The armchair naturalist

The weather’s been a little poor lately. Apart from some much-needed repair work around the house, I’ve been using the time to try and catch up, pruning out hundreds of unwanted photos that have been silting up my hard drives. I’ve also been trying to carefully identify all those “??” species, where I’ve taken a photograph of something, not been too sure what it was, and made a mental note to look it up when I got home, which I often then fail to do. So I’ve been slowly trawling through the images I’ve taken over the last five years, suite of ID books in hand. It’s been well worth it. The small red damselfly was on my list of things I wanted to try and see this year – except that I’ve already seen it. Twice.  The quick snapshot of a small bird I saw skulking in the bushes on Exmoor has turned out to be a grasshopper warbler, a very difficult species to find.

Some of the species I’ve seen still elude my poor identification skills. A shot I took at Rainham Marshes looks very much like a sparrow… but something about the beak and the shape of the head doesn’t feel quite right. I’ve learned over the years that the tiniest of details can matter when you are trying to identify something. The slightly greater curve on the anal appendages of a damselfly, structures which are perhaps a millimetre long. can turn an commonplace emerald damselfly into the are “scarce emerald” one. But by nature-spotting in my files I’ve discovered that I’ve actually seen 2% more of the British resident bird species than I thought I had.  And I’ve done it all with a cup of coffee in hand, without getting out of my chair. I could get used to this.

grasshopper warbler
Yes, it was a grasshopper warbler


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