Sunday is normally a family day for me, the grand children and their parents usually come over and spend the day with us which we love. However, this Sunday the 22nd June they were away on holiday. The wife said she was going to be working in the garden all day so with the weather looking good I decided to make a visit to Crowle moor. Crowle moor is one of the richest lowland peat vegetation areas in the north of England. Crowle is only a thirty five minute drive from me.
I arrived at Crowle at around 08:45, the weather was fine but overcast with the promise of good sunny spells by mid morning. It was warm, about 16 degrees centigrade although there was a fair breeze blowing that would prove to be a nuisance as the day went on and the wind picked up even more. I love the peace and solitude of the moor. It's one of the few places in Lincolnshire that you can go and not hear the sound of any traffic. The only thing you hear on the moor is the calling of the birds, Yellowhammer being abundant and the odd light aeroplane floating past. My idea of heaven. Don't get me wrong I love the company of other people when I'm out with the camera but sometimes it's nice to be alone with no other distractions or sounds just surrounded by you own thoughts and the wildlife. On the odd occasion you may bump into a fellow wildlife photographer or walker but quite often you can spend five or six hours on the moor and see no one.
With the promise of bright weather and knowing that the Black darter dragonfly, my primary subject for today can be very flighty I decided to use the Canon 100mm lens hand held. The male Black Darter in particular is usually very wary and having experience of these in the past I knew it would be difficult to set up with the tripod for them.
I was still getting my gear out of the car when the first mosquito of the day drew blood. A damn good start I thought. As I made my way to the area where I know the Black darter is usually most abundant I counted many Emerald damselflies. The Emerald is a particular favourite of mine and I can never resist taking a photograph if the opportunity arises. Large and Small Skipper butterflies, and Ringlet and Meadow Brown were abundant as well.
Male Emerald damselfly
The walking on the moor was heavy and boggy to say the least with some stretches of the path being very water logged. I was pleased I was carrying the minimum amount of equipment needed, just the camera and a small back pack with my refreshments, spare batteries and memory cards etc. Although the sun was only making very brief appearances I was already sweating and the mosquitoes were biting.
I saw a Southern Hawker dragonfly and as I neared the area where the Black darter's are usually most abundant I began to see a few of them and took the opportunity to get a few photographs whilst they were fairly approachable. I knew that as the day warmed up they would become very flighty making photograph opportunities very difficult, especially as by now the wind seemed to be stronger and the grass and reed stems were waving about wildly in the wind. Such is the nature of the moor that there is very little shelter from the elements. Also you have to stick to the way marked paths. Wandering off the path could result in serious trouble as it would be all to easy to find oneself up to your waist in the bogs. You can see the darters just out of photographic range from the paths but you just have to be patient and wait for them to come within range.
As I took the sharp right hand turn where the bogs run both sides of the path with heather shrubs and bracken I spotted a snake basking on the path. I approached as slowly as possible hoping for a chance of a photograph but it must have sensed I was approaching as it quickly slithered off into the under growth. I did see enough of it though to determine it was a grass snake. grass snakes and adders are found on the moors. Along this path I saw four more snakes but only fleeting glimpses of the back of them as they quickly disappeared from view. I'm no expert on snakes. Come to think of it I'm no expert on anything Lol, and apart from the first one I couldn't determine if they were grass snakes or adders.
More Emerald damselflies and quite a few Black darters were seen along this path. A few Green Tiger beetles were around and good numbers of grasshoppers. I had hoped I might see a few Bog Bush Crickets but no luck today. I didn't photograph the Black darters on this stretch of path as they mostly perched on the heather which doesn't give particularly pleasing backgrounds for the shots. I retraced my steps and on the way back saw a couple of Common Lizards which like the snakes didn't hang around for a photograph. The female Black darter's were reasonably obliging and I managed a few pleasing photographs of them.
Female Black Darter
The sun had well and truly broken through now and the darters were very lively indeed which was more than could be said for me Lol. I consider myself pretty fit for my age but the heat and heavy walking conditions were beginning to take there toll on me, so it was an early stop to take on refreshment. There are no benches or any other seats on the moor so you have to either stand to eat or take a small fold up stool or large plastic bag to sit on. I always opt for the large plastic bag which doubles up as a rain protection bag for the camera rig in the event of a shower. Even with a plastic bag you have to be careful as there are many ants on the moor that are all to willing to climb up your trouser leg and nip.
After refreshments had been taken on board it was back to the task of getting some photographs of the male Black darter. Every time I found one perched it would take flight as I approached and I was getting nowhere fast. My solution to this was to find some bits of dead wood or whatever was available and set up some perches for them to land on. Some may call this cheating, I call it being resourceful and using whatever means are available to me. The idea was to set up a few perches and then rather than try to approach the males as they sat on the perches just sit or stand very close to the perches and let them come to me. This worked and I got the photographs I was after although I could have done with a little thinner perches so they looked a bit more natural. Must remember to take some suitable perches with me next time.
Male Black Darter
Another male Black Darter
With around a hundred shots of the Black darters, male and female in the bag I decided to call it a day. As I made my way back to the car I watched both Large and Small Skipper butterflies feeding on a patch of thistle flowers and managed a rather nice shot of a pair of Large Skipper's alongside a couple of Soldier beetles mating. I also photographed a Green-veined White butterfly on the same thistles. All the photographs from this trip can be seen in the respective galleries on the main web site.
Large Skipper butterflies and Soldier beetles on a thistle plant
After a half hour trudge at a very slow pace I arrived back at the car. I had wet feet and aching legs, and itchy bumps on my hands and wrists from the mosquito bites but I also had the photographs I wanted. Believe it or not despite what appears to be my grumbling on here I did enjoy my five hours spent on the moors today.