Large-flowered Evening-primrose

Oenothera glazioviana

Large-flowered Evening-primrose Oenothera glazioviana

Large-flowered Evening-primrose Oenothera glazioviana

Also called ‘Redsepal Evening-primrose’, this is our commonest evening-primrose. It is a tall and erect plant, densely covered in long hairs with red bases, and produces large yellow flowers formed of four petals. These flowers open just before sunset, as the name indicates, but they wilt by noon of the next day. It produces flowers every day for several weeks. The sepals are covered in red hairs, and the leaves are lance-shaped with crinkled edges.

Large-flowered Evening-primrose Oenothera glazioviana

Large-flowered Evening-primrose Oenothera glazioviana

It flowers June to September, and is found on waste and disturbed ground, railway embankments, roadsides, and coastal sand dunes. Introduced from North America, and common and widespread throughout except Scotland and Ireland where it is rare.

Large-flowered Evening-primrose Oenothera glazioviana


August 2012, Bournemouth seafront, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2012.

Stonechat

Saxicola torquata

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

As the vernacular name defines, this bird has a sharp call which sounds like two stones being tapped together. This is a small rounded bird with a distinctive orangey-red breast, a blackish-brownish back, with a black head and throat, and a white patch on the side of the neck. The female which has a pale patch over the eye and a paler throat maybe confused with the Winchat.  The juveniles have pale throats and mottled chests.

It feeds on invertebrates, seeds and fruit. They nest in a grassy cup lined with hair and feathers, often in thick grass. The female lays 5 or 6 eggs in 2 broods from May to July. They can live for up to 5 years.

Seen all year round, and maybe found perched on top of bushes, fences or overhead wires, but it mainly inhabits heaths, upland moors, and coastal cliffs and dunes. They breed in western and southern parts of the UK, but disperse more widely in the winter.

Photograph of Stonechat (Saxicola torquata), taken August 2012, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Common Cuttlefish

Sepia officinalis

Common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis)

We often find the remains of the cuttlefish shell called the ‘cuttlebone’ washed upon our shores, rather than the animal itself. It is a casting of the dead animal, and is a white,  hard brittle internal structure, which is filled with gas to help the cuttlefish remain buoyant. The cast cuttlebone is often given to pet birds and reptiles as a source of calcium.

Cuttlefish have very large eyes and mouths like beaks. The body is wide and flattened, and a fin runs from behind the body from the head. There are eight arms encircling the mouth with suckers, which helps the cuttlefish to manipulate its prey. It also has two other tentacles which help the creature to snare its prey. It has amazing abilities of camouflage, and can change its colour to blend in with any surrounding. It can grow up 45cm in length.

It feeds on small fish, crabs, molluscs, and other species of cuttlefish, even its own. When threatened the Common Cuttlefish releases an ink known as sepia to produce a protective cloud about itself to confuse predators. Cuttlefish are one of the most intelligent of all invertebrates, and belong with the same group of molluscs as the octopuses and squids. It can live between 1 to 2 years.

The cuttlebone is often found washed up on beaches, where as the creature itself lives in the shallows to depths of 200m. It is common and widespread.

Photographs of Common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), taken August 2012, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Bloody-nosed Beetle

Timarcha tenebricos

Bloody-nosed Beetle (Timarcha tenebricos)

The Bloody-nosed Beetle is Britain’s largest leaf beetle. It is black with a bluish iridescence, flightless and is fairly slow-moving. It gets its name from releasing a drop of red fluid from its mouth when disturbed. It grows up to 23mm long.

Bloody-nosed Beetle (Timarcha tenebricos)

It feeds on bedstraws. It is seen April to September. Found on coastland, farmland, grassland and heathland. Common and widespread in the south of England and Wales.

Bloody-nosed Beetle (Timarcha tenebricos)

Photographs of the Bloody-nosed Beetle (Timarcha tenebricos), taken August 2013, Hengistbury Head, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Black-headed Gull

Larus ridibundas

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundas)

This is quite a common gull which I see in many places, like when I visit the coast, local parks, lakes and pools. It has variable plumage depending on age and the time of year, but a relatively small-sized sea-bird, with distinctive red beak and red legs.  Greyish back plumage with white underparts, and black tail feathers with a white edge along the forewing. It has  a chocolate-brown or greyish head, or more of a hood, but  never entirely black as the name suggests. It becomes white in winter. The juvenile has a ginger-brown mantle, shoulder, and wing feathers.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundas)

It feeds on almost anything, including fish, worms, insects, seaweed and refuse. It nests in a scrape in the ground, or on cliffs and buildings. Lays two to three eggs which are incubated by both parents for up to about three weeks. It can live for up to 15 years.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundas)

Seen all year round, and found in a wide range of freshwater habitats, as well as coastal areas. It also inhabits farmland where it commonly follows ploughs to feed on disturbed worms and insects, refuse tips, and towns and cities. This species was nearly extinct in Britain during the 19th century, until a dramatic rise in numbers in the 20th century, but now it is slipping back again. Although widespread and our commonest inland gull, and because it has seen a sharp decrease in numbers in recent years, it has an RSPB amber status.

Photograph of Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundas) taken August 2016, Bournemouth Winter Gardens, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Red Admiral

Vanessa atalanta

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

This distinctive butterfly was taking moisture through its long probosis when I came across it.The upper side is velvety black with an orangey-red stripe running through the forewing and on the hindwing margin. There are several white spots towards the wingtips. Wingspan 65mm.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The caterpillars feed mainly on Stinging Nettle.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

It flies May to October, where they drink sap from trees and feed on over-ripe fruit which may leave them a little drunk and tame to gentle handling. A wide-ranging migratory butterfly, it is found almost anywhere where there are flowers and ripe fruit. Often common in parks, gardens, and orchards. An annual mass-migrant from southern Europe and North Africa, breeds in summer, and migrates back in the autumn.

Photograph taken of Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) August 2016, Boscome Gardens, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Airborn #2

More photographs of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) sailing overhead as they take to the air currents above the coast cliffs.

Photographs taken of Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) July 2016, East Cliff, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Airborn

On the coast, I enjoyed a couple of hours watching and photographing Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus), floating on air currents along the top of the cliffs. This one was a juvenille, which began to turn, and came quite low overhead.

This type of photography can be quite a challenge, but with some practise you can master panning, following the subject. You have to try to keep your focus, of course, and you have to watch you don’t follow the gull directly into the glare of the sun. I took over 300 photographs in this session, and hoped some came out reasonably well, at least.

Photographs taken of Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) July 2016, East Cliff, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Queen Anne’s Lace

Daucus carota

Also called ‘Wild Carrot’, I came across this delicate white flower growing in swathes on the clifftops. Sometimes a single purple flower can be found in the centre of the umbel. When it has finished flowering it contracts to form a tight fruit cluster which resembles a bird’s nest. The leaves are finely divided.

It flowers June to August, and is found in dry, grassy places, roadsides, clifftops, and field margins. A common and widespread species.

Photograph of Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)  taken August 2016, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea

Lathyrus latifolius

This is a beautiful and vibrant pea which grows along the clifftops of Bournemouth. It is a straggly plant which attaches itself to other plants to climb up and over them. It has reddish-pinkish peaflowers which adorn the vigorous twisting stems. It can grow up to 2m (6ft 6in) tall.

It flowers June to August, and is found as an escape on roadside verges, railway embankments, waste ground and sea cliffs. Naturalised, common and widespread in England, scarce elsewhere.

Photographs taken July and August 2016, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

On The Cliff’s Edge

Photographs of a collection of wild flowers and grasses taken August 2016, East Cliff, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Wall Lizard

Podarcis muralis

For some years I have been hoping to catch a glimpse of this beautifully coloured and patterned lizard on the Bournemouth seafront. I was not expecting to find anything on this particularly overcast day as I walked along the Bournemouth promenade, but not many minutes after crossing into the Poole section of the seafront I spied one, basking in what little sunlight there was, hiding in thin grass atop a stone wall.

It is a medium-sized lizard growing up to 180mm  (7in) long, including the tail, which makes up about two-thirds of its overall length. It is a very agile lizard, as I saw for myself when it scurried for cover after a few minutes, only to return to the same spot not long after. Compared to native species of lizard, it can be seen running up vertical faces of walls or rock surfaces. It only inhabits a few coastal sites, and it is often associated with man-made structures, especially stone walls. It is also found on cliff faces, often basking in the sun. It is presumed to be an introduced species to mainland Britain, where it is native to Jersey in the Channel Isles.

Photographs of Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis),  taken August 2016, along Bournemouth/Poole seafront promenade, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Common Oyster

Ostrea edulis

Also called the ‘Flat Oyster’ or the ‘Native Oyster’, it has a thick, rough textured grey-brown shell. It has a deeply cupped left valve, and a smaller flat right valve. Shell diameter 10cm.

The Common Oyster is the only native oyster, and is an important source of food for humans and other animals and birds. It also produces pearls. It forms beds around the low-water mark of estuaries and open shores, found attached to rocks or other shells. Widely distributed around the British coasts, but less so on the east and north-east coasts. Its population has suffered a sharp decline due to over fishing, pollution and disease.

Photographs taken June 2012, Llandudno Wales and August 2012, Bournemouth.

Pod Razor Shell

Ensis siliqua

Also called the ‘Common Razor Shell’, the shell is dull white with a yellowish tinted pink or purple colour. It is a large species, long and narrow, and the largest European species of razor shell. Length up to 20mm.

It is found on the lower shore buried in a deep vertical burrow from where it filter-feeds organic detritus via a pair of short siphons. It can live up to 20 years. Common and widespread.

Photographs taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales, and August 2012, Bournemouth.