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There are lots of woods near to where we live but these are my favourite woods and I usually see something of interest when I visit. They are managed woods and contain a lot of pine and red oak, They can also be quite wet and there are a lot of dead pines. There are a lot of wild boar which are sort of contained and sort of wild and sometimes get fed with a lorry load of old apples so you have to be aware in the hunting season and make sure you do not get mistaken for a piggy.Local Woods3

There were still quite a lot of asphodels out and although they were nearing the end of their flowering season they still made a good display especially along the sides of the paths.Local Woods8

A little way into the woods is a large lake. It’s quite shallow and often three-quarters dried up but not this Spring. As I approached I took it slowly because it is a place where sometimes interesting stuff turns up but not slowly or carefully enough because close to the edge and the path was a purple heron. Unfortunately it had spotted me before I spotted it and so it was off with just a few scolding ‘crak craks’ directed at me to let me know it was not best pleased at my intrusion into his domain. Then I saw some mallard ducks further out on the lake and having missed the opportunity to photo the heron I decided to go for the consolation prize and get a few shots of these. However they had been alerted by the heron’s cries and they too were off.Local Woods2

Not a good start and I was feeling a bit miffed largely because I  had only myself to blame for disturbing the heron- should have been more cautious! Then I spotted a kingfisher, again quite close to the path and on a branch over the edge of the water. To be fair I think it might well have seen me too but this time the bird stayed put and I was able to get the tripod into position and take a few shots. It was a bit difficult because there were a lot of small twigs in front of where he was sitting and in order to get a good shot I needed to get past him and take a photograph on the other side. This I attempted to do but it was not possible and off he went. However I had got a couple of reasonable shots in the process.Local Woods12

Next I went along a path that leads up to a big artificial lake. On either side of the path are a couple of ditches which are normally dry but this year were running with water. As a result of a recent blog about snakes of Poitou-Charentes I was hoping to see a snake basking by the side of the water. No luck but I did seen some nice wild flowers. First there was a columbine which is quite spectacular.Local Woods1

Then I saw a spearwort. This is an aquatic buttercup as you can see from the photo. It has a flower which is completely buttercup, but the leaves are not. They are long narrow and pointed, a bit like a spear in shape, thus spearwort. There are two types of spearwort, lesser and greater and surprise surprise the lesser has smaller leaves and the greater has bigger leaves. So here is a picture of the spearwort I saw, and is it lesser or greater? Who knows?!Local Woods4

Nothing much to be seen at the lake. It was full and overflowing but nothing of note there.  I have seen black kites overhead in the past but not on this occasion. The sky was also coming over quite black so I decided it was prudent to return to a point closer to the car. On the way back I came to the place where I had seen the kingfisher but not being terribly focused I had forgotten and there it was again but this time it saw me and shot off across the lake. Silly me I could have got some good shots as this time I was on it’s good side with no twigs in the way.

I waited for some time close by in case it returned but no luck. However whist waiting I saw a large amount of disturbance in the water. What was it? Well – difficult to say as it was behind a clump of rushes. Most likely it was two very large carp which had come into the shallows to spawn. At best it was an otter but I will never know. Here is what I saw.Local Woods5

Whilst waiting for the kingfisher to return there were lots of dragonflies and damselflies about – blue broad bellied libellulas and some little blue damselflies of which there are several species and unless you can establish the exact nature of the black and blue stripes, they are a nightmare to identify. Unfortunately none of them landed so I was not able to get a photo.

Back up the path towards the car and there was a small white butterfly lolopping about. I say lolopping because it’s flight was so laid back that it was almost not up to the task of keeping it airborne. This was a wood white, not a species I had ever seen or noticed before. It is like an anorexic cabbage white. I am not making it sound that exciting, and to be honest it was not except that I could not recall ever having noticed one before. I tried to photograph it but with a telephoto and the problem that it never once settled, it just kept slowly lolopping about. It meant that my shots were poor to say the least…Local Woods6

Then I saw a dragonfly resting on a large twig. I recognised it as one of the small dragonflies known as darters, but this one was blue and normally you see red darters. This chap did the business and remained nice and still so that I could get a good shot. Looking it up on my return home I think it might be a Lillypad whiteface Darter. You can just about see it has a white face but I can’t find any other Darters with a blue body, so despite the fact that this is quite a rare dragonfly, I think it has to be  a Lillypad whiteface darter.(Leucorrhinia caudalis)

Leucorrhinia caudalis Lillypad whitefaced darter

Leucorrhinia caudalis Lillypad whitefaced darter

Nearly back to the car now, and the black cloud has passed with just one or two drops of rain falling. The asphodels were attracting a few insects including some bumblebees and so here is one for you Amelia- it is a ??? My guess is a red tailed bumblebee, but I am sure you will know. ( Amelia writes an excellent blog about her garden which features lots of wildlife and especially bees) its at http://afrenchgarden.wordpress.com/Local Woods10

Just before I got back to the car I heard some major shuffling about in the undergrowth. I positioned my camera with the tripod, adjusted the shutter speed and the white balance to take into account the dark conitions in the wood and fired away. The camera was on auto focus and sods law, it did just that and focused on a tree trunk next to the subject I was attempting to capture. This as they say put the ‘Tin hat’ on my photographic afternoon. Here is my nicely focused well exposed photo of a tree trunk, with blurred photo of a large black animal to the left.Local Woods11

Finally just before I left I spotted some Bastard Balm which is in the nettle family and a plant I do not often see but happened to see just two days before in some woods as we travelled back from St Jean D’angely.  I photographed it on that occasion and added it to my developing wild flower list which is part of this blog.

Bastard Balm (Melittis melissophyllum) May-July

Bastard Balm (Melittis melissophyllum) May-July