Friday, 15 May 2009

Friday 15th.May 2009

With a changeable forecast , I decided not to stray too far this morning , so I went for a look around Spring Park Pond , a site managed by the City of London . One of the few sunny periods greeted me , so I had a look for Damsel/Dragonflies . Although sunny , the wind was still cool and very few were found . Most numerous , three , were the Large Damselflies , all males , sitting in vegetation around the pond . Also found were a couple of Azure Damselflies , but no sooner had I found them , then the sun disappeared , and so did they . I had a look at the emergent vegetation to see if there was evidence of any other species emerging , but the only exuvia , the cast off skin of the larval stage when the adult emerges , that I found , was that of the Large Red Damselfly . The adult would have emerged from the thorax region , just behind the head . Around the pond , I recorded a pair of Orange Tips , and I thought they were going to couple , but , once again the female flew off , leaving the male on his lonesome . The Figwort is just coming into flower , for what it is , but close up , it is quite unusual , and does seem to attract good numbers of visitors . The other day at the farm lake , I noticed that all the tadpoles have disappeared from the shallows . They seem to do this each year , I think as they change into froglets/toadlets , as in a short time , the banks will be teeming with them . But here , the tadpoles are still around the edges , and some are a really good size . From the pond , I made my way to the small meadow , tucked away on the edge of the woods . Here , a bit more sheltered from the wind , I found a male Common Blue , and almost immediately , a Small Copper , this one being a specimen of the form that has a row of small blue spots across the hindwing . Also found for the third outing in a row , was the Red & Black Froghopper , strange , as I never noticed this insect before . Whilst watching today's specimen , I spotted what I hoped to find in the scrub at the edge of the meadow . It was a freshly emerged , female , Broad Bodied Chaser . The females especially , seem to use this area to feed up on insects , before returning to the pond to mate , when they are ready . Soon , the powder blue males will be seen , guarding their territories around the pond , hoping to attract the females to their patch .
When I got home home for lunch , the clouds disappeared and out came the sun , so afterwards , I set off back to Hutchinson's Banks , to try again for the Small Blues . As it usually happens with me , as I arrived at the site , the clouds rolled in again , and the temperature dropped , the two things that you do not need for this species . I walked along the bridleway to the chalk scrapes , and on the way found 5 male Common Blues , tucked up in the grass . 4 were still trying to keep warm with wings open , but one had gone back to closed wings and hang on . This one was very torpid , and was happy to sit on my finger for a close up . In fact , he was even up for a full frontal . Further along the bridleway , I found several large spiders , I think of the hunting type . Every time I tried to get within camera range , they dived out of sight into the vegetation . Eventually , I managed to get a few shots . If anyone has an idea on the species , I would be keen to know . The front to back distance across the legs , was about 3/4 cm . I couldn't get an on top shot for obvious reasons .
Close to the chalk scrapes , I found my first female Common Blue of the season , and from the look of her , she probably wishes she left it another week or so before emerging , desperately trying to get some warmth . After a while , she went into the closed wing routine as well .
But she did give an opportunity to see the spot on the forewing , nearest the eye , that is not there on the Brown Argus , and therefore very useful for identification . About the only other thing on the wing was this day flying moth , which I think is a Treble Bar .
I would like to thank Warren , Ken and ShySongbird , for their help with IDing the Chaffinch posted last night .
And finally , having stumped me for some time after finding it , the flower that I found on the ground after one of the windy nights , that's 'weather windy' Warren , turns out to be something we walk past and take no notice of quite often ,

a single flower from a spike on a Horse Chestnut tree . Hope you can get some sleep now .


Warren Baker said...

Thanks for the Odonata help Greenie. I'll ask again next year! More dull, cool windy weather this weekend - makes it challenging though eh?

ShySongbird said...

Oh how annoying that is Greenie, it seems so obvious now seeing the whole candle! I did enjoy your puzzle though, although I think I should have admitted defeat a bit earlier!! I don't think I dare to even attempt the spider ID!

Your post is as interesting as always and your photos are lovely. I do think the Common Blue is a beautiful creature, both male and female. I was fascinated by the following extract from Wikipedia.

'Hibernation occurs as a half grown larvae. They are attractive to ants but not as much as some other species of blues. The chrysalis is olive green/brown and formed on the ground where it is attended by ants which will often take it into their nests. The larvae creates a substance called honey dew, which the ants eat while the butterfly lives in the ant hill.'

I suspect you may already know this and apologies if you have already told us but I did think it was interesting.

Phil and Mandy said...

What a collection of lovely photos Greenie. Regards Phil

Greenie said...

ShySongbird ,
At the risk of being boring , this symbiotic relationship with ants occurs with all Blues to differering extents , with the exception of Small and Holly . The caterpillars provide the sweet liquid , and the ants keep predators and parasites away .
Most amazing is the Large Blue , re-introduced to SW England from Scandinavia , which can only survive with the aid of a specific red ant . The ant finds a caterpillar on the ground , it produces the liquid and more ants attracted . Caterpillar then adopts posture of ant grub , the ants pick it up and take it into the nest . It then feeds on ant grubs until it pupates . Adult female will only lay eggs on Wild Thyme , within 2m. of the entrance of the red ants nest .

ShySongbird said...

Thanks Greenie, not boring at all, extremely interesting in fact, especially the part about the Large Blue, and I guessed I was 'teaching Granny (or in your case Grampy) to suck eggs'. I suspect what you don't know about Nature can be written on the back of a postage stamp, that is why I like and respect your blog so much!

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Greenie.
Wow, what praises you have received today, although not without good reason. What a good picture of the blue butterfly on your finger, did it take many attempts to get it there. I don't see a photo of the spider on your hand. Are you like me afraid of spiders?
Always nice to see a Broad bodied chaser. Last one I saw was a powdery blue male at New Hythe on Brooklands Lake. Have a good weekend Fred.

Greenie said...

Ken ,
At the time it was cool and cloudy and the male was only too happy to climb onto my finger , probably warmer than amongst the grass .
Don't mind spiders at all , but couldn't get anywhere near it .