Sunday, 22 May 2011

The birds and the bees

Yes, literally. Let's start with the birds:

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We saw this Great Tit hanging around a Cherry tree we'd left during last winter's coppicing:
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It was only after taking the photo and zooming in we saw the caterpillar in its mouth, so then we waited to see where the nest was. It's amazing how small a space they appear to need:
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Anyway, onto the bees. The foxgloves are now in flower, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to photograph the bees feeding there. The trick is to watch the bee go into a flower, and during the few seconds it spends in there you get into position and get focus lock, fully depressing the shutter release just as the bee appears. It works best with flash, even in full daylight:
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though without flash you get a nice motion blur on the wings:
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There's loads of other insect life around enjoying the warm weather, such as this damselfly
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Not surprising really, when you see what a jungle the top of Sweep Wood has become. We might need to go along with a scythe soon and clear the path!
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Lower down the hill, where we cut the coppice recently, the bluebells have now faded and are being replaced by goosegrass, or 'sticky grass' as I used to call it when I was younger:
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Finally, here's a few photos from the bottom of Sweep Wood, showing it not long after we finished cutting, then when the bluebells were out, and then yesterday:
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Mike

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Thursday, 19 May 2011

Ashden Awards 2011 finalists announced

Just a quick post to tell everyone that the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy finalists for 2011 have been announced. (If you didn't know, I work for the Ashden Awards)

Click the links below to visit the Ashden Awards website to read a bit about them and see some more photos.



















If you're particularly interested, then you might like to come to our conference. There's some info on the website, and you can book here.

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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Foxgloves are flowering

A little earlier than expected, the foxgloves that started growing last year after we'd coppiced have now started flowering:

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There's only a few our so far, and the size varies a lot at the moment, from the tall to the short:
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The flowers are stunning though, this is the first time I've tried getting some close-up photos of them.
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When this whole bank of them is flowering, it's going to look amazing:
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The buttercups are out in force now as well, and this time I managed to get a picture of one without too much of the petals being overexposed:
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In an earlier post I had pictures of a plant some readers thought was pignut. Well, I can confirm it is, after taking a better pic of the flowers, and also some of the leaves:
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We had some visitors come to walk round and see the effects of the coppicing this weekend, and there was plenty of insect life for them to see. The Peacock butterflies are looking a bit sorry for themselves, as these are ones that have hibernated through the winter:
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But there were some healthier looking Green Veined Whites around:
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and a Long Horned Moth was ID'd for us:
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I'm sure someone said this dragonfly was a Chaser, but I forget the exact name...
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and I've no idea what this little guy is:
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I'm not great on caterpillar ID either, but here's some pics anyway. I'm going on a course to learn more about caterpillars in a couple of weeks, so maybe I'll improve...
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That's all for now. We'll be up in the woods again soon to see how the foxgloves are getting on...

Mike

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Woodpeckers and butterflies

When we arrived at the wood yesterday, I saw a black and white bird take off from near our camp. At first I thought it was a Magpie, as we do get them there occasionally, but when it landed in a nearby oak I realised it was a Greater Spotted Woodpecker! Sadly the light wasn't that great, but I still got some of my best photos yet of this bird, and it was great to see one down in the coppiced area by our camp - a first since we bought the wood.

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Later on the sun came out, and with it the butterflies. I was pleased to get my first photo of a Red Admiral this Spring, and also this was the first time we've been able to take a photo of one at the bottom of the hill in Sweep Wood, as the coppicing has let the light in:
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They're not the only things flying around though - there's swarms of St Marks Flies up the hill in Sweep Wood (thanks to Patrick Roper for help with the ID):
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The dangling bits are just their legs:
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Here's a male one landed:
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Their name comes from the fact that they're often seen around St Mark's day - 25th April.

Also in Sweep Wood are lots of flowers, including some new ones since the coppicing. The Bluebell flowers are fading now, and the seed pods are swelling:
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But they are being replaced by some white flowers:
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Not sure on the ID for these, any comments welcome!
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The Foxgloves are preparing to flower, though I expect we still have a few weeks to wait:
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There's also this new one, which I think is a Stitchwort, but not sure about that:
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The Buttercup is another new arrival, though I guess it will only last until the trees close canopy in a couple of years:
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The plum tree at the top of the hill finished flowering a while ago, and a strange thing has happened - not only has it been growing fruit, it's also grown some strange pods, which are now going a bit mouldy. Any comments on what's going on here would be appreciated! Here's a pod next to a fruit:
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Some fruits and a pod on their own:
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and here's the inside of them:
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Back in our camp, the pears on one of the fruit trees are looking more conventional:
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The trees in the part of Sweep Wood we coppiced in 2009/10 are doing really well now. The trees we singled to grow on as possible future standards have a lot of side-growth, now there's more light. Here's a Sweet Chestnut and an Ash:
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and even the Hazel that got chewed by rabbits last year is having another go at growing:
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The whole area is really looking amazing now, a bit of a low-level jungle!
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Mike

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