Thursday, 25 August 2016

Hanging out at Far Pasture

Finally got me laptop fixed so a bit of catching up to do (though not as much as you might expect considering it's been out of action for 4 weeks).

First some action from Far Pasture. Just three visits to summarise. On the 5th the highlights were a perching Kestrel and an obliging Large White butterfly, before the journey home saved the day with an immature male Southern Hawker spotted at the top of the access road (an area which was very productive last year for the species too).

Kestrel atop the dead tree, a regular perching post for birds of prey in the area.

Constantly on the look-out, this brown-capped female annoyed the
resident GS Woodpecker, which was constantly alarm-calling throughout the time
she was perched, though didn't make an appearance.

She posed for quite a while before being joined by the male, then they
left the scene together, though didn't seem altogether friendly.  

This Large White butterfly was far more obliging than the few common darters
in the area, which remained un-photographed.

Don't know much about butterflies but the bold wing-spots mean this is a female,
the male having very faint markings in similar position.

Still often referred to as the Cabbage-White, they were much more abundant
in the 70s when I had the job of squishing their eggs on my dad's cabbages;
they were always covered in them, and if any were missed the cabbages were reduced
to skeletons in a very short time. 
  Happily for me the Southern Hawker was much more photogenic than the darters had been.

Bright sunshine at the top of the access road, this feller was well camouflaged, the glistening wings
gave him away.

Showing the pale markings of an immature male

Closing in and he was pretty much settled, the usual bright blue tail markings are
almost white.

The yellow markings are very pale too, and the brown eyes are another sign of
his immaturity.
Also note the unusual black mark at the left of the frons, (significance later.) 

Moving around for a look at his face, still a striking creature.
 That encounter saved the day from total disaster, and the next visit a week later (13th) was pretty similar. A very low count of Common Darters at the roadside, none on the pond at all, and another encounter with a Southern Hawker at the top of the access road on the way back.
But at least this time the darters were in photographable view :

Maturing male Common Darter

Immature male Common Darter

Another immature male posing at a good height at last

Closing in
A couple of scares with cleg flies here as well (I clobbered one just as it started to bite) so we didn't hang around for too long. I did take a look at the Forbidden Pond as the ponies appear to have been removed from the field now, but it remains devoid of life :

The Forbidden Pond
Deep and without aquatic vegetation it holds no attraction for insect or bird. It's holding water well enough
but in my opinion is too deep for dragonflies. I've looked a few times now and have yet to see either
dragon or damsel anywhere near it.
Time will tell as the vegetation takes hold but at the moment it's just a sterile environment with no cover
for waterfowl either.
 But, the journey home again produced the bonus of a male Southern Hawker in the same place as last time :

I waited for this tiring male Southern Hawker to find a perch before closing in, but his position was just out of reach
and into strong sunlight, so decent photos proved difficult, but luckily he soon found a new perch
in better view. 

Still fighting against the strong sunlight, but the bright blue and vibrant yellow/green
markings of the mature male are clearly in stark contrast to the palour of the individual
the previous week, though I wondered if it was the same male, now a week older and sporting
mature colours.

But clambering around for a better angle I can see there is no extra black marking at the left of the frons (as pointed
out earlier in the post) on this fella, so not the same one. 
So a second male feeding here. This one too has a distinguishing black mark
making a distinctive 'cat's eye' mid-thorax.
Another one to keep a look out for. 

My last visit to Far Pasture was late afternoon/early evening on the 22nd, but despite being a warm and bright evening, the whole area was in shadow from the lowering sun, and only half a dozen Common Darters showed on a small stretch of fence still bathed in sunlight.

So no Ruddy Darters yet, they seem to be getting later every year here, and the hoped for Migrant Hawkers weren't anywhere to be seen either, again they are usually out by now hawking the fields opposite the woodyard. To say Far Pasture has been disappointing this year is an understatement. And even at the top of the access road, there were no southern hawkers present on this occasion :-/


  1. I visited the forbidden pond on Tuesday when I was down there showing my kids some Red Kites. It looks utterly desolate.

    We did see a lot of Southern Hawkers from the Thornley Woods hide, though I didn't find the pond there for closer views.

    1. I was at Thornley pond yesterday and there was nowt to be seen, nowt from the hide either. To find the pond go over the embankment and take the path left. Pass the small pond on the left and where the track bends right there is an overgrown trail through the trees (left) to the pond just a few yards in.
      If you reach the left hand fork in the actual path where the wood clearing is you've missed it. Once you see where it is you'll not believe how you've never seen it before.

    2. Actually that makes it sound like it's just beside the first small pond, it isn't, you need to follow the track about 50 yards to the next bend.