Our Wild    Life

Nature photography by John Langley ARPS & Tracy Langley ARPS

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Diary 2014


A few months ago we saw a TV series about summer in Wales. One of the places featured was St Cwyfan’s church on Anglesey. It’s not far from our home but we’d never heard of  it. We vowed to visit this special place, known locally as “the church in the sea”.  Recently we paid two visits there - one at low tide when you can walk to the church from the beach and the other at high tide when the church is completely cut off.  It’s an amazing place with a special atmosphere.

We also visited the South Stack lighthouse on Anglesey :-


The Llangollen Railway is the only standard gauge heritage line in North Wales. It’s run by volunteers and stretches for 10 miles between Llangollen and Corwen. For a few days we scouted up and down the line for scenic locations. It makes a nice change for us to know when our subjects are going to turn up - the trains run quite well to time. However, there’s still a fair bit of waiting around as there were only 3 trains a day.

We paid a return visit to the isle of Mull, off the West coast of Scotland. We had a couple of weeks up here in January but the weather wasn’t too kind. This time it was very different. Despite gales and downpours at home in North Wales, on Mull we had quite balmy weather with some sunshine and very little rain. In all honesty we had a totally self-indulgent week. We did nothing but watch otters all day every day. During the week we managed to identify at least 8 different otters but we spent most of our time watching one particular dog otter. In this way we were able to build up a profile of his favourite fishing sites and how he liked to spend his days. Click on the image below to see the results.


Not ones to look a gift horse in the mouth, when the tour of Britain cycle race passed close by our house we went to see what all the fuss was about. After a huge cavalcade of team motorbikes & cars and police motorbikes eventually the cyclists came by. The 6 riders who had led for most of the day were about 3 minutes in front of the pelaton when they passed us just outside Conwy. By the time they finished in Llandudno, about 5 miles further on, they had been caught and overtaken.


4 of the leading pack

The pelaton strings out as they climb a long hill

Sir Bradley Wiggins (in the middle of the pelaton in the Sky jersey)

Here come the boys !

Team tactics : Mark Cavendish (far left) and the day’s race winner Mark Renshaw (2nd from left)

Cresting the top of the hill

Happy to have reached the top of the long hill


In the hills of Snowdonia we walked up and down the narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway, trying to find scenic vantage points to photograph the trains from. Tricker than it sounds, as the railway is often in close woodland or has steep-sided drops and the small gauge trains pass by with surprising speed. However, unlike the wildlife that we usually stalk at least the trains run to a set timetable.


In Rutland we found one of our first chalkhill blues of the season.

In Northamptonshire we went in search of the butterfly lover’s holy grail - the purple emperor.

Some people call this “silly season” and we soon found out why - the woods were full of butterfly enthusiasts and cameras galore. However, after a thorough soaking from a thunderstorm that had seen most people running for cover we had a private audience with HRH.

Purple hairstreak found early in the morning on the ground

We spent a day with Terry Whittaker in Kent, sitting in ponds and streams hoping for shy water voles to peek out.

The water was quite chilly, so the regular supply of coffee & biscuits from Richard the land-owner was most welcome.

We booked a day in a hide in Buckinghamshire, hoping to see foxes. We planned our visit to coincide with the breeding season and maybe see some cubs. We were fortunate to be one of the first to see the young cubs this year. They visited the area several times during the late afternoon. Later in the evening the dog fox also paid a visit. The hide can be booked through Nature Photography Hides

In Surrey we concentrated on marbled white butterflies.


We travelled south again to Kent, to look for a new butterfly for us - the beautiful heath fritillary.


A couple of days at home before our next trip south found us in search of more butterflies.



The tiny Silver-studded blue

This month we spent some time in Hampshire, chasing butterflies. During the first week we visited several sites and managed to see most of our target species.

Common blue


Dingy skipper

Duke of Burgundy fritillary

Green hairstreak


Grizzled skipper

The main focus of our trip was the Glanville fritillary. In the UK this lovely butterfly is almost endemic to the Isle of Wight and with the help of the local butterfly recorder we managed to find quite a few butterflies there :-


We spent a week in County Wexford, Republic of Ireland, where we visited the seabird colonies on Greater Saltee Island almost every day. Each morning we met Declan the boat man who took us on the 20 minute crossing. There’s no landing stage on the island, so final transfer is by dingy to a lovely beach. The small island is wonderfully quiet and tranquil (in fact, on one day we were the only people there). There are several colonies of seabirds including razorbills, gannets, quillemots, shags, gulls and a few puffins.



In Scotland a week of early starts with several 3am alarm calls enabled us to witness the amazing spectacle of black grouse lekking. The male birds arrived between 4.15 and 5am. It was lovley to listen to their burbling calls and aggressive hissing whilst they underwent territorial battles in the pitch black. Slowly their white tail feathers became visible, then we could make out the whole bird and enjoy watching the display. Whenever a female dropped in they would reach fever pitch and feathers would fly. The birds stayed on the lek for several hours, occasionally flying off to rest or feed elsewhere but always returning for a little more strutting.

Thanks to Mark Hamblin who accompanied us each morning and guided us through the dark and the fog to his hides.

We also found red grouse along the roadside

Whilst gardening at home the insects we unearthed by weeding attracted the interest of a pair of robins who were nesting nearby.

We recruited them as models, turning a blind eye when they pinched our worms.



On the Isle of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland, spring came early this year. The brown hares had finished their boxing antics and headed back into the hills, so we concentrated on landscapes.


In Snowdonia we discovered some long-abandoned quarry houses

Our garden birds are getting used to being fed in all kinds of unusual places.


We spent a wet & wild fortnight up in Scotland. Because of the weather both us and our cameras were well rested after the busy Christmas period. However, we did manage to find a few otters on the isle of Mull - click on the picture below to go to the Mull Gallery.