Lesser black backed gull

There are lots of gulls on Knutsford’s Moor at the moment, almost all black-headed gulls, as on the featured image. Then there is a single larger gull, which stands out from the rest, does its own thing, and is treated with some suspicion by them. It is not one of the gang.

This is a lesser black-backed gull, featured in the following images, standing on the ice. The excellent information given by the RSPB shows that this particular bird is in its second winter

Click to see as slideshow.

The lesser black-backed is typically half as big again as the black-headed variety, but significantly smaller again than the great black-backed gull. See also Cornell Lab info.

Lichen

It’s easy to ignore lichen, those vaguely mossy patches on twigs, branches, stones, walls,… Yet lit up by a low November sun they prove to be rather attractive.

Now don’t they look like some sort of vegetation? Certainly the following looks rather akin to a moss.

But they are not. Moss is a plant; lichen is not. Lichen is actually type of fungus, but one that can only exist in symbiotic relationship with algae or cyanobacteria. The algae/cynobacteria provide the lichen with photosynthetic energy, while the lichen provides a protective environment.

According to Wiki, there are over 20,000 species of lichen, covering 6-8% of the surface of the earth. How easily we ignore such an incredibly successful life form.

Crab Apple

Branches are mostly bare now at Anderton Country Park, although the younger and more sheltered oaks and beeches still sport plenty of brown and yellow. But here in a Hawthorn hedge is a mass of colour, which on closer inspection turns out to be not haws, but some sort of Malus / Crab Apple, embedded in the hedge. A wonderful sight on a sunny day!

Featured image is a close-up of the fruit.

The heron and the swan

For less than a minute this grey heron and mute swan faced off on Shakerley Mere. They were perhaps in each other’s way. I managed to pull compact camera out of pocket and take this before the confrontation ended, the heron backing off. The heron seemed to be hissing at the swan, but I couldn’t capture that moment.

The limpid water gave rather good reflections of the individual birds.

Fly Agaric

Fly agaric is a remarkably striking bright coloured toadstool, of which we’ve seen several specimens in this damp English autumn.

Young specimen in Calke Estate, Derbyshire
Older and much larger specimen on a grass verge in Cheshire

According to Wikipedia this fungus is not edible unless suitably treated. It also contains psychoactive substances, historically used for this effect in some cultures.

It is said that this fungus was used, mixed with milk, for getting rid of flies, which were attracted to the psychoactive chemicals, hence the name. Or alternatively the ‘fly’ came from the psychedelic effects of eating it.

An agaric is a type of fungus characterized by a cap that is clearly differentiated from the stalk, with gills on the underside of the cap.

Common green shieldbug

Here’s another green/brown shieldbug I came across in the garden, lurking in a corner, possibly looking for somewhere to hibernate. This is the common green shieldbug.

According to the Wildlife Trusts, the black dots distinguish this from the southern green shieldbug. The common green was once restricted to Southern England, but has recently become widespread across much of England and Wales, due to the effects of climate change. Nature really is on the move because of the changing climate.

I found it upside down, as in the featured image. The crazy world of insects doesn’t bother much about gravity.

They’re also called stink bugs because of their reaction to being disturbed. I’ve never come across this feature.

The apple crop

Our small apple tree in a raised border by a fence usually has a crop of 20-30 smallish apples. About half of these are usually riddled with bugs and/or bird peckings. I don’t use any pesticides.

This year I recently picked the ‘crop’ – just ten apples, but each rather larger than usual. This summer’s weather must have somehow encouraged this by shining and raining at the right times, as I’d hardly bothered to thin them out.

The funny thing is, there were no blemishes on the apples, no peck marks, no bugs, no caterpillers, no sawfly larvae, no aphids… Now this is scary. We know about declining numbers of insects, but NO BUGS AT ALL? And no birds fancying a tasty peck? Even the army of slugs enabled by the lack of deterrent couldn’t be bothered to climb up.

I have never known such an occurrence before. Another piece of evidence of the alarming reduction in the natural world that is taking place before our eyes. What will future generations say when they look at David Attenborough’s films and literally cannot believe their eyes, and that this wonderful biodiversity was all lost by negligence?

So yes, there are more important things than unblemished apples.

 

Gladioli

I know you have to be quick photographing birds and butterflies, but flowers? These gladioli seem to have come out late this year, but what superb delicate colours, a magnificent garden specimen!

gladioli

And the next day it rained stair rods, battering down the stems and knocking the life out of the petals. So much growing effort for just a day or two’s beautiful flowering!

Small white

The thistle patch featured a few days ago is already no longer, the flowers being replaced by fluffy seed balls like dandelion clocks. These pictures from that time, of small white butterflies click well with the colour of the thistle flowers. The first is an especially pleasing composition, to my eyes.

thistle small whitewhite on thistle 2

The (small and large) white butterflies were very common in my youth and a bit of a nuisance, with their caterpillars all over the brassica plants. Now they’re not so common, so seeing them is a bit more of an event, and photographing them more of a challenge.

Comma 2

The comma butterfly has a quite outrageous outline shape, supposedly helping as camouflage against a background of dead leaves. This was an occasional visitor to our garden, usually only seen on a few occasions during the summer.

comma_2

You can’t see the comma that gives this butterfly its name from the top. For this you need to see the underside, as in this earlier post.

The colour match with the buddleia and phlox is not wonderful, but that’s where it deigned to linger…

Thistle patch

Most of the year the long straggly patch between two local fields on one of our walks is a bit nondescript and weedy. We bemoan the poor state of the hedge. But at this time of year comes a profusion of thistles into flower, some quite beautiful.thistle flower with insects

Look closely, and you see tiny insects on the leaves and flowers, with body length of just a few mm.

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Silver Y

New to me, this day flying moth, a Silver Y, was flitting about rapidly on the lavender, never staying still for a moment. Out of maybe 100 shots there were just a few that were not too badly blurred and relatively in focus. This was maybe the best, head-on, proboscis in flower.

silver y frontRead More »

Egyptian goose

What was this unusual pair of ducks or geese with eye patches, a ring around the neck and attractive variegated wing colouring, an unusual sight on the lake in Tatton Park?

egyptian goose pairIt seems that they are Egyptian geese, related to the more common shelduck. Egyptian geese were originally introduced into the UK as an ornamental species and now established in the wild.

egyptian goose specimen

Striking birds!