Thursday, 21 August 2014

Thursday 21st. August 2014

Catch up time again , starting with a Monday morning visit to Sevenoaks Reserve , but unfortunately there was very little interest found , even the Kingfishers refused to pose , giving just a couple of fly-byes to the hopeful photographers waiting . It was good though , to catch up with fellow enthusiast Graham , the first time we've bumped into each other this year , having managed to do it several times last year . Even the weather closed in , but before it did , I did manage to find some
Small Red-eyed Damselflies on the lily pads down at Long Lake . I spent Tuesday morning on the causeway at Bough Beech Reservoir , where the water level is at a nice level to attract passing waders , with mud showing all around the main reservoir and the North Lake , but someone forgot to tell the waders , with just a few Common and Green Sandpiper feeding on the North Lake , until a passing Common Buzzard spooked a Black-tailed Godwit , which then came to rest with the many
BHGulls on one of the ridges , where it had a wash and brush up , before returning to where it flew from originally . The only other interest found , was a long winged bird with a large bill , that landed
on the water about 2/3rds of the way to the right hand point on the main reservoir . It looked really
interesting at the first angle , but when to turned slightly , it had that immature gull look about it . I've sent thr pictures to a couple of people , and both came back with immature Lesser Black-backed Gull , but what a bill on the first shot .
A cool wind greeted me yesterday morning when I arrived at Old Lodge Reserve on Ashdown Forest , with Black Darter high on my list to find , but the first hour or so was spent walking the reserve , looking for anything of interest , as it was like a graveyard . Just Corvids and Tits along the top path , nothing at all on the four ponds heading down to the stream in the valley , so it was nice to
be welcomed by a confiding Wren . Half of the stream was in full sun , but nothing was moving , so I carried on up the other side of the valley and followed the power lines back to the car park , adding almost nothing to what had been seen . I started the second circuit taking the other path down to the bottom of the gully and coming back up the gulley to the top path . I must admit I thought of heading back to the car at this point , but decided to give the ponds and stream another go . The second pond
did produce an Emerald Damselfly and the fourth produced three Small Red Damselfly , but no sign
of Black Darter , but photographing anything in the wind was very awkward . I went back down to the stream in the valley , and although most was now in sunshine , not a single Odonata was seen . It wasn't all bad though , as while I was there two juvenile Common Redstart were feeding in the area ,
and one posed on a concrete post just over the stream , but as can be seen , it too was troubled by the wind . The same fence line produced a scowling Whitethroat , but always scowling from within
vegetation . Whilst at the stream , and elderly couple arrived , hoping to see Golden-ringed Dragonfly , so they were not happy with my lack of sightings either . I left them to it and started back
to the car , on the way spotting a female Common Redstart , sunbathing out of the wind in a Holly . The rest of the way to the car was no more exciting , and I reached it without having seen a single raptor , most unusual for the site . After a spot on lunch , I decided to have a look at two other ponds over the other side of the forest before heading home . Things improved on the Odonata front with both Brown and Migrant Hawker seen on the walk to the ponds and Emperor patrolling over the first one . The surprise though was when a male Broad-bodied Chaser , in pristine condition , flew up to
confront the Emperor , before settling down again on Gorse . The species can be found into this month , but usually they are well past their sell by date by now . A couple of minutes later , a female BBC appeared over the water and the male attempted to do his duty , but she rebuffed him , and I
watched her fly off and settle a short distance away on some bracken , and like the male in pristine condition . She was finally disturbed by a horse and rider , and this time when she flew in , the male did do his duty . A couple of minutes later , she was ovipositing in the shallows , with the male
patrolling above her . Of interest , the vegetation she is laying amongst is Myriophyllum aquaticum / Parrots Feathers an invasive introduced species , which has almost completely covered this pond , and I don't think there is a remedy to eradicate it . The other pond , which hasn't got the Parrot's
Feathers , yet , contained my favourite water plant leaf , that of Arrowhead / Sagittaria sagittifolia .
On the way home , I stopped off at the site just below Biggin Hill airport , where a fellow enthusiast found Chalkhill Blue a few weeks ago . The clouds were building , but a quick look produced nie species of butterfly , including 4/6 Clouded Yellow , one of which was only too happy for the warmth
of my finger during a prolonged cloudy spell . The Chalkhill Blues were still on the wing , but
pristine couldn't be used to describe the males , having lost most of the scales from their topwings .

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sunday 17th. August 2014

With the weather due to deteriorate from today , I did the High Elms butterfly transect yesterday morning , and after an initial Speckled Wood , spotted what I thought was a damaged White some
way ahead . Closer inspection found the tell-tale spot of Clouded Yellow in the middle of the hind
underwing . In the wind , it took off and landed a couple of times , the topwing being as white as any White , but I knew that if I was going to get a positive ID , I needed a shot of the open topwing . So I followed each time it flew amongst the long grass and proceeded to get a lot of out of focus shots ,
until a lucky one managed to capture what was required . I have heard of helice form females , but have never seen one myself , but my thoughts also strayed to a possible Pale CY female , a species that I have never seen . Having got the shot , I carried on with the transect , knowing I had two and a half hours plus before I could get the question answered . As expected , Meadow Brown numbers , although well down again , came top with 59 , but surprisingly were equalled by Common Blue , the second brood rising from 46 last time . Brown Argus were also up at 28 , from 22 last time , but they were the only 3 species to be found in double figures . Gatekeeper were down to 8 from 24 , and Silver-washed Fritillary down from 13 to 5 . The 'Whites' were well represented by the CY already mentioned , Large 1 , Small 1 and Green-veined 2 , along with Brimstone 3 . the two surprises on Burnt Gorse were a tiny pristine Small Copper , only the 9th. recorded on transect this year , and a
2nd. brood Dingy Skipper , naturally looking very pristine too . This is usually the first butterfly I find on transect , but this year it dropped back to 7th . Just a single Comma was recorded , this being
the more normal form with a dark underwing , as opposed to the light underwing of the 'hutchinsoni'
form that I have been seeing recently . 5 Speckled Wood and 2 Small Heath were the remaining species recorded , with again , no White-letter Hairstreak found ., but in the bottom clearing , I
watched a Hornet searching for a meal , and finding one , I just hope he didn't find the WLHs .
Whilst on site I heard the two Lancasters and the Spitfire and Hurricane take off heading for airshows
in the SE from nearby Biggin Hill airport , but always had a thick canopy overhead , the only shot I did get was of a Dakota , I think . When I got home I contacted Martin , but he was out with the local butterfly group , so I posted a couple of the CY shots for the experts to ID , which they duly did , a female helice form CY , not my hoped for PCY , but very pleased to have got her on the transect list .
And finally , a few bits from the garden . A couple of final instars of Shieldbugs ,before adulthood ,
Common Green Shielbug / Palomena prasina ,
and the Hairy or Sloe Shieldbug / Dolycoris baccarum .
A spider sp. Carol found , the smaller oval cream shape is her abdomen and the larger ball , her egg sack ,
and this could be the last shot of the Field Mouse emptying the bird feeder , as I found it's back half on the lawn , the front half missing , looking as if the local cat had been involved . The mouse probably wasn't quick enough , but the feeders should last a bit longer now .

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Thursday 14th. August 2014

On Tuesday morning , I had a walk around Hutchinsons Bank , but not finding very much of interest . As at High Elms , Common Blue and Brown Argus were the main species seen , with just ones and
two of others . Many of the BA were very fresh like this female , and handily , found within a couple
of metres , a female Common Blue , one of the more difficult butterfly IDs to make out in the field , made even more so when either specimen is worn . Apart from them , a Roesel's Bush Cricket that
would not come out in the open , and a Crab Spider tucking into a fly , trapped when it stopped on the
flower of a Field Scabious .
Yesterday , Martin and I had what will probably be the last 'away day for butterflies' of the season , unless of course , something unexpected turns up . With passports in pockets , we headed for deepest Sussex in search of the last British species to emerge , the elusive Brown Hairstreak . Steyning Rifle Range , a site we visited last year for the same species , and failed to get a decent sighting , was the first stop . The weather was almost perfect , just a bit breezy , and we had the place to ourselves . An hour and a half passed , with a couple of male Vapourer Moths raising false hopes every now and again and a few other species , it was beginning to have that 'deja vu' feeling . We decided to have a look at another area at the top of the hill but although more sheltered , failed again there . It wasn't all
bad news though , a few Wall , much fewer than our last visit , the males looking a bit tatty , but this
female which was resting in between egg laying , was in beautiful condition . Whilst up on the hill we had several Clouded Yellow sightings , and I managed to get a couple of shots of this male , before
an unhelpful fly chased it off . It was also good to find very good numbers of Small Tortoiseshell ,
their comeback is very welcome . A last look at the BH area failed to find any movement at all , so we decided to head downhill and have another look where we started . Halfway between the two , we saw two chaps seemingly photographing something in an area of young Bullace plants , outside of the fenced off area . As we got close , a pointed finger down amongst the plants said it all , they had found one , in fact it had been on the path as one walked along and flew onto the Bullace in front of
him , and what a beauty she was . With four people now around her , she wasn't bothered at all and everyone got their side on shots , and after a spell of cloud cover , she obliged by opening her wings
to warm up , without even being asked to do so . She flew a couple of times , but always within the area of Bullace , once landing on the very top of a plant , then walking down one of the main stems until she disappeared amongst the jungle at the bottom , only to appear a little later and posing again . After a short time , she flew again , this time landing on the top of a plant directly in front of me . Once again , she walked down the main stem , but this time stopped whilst still in the open and started searching with the end of her abdomen . The particular main stem had bindweed twisted around it , and she must have confused that with the ridge that marks the start of this year's growth ,
where the egg would normally be layed . The first egg can just be seen as she lays the second . Then
she seemed to realise her mistake , and layed a third , this time right in the classic place . After this ,
she flew up to the trees behind to rest , so I got a shot of the three eggs . Everyone on site who wanted to , seemed to get shots of the BH before she flew , which is always nice . We headed for the car and on to the second stop on the Downs above Upper Beeding , to find , a European Swallowtail ? Why not , we were on a roll . Unfortunately the weather said what we would see , and it wasn't a Swallowtail , but in between periods of dark cloud , a sunny spell meant the hillside was dancing with
Adonis Blue in wonderful numbers , only to disappear as the cloud rolled back in . Another sunny
moment did produce another migrant , a female Painted Lady , and amongst the wonderful range of
wild flowers , the floral emblem of Sussex , Round -headed Rampion / Phyteuma tenerum . The threatened rain arrived just after getting back to the car , ending the day . No European Swallowtail , but a great day to finish on .

Monday, 11 August 2014

Monday 11th. August 2014

On Saturday , with forecasts of destruction from the remains of 'Bertha' the following day , I set off to do the High Elms butterfly transect , in case nothing would be seen 'post Bertha' . Both species and overall numbers were down again , with just nine species being recorded , the best news being 22 Brown Argus and 46 Common Blue . With both species overwintering as caterpillars , I just hope that the offspring will have the chance to develop before the contractors come in and cut the meadows . The reader will remember that the cutting took place far too early and fiercely in my opinion last year , with the resultant poor numbers of first broods of both species . One can only hope ! 13
Silver-washed Fritillaries was pleasing , more than half being females , who are showing scale loss
and dullness in colour now , but still looking better than the males , especially this specimen . This damage would have been caused by aerial battles with rival males , but also , hopefully , whilst courting and mating . On Burnt Gorse , I found another , or the same , Sitochroa palealis , an unusual
moth for the area , and this time it was willing to pose out in the open , on it's larvae foodplant Wild Carrot . No White-letter Hairstreaks were recorded , but in the bottom glade whilst looking for them ,
came across a specimen of Forest Bug / Pentatoma rufipes , I hope I've got it right this time .
This morning I made a visit to a very windy Bough Beech Reservoir , finding the water level much lower again , and just for Warren , the hedge had been cut . Very little was on the water on the main reservoir , with most birds hauled up on the two points , or on the sheltered bank on the VC side . With the wind blowing straight down the reservoir , the more sheltered North Lake was a bit more populated . Canada , Greylag and two Egyptian Geese decided to depart shortly after I arrived , but I spotted a Tern seemingly resting on some now uncovered concrete . I thought it unusual at the time ,
but it wasn't till I got home and cropped the shot that it was an Artic Tern , possibly , or a Common Tern waiting for the black tip of it's bill to show ? No sign of the Greenshank today , but the Common Sandpipers were seen over the back of the North Lake , but the Green Sandpipers were more mobile ,
this one landing  close in . Keeping out of the wind amongst the vegetation on the concrete apron of
the lake were several moulting ducks and lots of Lapwing . The lower they hunkered down the more sheltered it was . The culvert that passes under the causeway is now visible and seemed a popular fishing spot for a family of Great Crested Grebe , the youngsters still wanting to be fed by the adults ,
but they were having none of it , ignoring the youngsters and sometimes administering the odd nip when they got out of hand . But the adult's way worked , as the youngsters started to catch small fish ,
then this one came up with the biggest one , swimming off with it before someone else snatched it .
All the noise attracted a Little Egret to the area , but the water in the culvert was too deep for it to join in the fishing . The whole time I was there , there was a constant stream of House and Sand Martins , Swallows and a single Swift , crossing the causeway and heading South down the main reservoir , so
I was surprised to find a pair of Swallows , the female on the nest , and the male standing guard , up
in the roof of the open barn at the VC . I would imagine it would be touch and go for a successful fledging for the pair .
And finally , whilst looking for the LE at New Hythe , I found several iridescent , purple beetle on the
Sedges around the lake . I tried to ID them but didn't get very far , so I asked the experts for their opinion . Two species were suggested , both very similar , Donacia marginata and Plateumaris sericea , and the former seems to be the popular favourite .