Sunday, 11 July 2010

Lost in the forest

I normally stay away from the Litter Pit on a sunny Sunday afternoon, so I made the Newt Ponds my first port of call. As it turned out the Litter Pit looked as deserted as the rest of the area. There are some unsavoury characters visit the area, so it was reassuring to see a police van make its way along the lane.

The meadow was alive with butterflies. It was very windy again, but the shelter made the chances of photographing insects better there than elsewhere. I was hoping to catch sight of one of the greenish damsels I had seen a couple of times before so I could get a positive ID, but apart from one male banded demoiselle by the pond all the others were blues of some sort. My efforts at shooting a mating pair failed miserably. They seem much more wary when paired up.

While I was chasing gatekeepers and whites around I heard a 'bustle in the hedgerow', more a crashing in a thicket actually, as if someone had let a big dog loose. I wouldn't have been surprised to see  a large dog running uncontrolled around there. What I did see was a roe deer bounding through the hawthorns towards the smaller pond.

Green-veined white

Leaving the butterflies to their own devices I tried to see where the deer had gone. Needless to say I didn't. Nonetheless I was pleased to have confirmed my thought that deer might lay up in a certain place during daylight. Creeping round the small pond I sussed out a deer trod round its margin, and saw some young reed warblers in the reeds. The pond is well encroached, particularly as it is drying out in this prolonged drought. There were at least two reed warblers in evidence. Making my way back to the larger pond I caught sight of feebly fluttering silvery wings attached to a green damsel. It perched well and gave me plenty of time top take enough shots to get one I was pleased with. Reviewing the shots I noticed the flash was switched off. I'd turned it off to try and grab some warbler pics and forgotten to turn it back on. By the time I did the damsel had flown. Luckily the shots weren't too bad, even with my wobbly hands and the slowish shutter speed. I think it's a female emerald damsel.

Female emerald damselfly?

I could have hung around a lot longer but I wanted to get to the a pond I can never find. With just one missed turning I found it this time! A couple of red admirals greeted my arrival. What I was hoping for were dragonflies and maybe a large red damsel or two. It was not to be. There was a one legged moorhen by the pond and plenty of blue damsels. Not to mention hordes of biting flies. Quite a few of the damsels were paired up. using all my stalking skills I finally got a decent shot. It would be better without the background rush stem, but it's a step forward.

Blue-tailed damselflies

I was tempted to stick around here and see what birds were around. Again I had somewhere else to go. A run around the forest, in the ancient sense rather than the large woodland sense, was in order. As the afternoon was getting on there wasn't too much traffic around. Before setting off I swapped the 70-300 for the 35 so I could take some landscape photos of the rolling moors, limestone walls and sheep the area is noted for. For once I was blessed by sunshine and scudding clouds, meaning my shots looked like the ones everyone else seems to get as a matter of course.

Somewhere in the forest

There were a few birds around as I drove along the narrow, twisting and undulating roads. Some were perching provocatively close to the passing car on drystone walls or thistle tops - pied wagtails and meadow pipits, and goldfinches respectively. Often they'd have beakfuls of food for their young. Of course these perching places always coincided with the narrowest sections of road - preventing me from stopping to get the camera out.

When I spotted a meadow pipit looking me in the eye as I climbed a particularly steep stretch I pulled over at the next opportunity. Getting the big lens out there were pipits all around me! Even so I was unable to stalk close enough to them for a really detailed pic. There was plenty of twittering and it was clearly a family group. I got the impression the youngsters were waiting for mum and dad on the wall when the coast was clear. At one time there were at least four either on the top of the wall or lower down on protruding stones.

By now the wind had died and the sky turned a uniform light grey. I crept alongside the wall, but the pipits had an exclusion zone, and whenever I entered it they would fly up and drop back further along the wall. I just could not get any closer.

Moorland meadow pipit

Near to where I had pulled off the road was a derelict stone barn, one of many in the dales. Often used by the moorland sheep for shelter in inclement weather this barn was the last resting place for one of them.

Dead sheep

My stomach was rumbling and  I headed home, stopping off at a fell that's closer to home for a bit of a look around for future reference.

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