
As usual a few images from the day are shown above with the red deer, osprey,emerald damselfly and horsefly from Foulshaw Moss and dark green fritillary from Whitbarrow. I have also included images showing the views out onto Foulshaw Moss and the woodlands at Whitbarrow Scar. Hope my readers enjoy my account and images and many thanks for looking .

Friday, 15 July 2011

Witherslack Mosses

For this week's trip I had decided to cross the border and explore the area around Witherslack in South Cumbria. This is a fabulous area for the naturalist and has some wonderful nature reserves managed by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust. I knew the area reasonably well having done some butterfly and plant hunting a few years ago. The very warm weather continued and it seemed an ideal opportunity to spend the day around the village of Witherslack which gives access to the nearby Foulshaw and Meathop Mosses and to the extensive woodlands underneath the magnificent limestone escarpment of Whitbarrow Scar.
I began the day looking for dragonflies at Foulshaw Moss and was kept busy photographing the delightful black darters which posed obligingly on the bankside vegetation bordering one of the delightful pools at Foulshaw. From here I went into the extensive woodlands at Witherslack to look for the large fritillary butterflies to be found there. I came across one or two clearings in the woods which had many brambles in flower and from time to time the fritilaries were visiting to nectar on the flowers. They were not easy to photograph but I did manage some shots of a mating pair which are shown above. Other butterflies present were common blues and dark green fritillaries.
For the remaining time I returned late afternoon to Foulshaw Moss. There was less activity from the dragon and damsel flies but red deer were beginning to come out of hiding way out on the moss. I had nice but distant views of the deer but was suddenly aware of a fox quite close to the viewing platform and making it's way out onto the moss through the rough grasses and sedge vegetation. I managed a couple of shots before the fox heard the camera shutter and rapidly vanished. Not long after that super views were had of a visiting Marsh Harrier which came fairly close and gave great views in the evening sunshine.
It was now time to make the journey home after what had been a wonderful day with the camera in this very special area of Cumbria. I was very pleased with the results and have shown above some of the day's highlights. I can't wait to return for more wildlife encounters in this part of Cumbria. I hope my readers enjoy the images posted above of black darter dragonfly , emerald damselfly ,and mating pair of silver washed fritillaries. The highlight of a wonderful day was of course the fox and the fly past of the marsh harrier both shown above and one or two of the magnificent scenery in this part of the world.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Close Encounters

Just a few more from last week's visit to see a pair of local barn owls. They are a very special bird to see and photograph and Martin and I were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.The images are very similar to my last posting but it is not often that all comes right on the day and you are lucky enough to obtain lots of images. Many of these were discarded but enough remained which I considered good enough to warrant a further posting.
So I hope my readers enjoy yet more barn owl images and I may return soon to try and improve on those shown above. For the technical amongst you the images were obtained using a 500mm .f4 lens coupled to a 1.4 X convertor giving me quite a reach and I was thus able to obtain some detailed close up shots of the owls.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Early Birds

On another beautiful summer's day in the current spell of settled weather I had decided on an early start to hopefully see and photograph a pair of barn owls which had been providing excellent views early morning and late evening at a location not very far from home. I was at the site before six a.m. and was soon joined by my good friend Martin, a very keen local bird photographer and naturalist. We concealed ourselves at a convenient spot overlooking an area favoured by the owls for hunting.
For around an hour or so there was no sign of the barn owls and we thought they may have retired early following a good night's hunting. This thankfully wasn't the case and around six fifty a.m. they appeared. For the next quarter of an hour they patrolled around the area where we waited and we were treated to some fabulous close views of these enigmatic and very beautiful birds. We were kept very busy with the cameras and managed to obtain an excellent series of images.
Martin had to leave early and I stayed on for about another hour but the owls chose to hunt in areas out of camera range but it was still a delight to observe them on a beautiful summer's morning. Around eight thirty a.m. I decided to leave them in peace and head home for breakfast and to reflect on what had been a superb early morning with these wonderful birds. Some images are shown above, a selection of many I took, and I am sure I will post a few more in the days to come. Hope my readers enjoy looking at them as much as I did in capturing them. I must make the effort again soon and join the owls on their early morning hunting forays.