Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Painted Ladies and a Damsel in distress

There’s a definite chill in the air in the early morning now; a clear sign that autumn is thinking about emerging from summer’s strong shadow. My newly found love for butterfly and dragonfly photography will soon be packed away to make room for the birding Grand Prix that is autumn. But before that gets into full swing, there is still a few weeks (longer than most butterflies live) to enjoy the fascinating spectacle of these beautiful creatures.

I had some time recently to visit a new reserve in Essex that has a strong reputation for butterflies. Langdon Hills Country Park/EWT is situated in south Essex near Basildon and consists mainly of woodland and meadowland.

Large White
For the novice explorer though, it is difficult to get your bearings and it is hard to say what bit of the reserve I was actually in. But I know one thing. The area known as Plotlands  where a number of cottages once stood is brilliant for butterflies. The management of the wildflower meadows is skilled and to be admired. Peacock, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and Large Whites were abundant here. But the special one must go to the Painted Lady that sat amongst them all.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

Painted Lady
The Painted Lady proved to be a real poser for my camera but the same could not be said for the Common Blue. I found a pair of these tiny butterflies in an open area of meadow. They refused to settle and had me chasing after them like an end title sequence usually reserved for Benny Hill.

As soon as I caught up with one, it would fly off back over my head. Anyone watching me would have called the local looney bin for advice.
Common Blue
Common Blue
Small Heath
Also in the meadow area I found a Small Heath. This is a very small butterfly and rarely rests with it’s wings open. It too seems to sense my presence and I had to tread carefully to get close.

From Langdon Hills, I made my way over to Hanningfield Reservoir.. There were a couple of birds that I need and I felt Hanningfield would be good for them. Firstly I needed Red-crested Pochard and Hanningfield is a sure bet for this duck. I also needed Common Sandpiper which again I have nearly always seen here.
Red-crested Pochard
The RC Pochard were a bit distant but I counted about 14 birds. There was a pair of Common Sandpipers too so I achieved my goals. I noticed that butterflies were not quite as abundant here as they were at Langdon but Hanningfield made up for that in Dragonflies and Damselflies.

Ruddy Darter
White-legged Damselfly
Silver Y
I can even say I saved a Damsel in distress as I found a Common Blue caught up in a spider web and pulled it free (what a hero) It sat on my finger for a minute but it was too close to photograph – just a blur and my ugly thumb to see so I have not put it here.

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