Thursday, 17 July 2014

Teddy Has Pancreatitis :-( I've Been Surveying Bats & Ten Top Tips for Photographing Flutters

I'll start with Bear (Ted).

Last week he ate a whole coconut half filled with suet. These are a delicacy for the garden birds, but they are not good for dogs. The huge hit of fat sent his pancreas into a spin with the result that it has more or less stopped working. He's been sick on and off ever since and yesterday it was noticeable that he'd started to lose weight, although he is still barking at pigeons and the post man and zooming about. 

He most certainly DID NOT enjoy his visit to the vet last night and kept throwing her very distrustful looks. He shook the entire time we were there and was immensely relieved when we left. She gave him an injection to stop the nausea and he wasn't allowed any food last night, and now he is on a special low fat diet for a few days so his pancreas can rest. I was very alarmed when she said it might never work properly again and as a result I am determined to get it better, so I have been doing healing with him. 

He came up and sat with me on the small wall in the garden when we got back, which I took as his way of asking for help. Even little Pops understood it was important and came and lay down beside us and was quiet as a mouse, which is most unlike her. My hands burnt when I placed them on his tummy (always a sign of poorly energy being drawn out), then, after ten mins or so they cooled,  at which point Teddy got up, stretched, licked my hand and wandered off to look for rats.

This morning he has eaten his new breakfast (which he wolfed down) and seems quite perky. Pop is outraged that she doesn't get the posh and expensive new wet food and has to stick with dry old biscuits, but as I told her, she has a cast iron stomach at the moment so there's no excuse for her needing low fat meals. Do send him some positive thoughts if you'd like to- the more the merrier and all that.

Teddy Bear

I am having a Quiet Day at home today, having been Rather Busy in recent weeks, both day and night. Last night I joined my mate Dave for a bat survey with the local wildlife trust Ecologist through the water meadows in Winchester. I took my new bat detector....

 ...and it worked well, picking up a range of different bat calls at different frequencies. The list above shows which bats use which frequencies to talk to one another. The ecologist lady was very impressive- she knew each species from the sound they were making and the pattern of calls and could also tell whether they were eating a moth or altering range in order to be heard better.

We walked a set route, stopping at specific places for 4 minutes to record everything. We met up at 9 and were done by 11. It was a beautiful night last night with a bit of a moon and it was warm. The bats were active, especially over the rivers, and I saw species that I didn't even know existed until last week! In a few weeks' time I will be doing my own surveys- one on Daubenton's Bats which are often found associated with water and have large feet so they can scoop up prey and eat it on the wing, and one at home on the roost of Pipistrelles we have here at the house. There are two types of Pip, so I'm going to have to practice listening to them to work out which ones it is we have here. There are also several types of roost- if it's a nursery, there could be up to thirty bats there, or it could just be a couple or even a solitary male. I think we only have two bats but the only way to be certain is to sit outside half an hour before dusk and remain there until 40 minutes after dark and watch, as this is prime Pip time (different species having different preferences for when they emerge and go back to bed). It's fascinating stuff and I am learning a lot.

I asked about bats landing on people, because Leanne, whose excellent blog can be found HERE is the second person to tell me this has happened to them and I was curious to know if it was common. The ecologist (Sarah) said no, not in her experience and she suspected they were young bats in both instances, because they can fall out of roosts and get in a muddle. This is why they often fly through windows and roost on curtains, because they mistake the window for their front door :-)

I should just mention for those of you who don't know that bats have full protection under the 1981 Wildlife Act and it illegal to touch or handle them. If you need help with bats the best thing to do is contact your local Wildlife Trust and they will give advice. You need a permit or license to handle bats, but anyone can buy a bat detector and go out and listen to them at night, which is quite a magical experience and basic bat detectors don't cost the earth. Mine is a basic entry-level one and was £65, but Argos has one that works well at £7.50 at the moment so if you're interested, grab it while stocks last as the manufacturer is stopping making them. Its called Discovery Ultrasonic Bat Detector and is reduced from £25.

Photographing Butterflies
I promised Leanne I would give her some tips on photographing Flutters, because truth be told they are not always easy things to get on film. I'm by no means an expert, so what follows is just what I do and tips I have picked up from others.

1.Different butterflies have different flight seasons. Some (like the Orange Tip) are only around in the Spring whereas others (like tortoiseshells) hibernate as adults, appear early in the year and have two or three broods so are visible all summer (although hibernating adults can start to hibernate as early as late July or August). Work out what species you want to photograph and when in the year you'll need to do it. I'd love to see Marsh Fritillaries but I have missed the season now - it finished end june/ start of July - so that will have to wait until next year.

2. Some flutters are more visible at certain times of the day eg the Purple Emperor comes down out of the trees to take up mineral salts from the earth between 9.30-1, so your best chance of getting them on film is during the morning because by afternoon they've usually gone back to the tree tops.

3. Some flutters only live in specific habitats, eg the Chalkhill Blue is mainly restricted to the Chalk Downlands of the Southern UK (although there are some colonies further afield), Swallowtails are only found in Norfolk now and Speckled Woods are usually only found in woodland rides. Get to know your local habitat and spend some time watching which flutters are there so you are familiar with them before you start to photograph them. Local hotspots are also worth knowing about. Here we have Magdalen Hill, Stockbridge Down and Martin Down- all are superb sites for butterflies. Check with your local wildlife trust for the best places to find butterflies.

4. Butterflies are generally easier to photograph in the morning, from around 10am-2pm. They don't like overly hot weather which makes them flit about so when it's very hot they don't tend to settle.

5. Butterflies generally go to ground when the sun goes in and most don't fly if there's much wind about, so to get the best shots you want a sunny but not hot, and a low or no wind day.

6. Take millions of photos! I click away even if I think I've got the shot I want, because with digital you can easily delete pics and you're not using up valuable film as per the old days. 

7. Start from a distance and work your way in towards them slowly. I always do shots from a distance first, because they will work as record shots and you can often enlarge them if needs be. It also gets the flutter used to you and you can work at getting closer slowly, taking pics all the time.

8. Kneel down and edge your way towards them. Read their body language- some are very happy for you to approach closely, while others will be off the second you move :-)

9. Be patient and practice. This is probably the single best piece of advice- my butterfly pictures have improved year on year as I've got better at knowing how to photograph them. This is all about knowing how they will react and it only comes with practice.

10. Get a decent digital camera which allows you to to do distance as well as macro (close up) shots. Mine is a Panasomic Lumix FZ45. It's light-weight, has a fantastic zoom and a great macro function and cost about £250, which is on the cheap end of things. It has been fantastic and is the only camera I take out with me, whether I'm doing butterfly close ups or landscapes at a distance. 

11. Get a good butterfly book (Britain's Butterflies by David Newland and Robert Still is a good one) and one of the Field Studies Council Guide fold out sheets (the Butterflies of Britain). The FSC guide always goes with me if I'm out and about as you can usually tell from it at a glance which flutter it is ;-)

12. Put some nectar-rich flowers in your garden and allow some of your grasses to grow tall. We have Skippers here for the first time this year because we've let the grass grow and that is what they like. Bramble flowers are also fantastic for attracting butterflies, so it's always worth checking patches of bramble for them.

Hope that was of use. Everyone has different ways of doing things, but hopefully with practice and tweaking things to suit you you'll get there!

I'll leave you with some shots taken round the garden this morning. It's warm and sunny here so the flutters are in Fine Form. I think this is possibly the most spectacular Peacock Butterfly I've ever seen. It's Perfect and the colours absolutely shimmered, which the camera doesn't show anything like as well as the naked eye could see them.


Second brood Green Veined White. They have more black markings on their upper wings than the earlier broods

I love the colour contrast of this cornflower and calendula
Our first Red Tom of the year!

Lots of Cucumbers growing in the greenhouse
There are lots of baby birds in the garden right now....This juvenile Blackbird is losing her/ his baby plumage

There are three of these cuter-than-cute baby Dunnocks, who have only just appeared....

The baby Robins are already Quite Good at defending their patch....

There are SIXTEEN baby sparrows, which, considering there were no sparrows here at all three years ago is the best news and I am thrilled (my clever friend Mrs Sparrow is having a well-earnt rest)...

There are also two baby rats....

The collar doves have been together for ages, but there is no sign of children....

And the pigeon's children have fledged from the hedge but not from the wisteria....

I have at long last seen a baby Nuthatch in the garden.

This hoverfly enjoyed the corn cockles (despite their seed being poisonous- another Garden Hazard to watch the dogs with)

And then moved on to the cornflowers...

And the poached egg plants are so cheerful...

Thanks for bearing with me through all of that, rather longer than I'd meant!

I'll leave you (finally) with a picture of a sunflower we grow every year, it's called 'Teddy' which seems appropriate.

CT :-) 



  1. Get well soon Ted.
    I was interested to read that Pipistrelles feed and then go back to bed, something we have observed here. It's all go for the first half hour or so after dusk and then they all seem to disappear. They must come back out again though because we did have one through the bedroom window one night.

    1. Yes, me too- I didn't know they were early birds, so to speak. What you describe is exactly what I was told last night. Now the only question is whether yours are Common or Soprano :-)

  2. Poor Teddy and poor you! You must be quite worried about him. Why, oh why do dogs have to eat stuff that's bad for them? Our Westie and miniature dachshund do the same thing.

    I have to admit I'm afraid of bats. I think it goes back to when I was a child and the boy on a neighbouring farm got bit by a sick bat and had to have the series of rabies injections.

    1. He seems a lot more chipper today, thank goodness. I feel he is feeling better, but will still be keeping a close eye on him for a while yet. It's worse than the time he licked a toad and made himself very poorly indeed :-)

      That would be scary re the bats, especially as a memory from childhood. I've always been fond of them, but I've never had a nasty experience to worry me.

  3. Get well soon Ted. Oh my I will have to watch out for that with my sisters dog! Bat survey sounds good, we have bats locally & they fly past the house, not sure what type they are though!

    1. Thanks Jo! I would like to think he'd learnt his lesson, but I doubt it :-)
      Get a bat detector and you can find out x

  4. Healing thoughts coming your way for Ted (I even turned to face South East to send them).

    1. Bless you Ann, that's much appreciated. I think he is feeling better today :-)

  5. All the best to your poor boy. Hopefully he won't have to go back to the vet anytime soon.

    jean x

    1. Thanks, Jean :-) Yes, I think he's hoping the same! I shall have to find a dog-proof area of the garden for the fat balls to go this winter. x

  6. Poor Ted, Daisy sends him her love and hope he makes a speedy recovery. He does look so forlorn! It was so interesting reading about the bats and the hints for photographing butterflies. I shall be following your advice on both counts. We have bats in our garden for years luckily that have never landed on my head when putting Daisy out last thing in the evening, although I am always a bit concerned when they swoop down close to my head! Sarah x

    1. Thanks Daisy :-) I hope she is feeling better herself? I think he is on the mend now, fingers crossed.
      Bats shouldn't land on you as a rule -they're most likely after the insects! x

  7. Hope ted is feeling better, our man' s the same, will eat anything, the more discussing the better.
    Found it intresting about the Bats we have Bats flying around the garden, would not have any idea what they are.
    Love the birds, flowers and butterfly photos, the rat looks cute but not in my back yard thank you.
    Amanda xx

    1. I think he is feeling better, thanks Amanda.
      I was sure we only had pips here, but took the detector out last night and now I'm fairly sure there are three bat species flying here :-)

  8. Sorry to hear about Teddy, I hope that he will be better soon and that he returns to his usual self. The tips for the butterfly photography are great, thank you for the information. Love the teddy sunflower! xx

    1. Thanks Amy. I think he is on the mend. xx

  9. Some people may laugh at healing hands but I can vouch that they work. Tom has them and has been very successful in the past with the cats when they are poorly. I don't know if everyone has the ability but he sure has. Rowan hurt her leg and like your little Ted laid quite still for him until she felt better then got up and walked away, to me its a no brainer that the animals know what you are doing.
    Contrary to a lot of peoples opinion, I think the baby rats are adorable.
    Lets hope Ted makes a good recovery.Briony

    1. I guess animals don't have to suspend their disbelief. Very interesting about Tom, sounds like Rowan knew he would help her feel better. I don't mind the rats either, as long as we don't get over-run again :-) xx

  10. I'm sorry to hear about Ted and I hope he feels a lot better soon.

    The bat survey sounds interesting - I used to love going on bat nights when the children were younger - they loved being able to use bat detectors :)

    1. Thanks, Caroline :-) He seems much more his normal self today so I'm hoping the damage wasn't permanent.

      L is convinced he can hear bats without the detector and declined my offer of sitting outside last night to listen through the it (apparently some teenagers can). The bats' roost is under his window so maybe he's been practicing :-)

  11. Sorry to hear about Teddy, I hope that he will be better soon, and that he never eats suet again. What wonderful pictures and post.

    Hugs Diane

    1. Thank you Diane :-) I suspect he would eat it again if he had the chance so I will just have to make sure he doesn't!!

  12. My mum, Bracken and I all send Teddy our best wishes and hope he gets better and back to full health really soon! Our old doggy who died 3 years ago now was very prone to pancreatitis but always made it through, it was cancer that took her away from us.

    On a more cheerful note, it is fantastic that you have been out bat surveying!!! Something I am really hoping to do some time too! When I have saved up enough, the first things I'll buy are a bat detector and a moth trap!
    It is lovely that you have put together some butterfly photography tips - nice to get an insight into how others attempt to capture these beauties :)

    I love juv robins - adorable!! I was watching one out of the office window at work the other day. Cute!! The bubba nuthatch looks a little scruffball!! He/She will soon turn into a sleek adult though.

    Lovely summery sunflower to end with - what a stunning variety that is!

    Apologies as per for absence. It is lovely to catch up with what you've been up to! xxx

    1. Bless you Lou :-) I think he is better now, but it was a bit of a shock :-o

      You would love bat detecting, although it does make you realise how much there is to learn in order to tell apart the different calls!

      Hope all is well with you and please don't worry about dipping in and out of the posts- I know how busy you are. Give my best to your mum and Bracken too. Would love to know what you've been up to when you get a spare minute xx

  13. I have written down all your tips. We get bats around here sometimes. It's rather lovely. And thank you for your heads up of my blog. Very kind
    Leanne xx

    1. Hope they are of some help- the main one is to take shots from a distance first so you've got the record then slowly work your way in xx


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x