Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Wednesday 18th. May 2016

A couple of visits around locally proved very disappointing , but I did manage to find the first Brimstone egg
of the season , typically laid on a leaf of freshly emerging Alder Buckthorn . Apart from a couple of Orange
Tips , Spring Park Pond only offered up a 10-spot Ladybird /Adalia 10-punctata , a variable species .
The High Elms butterfly transects continue to be more walking than recording , but did produce what has
 
been seen to be one of the last over-wintering Commas , before the new brood appears late June or early July . Bee-flies don't seem to have been held back by the variable Spring weather , and it hasn't taken them
long to produce the next generation , even when on the wing as these two were .
Getting home brought better luck , with a male Holly Blue taking salts in next door's garden / building site ,
and in our garden I watched this female Orange Tip examine every Cuckoo Flower and Garlic Mustard plant
several times , before she decided to lay her egg on an Honesty plant . Whilst down on the bottom lane , the
Rook youngsters look as if they will fledge at any moment , and sure enough as I passed this morning , the nests were empty and it was all quiet .
A look around Bough Beech and surrounding area found several Common Whitethroat like this one and at least 2 possibly 3 male Nightingales , heard but not seen .
Lifting an old piece of tin produced this juvenile Slow Worm , identified by the dark marking along its back , attempting to tuck into a worm that was bigger than it's self . I replaced the tin and left them to it .
In a sunny glade , I was treated to an ariel ballet by male Green Long-horn Moths / Adela Reaumurella .
A caterpillar Carol found in the garden turned out to be that of the Lesser Yellow Underwing moth .
A look around Hutchinsons Bank found good numbers of Brimstones , the males , like this one , attempting to ground the female to mate with her , but this one was unsuccessful as she flew up and away .
It also provide my first Grizzled Skipper sighting of the year .
Back in the garden I found the daddy of Leopard Slugs / Limax maximus , curled up on the edge of a 2" paving slab .
A butterfly / orchid day out with Martin , started out on his patch Hutchinsons Bank with the first Glanville

Fritillaries to emerge . Just the two , but a great start to the day , before heading off to East Kent , before the dreaded M25 came into play with a long tailback between Jct.4 and 3 , so we had to pass 3 and make our way via Jct.2 , making for a later arrival than hoped for at Denge Wood , where the Duke of Burgundy were
found in reasonable numbers . Like other sites , not many other species were found , but some consolation
were the Lady Orchids , which were just coming into flower . Good numbers of Early Purple , several Greater Butterfly Orchid , though still in bud , were also found . Moving on to Park Gate Down , we had the first of two shocks , being not a sign of Monkey Orchid . Neither of us had been on site for some years and both had seen them on our last visits , but nothing this time . After a circuit of the site , we found a female
Red Admiral , again one of the few butterflies seen , laying her eggs on nettles . She stayed for a couple of
minutes and when she left we found one of her eggs . Arriving back at the car came the second shock , finding that I no longer had the car keys hanging from my belt . Out in the middle of nowhere , 50 odd miles from home and no means to get there . Fortunately , Martin remembered hearing a 'jangling sound' not long after our arrival , as we were searching at the top of the quarry . With Martin atanding where he thought he was when he heard the sound , I looked around and 5/10 metres away were the keys . Relieved , we pressed on to our last stop of the day , Marden Meadow , to enjoy the superb show of Green-winged
 
Orchids . The majority were of the purple variety , but a few pink and white ones were also found . A most enjoyable day and we managed to get home without any more shocks .
Another visit to High Elms was no better for butterflies , but the first Fly Orchids in flower were found , along
with a single Man Orchid , but still no sign of any Birdsnest Orchids .
Hutchinsons Bank provided excitement when Martin and I saw an abarrant form of Glanville Fritillary as we searched The Cutting . Unfortunately it didn't stay around for long , disappearing through the trees and down
towards the bridleway at the bottom of the site . This is the usual GF , resting on my finger , and this is the

 
abarrent form , probably 'ab. wittei'. It seems to causing a bit of a stir in the butterfly world , with visitors arriving hoping for a sighting . A GF pupa was also found by one of those visitors , attached to a large stone ,
the first one I have ever seen . I also had my frist Small Blue sighting , a male , only the third sighting this year
on the site to my knowledge .Unfortunately , the weather has turned today , just when a sunny , dry spell would have been perfect for the butterflies and all concerned .

Monday, 2 May 2016

Monday 2nd. May 2016

With weather conditions seemingly unable to settle down and produce a proper Spring , things in the wild are proving a continued problem to find interesting material , but a few have been found on recent outings .
The Glanville Fritillary larvae at Hutchinson's Bank near Croydon seem to have over-wintered well in the Cutting , emerging to feed and sunbathe on suitable days . It looks like the adults will be seen in good numbers again this year , thanks to the ongoing work by Martin .
On another visit , a confiding LTTit posed on Dogwood , but the two Common Whitethroats in the area were not so willing .
Up on the Common , the Green Tiger Beetles chose a warm day to emerge en masse ,
and on arriving home , found Carol entertaining the first Orange Tip of the year in the back garden . We have also recorded a couple of Holly Blues here , but I have seen any elsewhwere .
A visit to New Hythe produced my first Odonata of the year with 3 freshly emerged Large Red Damselflies ,
an accompaniment of Nightingale song ,
backed up by Blackcaps and a few Willow Warblers .
In reasonable conditions , the High Elms butterfly transect failed to record a single butterfly , but plants like Bugle / Ajuga reptans , a member of the Labiate family are starting to add colour to the grasslands .
This time of year also brings predation , as proved by this Blackbird egg found .
Adder numbers up on the Greensand Ridge remain low , but this slough , the cast off skin , proves they are
 around . I took it home and fully unfurled the slough , it measured approx. 70 cms .
This 'silverback' could well have been the owner of the slough , and before leaving , managed to find my first
female of the season , so the 'silverback' should be lucky .
A few Common Terns were found at Bough Beech Reservoir , along with the odd Swallow feeding over the

 
water , but some of the residents take some beating for their breeding , 'punky' , plumage . A look around
the area was similarly quiet , apart from a dozing Tawny Owl .
A trip over the border into Surrey found a distant Red Kite , perched on a fence post . I waited ages hoping that it would fly closer . My hopes were raised when 6 Common Buzzards drifted into view , all interacting
amongst each other . When they got close to the Kite , it did take to the wing , but after initially flying
towards me , about turned and disappeared over the horizon . On the way back home , I stopped off on the Greensand Ridge and was treated to a few seconds of ' handbags ' between two male Adders . Referred to
as such , because of the short time and effort involved , nothing like the 40 minutes non-stop witnessed there last year.
A look up on the Common over the weekend produced 8 Brimstone , one seen here nectaring on Spanish
Bluebells , which seem to be coming more and more common in the wild , and 7 Peacock , but no new
species for the year . In areas where the secondary woodland has been cleared , good areas of Common
Cow-Wheat / Melampyrum pratense , a member of the Lousewort family , are taking the advantage of the increased light , and if the Sheep's Sorrel is anything to go by , there should be good numbers of Small
Copper butterfly seen , as it is one of the foodplants of that species .
The forecast is for better , warmer weather , if it's right , this Spring could start to get it's act together .