Thursday, 3 October 2013

Caterpillars, Big Fat Spiders , Volunteering and Dog Walks

October has arrived and I can't believe there are only 3 months left of this year!

Last week I went for lunch with my Dad to a farm café up the road from me. They are pretty self sufficient and grow all their own veg, use locally sourced cheese and have many a hen, so use and sell their eggs. We chose a nice day and sat outside. A view that stretched for miles and a couple of alpacas munching on the grass next to our little picnic table. I think they have such character!




I really thought the shadows and highlighted areas on this old leafless tree looked amazing. I don't usually do monochrome photos but thought this subject was enhanced by the monochrome format.

We were out water vole surveying again last Thursday and came across hundreds of these caterpillars. After a little bit of research I have come to the conclusion that they will one day turn into a reed dagger moth. Considering they were all over the reeds... makes sense!

Reed dagger moth caterpillar

We didn't have much luck on the water vole front but these sheep were very abundant and awfully inquisitive. We had already come a bit close to a herd of big pregnant cows with some smaller bullocks on a very narrow path which wasn't particularly easy to get through.


Lots of these vibrantly coloured migrant hawkers are still around. This male is hoping he might be able to break up this partnership and get some dragon action.

Migrant hawkers

Big fat female 4 spot orb weaver spider. Lots of these around.

After lunch we still hadn't come across many ratty signs. Chloe noticed this grass snake curled up on top of some dried out reeds. Sun baking to warm its cool blood. Migrant hawkers were hovering about 2 metres away from it. I was begging it to get closer as that would have made for an interesting photo. I got each in a separate shot which will have to do for now. The snake heard us nattering, raised its head and slithered off into a crack in a concrete block. A snake sized crack.

Grass snake

Migrant Hawker. Shame it's flying away from me

I took Bracken down to Oare and met my lovely friend Bess and her dog Bo. We walked along the seawall to Conyer and had lunch at the pub there. Great weather and wonderful catch up. Brack and Bo enjoyed chasing each other around, jumping in the mud and rolling down the slopes. Safe to say they were both knackered for the rest of the day. Bird sightings included a couple of cormorants, a few shelduck, 5 or so oystercatchers and a curlew just to name a few.

Brack giving Bo a kiss

Racing off

Anyone know what this is? I can't find it in my books! Edit: I asked Kevin (warden I volunteer with) and he suggested Salsify from my description and upon researching I agree. It is a Mediterranean plant.



Looking very happy with themselves!

The weekend arrived and mum and I drove to Victory wood which I have written about before. Lots of sheep around so we had to walk a route avoiding them. We noticed this amazing caterpillar!! Mum kept Brack away because I think he would have tried to eat it. It was about 6 or 7cm long! After flicking through the books we thought it was probably either oak eggar or fox moth. A little bit more internet research confirmed it was a fox moth caterpillar! Along the rest of our walk we saw many more of these and also a few other buggy, insecty things.

Fox moth caterpillar

Sloe bug

These young swallows kept landing in this tree/bush. Unfortunately we weren't closer and there was a bonfire in the background.
 
Swallows

Loved the colours amongst the newly planted trees and vegetation

The next two photos are quite similar. I prefer the composition of the first but the colours are brighter in the second. Annoying! I haven't edited either and just thought I would put both on here for comparison of results with different settings. That will teach me. Check settings before shoot!

f8, ISO 1000, 1/1000s

f10, ISO 360, 1/250s

On Monday we (the Swale area volunteers) returned to the land in Stalisfield where we cleared a large area of dock and thistle around the new(ish) ponds. Our task for the morning was to burn it. This appealed to the other volunteers (older men) more than me. Must be their hunter gatherer primitive instinct to build fire! I helped chop the branches and build it. There is actually a technique for creating a good stable bonfire. While we watched the matter burn, a buzzard soared above some nearby woodland, linnets chattered in the hedgerow and common darters laid their eggs in the ponds. Can't beat being out in the countryside!







Currently, on top of work at the pub and volunteering, I have a number of creative little projects on the go. I am also reading 3 different books and am in the process of turning the (too big for me) linen trousers below into some kind of skirt. My wonderful mum has been helping me design a pattern. If it weren't for her I would have just cut them up and sewed them up in any old fashion. Would have looked awful. Still might, but I just wanted to have a go at up-cycling some clothing :)
I also have 5 or 6 knitting projects in the pipeline. Some leg warmers, a practice rectangle of fair isle, a scarf which I will post a photo of once it is finished and other little odds and sods.


Knitting bible and some of the little projects

I hope everyone is having a good week so far! I watched The Great British Year last night. I thought there was some lovely filming and the sequences of hares was just magical. Not sure I like all the fast, sped up time lapse stuff though. What did all you lovely people think of it??? Oh and if any of you saw the wildlife revival programme on Sunday, the PhD student from Sussex who was talking about water voles and the trapping etc is the lady I go trapping with!


Also... as a bit of an after thought just came back to add this photo. Another caterpillar. Rubbish photo taken on my phone on a very wet water vole volunteering day...

Willowherb hawkmoth caterpillar! (I think) (13th Sept) Edit: Dark form of the elephant hawkmoth caterpillar. Unfortunately not the extremely rare migrant!! Thanks to Steve Ogden who corrected this for me.

28 comments:

  1. Lovely post Lou, full of lots of interesting things.

    You were so lucky to see the grass snake all curled up in a ball and your moth caterpillars are species I've never seen here as moths or pillars so I enjoyed looking at those too. The dogs look so happy together very sweet! Didn't like the spider but as you know they are not my favourite people.

    I'm just about to start some conservation volunteering (all tied up with my course) so am especially interested in all the ones you do. We're fence mending at college next week, which will at least mean the steel toe-capped boots get an outing.

    GREAT knitting projects- put mine to shame! Keep up the good work :-)

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    1. Thank you CT!! I had a lot of spare time last winter and spent most of it learning to knit. It is something which needs to be kept alive I think! I just edited the post because I forgot to add the most interesting caterpillar of all!!

      Ahh I look forward to hearing about/seeing photos of tasks you get involved in!

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  2. I love the Alpacas. Reminds me of when I had hair :-)

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    1. Hahaha! Maybe you could come to some arrangement whereby the alpacas give you some of theirs!

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  3. So much to absorb, watch out for the Alpacas, one spat at me and another "nipped" me, they can be grumpy! The orb spider made me laugh as every morning I walk straight through one web that stretches across part of my driveway and keep meaning to photgraph it and the flight shot of the migrant hawker is nice.

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    1. I didn't get too close to photographed alpaca! The spiders are quite photogenic. I don't think this one was impressed because I prodded her a bit to try and get her to turn around!

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  4. Great photos.. I especially love the hawker ones :o)

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  5. So many great photos, I particularly like the Sloe Bug image. Well, you are all getting ready for winter projects especially knitting. I saw the water vole student on the programme, it was a great series and I'm sad it's finished, but I hope they have inspired a lot of people.

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    1. Thank you Suzie I thought he was a very handsome chap! There is something very autumnal and cosy about knitting I think :)

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  6. A lovely selection of photos. I did lots of volunteering on conservation projects in my early twenties in Britain and abroad and loved every minute - I agree you can't beat being outside in the countryside! It is interesting to see and read about everything you see on your projects. I love the grass snake curled up and the insects - and love to see the dogs having so much fun, too.

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    1. Thank you Wendy :) If I don't find a proper job in the near future I would love to do some conservation work abroad! I need to save up first though! I'm glad you enjoy reading about the various tasks I do. I wish we could have another dog so Bracken could always have a walk buddy but not feasible at the moment.

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  7. Some beautiful photos there - the alpaca is incredibly cute and I loved all the insect photos :)
    I do so enjoy reading of your volunteering activities and walks :)

    I enjoyed the The Great British Year - I thought the camera work was superb and, for once, I enjoyed having no presenters popping up here there and everywhere.

    Your knitting projects sound fascinating - you are far more ambitious than me :) Have never attempted Fair Isle - well done :)

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    1. Thank you RR :) I enjoy volunteering so much and am happy that you all seem to like hearing about it!

      I do agree that the filming was super and I suppose it was nice to just have a voice over!

      Hopefully this winter I might finish some knitting projects! I do tend to get a little bored when they aren't done in a few days and then start something else! I will go back to them all though.

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  8. Really stunning pictures Lou - so impressed with the dragonflies, particularly the flying one! Very envious of your grass snake. I haven't seen one for about four years.

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    1. The hawkers were trying to help me by hovering a few metres in front of me, but all of a sudden they would dash off and I'd be left with a photo of some vegetation! I haven't seen one that clearly ever!

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  9. Great shots, Mary. I'm scary on the Grass snake :)

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  10. You are a busy girl. So many projects I don't know how you find the time. Sorry, but I just had to laugh - those trousers are rather big but ! guess you have enough material to work with!
    The B&W alpaca works really well and I love the curled up grass snake.

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    1. Haha yes they were the floaty baggy kind of trouser and just the right amount of material for the proposed skirt!

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  11. What a great post. Lovely pics and I'm so impressed by all the stuff you're doing! Willowherb Hawkmoth is a v rare migrant species in the UK according to UK Moths (and only adults ever found, no caterpillars), so if that's what it is then it's a real mega and worth notifying someone (not sure who though!).

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    1. Thank you Marianne :) Ohh maybe it isn't then!! I shall email the photo to a caterpillar expert from a website I used the other day. I saw it on willowherb so thought it might be that, but I could be wrong!

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    2. I emailed the expert guy and he has confirmed that it is probably a dark form of the elephant hawkmoth caterpillar. Never mind! Still pretty cool! Thank you for questioning it, otherwise I would have forever thought I had seen one!

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  12. Superb images,love the dog shots.
    John.

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    1. Thanks John, they were having such fun!

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  13. I was totally immersed in your lovely post and photos !
    Thanks so much for the share.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Willow!

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  14. I somehow missed this post (it might have been while I was away) but your photos are all wonderful, the flying Migrant Hawker being simply outstanding :-) Also great to see a Grass Snake as I see very few reptiles and whatnot up here, and the flower shot of the possible Salsify is another superb shot ! Good luck with your 'up-cycling' and other projects :-)

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