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Stonechats, not Whinchats

These little birds provoked much excitement in my walking partner on a fine September morning’s fen raft spider survey. She tends to hit people when excited but I got away lightly and unbruised. The reason for her excitement was thinking we might have seen Whinchats. Close examination of my pics confirmed they are Stonechats. Me, I wouldn’t know the difference if they flew up my nostrils. But this page¬†should help me learn a thing or two.

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Dragons and Damsels

Am insect transforming from larva to adult is the epitome of metamorphosis. Here’s a dragonfly that’s just left its larval skin and its life as a nymph behind. It rests whilst its wings expand and harden -a vulnerable time for this ancient creature -its design hasn’t changed for 300 million years when they first appeared. Its a voracious hunter both in the water as a nymph and out as an adult. There’s definitely a sinister predatory look about the nymph case. I wouldn’t want to be a stickleback….

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and here’s a couple we made earlier…..

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Its smaller relative, the damselfly. Lovely electric blue flashes amongst the reeds. By the time I had my camera out, they’d gone. But I managed one half-decent shot of this trio. I’ll work on a better image next season.

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The Water Vole

What a gorgeous creature. Spotted on my first Fen Raft Spider survey by our guiding light Ellen, here it was feeding on frogbit, an aquatic plant that looks like miniature lily-leaves. Its name means “frog bite” for reasons that are not clear to me or an eminent aquatic botanist I asked. Its Latin name reflects its meaning:¬†Hydrocharis morsus-ranae. Morsus = bite, ranae = of a frog. Answers on a postcard please!

This is a European water vole, now a threatened species in this country. Its population has declined by over 90% since the 1960s, largely thanks to a spreading population of the foreign invading predatory American mink but also due to farming and watercourse practices. It’s been protected by the UK government since 2008. Curiously in France, farmers are campaigning against the water vole, which they say is causing crop damage.

SWT is doing its bit for water voles by trapping and destroying mink and creating new wetlands and habitat for them,

Here are some pics of the ravishing rodent

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and a video clip. Apologies to wildlife cameramen everywhere for the quality. This was strictly very impromptu amateur photography on a windy day with no monopod or tripod.