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Monday, 10 April 2017

A Memorable Day! - on 8th April, 2017

I'm still not back in the groove, as far as paying attention to Bloggerland is concerned, mainly because of other pressures on my time.

However, on Saturday 8th April, I was to attend a party in honour of Tim Mackrill, the gentleman who has been the mainstay of The Rutland Osprey Project for many years, the inspiration to all of us volunteers on the project, and who is now leaving us to move on to pastures new. We all wish you all the best for a happy and rewarding future, Tim. 

As the location for the event was on Rutland Water, and around 50 miles (80 km) from my home, I decided to make an afternoon of it and visit Ketton Quarry (only around 4 miles from the venue) before the event.

We were looking after our granddaughter that day, and had promised her a lunchtime visit to the Scottish Restaurant. This took a little longer than expected, so I didn't get away until 13h30. It was, therefore, necessary to take the quick route to Ketton if I was to have any time there before getting to the event by 17h00. This turned out to work in my favour.

As I travelled along Beeby Road (a road that I don't usually take), just outside Barkby, out of the corner of my eye I saw a bird run out from a gateway and run back into the field again. I stopped the car and walked back, quickly locating the bird - a Grey Partridge. I used to see this bird on a regular basis on my local patch, but haven't seen one there in the past few years. I suspect that the local 'shooter' is largely to blame. They are a far-from-common bird in Leicestershire now.


Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix) - near Barkby
You may notice that this bird seems to have an abnormal growth from above its upper mandible. If you have any ideas what this might be, I'd be interested to know.

I arrived at Ketton Quarry at 15h00. The sun was shining brightly and it was quite warm. My main objectives were to see how the butterfly scene was developing and to try and find some lizards and, possibly, some snakes.

I found nothing unusual in the way of butterflies, although there were several species present - I'd been hoping for early Green Hairstreak or Grizzled Skipper. There were many day-flying moths around, and I took a little time photographing one. I believe that this is a Common Heath, but this species is not usually seen until May. 

Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria) - Ketton Quarry
There were also a number of  Peacock butterflies around.

Peacock (Aglais io) - Ketton Quarry
There were two other people in the area at the time (I only know that their names were Chris and Colin) and we chatted about lizards and snakes. One of them told me that he knew where there was a Grass Snake and that he'd be happy to show me it when he was on his way back in about 20 minutes. I continued to look around the area, and met up with these two  gentlemen again about half an hour later. We headed back towards the car park and, as we entered the area known as 'The Barbecue', we saw a couple busy taking photos of something on the ground. I called out to ask what they'd found and was told "a couple of Adders". The three of us headed over there, by which time the snakes had headed into the undergrowth. I did manage a record shot, however, of this male which had, apparently, recently shed a skin.

Adder (Viperus berus) (male) - Ketton Quarry
We then headed off to find the Grass Snake. It was a youngster, and exactly where they said it would be.

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) (young) - Ketton Quarry
Chris and Colin then headed to their car for a cup of tea whilst I went off in a direction not previously covered that afternoon and where, in the past, I'd had most sightings of lizards. Unfortunately I came across a large family with noisy children who ware clambering over the rocks, so turned back empty-handed.

I did, however, stop briefly to photograph a Comma.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Ketton Quarry
I'd set myself a deadline of 16h30 to set off to the party, which would give me time for a quick sandwich and drink, and a change change of clothes. I now had a few minutes in hand so headed back to the Barbecue area. Here I found Colin and Chris once more, and they'd re-located an Adder, which was mobile but well-hidden for most of the time, giving its whereabouts away by movement of the foliage. I managed a few more photos (none of them more than records shots) and was increasingly aware that I was starting to seriously overrun my deadline!

The images, below, hopefully show the size of the problem - trying to get a meaningful shot when less than 5% of the snake was ever visible.



Adder (Viperus berus) (male) - Ketton Quarry
In the end, I decided that I had to go, or be embarrassingly late. I got there in time, but not with enough spare to change clothes or have my sandwich. Fortunately there was food and drink at the party.

Tim's farewell do was a splendid affair, and it was good to catch up with some old friends again.  The last half hour was given over to key people talking about their association with Tim, and expressing their appreciation of this truly remarkable person and his achievements. There was also a video  sequence shown at the end, featuring some people that weren't able to be there, and which included some light-hearted moments. My only regret was that I didn't take any photos at the event. The setting, in Normanton Church, on Rutland Water, was stunning and weather-wise it was undoubtedly the best evening of the year so far.

It was still daylight when I set off homeward, taking my usual owling route from Rutland Water. One of the Little Owls was visible at my Site No.34. However, I didn't bother with any photos.

John and I had not seen a Little Owl at my Site No.41 since Friday 24th February - the day after the big storm, when the nest tree had come down. The farmers had been hearing an owl and had a recent sighting of one on the debris of the old nest tree. When I arrived this day, it was nearly dark, and I spotted a Little Owl on the fallen tree.

It was so dark that I had great difficulty finding the owl in my viewfinder - I was standing approximately 60 metres away. A couple of attempts resulted in me finding that I'd been pointing the camera in the wrong direction. Eventually I managed a record shot.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
It wasn't until after I'd phoned pal John the following day that, when I came to process my photos, that I found a second owl was present in the top left corner of one of my 'mis-directed' photos! Great news - we still have a pair here! I suspect that they are nesting in one of the hollow limbs of the fallen tree.

2nd Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
After this it was an uneventful journey home.

Thus ended a day which will stay with me for some time. I managed images of a bird (Grey Partridge) that I'd not managed to photograph since June, 2011, I had my best ever image of a Grass Snake (with lots of room for improvement), my fist ever images of a wild Adder (with even more room for improvement!), excellent company, a party to enjoy, and the relief of knowing that a site feared lost is still home to a pair of Little Owls.

Hopefully I'll now find time to do a post on my week in Devon in mid-March.

Thank you for dropping by.

23 comments:

  1. Lovely post Richard,not seen a Grey Partridge for years,also never seen a Grass Snake,love your Images,beautiful capture.
    Hope you find more time,not the same without you.
    John.

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    1. Thank you, John. I do seem to be a bit snowed under these days. How the heck did I find the time to live before I retired???

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  2. Lovely post Richard and very jealous about your Adder experience. I have yet to see my first wild one. Maybe one year. Keep up the excellent site.

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    1. I think that this is only the second time I've seen a wild Adder, Marc. The first time was in Devon about thirty years ago when I was clambering up a bank on all fours, in pursuit of a butterfly. I was a few inches off putting my hand hand on what, momentarily, I thought was a large pile of dog poo - but then it slithered away!

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  3. Hi Richard and what a set of images, excellent you saw both Grass Snake and Adder, both of which are not easy to get images from, but the Grey Partridge was a real find. So pleased you managed images of the Little Owls we thought we had lost, we will have to keep an eye on them. See you soon, all the best, John

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    1. Thank you, John. I was a very satisfying day. Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow. Best of luck - Richard

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  4. I remember meeting Tim and I regret that I didn't get him to sign the book that I bought at Rutland Water. I wish him well in all his future endeavours. Do we know what the future holds for him? The Grey Partridge was certainly a great find. And you did well with the snakes too. Great day, Richard.

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    1. Hi David. I understand that Tim, who recently got his PhD, will be going freelance. He is set to take over Roy Dennis's 'Osprey Foundation' as Roy takes more of a back seat. Roy was the driving force behind the reintroduction of Ospreys to UK through his work at Loch Garten. Tim is also intending to set up an international charity to sponsor young people who wish to embark on a career in Ecology and Wildlife Conservation. I'll know more after I attend a talk that Tim is giving tomorrow evening!

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  5. Hi Richard!
    Great photos of the adders, I love snakes but you might freak out some of your visitors with banner!!! LOL!!!!! Its been a couple of years since I saw the last one, a pity!
    Lovely butterflies too :)
    Back for a couple days then off again to Spain !
    Warm hugs to the both of you :)

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    1. Hi Noushka. I realised that not everyone is comfortable with snakes when, on my way home that day, I mentioned to the farmers at the place where the Little Owls were that I'd been photographing an Adder and a Grass Snake, and he leapt back about 5 metres just at the mention of snakes!!!

      Have a wonderful time in Spain. With my very best wishes - - - Richard

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  6. Beautiful Grey Partridge, I have seen the once, And the grass snake, pretty, and I never have seen yet.

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    1. I hope you get to see a Grass Snake one day, Bob.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  7. Hello Richard! Hope all is well. Gray Partridge is a wonderful discovery! Uhh! I do not like snakes;-( Have a wonderful Easter time! Greetings

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    1. Hi Anne. All is fine here, thank you. I'm sorry that you do not like snakes. I do like them, but I also have a healthy respect for them - particularly the venomous ones!

      With my best wishes - - Richard

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  8. Hi Richard, wonderful set of pictures of your snakes! It does look like the Grey Partridge does have a problem with it's upper mandible, overgrown by the look of it.

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    1. Thank you, Lin. I think that the growth is probably coming from above the upper mandible, but I'm not sure.

      Best wishes for Easter - - Richard

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  9. Sad to hear that Tim is moving on, he (and others) have done a fantastic job on the Ospreys at Rutland and I wish him all the best.
    I'm seeing a lot of Grey Partridges in different locations around Northants and wonder if it's the shooters re-introducing them to the shoot.

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    1. Although I'm sorry to see Tim go, it's a really smart move that he's making, Doug.

      That thought about Grey Partridge also occurred to me, although that's the only one I've seen for a long time.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  10. Thanks Richard for the visit to my daily blog, snakes can cause all sorts of things to happen :-)
    Love the photo of the Grey Partridge, that is an interesting abnormality of the beak but presumably it does not cause it a major problem as it looks healthy enough.
    Wow how lucky can you get an Adder and a Grass Snake in one day. If only people knew a little more about snakes they would not be frightened of them. I have always liked snakes, but certainly if I am not sure what they are I respect them. At our home in Rhodesia we had puff adders, cobras and mambas besides a number of harmless ones. The cats always warned us if one should get in the house, they walked stiff legged with hair on end looking in the direction of the snake. Luckily we always managed to get them removed safely.
    Have a good Easter weekend Diane

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    1. My very sincere apologies, Diane. I have only just found your comment in my 'moderation' folder.

      I certainly felt very privileged to have seen both Adder and Grass Snake in one day. I can understand why people can be frightened of snakes - they can move rather quickly! I think that if I was in the presence of Puff Adders, Cobras, and Mambas, I'd be a lot more cautious than I was with the Adder! I'd never considered that cats might make good guards against snakes!

      Sorry, again, for not publishing your comment and responding until now. With my very best wishes - - Richard

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    2. No problem, thanks for letting me know. Cheers.

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  11. If you get busy then it will be blogging. Your visit to nature has happily still brought beautiful pictures. The serpent's series is really amazing and the Patrijs is a beautiful bird to see. The butterflies are also awake and that makes nature so beautiful.

    I wish you a couple of happy Easter days.
    Sincerely, Helma

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Helma. I hope that your Easter weekend is going well. The weather is not too good here! With my best wishes - - - Richard

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I'm pleased to report that the anonymous spam problem seems to be solvable without using word verification. I'm now just using the 'Registered Users - includes OpenID' option in Blogger settings, and I'm not getting any spam - touch wood! I've also not received any contact from people saying that they are no longer able to make comments.