Chris Mattison Wildlife Photographer
Chris Mattison Wildlife Photographer
Chris Mattison Wildlife Photographer
Chris Mattison Wildlife Photographer

Blog

Cardinal Beetles in the log pile

One of the bonuses of having a log-pile is the chance of turning up interesting invertebrates in the course of sawing and splitting logs.  Earlier this month I came across this larva when moving a log that had been stacked for several months.  It turned out to be a larval Black-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa coccinea.  These larvae are flattened from top to bottom (laterally compressed) as an adaptation for living in the narrow spaces between the bark and trunk of dead wood, where they prey on other invertebrates, using their fearsome-looking jaws.

Larva of Black-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa coccinea, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK

Larva of Black-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa coccinea, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK


As it happened, I had seen and photographed an adult of the same species in the garden last summer.  

Black-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa coccinea, Monmouthshire. Family Pyrochroidae.

Black-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa coccinea. Monmouthshire, Wales

There are two other species of Cardinal Beetle (family Pyrochroidae); all are predominantly red in colour.  They are strong fliers active mostly in May, June and July.  They are not to be confused with the smaller Lily Beetle, Lilioceris lilii, also bright red, but which is a pest species that was introduced to the UK sometime before 1939.

Larva and adult of Black-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa coccinea, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK. Montage from two separate images.

Larva and adult of Black-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa coccinea, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK. Montage from two separate images.


All photographs taken with a Canon 100mm f2.8 lens macro lens and diffused flash
.

 

Madagascar gallery added

O'Shaughnessy's Chameleon, Calumma oshaughnessyi, Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Family Chamaeleonidae.

O’Shaughnessy’s Chameleon, Calumma oshaughnessyi, Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Family Chamaeleonidae.

In September and October I accompanied a group of wildlife photographers on a visit to Madagascar.  You can see some of the photos from the trip here 

Plants from warmer times

As an antidote to the cold, wet weather we are having at the moment, I have looked out some photographs of plants photographed in my greenhouse over the years as reminders of sunnier days to come.  Many of the images are focus-stacked in order to produce sharpness from back to front.  The first three are a sequence of flowering in a living stone plant, Lithops pseudotruncatella.  The following images are random and the last one has been given the photoshop treatment.

The captions should speak for themselves.

Living stone plant, Lithops pseudotruncatella, in bud. Cultivated (orig. S. Africa)Living stone plant, Lithops pseudotruncatella, in bud. S. Africa

Stone plant, Lithops pseudotruncata, in flower.Stone plant, Lithops pseudotruncata, in flower.

Living stone plant, Lithops pseudotruncatella, shrivelling petalsLiving stone plant, Lithops pseudotruncatella, “after the party”.

Lithops dorotheae, one of the "living stones" plants, in cultivation. It is in transitional stage, with the old leaves withering and new ones emerging. Native to South Africa. Family Aizoaceae.Lithops dorotheae, another of the “living stones” plants. It is in transitional stage, with the old leaves withering and new ones emerging. Native to South Africa. Family Aizoaceae.

Haworthia obtusa flower bud emerging from the centre of rosette. Cultivated (origin S. Africa)Haworthia obtusa flower bud emerging from the centre of rosette. S. Africa

Avonia quinaria quinaria, a small caudiform succulent from South Africa, in cultivation.Avonia quinaria quinaria, a small caudiform succulent from South Africa.

Resnova megaphylla, new shoot. South Africa. Family Hyacinthaceae.Resnova megaphylla, new shoot. South Africa. A member of the Hyacinthaceae.

Crassula mesembryanthemopsis, South Africa (in cultivation). CrassulaceaeCrassula mesembryanthemopsis, South Africa. Crassulaceae

Gasteria glomerata, flowers

Gasteria glomerata, flowers. The genus’ name, Gasteria, is derived from the shape of the flowers, which are thought to look like little stomachs.

Euphorbia capsaintemariensis, (synonym Euphorbia decaryi var. capsaintemariensis, flower, Madagascar. This species has a very restricted rdistribution in S. Madagascar. Focus-stacked image.Euphorbia capsaintemariensis, (synonym Euphorbia decaryi var. capsaintemariensis) flower. This species has a very restricted distribution in S. Madagascar.

Dorstenia foetida, flower. Focus-stacked image.

Dorstenia foetida, flower. A member of the fig family, with what must be one of the weirdest flowers in the plant kingdom.

 

Manipulated image of Sedum mocinianum, or Sedum hintonii (in error) leaves. Mexico (in cultivation)An abstract to end with: the fuzzy leaves of Sedum mocinianum, often known (incorrectly) as Sedum hintonii. From Mexico

Photographing the Glamorgan Heritage Coast

Nash Point, Glamorgan, Wales, UK

Nash Point

The Glamorgan Heritage Coast stretches from Ogmore-by-Sea in the west to Nash Point in the east. The closest town of any size is Llantwit Major. It’s hard to believe the centre of Cardiff is just 20 miles away. The geology and landscape along this stretch is both interesting and dramatic. At Dunraven Bay and Nash Point the rock is conspicuously stratified, and flat pavements of eroded bedding planes reach out from the base of the cliffs towards the sea.

Cliffs east of Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan, and Nash Point, showing tilted bedding planes and hanging valleys. Stitched panoramic image.

Cliffs east of Dunraven Bay looking towards Nash Point, showing tilted bedding planes and hanging valleys.  This and the previous panorama are created from several stitched images.

Carboniferous limestone pavement and cliff showing sedementary Jurassic sandstone bedding planes. Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan

Carboniferous limestone pavement and cliff showing sedementary Jurassic sandstone bedding planes. Dunraven Bay

Sedimentary rocks, consisting of Carboniferous limestone overlaid with Jurassic sandstone. Southerndown bedding planes, Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan

Sedimentary rocks, consisting of Carboniferous limestone overlaid with Jurassic sandstone. Southerndown bedding planes, Dunraven Bay

There is much to photograph when conditions are suitable: ideally, the tide needs to be out; the sun needs to shine; and the beaches need to be relatively free from people. Bringing all these conditions together is not easy but cold, bright, winter days seem best. And, let’s face it, it would be churlish to complain about a few other people enjoying these beautiful sections of coast; just avoid the height of summer if you want the place (almost) to yourself.

Horizontal bedding planes exposed on a cliff at Nash Point, Glamorgan.

Horizontal bedding planes exposed on a cliff at Nash Point.

The landscape lends itself to panoramic images, and to long exposures showing the encroaching waves lapping around the rocks. When the sun is low in the sky the pavement-like bedding planes are picked out most easily. Details can be found in the shapes of weathered rocks, and in the strange reefs formed by a polychaete worm, Sabellaria alveolata, otherwise known as the Honeycomb Worm. These are only visible at low tide. More exposed shore-life is restricted to species that can cling on tenaciously in the face of the battering seas, like limpets and barnacles, or jam themselves into crevices in the rocks, such as Periwinkles, Top Shells and Dog Whelks. A very rare purple form of the Dog Whelk is found here; it is known from only a few places in the world. The large rocks towards the top of the beach often contain fossil bivalves, Gryphaea, otherwise known as “Devils Toenails”, and ammonites.

Fossil bivalves of the genus Gryphaea, embedded in carboniferous limestone rock. Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan

Fossil bivalves of the genus Gryphaea, embedded in carboniferous limestone rock. Dunraven Bay

Limestone pavement at Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan, with part of a fossil ammonite embedded.

Part of the pavement at Dunraven Bay with a segment of a fossil ammonite embedded.

Part of a colony of Honeycomb Worms, Sabellaria alveolata, a reef-forming polychaete worm, exposed at low tide. Nash Point, Glamorgan, Wales, UK. The tubes are formed from sand grains and shell fragments.

Part of a colony of Honeycomb Worms, Sabellaria alveolata, a reef-forming polychaete worm, exposed at low tide at Nash Point. The tubes are formed from sand grains and shell fragments.

Rare purple form of Dog Whelk, Nucella lapillus, on the shore at Nash Point, Glamorgan.

The very rare purple form of Dog Whelk, Nucella lapillus, on the shore at Nash Point. (Focus-stacked image)

My experience of the area is necessarily limited, having only moved to South Wales quite recently, but the three or four visits I have made so far have convinced me that there is plenty of scope for the photographer and I will certainly return as often as possible.

Limestone pavement at Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan

Visitors enjoy the dying rays of the sun as it grazes the limestone pavement on a winter’s afternoon at Dunraven Bay.

 

 

South Africa 2017

In August 2017 I visited South Africa with a small group of nature photographers, with the object of photographing the flowers of Namaqualand (see the previous post).  This year happened to be one of the driest on record and so the fields of Namaqua Daisies were nowhere to be seen but, nevertheless, we managed to find a variety of plant and animal subjects.

Starting in Cape Town, we first explored the Cape Peninsula National Park before travelling north into Namaqualand, through the unique quartz-strewn region known as the Knersvlakte, then into the rocky hills east of Kamieskroon before turning south again and journeying through the Cederberg Mountains eventually coming full circle back to Cape Town via Stellenbosch and Betty’s Bay.

In addition to the small sample of photos posted below, there is a larger gallery here.

Daisy, Botterblom (Afrikaans), Gazania lichtensteinii, Kamieskroon, Western Cape, South Africa.

Daisy, Botterblom (Afrikaans), Gazania lichtensteinii, Kamieskroon, Western Cape, South Africa.

Oophytum nanum, in bud, growing among quartz pebbles in the Knersvlakte, Western Cape, South Africa, where it is endemic.

Oophytum nanum, in bud, growing among quartz pebbles in the Knersvlakte, Western Cape, South Africa, where it is endemic.

San rock-art paintings of elephants and people, Cederberg Wilderness, South Africa

San rock-art paintings of elephants and people, Cederberg Wilderness, South Africa

Foliose lichen, Cederberg Mountains, South Africa

Foliose lichen, Cederberg Mountains, South Africa

Grain patterns in dead Eucalyptus stump

Grain patterns in dead Eucalyptus stump

Kokerboom, or Quiver Tree, Aloidendron dichotomum, Western Cape, South Africa. Previously known as Aloe dichotoma.

Kokerboom, or Quiver Tree, Aloidendron dichotomum, Western Cape, South Africa. Previously known as Aloe dichotoma.

Namaqualand Tour, August 2017

In August this year I will be leading a small group of nature photographers on a tour of Namaqualand, South Africa.  This region is justifiably famous for its wealth and variety of wild flowers and the tour is timed to coincide with the peak of the season.  Starting in Cape Town, we will drive north, visiting sites I have explored on previous visits, searching out interesting floral curiosities and sweeps of seasonal colour; “flowers in the landscape”.  Along the way, we will also be keeping our eyes open for opportunities to see and photograph wildlife, including the many insects attracted to the flowers, and well as birds and game.

This tour will definitely run but are still a few places left: for the full itinerary, and more details, please visit http://www.wildlifeworldwide.com/group-tours/flower-photography-in-namaqualand 

Kokerboom, or quiver tree, Goegap Nature Reserve, Springbok, South Africa

Kokerboom, or quiver tree, Goegap Nature Reserve, Springbok, South Africa

Aloinopsis luckhoffii, a stone-mimic succulent, Cape Prov. South Africa.

Aloinopsis luckhoffii, a stone-mimic succulent, Cape Prov. South Africa.

Felicia daisies, Namaqualand, South Africa

Felicia daisies, Namaqualand, South Africa

Flowering "mesem" (Mesembryanthemum), Cederberg Mountains, Clanwilliam, South Africa

Flowering “mesem” (Mesembryanthemum), Cederberg Mountains, Clanwilliam, South Africa

Paintbrush, Haemanthus albiflos, a South African member of the Amaryllidaceae

Paintbrush, Haemanthus albiflos, a South African member of the Amaryllidaceae

Tree Aloe, Aloe arborescens, South Africa. Abstract study of leaf.

Tree Aloe, Aloe arborescens, South Africa. Abstract study of leaf.

Milkweed grasshopper, Phymateus morbillosus, Vanrhynsdorp, Western Cape, South Africa

Milkweed grasshopper, Phymateus morbillosus, Vanrhynsdorp, Western Cape, South Africa


Nature

Larva and adult of Black-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa coccinea, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK. Montage from two separate images.
Cardinal Beetles in the log pile

One of the bonuses of having a log-pile is the chance of turning up interesting invertebrates in th…

More in Nature

Photography

Larva and adult of Black-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa coccinea, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK. Montage from two separate images.
Cardinal Beetles in the log pile

One of the bonuses of having a log-pile is the chance of turning up interesting invertebrates in th…

More in Photography