Our opening foray of the "summer" season, when we hold weekly events, was to the grounds of the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms. We met in the car park on a gloriously sunny but windy day.
Having taken our time getting ready we set off past the toy woolly mammoth standing guard at the entrance to the Visitor Centre and made for the convenient conveniences (just me).
Unusually, after the initial diversion, we did not dally. We passed flowering trees with hardly a glance and made straight for the nearest pool.
Here we dispersed like seeds in the wind as we all set about following our own interests like children let out of school on the last day of term. Fence posts were studied and photographed, stream banks and pool edges swept, flowering trees inspected for hoverflies, bird song enjoyed and then the vacuum sampler was started up.
The sound of silence when the vacuum sampler is switched off acts like a bugler's call and most of the group reassembled to inspect what had been found.
It is amazing how long it takes to investigate one catch. You think you have given it a thorough search then something else appears, as if by magic, which of course it is not. At the size of some of the wee beasties there are many nooks and crannies in which you can be unseen.
So it was some time later that we moved to a patch of grassland between the pool and the bordering River Onny. I explored the water's edge and was surprised to see some leaping salmon.
Here it was a little more sheltered and the margin of the grassland with a small plantation proved to be of interest to a passing bee-fly.
Once more the vacuum sampler was called into action. This time it managed to find a dock bug, the first I had seen this year.
Nearby a male Andrena sp. bee was resting on a fence.
Lunch over we continued to move further away from the visitor centre, past a muddy pool where we watched flies and bees "sunbathing" on the trunks of neighbouring trees, across a field to an area of scrubby land that was a haven for teasels. Investigation of some of the teasels revealed little but in the middle of this area was a mound on which a Blue shieldbug and nearby 7-spot ladybird were photographed.
We also found the weevil Nedyus quadrimaculatus. Yes - one of the group could identify some weevils! And yes it lived up to its name with four spots (or dashes) as shown in the left hand image of the following compound photograph.
Before compiling a report I ask all our participants if they have any photographs that they are willing for me to use. I am very grateful that they always provide some to supplement my questionable efforts. Normally I can place the photographs supplied in context but this time I have some that I have no clue where they were taken.
First some pink flowers. I am not a botanist but I think they are Pink purslane.
A hoverfly - a species of Syrphus.
And finally a group photograph of Lesser celandine, pink purslane, possibly, and primrose.
The centre's cafe facilities were calling so we started back. However there was one more moment to savour. As we walked and talked one of the group looked up and saw a Red kite. It did not seem to hang around and was soon lost to sight. But minutes later it returned and treated us to a low level fly-past. What a glorious bird. I did photograph it - but only as it passed some trees to fly off somewhere else.
Tea and cake would normally have been the conclusion of this wander around the grounds but we had an extra treat as we joined a presentation by Rhona Goddard of Butterfly Conservation on the Wood White Project.
My thanks to the Discovery Centre for allowing us to do what we enjoy doing and to the photographers - David Williams, Jim Cresswell and Stephen Mitchell - for supplying most of the photographs.