Pond dipping at the weekend with my daughter, we found a lot of beetles, some large, some small. It turns out there are a lot of species of dving beetle, so I can't be very sure what this fairly large one is, but my best guess is Dytiscus semisulcatus or similar.

It's at the surface here, filling up the air bubble under its elytra (wing cases) so that it can dive again. It's about 18mm long and swims powerfully with the rear legs that you can see are swept forwards in the photo above. Interestingly I've only ever found one or two small beetles in this same spot before, so I was pleased to come across so many this time, and I hope it's indicative of improving habitat.

Here are some things I've noticed recently.

  • Butterflies, butterflies everywhere. Mostly small whites all over the purple flowers in the garden, and the brassicas of course. Also small tortoiseshells and peacocks. A perfect example above, alighted on my shed.
  • Bumble bees too, including some really big ones. It turns out quite a few live (lived) in my compost heap and make an angry buzzing with their wings when disturbed. Probably red-tailed bumble bees in the heap, according to this great reference page)
  • Garden spiders are starting to make themselves conspicuous, with webs spun across pathways waiting to catch me out in the morning.
  • Wasps are now well established, after being a bit thin on the ground earlier in the year. They can't half wreck a nice outdoor meal, though luckily my kids don't fear them yet.
  • Lots of leaves off some trees, presumably due to the very dry spells recently.

Prowling with my macro lens in the garden I was really pleased with this shot of a small white butterfly. They don't tend to stay in one place for very long so I had to be quick, whilst hoping that autofocus would come up with a result. The very shallow depth of field means that's far from guaranteed. A more pleasantly coloured background would improve it mind you.

I found this wonderful pair of field grasshoppers sunning themselves on my shed. Yes I know it needs re-painting. Presumably a female on the left and a male on the right, they were slowly sidling up to one another over the course of several minutes, though I don't know what happened next as I had to leave the scene.

Happily, I had my proper camera with macro lens to hand, so was able to get some proper non-iPhone shots with lots of close-up detail. You can tell it's a field grasshopper by the hairy underside, amongst other things. Click to see a larger version of the picture below and you can just about see that.


I was sent this book to review and was very glad to do so, as it promised to neatly solve a common class of problem. Often I'll be walking in the countryside and see a field of some unusual crop. Is it peas, or beans of some sort? Is it grown for animal feed or human plates? This slim volume promises to be your guide to all such countryside conundrums, crops being just one small part.

It covers a wide array of topics, all well presented with good photographs and brief descriptions containing interesting tidbits, which makes it lively, engaging and informative. It's quite good to just sit and read in the comfort of your home frankly.

With 96 narrow-format pages it really is quite slim, which is great for tucking into an already over-burdened bag, but I felt that its compactness is also its biggest problem. There is just one page on crops (so no help at all really for my problem above) and if you want to look up badgers, bats, kingfishers, or any owl other than the little owl, you're out of luck. It's ironic that there's a picture of a barn owl on the back cover, but nothing about them within.

I presume that the authors were forced by size-constraints to concentrate on common daytime species, but when we saw what might have been a badger's sett and I opened the book with my young daughter, we were disappointed to find nothing. Similarly as we watched a bat skimming over a canal in the afternoon, or a kingfisher dipping into the river – surely one of the most iconic and treasured birds to spot on a walk?

I think I (or perhaps it) got a bit unlucky with the things I saw on my walks, and realistically it's pretty good for identifying common plants and animals and learning more about the terrain itself. Its breadth is admirable, covering ancient monuments, waterways, boundaries, clouds, village life and more. It's already a decent book for the keen novice that wants to get out and about, but will hopefully be much improved if a second edition comes along with 50-100% more content for the areas that are weak. Maybe based on feedback they could find some relatively unpopular sections to cut entirely, to enable the rest to really shine without becoming a weighty tome.

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