The weather may be grotty today, but on Sunday it was sunny and the damselfly larvae in the pond decided it was time to crawl out and turn into their adult selves.

A spot of pond dipping with my daughter, at a local nature reserve's summer event, turned up a great find: a bullhead lurking in the mud. It's perhaps 7cm long and quite chunky with a great big head, hence the name bullhead, and the alternative name miller's thumb.

They tend to live at the bottom of fast flowing stony rivers, feeding on invertebrates at dusk. They are very well camouflaged – unless you stick them in a white tray of course – and swim very well.

Longtime friend of UKNB, Rose, is working on a wonderful community project celebrating nature in Bungay (that's in Suffolk, East Anglia if you didn't know) and exemplifying her magical story-telling is this blog post on Mayflies over the river. It transports you right there and tells you lots that you probably didn't know about Mayflies.

The blog is great and aims to foster community involvement of all sorts. If you're local to Bungay (or even if you're not) check it out and maybe get involved.


Thanks to regular correspondent David for these great photos from his visit to Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Lancashire. Coots, Moorhens, Water Rails and Crakes, along with many others around the world, are collectively known as "rails" or "rallidae" more officially.

Here we see the ugly side of the family. Coot chicks, which you might easily think were Moorhen chicks given their colouration and that only a mother could love, frankly.

Below, fighting moorhens, their greeny legs scrapping in the water. I saw Moorhens fighting like this just today at Wicken Fen – more on that trip another time!


A family walk in the lovely Cassiobury Park, Watford, was much enhanced by seeing bats flying in broad daylight. It was the first hot day of the year, hitting 20c, and I wonder if that had anything to do with it, though I visit the park only rarely so for all I know they're out and about most days.

The first was hunting in a clearing in the trees by the river, about 20-30 feet up. The second, unless it was in fact the same individual, was skimming low over the canal, patrolling a stretch of a couple of hundred feet. I managed to get a video of the second, though a fast-flitting bat filmed at 12X zoom on a compact camera by an idiot like me does not add up to BBC HD quality results.

What sort of bat is it? I guess either a Daubentons or a Pippistrelle, the former being particularly noted for its water-skimming, though others sometimes do the same.

What drives bats to come out during the day? This academic paper gives a really detailed insight into daytime flying, but suffice to say it's not that unusual and it's probably to make up for poor feeding at night, or to take advantage of good hunting. Or one of many other possible reasons.

Regular correspondent Bob emailed a picture of a Damselfy he was having trouble identifying. The difficulty with Damselflies is that usually the male, female and immature examples are very different and are sometimes available in multiple colour forms beyond that. But also some species are remarkably similar and hard to pick apart.

However after a bit of a hunt I'm pretty sure it is either a female Azure damselfly or female Common blue damselfly (though the pictures on that last link don't show it, due to aforementioned variations).

Apparently the female Azure damselfly "can be distinguished from females of the Common blue damselfly by the absence of a spine below the 8th abdominal segment". Unfortunately the photo doesn't lend itself to making that judgement and I'm not entirely sure what to look for anyway, being unfamiliar with such spines. It can get pretty technical and into the really fine detail apparently! Are there any insect experts out there who can help?

Update: Thanks to S Barton who posted a comment with this great BBC page which has a couple of very clearly described and illustrated tips to tell Azure from Common blue. And with its help, our picture above is clearly an Azure.

This picture also affords a good look at the 'speculum' – the blue flash on the wing bounded by black and white – of the male in this case.



As seen on a grey day by the river in Wheathamstead, Hertfordshire. A little bit of subtle exoticism to lift the heart. Here's a much better look at a Little Egret from a previous post of mine.


A couple of pleasant and typically autumnal scenes for you, in case the darkening days are starting to get you down. Both of these are in UKNB's home town of St Albans, so if you're local you might recognise the first one at least.


The Our Rivers campaign is running a national survey about local rivers. The survey is online and only takes a couple of minutes to complete (I just did so).

If you've not come across this organisation before, which I hadn't, they were apparently formed in 2009, led by WWF-UK, RSPB, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association. They are on a mission to take up the slack left by the government in its ambitions for Britain's rivers.

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