Our Wild    Life

Nature photography by John Langley ARPS & Tracy Langley ARPS

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Diary 2015


November

We spent a couple of wild & windy weeks on the West coast of Scotland.

We concentrated our efforts every day on tracking otters. Along a stretch of coast only a couple of miles long we found at least 7 otters, including a mum with a single cub and a mum with 2 cubs. Most days we spent 4 - 6 hours following the otters as they fished. Very occasionally they came ashore with a large fish or to have a sleep. Usually the cubs slept well hidden behind the lumps of seaweed on the beach but we caught occasional glimpses of them.









When mum left the cubs in the seaweed while she went fishing they weren’t always sleepy

- sometimes they had play-fights


 

 



Our favourite encounter was with an adult female who came ashore after a full day’s fishing for a long nap.

After about 15 minutes of edging very slowly closer and closer we waited while she slept for about ½ an hour longer.

When she woke up there was lots of squirming, yawning and stretching.







October

We paid a visit to the local boating lake to test out a new lens on the birds using the lake for bathing.







September


We’ve taken up a new pastime this month - streaking.

No - we haven’t been running around naked. It’s a term butterfly enthusiasts apply to hunting for any member of the hairstreak family of butterflies. We spent 3 days in a wood searching for brown hairstreak butterflies. The weather was dull and showery so we weren’t sure of our chances as the females need warm & sunny weather before they come down from the ash trees to lay their eggs on blackthorn. However, when the sun came out for a brief moment we spotted a single female and enjoyed watching her for the few minutes of sunshine before she disappeared.




The cool weather did allow us close views of resting dragonflies

and butterflies that usually zip around and are difficult to catch



Common darter



Speckled wood



Brimstone



August


This month we made a few dawn raids to a local stoat hot-spot. The early starts were rewarded by a couple of close encounters with a hyperactive stoat. Rarely standing still for more than a millisecond, this tiny bundle of fur dashed in and out of the rocks.











We paid another visit to the Llangollen steam trains.







In Snowdonia, on the Ffestiniog railway, the steam trains run through some lovely mountainous scenery.





July

We spent a week based in Rutland. Here several counties are close together and at times we weren’t sure which one we were in. One day we travelled through 6 counties - Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

A few days were spent in the woods of Northamptonshire were HRH the purple emperor graced us with his presence.






We also saw a few white admirals




A hop over the county border into Bedfordshire produced sightings of possibly the last couple of black hairstreaks of the season.






In a field in Lincolnshire, where thistles have been allowed to grow wild, we found hundreds of dark green fritillaries.








In a Cambridegshire wood silver-washed fritillaries were also taking advantage of the abundant supply of nectar



A hover fly tries to get in on the act



In late June & early July we always try to pay a visit to the Great Orme in Llandudno, just a few miles from home. This time of year is when the silver-studded blue butterflies are on the wing. Like many of our butterflies, they were just a bit later than usual this year possibly due to the cold spring.


A mating pair


An uncharacteristic male, without the silver studs


The male (on the right above) is always blue on the upper wing whereas the female is usually brown.

However, the further north the colony lives, the bluer the upper wing of the female becomes.

Here in North Wales the females are quite blueish.



June

Because of their wild nature most Scottish islands are remarkable places for wildlife. As they’re often quite remote they are also very quiet with small numbers of inhabitants or visitors.

This year we planned a three-week trip to the Orkney islands from late May through June.

Click on the image below for images :-


April

In Scotland we spent 3 days getting up at daft o’clock (3am to be precise).

Why ?  So that we could be inside a hide on a heather moor before first light.

What ?  Black grouse. Most morning after a wait of about 15-30 minutes the birds flew in under the cover of darkness. We could just about make out the faint glimmer of their white tail feathers. The sound they make, a cooing-bubbling noise, is one of the nicest sounds to listen to in nature. Slowly as it grew light we were able to see the birds and watch them for a few hours. They are a fantastic bird with very enigmatic territorial / breeding rituals, where several males will use traditional areas of heather moorland to vie for dominance and the attention of the females. At this lek site there were four males much of the time with a fifth male quite often and once a sixth one dropped in. This meant that there was plenty of activity between the males with much strutting, posturing and testing of nerves with occasional bouts of fighting.

Thanks to Mark Hamblin for his hard work on this long-term project, finding the picturesque lek and ensuring the birds are not disturbed whilst erecting the hides and habituating them to camera noises.

Click on the image below to see the black grouse and other wildlife images from our trip :-





On a walk from home we found a pair of long-tailed tits taking feathers into their nest deep inside a fir tree. For the next few days we watched them come in with their beaks full of feathers. After reading that the average long-tailed tit nest contains around 1500 feathers we thought we’d give them a helping hand and collected a few feathers to help them out. We snagged these on some nearby brambles and the birds were happy to collect the handouts.














March

In wildlife photography you have to take the rough with the smooth. But it doesn’t come much rougher than a ferry crossing in 50 mph winds. It felt like being inside a washing machine on a fast spin cycle. We spent a few weeks on the Southern Hebrides. During the first two weeks the wind was incessant and often accompanied by rain. The geese we were trying to photograph were either reluctant to take off or often flying in the wrong direction for photography. The other subject we were after, brown hares, were just as reluctant to do much apart from sit like bricks around the edges of the fields. They certainly didn’t seem in the mood for spring boxing just yet, but we can’t say as we can blame them given the weather. For our final week the winds abated and we had a few really nice days, so we were able to get out and about in search of otters.



White-fronted goose taking off



White-fronted geese up, up & away



Barnacle geese in the snow



Barnacle geese in the sea



Inquisitive Highland cows



Practising a few boxing moves on the spot



That inquisitive look hares do so well



Hare on the hop



Otter in the seaweed



Otter running down the beach



Two otter cubs are ‘parked’ on the beach while mum goes fishing



The two cubs on the lookout for mum



Breaking through the surf bringing a crab to shore



Judging by the scars on this cub’s nose, early lessons with crabs were painful

but it seems to have got the hang of it now


Sneaking ashore at the end of the day, heading for home



An old dog otter bearing a few battle scars


January

We spent a few weeks in the Highlands of Scotland photographing mountain hares. Click on the image below to go the the gallery page.







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