Photo Blog

I love observing nature and the changing seasons at home in my wildlife garden and in the Norfolk countryside often accompanied by my loyal canine companion Starrydog. I enjoy taking photos of Norfolk butterflies, wildflowers and other flora and fauna that I happen across and learning about them. Bookmark my Norfolk nature photo blog to keep up to date with my photographic adventures.

Purple Loosestrife and Autumn Copper

One of the most spectacular, for me almost magical, wildlife gardening plants I’ve discovered in my project to create a wildlife friendly garden is Purple Loosestrife, or Lythrum salicaria to give it its botanical name. This, probably my last butterfly photograph of 2019, a quickly grabbed series of a Small Copper butterfly, Lycaena phlaeas, nectaring on it’s flowers at the edge of my wildlife pond, on a sunny but blustery mid-September’s day, demonstrates beautifully the reason why its such a wonderfully wildlife friendly plant to grow.

A native perennial, widespread across the UK, Purple Loosestrife inhabits river edges, marshes and pond margins. It works well in gardens because it makes a strong impact, being visually impressive in the way that few other native wildlfowers are. Purple Loosestrife is also an easy to grow, vigourous plant which can grow up to a metre and a half tall, often in quite dense colonies. Its beautiful flowers are formed of striking rosettes of rich magenta pink coloured petals enjoying a prolonged flowering period from June well into September.

Wildlife value

Purple Loosestrife is a particularly useful nectar source for a variety of long-tongued insects; not just butterflies and bees, but also several large moth species including Elephant Hawk-moth, Willowherb Hawkmoth and Powdered Quaker, all of whom use it as their caterpillar host plant.

It’s extended flowering period means it can serve pollinators as a nectar source both through the “June Gap” and also support later emerging insects through into early autumn when many other nectar sources such as meadow flowers have vanished with the haycut.

Plant folklore

Its main common name suggests one of its herbal uses may have been to “loose strife” and it was also historically used medicinally to help gastric upsets. Alternative names for Purple Loosestrife include “blooming Sally, purple willow herb, purple lythrum, salicaire, rainbow weed, bouquet violet, purple spiked willowstrife”. A red dye and food colouring used to be made from its vividly coloured flowers.

Small Copper butterfly nectaring atop a Purple Loosestrife flower

Small Copper nectaring on Purple Loosestrife using its long proboscis

Small Copper butterfly in profile

Small Copper butterfly amidst swaying Purple Loosestrife flower spikes

Purple Loosestrife grows in a dense cluser on the pond edge. Its foliage and nectar supports a variety of long-tongued pollinators including butterflies like the Small Copper in Autumn

Blackberrying Butterflies

 Comma butterfly feeding on blackberry

We tend to think of butterflies as nectar drinkers, but in fact their diet varies significantly by speces, and also by season. At this time of year as the blackberries ripen on brambles, many species especially hibernating Nymph butterflies like this Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album are as partial to a bit of blackberrying as you or I!

In Search of Autumn...

Our mellow autumnal weather seems to be both treating and playing tricks on us this year.

Mingled gold and green birch leaves

As mid October arrived I started to search for turning leaves and classic signs of Autumn, but in vain. With such mild temperatures, the trees have determinedly held on to their cloaks of green as long as possible to maximise their intake of food.

A Stroll in Blickling Estate at the start of half term week yielded some fallen leaves but the canopy was disappointingly still richly decked in a gown of glorious green, with only the occasional tree starting to offer up a hint of gold at the very top of their crowns.

At last on a visit to Wells-Next-The-Sea at the end of the week, the mood had started to shift and begun to evoke a more autumnal tone. A gorgeously mild day, I watched several Red Admirals dancing brightly in the deceptively warm golden rays of the afternoon sun, but at last, I finally saw my first fully golden-gowned birch tree!

Meanwhile, further along the pathway, a suitably russet-hued Common Darter dragonfly cast a long shadow as it perched on a fallen pine introducing rich red umber tones to the Autumnal palette. 

Phew! - our tardy Lady Autumn really has finally arrived with her gown of gold, just in time for the clocks to go back.

A red Common Darter dragonfly enjoying late October sunshine on a fallen pine tree

A still green canopy at Blickling Estate

A birch tree dressed in full golden regalia

Autumn's Golden Gown

"So fair and foul a day I have not seen..." grumbles the ill-fated Macduff at the beginning of Shakespeare's Macbeth Play. It felt a little like that in Norfolk this weekend

I enjoyed two dramatically different walks among birch trees within twenty four hours; my first a gloriously golden morning showing off Autumn's golden cloak in all its finery and then, courtesy of Storm Angus, a  brief, soggy wind and rainswept excursion which made Litcham common feel very much like a blasted heath.

A wet spring and mild autumn lacking the autumn storms we've had of late has enabled us to enjoy a glorious long-lived golden autumn foliage season this year. But with harsher, stormier weather approaching it may be time to say one last goodbye to autumn's rich vivid beauty and face the cold embrace of stark, hollow Winter, who, after  lurking in the wings for a while and is now stretching out its dark frosty talons.

Golden light shining through the autumn canopy onto fallen leaves

A beautiful mature silver birch tree cloaked in sunlit golden leaves

A storm-swept silver birch sapling looses its leaves under leaden skies

Winter beckons

Autumn Colours and Changing Clocks

Autumn seems to get later and later each year, perhaps a sign of the times in these days of global warming. The leaves here in Norfolk are only just colouring up, so to capture the mood of autumn here is a shot from my garden instead. It's a wild carrot seed head photographed against a backdrop of autumn flowering pink sedum in my butterfly and bee flower garden in gorgeous soft golden light we had yesterday afternoon before the clock change.

There's No Place Like Home

Its been a "Staycation" holiday week for me, and when you are a little under the weather and even the weather's a little under the weather, then the soft golden light at the end of the day and pretty little signs of autumn in the hedgerows and country lanes always give me a lift.

Here a few shots from an evening stroll along the Nar Valley Way. The local barn owl and muntjac deer made a few appearances too this week, though the owl remains camera shy.

Autumn Haze

Autumn is a capricious season, with shortening days cloaked in gold, rust and greytone. Some days dance lightly, soft and still, cloaked in a gentle warm haze, lulling us that summer's still close by. Others lurk darkly, oppressive and leaden, lumbering irrecovably on towards winter.


Season's Turning

Shafts of sunlight slanting down through autumnal woodland

As summer heat starts to fade into autumn mists and storms, its time to set my macro lens down with a tinge of sadness. Its been a wonderful butterfly year for me with three new first evers to my list, but now the season is turning. The butterflies are fading into warm bright summery memories of warmth with just the hardy commas and admirals feeding up on the flowering ivy preparing to hibernate. But of course the turning leaves augurs in one of the most beautiful landscape and wildlife photography seasons, so it is also time to pick up my landscape lens for the autumn colour and my long lens for the deer rut and the wintering birds all in their bright new winter plumage…

 

Autumnal Change

As the seasons are finally turning things are changing in my life too. I am finally taking my first steps into photography tutoring and its a wonderful reminder of the creativity that taking up photography as a hobby can unlock in people. It put me in mind of the period when I was still very much on the steep part of my learning curve and was starting to experiment with my camera. This was a shot taken in Scotland trying to evoke the essence of autumn.