Sunday, 4 September 2016

Sunday 4th. September 2016

A catch up on sightings over the last few weeks include :
A female Stag Beetle around the woodpile in the corner of the garden .
At  Keston Ponds , a male Small Red-eyed Damselfly caught on the wing ,
 
a pair of mating Black-tailed Skimmers ,
 
and two of four Brown Hawker females , ovipositing on floating logs and other debris .
A visit to Leybourne Lakes at New Hythe didn't live up to expectations , but did produce female Tufted Duck with broods of 4,7 and 8,
and a female Emperor Dragonfly ovipositing whilst being buzzed by a male Common Blue Damselfly .
The annual visit of Kent Butterfly Conservation to High Elms fell short of what was expected , having found a single White-letter Hairstreak in the bottom glade before the group arrived , it had moved on before we reached the glade , but 16 species were seen , which was below average , but did include Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral , the other two target species . An Alder Moth larva was a bonus find . Needless to say , a week later I had 9 WLHs on transect . An opportunity also arose to photograph male
and female SWFs , nectaring on the same Hemp Agrimony head , female on the right . That species is also
one that has done well this season , with several females seen oviposting on tree trunks . When this one
moved on , I found several eggs . On my last transect , I found a very freshly emerged Painted Lady , but it
doesn't look like a mega influx of the species this year . A bonus was a Jersey Tiger day flying moth , found
nectaring on Hemp Agrimony near the Orchid Bank , a species which seems to use railway lines to extend their range . Forest Hill in SE London is it's unlightly stronghold .
Below Biggin Hill airport , Chalkhill Blue numbers increased to 69 including three mating pairs ,
and with males well out-numbering females , competition was fierce , with three males here attempting to couple with a single female . Another female gave an opportunity to get an open , topwing shot , seemingly
 not bothered with attracting searching males . Also found on site , Soapwort / Saponaria officinalis , a
 
member of the Pink family .
A trip down to Marshside , near Reculver in search of Willow Emerald Damselfly proved difficult , with both
heat and wind a problem , but with much searching , singles then a pair in tandem were found and finally a
mating pair , making the journey well worthwhile . A stop on the way home at Cliffe Pools , though very
short on Odonata , did produce male Emerald and Scarce Emerald Damselfly , but sadly not the hoped for
 Southern Emerald Damselfly to complete the trio .
On a site near Hutchinsons Bank , it was an all male affair , with 3 Large Whites contesting the ownership of a Buddlihia bush with a male Brimstone , bottom left .
Amongst the grass , the pretty day flying moth , Oncocera semirubella was found .
On Hutchinsons Bank itself , I saw my first Small Copper of the season . Usually by now I would have
recorded many , but this year the species seems to be having problems all over the country . One day on leaving HB , I decided to look for WLH eggs on the Elm where I photographed larvae earlier in the season . The seach proved fruitless for eggs , but it did turn up a Comma larva , behaving strangely under one of the
Elm leaves , and looked to me as if it was getting ready to ' hang up ' and pupate . I left it to do his thing ,
and a week later , went back to see if I was right , and there under the leaf was a Comma pupa . A phone
call from Martin had me heading back to HB in the hope of seeing one of the Clouded Yellows that had
taken up residence . After much chasing , not good in the heat , I managed to get a few shots . On the same
visit , a Common Buzzard soared overhead looking for a meal .
With news of Southern Migrant Hawker showing up again in Essex , an early morning start for myself and Keith found us at the West Canvey Reserve , and with no other cars in the car park , a long , hot search
started . Halfway round and no sign of SMH , but we did find a small number of Wall , worth the trip on their
own , and whilst photographing them , were treated to a Peregrine cruising overhead looking for breakfast . Eventually we did find the target species in a ditch alongside the sea wall , but they were distant and constantly charging about in the lush vegetation . Another diversion came in the form of 2/3 Short-eared
Owls that flew up from the long grass as we passed only to be mobbed by the local corvids before disappearing again . On the way back to the car park we found a pair of mating Hornet Hoverflies /
Volucella zonaria , who moved several times in front of us , the sound of their wings incredible , being so close . With very few photo opportunities with the SMHs , we decide to head for a nearby reserve , and
there we had better luck , so a long , hot day finished well , with even the M25 behaving on the way home .
Up on the Common it has been really quiet with not a single Purple Hairstreak or Small Copper being found and even more common species such as Brimstone in short supply . On one visit though , I did manage to
snatch an open-winged shot of a female Large White , unusual for the species , and on another visit found a web of the Labyrinth Spider / Agelena labyrinthica , and managed to coax the occupier out into the open by
vibrating the web with a seed head . The other interesting find was on one of the paths , where mining wasps
, probably Ectemnius sp. , had dug their nests . Whilst watching them , I spotted a Ruby-tailed Wasp , but it
looked different to ones have seen before , having a ruby band on the thorax as well as the tail . I believe this to be Hedychrum nemelia , also a Cuckoo Wasp , which lays it's eggs in unattended nests . When hatched , the larvae feed on the larvae of the host , before emerging as adults . Mind you , the host is no angel as it
preys on hoverflies . This one on the left , struggling to take it's prey underground of feed it's larvae .
My latest visit to the Biggin Hill site found 3/5 Clouded Yellows , the windy conditions and highly active butterflies making a positive count and photographs impossible . In a sheltered corner , I did manage to
photograph a freshly emerged female Brown Argus , and one of several Small Heath , that seem to have
bucked the trend and had a reasonable season .
 And finally , a couple of birds to finish with , a Common Tern at Bough Beech Reservoir ,
and a Green Sandpiper outside Willow Hide at Sevenoaks Reserve .

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Saturday 9th.July 2016

A picture round up on recent outings .
High Elms transect numbers still very low . Common Blues like this female are having a really poor year .
Most recent transect perked up somewhat with Small Skipper emerging , along with 28 Marbled White ,

and last Sunday , the first two pristine Silver-washed Fritillary .
173 Meadow Brown , and rising , were recorded on the same day .
On one visit , this Roe Buck was found feeding on Burnt Gorse . I managed to get reasonably close with the
100mm. macro lens , before he was off In the area below Biggin Hill Airport , the Small Blues have all but
finished , finding just two faded specimens , but a Cinnabar moth allowed both top and under wing shots
before departing . Other finds included the leaf beetle Cryptocephalus hypochaeridis .
the hoverfly Chrysotoxum bicinctum ,
and a mating pair of the small hooverfly Sphaerophoria scripta .
A look around Keston Ponds , found Rutpella ( formerly Strangalia ) maculata , a longhorn beetle ,
an unusually marked pair ofmating flies , which may be of the Urophora family ,
at least 3 Downy Emerald dragonflies still on the wing and caught in flight ,
the male Black-tailed Skimmer was less energetic .
This pair of Mandarin , the male in front in eclipse , still showing a few ginger whiskers , will look almost identical , before he starts regrowing his colourful feathers .
This female Holly Blue was one of the few seen so far , hopefully the second brood will do better .
Whilst overhead , a passing Common Buzzard was seen off by the local Corvids .
In the garden , thefemale Ichneumon , Gasteruption jaculator , has been a regular visitor . Here , her ovipositor can be seen along with the two protective strands . Also around , 2/3 Cuckoo / Ruby-tailed
Wasps , so called because they lay their eggs in the nests of their host , and when the host seals up the nest hole , the R-tW , hatches first and feeds on the host's larvae , before emerging as an adult . Around the pond
, a freshly emerged female Southern Hawker was seen , possibly the offspring of one of the adults seen laying a couple of years ago .
It was a freshly emerged female Emperor Dragonfly that was found on the heathland up on the Greensand
Ridge , along with just a single male Adder .
A long trip with Martin down to Collards Hill for the Large Blue was a success , finding 7/8 on that site and another 3 on a nearby site . A bonus there was a moth survey going on and a Six-belted Clearwing was
netted and we had the chance to photograph the specimen .
The Down House bird survey produced an average 19 species , without a Swift or Swallow . When a deer
was spotted in the middle of the big meadow , it turned out to be a Fallow stag with somewhat deformed
antlers , but that didn't stop him from doing the same as the Roe Buck at High Elms .
Also found around the site , Corn Cockle / Agrostemma githago , a member of the pink family ,
lots of seeds on the Hornbeams ,
and 5 Violet Helleborines , four pictured here .
On the way back home , an in flight Four-spotted Chaser obliged at Keston Ponds .
A visit to Lullingstone Country Park produced an estimated 250+ Marbled White , with good numbers of females like this one . Also on the wing were 25+ Dark Green Fritillary , the main target . As usual , the
males were frantically searching for a mate or refuelling on the Greater Knapweed , whereas the only female
seen was keeping well away from the males , but that will no doubt change . No sign of Lizard Orchid , in
fact only one Fragrant and many Pyramidal , were the only orchids found . A few Demoiselles along the Darenth but very few damselflies . The only other interest found was a Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn
Beetle , looking like something from outer space .
Last Wednesday , I had a day out in East Kent with Keith . Our first stop was East Blean Woods for Heath
Fritillary . Once the sun got onto the coppiced area , they appeared . The smaller , deeper coloued male on
the left and the larger paler female on the right . We did get a brief coupling , but they broke apart almost
immediately . We also found this male abarrant form .

We spent a couple of enjoyable hours in their company and got a bonus White Admiral too .
From there , we moved on to Westbere Lakes in search of Odonata . As we walked down to the river , it was obvious that Odonata too were in short supply this year , with just the odd sighting of Brown and Norfolk Hawker , Black-tailed Skimmer and Scarce Chaser . The path alonside the river , a hive of activity
on a visit last year proved the same , with just the odd damselfly seen like this mating pair of Blue-tailed , the female being of the rufescens form . A couple of reedbeds then provided good views of one of our targets ,
Norfolk Hawker , and we spent some time photographing the species . We did find a mating pair , but as they settled amongst the reeds , a water authority vehicle came along the narrow bankside path , we had to get out of the way , and that was the last we saw of the pair  Mostly males , as usual squabbling over owners rights to the best parts of the reedbed . Like most Hawkers  their flying speed is incredible and
 to follow them in the viewfinder almost impossible , but we both managed to get in flight shots . We walked as far as the seat , being treated every now and again by a family group of Kingfisher , more often heard than
seen . In the grass by the seat , we found an unusual moth , looking like it had a tattoo of Elton John between the shoulders . I was disappointed to find out that it wasn't the Elton John Moth but the Beautiful China Mark
, a first for us both . Close by , a female Beautiful Demoiselle wasn't to be out-done in the photo shoot . A few plants seen alog the way included ,
Goat's Rue / Galega officinalis , a member of the Pea family ,
Common Valerian / Valeriana officinalis ,
Meadowsweet / Filipendula ulmaria , a member of the Rose family ,
and Skullcap / Scutellaria galericulata , a member of the Labiate family .
We had seen a few male Scarce Chaser , but just before getting back to the ditches , found a mating pair .,
and not far away , looked down the funnel of a spiders web , to find the occupier waiting at the far end , the Labyrinth Spider / Agelena labyrinthica . At the end of the ditches , and un-noticed on our way past earlier ,
we found Amphibious Bistort / Polygonum amphibium , a member of the Dock family ,
then , finally , a sighting of a male Variable Damselfly , another of our target species ,
the best views of the visit of the Norfolk Hawker ,
and even a second mating pair , this time without any vehicle coming by .
By the time we got back home , it had been a twelve hour trip , but most rewarding and the forecast afternoon cloud didn't materialize , as can be seen in the last shot .