Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Ahoy, skipper

On Sunday, which was a mostly lovely sunny day, I went over to Teddington to see Susan, Paula and Clive, and to have a walk in Bushy Park. This is unusual - we are more likely to be found running round Bushy Park than walking. It was a bit of a treat to take my time, take some photos, and visit some of the more tucked-away parts of this very large area of parkland.

I was a little physically compromised - suffering from a bad case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from the day before, when I did my black-belt aikido grading (I passed!). Kneeling down to take pictures was pretty much impossible, which meant I didn't give my new camera as much of a workout as I'd have liked. Yes, new camera - I have bought a D7200. I've been waiting for ages for a proper update to the D300 - ie a pukka semi-pro DX body - and there's not been one, but I read enough good reports about the slightly lower end D7200 to convince me I needed to give one a try. My verdict to come at the end of this.

The park is looking lovely, with nearly all the grassland allowed to grow through the summer, and this has encouraged a huge population of Small Skippers. I have never seen so many, anywhere, it was an absolute delight to see them in profusion wherever I looked.

Actually though, the first ones I photographed were not Smalls but these two Essex Skippers, sharing a little Creeping Thistle flower. It's perfectly possible that there were loads more Essexes, but all my other photos show Smalls.

Like this one. A female Small Skipper, she's laying an egg in the roll of a grass blade.

A Carrion Crow, with a monkey-nut. Where did it get that, I wonder? Birdlife in the open parkland was a bit sparse - a few Green Woodpeckers and overhead the odd Ring-necked Parakeet.

A walk along an irrigation ditch revealed several Banded Demoiselles, sadly impossible for me to photograph as they were too low down, but we were to see more later on.

We reached the fenced-off Woodland Gardens and here Susan and I parted ways with Paula and Clive as canines are not allowed in this area. We'd not been walking long up a shaded trail along the edge of the gardens when we found ourselves surrounded by small birds, which were flitting about calling constantly, and were very hard to lock onto in the leafy and shady conditions.

The one clear shot I managed of a juvenile Long-tailed Tit. This bird (and its siblings) will have been out of the nest for some weeks now and foraging for itself, though still staying in the family group. It's looking rather scruffy as it begins its post-juvenile moult.

Great clumps of brambles by the path were well attended by skippers and Meadow Browns, and my first Ringlets of the year.

We came out into a more open spot, where there were some very picturesque small ponds. Beside one such pond I spotted this pristine fresh male Gatekeeper basking in an unfortunately inaccessible spot, hence shonky shot.

Nearby, and even more inaccessible (and hence shonkier shot) was this Comma, which I presume is a newly minted summer brood individual.

Continuing with the brown/orange butterfly theme,  a Meadow Brown.

A trio of Small Skippers showing off their angles. The largest of the lakes was fringed with flowers including many Creeping Thistles, and these were so skipper-filled it was ridiculous.

There were damsels around the water of course, including these in-cop Blue-tailed Damselflies. Nice light, shame about the depth of field.

There were also many demoiselles, at least one Beautiful here but the majority were Banded, like this one.

A few Mallards were drifting languidly about on the lake. I was taking pics of this one when I noticed that she was eyeing the skies in a slightly anxious manner, so I followed her gaze...

... and there was a Common Buzzard floating overhead, already virtually out of camera range.

This lake had lots of lily-pads, which I scanned for Red-eyed Damselflies but found none. A few Water-lily flowers were out and looking lovely.

It turned out that there were two bits of Woodland Gardens, and while Susan went off to find Paula and Clive, I explored the second one. Pretty much immediately I found this corking male Beautiful Demoiselle, who sat nicely for precisely one photo before flying up into the trees.

The path here follows a fairly small channel of water, which eventually opens up into a biggish lake. Here I found this confiding young Grey Heron.

This Coot nest was on the same stretch of water...

... as was this Mallard, well on the way to full eclipse plumage. He and many others, plus a couple of females, were loafing around, preening their fast-changing plumage and generally being the picture of relaxed contentment, a far cry from the hormonally charged sex pests they would have been a couple of months ago.

Carrying on, I found a female Mallard with a brood of small ducklings.

And even more babies - part of a large brood of Egyptian Goose goslings.

I'd reached a busier area now, with many picnicking families, and some Jackdaws stalking about among them, looking for scraps.

I reached the end of the Woodland Gardens and rejoined the others, under skies now looking a little foreboding. We decided to head home.

At some point on the way (or possibly not, I can't remember when I took it) we saw this smart shiny ground-beetle, which I'll try to ID at another time.

And I couldn't leave without at least a few shots of the star residents, the Red Deer. This stag was having a meditative chew, and showing off his full-grown but still fully velveted antlers

So, about this new camera. I bought it with a view to selling both my D300 and D700 if I like it, and most particularly if I like how it goes in low light. Its cost new is only a little more than I should get from selling the other two bodies. BUT I am not sure about it yet. It feels less solid than the D300. It's a bit more plasticy and it lacks certain things eg a protector for the LCD screen. In use, I really noticed the slightly slower frame rate when taking some (unblogworthy) bird in flight shots. I was also quite annoyed to find that I couldn't process the RAW files it produced without installing a bunch of new software. Picture quality and noise levels at high ISO are an improvement on the D300 but I'm not sure if they are enough of an improvement. The shutter is quiet! The files it produces are very large so I'll be able to crop more and still end up with a printable image. I need a bit more time with it though before I decide what to do.


Bob Telford said...

Another interesting and informative read Marianne - not only the wildlife information but I have expanded my vocabulary with "shonky" and "shonkier". Also interesting to read about your new camera though, as you know I'm on the other side.
Congratulations on your grading too.

Phil said...

Well done getting your Black Belt Marianne, I wondered how you had got on.
Well done too for finding a Beautiful Demoiselle, they have eluded me so far. Glad you got the new camera, hope it turns out to be a good investment!