Getting the Dingle Tingle

A beautiful walk with the dogs this morning up through Clyro Dingle, which is a short walk from the house. There are five of these steep sided secret places within a mile or two of the village. Each has been cut to the bedrock by water and each still carries water from the hills down into the River Wye.

Much as I love our dogs they do not make good companions when I’m trying to make photographs, so I have learned to leave the gear behind and just enjoy the walk and their company. I do take my iPhone, which comes in handy when I see something interesting and want to record it for a later visit – without the dogs. Such was the case this morning: two excited dogs, water and the time to explore further up stream than we have been before. Sam our Labrador loves water and tends to charge on ahead and disappear; but in a confined space like the dingles I can generally tell where he is by the noise, and if he finds something scary: pile of rocks, odd shaped stick, a shadow, he is always back very quickly. Millie our 14 year old Terrier is, by comparison, stoic. She doesn’t see the point of water except for refreshment. She is a very agile, fit, little dog who enjoys a walk and exploring new territory, but prefers dry land to water. Having to follow me this morning produced a look of silent suffering as we trudged, splashed and slipped our way up stream. Her thought bubble clearly saying “I love him but he is a complete idiot”.

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Millie has a habit of standing on anything small that you might be studying. I found what I thought was a Yellow Nettle and was kneeling to get a better view, when she comes trundling past and true to form tanked all across the poor plant, which was surprisingly robust considering it had just had 10 kilos of dog on it.

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These places are unique and so important for the preservation of species. Fortunately our dingles still seem to be clean: the water smells fresh and there is no evidence of farm slurry or poisoning by pesticide run-off. Places like this will only remain safe if those responsible for the headlands above behave responsibly. Fortunately a large area of the hills above is owned by the National Trust (God bless’em) so no risk there. All the surrounding farms grow sheep and most seem to favour permanent pasture over the questionable benefits of the annual ploughing and resowing with rye grass regime favoured by so many lowland farmers. So hopefully we will be exploring and enjoying these wonderful little oases of wildness for a long time to come.

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Last Dragonflies of the Summer

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It carried on raining heavily here yesterday afternoon, so I didn’t get out with the camera as planned. Millie, Jill, the Puppy and I had to content ourselves with a slippery walk through the woods after work. I don’t mind working in the rain, in fact I rather like it, but you have to have a purpose and yesterday afternoon I couldn’t think of one. Seduced by tea and a warm office I contented myself with an afternoon spent catching up on emails and going through some more of the images from last month. September in our part of Somerset was a glorious month most of which I viewed through the office window whilst ploughing through a pile of work all marked ‘Urgent’. However I did manage to sneak out into the garden and the woods occasionally with the camera and on one of these brief escapes from work I was surrounded by a host of large dragonflies. We get them in the garden all the time from June through to September but never in these numbers; this was a host of biblical proportions. From the lime green spots and large size I think that they were Southern Hawkers which the books describe as hunting well away from water often in woodland and being probably the most curious of dragonflies. I had several exploring my head that afternoon, so I can personally vouch for their curiosity and I was in woodland.

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These are fast flying predators often catching their insect prey mid-air and they are also capable of flying backwards. I assume that the species got the Hawker name because of the similarity between their hunting methods and those of the hobbies who predate them. Early this summer I managed to photograph a hobby having an inflight snack and I’ve included the images at the bottom of this post. The bird was at distance over a lake, so apologies for the quality.

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There were four Hobbys hawking the North Lake at Westhay Reserve climbing high into the sky until they were just dots and then gliding down over the lake at speed. In the last image the wing segments and carapace are discarded – the ultimate fast food.

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