Sunday 31 May 2009

Macro butterflies and polecats!

Not a combination you hear about everyday, but I'd recommend it!

Suzanne and I spent another weekend up in the north-west, this time for a significant birthday for Dave (21 again!) and for Anny and Michael's wedding. Both were lovely events, but I'm afraid all the photos are wildlife, as usual!

On Friday night, we popped down to Ty Mawr country park with our new macro lens - the highly rated Sigma 150mm f2.8. The light was fading a bit, so there weren't many opportunities for great shots, but this little Slow Worm was my first for a few years:

... and we did manage a few macro bits and bobs - some Red Campion, and a rather predictable Dandelion clock!

Above all, though, it was a lovely evening for wandering about aimlessly in the countryside.

Next day, I drove up to Eyarth Rocks Butterfly Conservation reserve, near Ruthin, while Suzanne went shopping for a new dress (don't ask!) My main targets were Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, which proved fairly easy to find, but not to photograph. However, after about a couple of hours messing about, I found a couple of more obliging individuals, resulting in these shots. I'm fairly pleased with them, though the one of the upperwing illustrates how narrow the depth of field is - this was taken at f11, and still the extremities of the wings are out of focus!

I spent a moment or two photographing bluebells - didn't get anything composed particularly well, but when I paused for a moment, this Painted Lady was right in front of me. There were plenty moving steadily west throughout the morning - it seems difficult to avoid seeing them during the current invasion!

Finally, although it's a rather tatty specimen, I reckon this Small Heath is the best illustration of the macro lens' capability - the level of detail is fantastic (click to enlarge). Who'd have thought they're so furry?!

After a late start recovering from the wedding reception, today we broke the journey south around the Beds / Bucks / Herts border. First stop was College Lake BBOWT reserve, where I was keen to see some of the polecat kittens that have been showing well recently. After about 40 minutes waiting, one appeared right next to the hide, no more than 3 feet away - incredible! The hide was absolutely packed, so photo opps were limited, but here's a record shot of the second animal which appeared a minute or two later:

Brilliant to see, and a UK mammal tick for me - not one I expected to get, either! Better photos are >here<, and there's a great bit of video >here<. The last wildlife stop of the weekend was at nearby Totternhoe Knolls, where a brief walk quickly found about 15-20 Small Blues. Although they're not particularly scarce, I don't recall ever seeing these before, so I'll put it down as a two-tick day!
And finally, it seemed far too nice an evening to get straight back on the M1, so we enjoyed a superb meal at the Alford Arms in Frithsden, courtesy of the Good Pub Guide. Every bit as good as the entry in the Guide suggested it might be - very highly recommended!

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