Where Did The Time Go? A Look Back At 2017, Part 1

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote anything on here, almost a year since my last post. I did start writing about 30 Days Wild at the beginning of July last year, but then things got on top of me and I never finished it. Then it was August, then October, and Christmas, and suddenly a new year had begun.

One reason for my lack spare time was that I set out to enter the Wex Photo Video #WexMondays Twitter competition every week. This meant every bit of spare time was filled with taking or editing photos so I had something to enter. I managed it in the end, and the full set of photos can be seen on my Flickr. I don’t think I’ll be doing it again any time soon though, by the end I felt a bit photoed out (is that a thing?) so took a bit break at the start of this year.

Anyway, lets get on with this!

Always Learning

Around the time of my last post I had started a short course on Learning With Experts called Clive Nichols’ Flower and Plant Photography Masterclass. For those who don’t know, Clive Nichols is professional garden photographer, and since this course included critique from Clive himself I was quite interested in doing it. I really enjoyed doing the course and got some photos I really liked whilst doing the assignments, some were in my last post but here’s a few more that weren’t.

There were also some photos I wasn’t so happy with and Clive’s comments helped me to see what was wrong and how it could be done better in future.


With the course completed we were into bluebell season, so I set out to put my new ideas and knowledge to work on the ones in my garden.

It had also occurred to me that it was quite a long time since I’d last been to see bluebells out in the wild. So I decided it was about time I got myself out to a bluebell wood to see them properly again. I know our local Wildlife Trust holds a bluebell day at Short and Southwick Woods, where I’ve been before, so I figured that would be a good place to go and headed off to see them. I wasn’t disappointed. The bluebells were fantastic, stretching away through the trees like a blue carpet speckled with white spots from greater stichwort and the occasional white bluebell. I’ll definitely be going back to see them again.

Garden Time

May was mostly spent in the garden. Tidying, planting, taking photos, practising and trying out new ideas before June and 30 Days Wild started. In 2016 I’d bought a load of allium bulbs so it was great to see the minibeasts enjoying the new flowers from them, along with some new Sicilian honey garlic plants and some lupins I’d grown from seed the previous year.

30 Days Wild

Now a staple of my photographic year, 30 Days Wild, the Wildlife Trusts’ annual getting outdoors event, pretty much takes control of my spare time in June. The month kicked off with a first four days just hunting around in the garden.

After that I had a week off work, so on day five I headed off to RSPB Fowlmere. I’d been here in 2015 and seen kingfishers, but that was later in the year and the weather wasn’t great this time with quite strong winds. Despite this, and starting off the day sheltering from rain in a bird hide, the walk around the reserve was still nice and I actually did see a kingfisher, albeit only a brief flash of blue as it was darting away. A somewhat less expected sighting for a nature reserve were some very brightly coloured chickens that were hanging around the picnic area near the garden. I’m not up on my chicken identification, but apparently they’re a rare breed called Marsh Daisy.

On day six the weather was even worse, with on and off heavy rain all day. Normally I can find somewhere within day trip distance where the weather is better but not this time. So I stayed at home and spent some time watching a female blackbird gathering food in the garden. Nice to watch but not really what I wanted to be doing.

The weather on day seven was significantly better so I headed out to spend the day at Brampton Wood. There were loads of flowers out with a mix of cuckoo flower, wood speedwell and common spotted orchids along the woodland rides. In the shade of the trees there were yellow-banded longhorn moths flittering about amongst the ground elder (easy to see where the common family name of fairy longhorn comes from) and I got my first sighting of the rare black hair-streak butterflies.

On day eight the weather took a down turn again, but I had no intention of spending any more time staying at home so headed off to Grafham Water. Not somewhere I’ve been before, this is a reservoir managed by Anglian Water with a perimeter path and a section of nature reserve around one end managed by the local Wildlife Trust. One day I intend to do the full walk, but this wasn’t that day, so I just spent my time walking around the nature reserve section, sheltering from passing showers in the bird hides.

Day nine had a grey start with a sunny afternoon, so after lunch I headed off to familiar territory for a short walk around Summer Leys nature reserve. Black headed gulls were nesting on one of the islands and the bright flowers of southern marsh orchids spotted through the small meadow near the carpark. After spending some time watching a pair of bullfinches on one of the bird tables I spotted a bright green dock beetle embarking on a trek across the path so watched that until it was safely across.

For day ten, the final day of my week of outings, I headed off to Tichmarsh – another of the string of wetland reserves along the river Nene and another familiar place. It was quite a windy day but there were still a lot of butterflies and damselflies about. Including banded demoiselle damselflies and a few painted lady butterflies which I see surprisingly infrequently.

So that was the end of my day trips for a while, which meant the next few days were spent looking for things in the garden. There is a lot to see if you take the time to stop and look closely, from iridescent flower beetles, to the flowers that find a way to flourish even between the bricks of a driveway, and the tiny insect nymphs that you’d miss completely if not looking for them.

The next weekend, for day 18, I headed out to Felmersham Gravel Pits, another local Wildlife Trust nature reserve that I’ve been to before. It was a nice warm, sunny, day which brought out the dragonflies and damselflies, including the sparkly metallic green emeralds., and also quite a few butterflies and longhorn beetles.

Days 19 to 24 were spent back in the garden again, I found a couple of species I’ve not seen here before with metallic green soldier flies on the tansy plants and another very round dark-winged soldier fly.

With the arrival of the final weekend I headed out to Woodland Trust Twywell Plantation for day 25. The agrimony was coming into flower and there were lots of skipper butterflies and speckled bush cricket nymphs about in the woodland. I also found a lot of marbled white butterflies flittering about in the grassy areas so spend quite a bit of time watching and photographing them.

For the last 5 days of June, and 30 Days Wild, I was back in the garden where I found some moths, a soldier beetle a lace wing and a very obliging little snipe fly with some very green eyes. As I’ve said before, there is an amazing amount of different creatures in even a small back garden, you just have to stop and look for them.

End of Part 1

Thats quite a lot of photos in one post and there are many more from the remainder of the year, so I’m going to break off here and split this into 3 parts like I did with 2015.

There’s a lot more still to come!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Louise says:

    Just realised I mixed up my wood names there, doh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I first started going there I kept calling Short Wood “South Wood” and then couldn’t remember what the other one was called. 😀


  2. Louise says:

    The course sounds great and I enjoyed seeing the bluebells… it won’t be long before they’re here again 🙂 I really enjoyed visit both South and Shortwick Woods a few years ago, I would love to revisit them during bluebell season! You had a great 30 Days Wild last year. I struggled with it a bit last year but am looking forward to this year’s and hoping to do better this time.

    Liked by 1 person

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