These bizarre-looking things are a couple of dragonfly nymphs that had emerged from the pond at my grandmother's. Dragonflies are have hemimetabolous life cycles, which means they have a very short pronymph stage, before developing into a nymph that partially resembles the adults but has wing buds as opposed to fully developed wings. This is different to holometabolous insects, such as moths and butterflies, which have life cycles characterised by a reduced larval stage and quiescent pupa before developing into an adult.
The nesting blue tits in the garden are as busy as ever, I imagine it will only be a few days before the chicks fledge. I've been stationing myself next to the box to catch the adults just before they bring their grub to the chicks, I'm fairly happy with some of the photos that have come out! The last photo shows one of the adults coming out of the box with a fecal sac, a mucous membrane that covers the faeces of the nestlings so the parents can remove it from the nest.
Over the past few days, I've spent a number of afternoons and evenings in our local churchyard. With goldcrests nesting in the yew tree, flycatchers spying for insect meals and squirrels munching on old flower bouquets, the place seems to be a haven for wildlife. As is often the case with particularly biodiverse micro-regions, I put it down to the variety of habitats that are evident in the graveyard. The unkempt pockets of grasses act as mini meadows, attracting all sorts of insects, while hawthorn, ash, yew and wild cherry provide much needed nest-sites for various birds. I'll be sure to keep visiting the churchyard, not least to keep up with the number of new fledglings that keep popping up around the place!
I was massively excited to have spotted this beautiful bird in the ash tree at the top of our garden. At first, from a distance, I thought it was a juvenile of a typical species that I'm used to seeing around here due to the mottled plumage and subdued colours that so many recently-fledged woodland birds take on. To add to the confusion, I was not familiar with the single high-pitch squeaky call it was letting out. However, once it perched for a moment on one of the branches, I got a slightly better view. I still wasn't convinced - as I have never seen this species in the wild before. However, using my 300mm lens, I sneaked a photo, and upon looking on a bigger screen it is definitely a spotted flycatcher! I am very excited about this, and I am really hoping that it is nesting nearby. Taking the advice from the previous owner of my house (who is a keen wildlife enthusiast and used to have a flycatcher nesting in the garden every year), I have placed a wooden stake in the middle of the lawn, hoping that the flycatcher will use it as a perch as it waits to flit out to catch its flying insect prey. Although I have spotted it a few times since taking this picture, I have not yet caught sight of it close enough to take another photograph. However, I am hoping that I will be able to spend more time watching this incredible and delicate bird, and that I will get more photos of it to upload to the blog.
Extended Essay Coursework - "Can The Ancestral Indiscriminate Sexual Behaviour Hypothesis Explain the Existence of Same-sex Sexual Behaviour in the Animal Kingdom?"
As part of my final year at Oxford University studying Biological Sciences, I was required to complete a 3000 word extended essay on a title of my choosing. The widespread existence of homosexuality among humans and other animal species fascinates me, which led to me deciding to write on an evolutionary theory that explains its persistence as a behavioural trait. This is a relatively new theory, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing on up-and-coming research.
Below is the full extended essay:
(Click "Read More" for Abstract)
A blog of my ideas, photography and research of the natural world.