Friday, 31 July 2009

Friday 31st.July 2009

With a better forecast for the morning than the afternoon , I was out early up on the Common , after quite a cool night . Before even reaching the Ash tree , I spotted a Painted Lady down in the grass . With apologies to those fed up with PL shots , I just feel that as we will probably never see so many in the country again , we should make the most of it . I slowly approached her , then got down in front , and managed to get the camera within 25 cms. of her . I can only think that she was still cold from the night , and stayed still for my shots . I got about half a dozen , then she showed signs of moving , and in a split second from still , she was up and away over the adjacent trees . I made my way over to the Ash , where there was a fair bit of movement , but nothing like a couple of weeks ago . The odd one or two dropped down onto the lower vegetation , but only for a short time , before they too were off . This one is definitely showing wear and tear now . I was just about to leave and have a look around when I noticed a male Scorpion Fly-Panorpa cognata , and in the position he was in , showing well his beak and scorpion type tail . The female has just an ovipositor at the end of her abdomen . Whilst walking around . I found a couple of specimens with out of the ordinary colour/marking . The first was a Small Copper , with most of the copper margin on the hind wing missing . This species is prone to variation , and even albinos are recorded . The second was one of the large number of Gatekeepers recorded on the site , with the spots that are usually seen just on the underwing , showing through on the topwing . On one of the heathland areas , I found a Holly Blue , freshly emerged . I'm pretty sure it was a male , but only saw the topwing when it flew , and there didn't seem to be large dark markings on the forewings . In all , 15 species were recorded , being , Purple Hairstreak (15/20) , Painted Lady (16) , Gatekeeper (100+) , Meadow Brown (13) , Small Copper (1) , Common Blue (6) , Small Skipper (1) , Large White (7) , Holly Blue (1) , Small White (3) , Green Veined White (2) , Peacock (2) , Speckled Wood (3) , Ringlet (2) and Brimstone (3) , which were all fresh , meaning that they have emerged without me finding a single chrysalis , but not for want of trying . Only other thing of interest , was my first Tawny Grisette-Amanita fulva , according to the books , an Autumn species . Like all members of the Aminita family , the stem emerges out of a large bag-like volva .
After lunch , and cleaning the windows , the sky just got less cloudy by the minute , till there wasn't one to be seen at all . I decided to go back onto the Common , to check on the Small Tortioseshell caterpillars . Their stand of Nettles was bathed in sunshine , and it looks as though the colony has dispersed from the silk tent , although I did see a couple on other stems , so hopefully , all goes well . On the same Nettle , I found a Speckled Bush-Cricket , and the antennae rule of thumb certainly works with this one . A few weeks ago , I mentioned that PHs feed on Blackberries , when they are well ripe . Warren queried this , and probably thought , what's the silly old *** talking about . Well , today , in the tangle of Nettles and Brambles behind the Small Tortoiseshell's stand , had several PHs moving about . Risking life and limb , again , I cut , pushed my way into the jungle , and post the last two shots for Warren .

As I said at the time , as the fruit becomes over-ripe , the PHs feed on the sweet juices , and become much more approachable , if , you can get through the jungle .

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Thursday 30th. July 2009

The morning was spent taking Carol to do the monthly shop , but before going , this juvenile Magpie was on the neighbour's conifer , still showing , like many of the Corvid family white patches on the black . Shopping done , we had lunch , and in reasonable weather , I set off for a look around the farm lake . When I arrived , the wind was getting up and cloud gathering . The usual Gatekeeper , Meadow Brown and Green Veined White were recorded , this one on Hogweed . Also recorded were several Painted Ladies . Funny how in previous years , a single sighting in a day was good , now , they seem to be everywhere . I had only got half way around the lake , when , without warning , the heavens opened , and I had to dash for cover , working my way back to the car . I'm glad I did so , as the rain became almost torrential just after I got there . The rain seemed set in , so I decided to go to High Elms to see a Ranger that has been trying to contact me . After sitting in the car park for a good while , the rain finally stopped , and I went to the Ranger's office , only to find he had taken the day off . The sun came out again , so I headed for the Conservation Field . No sign of White Letter Hairstreaks , but I did find a very tatty Dark Green Fritillary , that was spooked by the next rain shower , just as the camera focused on it . More Painted Ladies were recorded here . I moved on towards Burnt Gorse , and as I stopped to check out the Buddleia where the WLH was sighted , the heavens opened again , and I had to take shelter under a Willow , that gave amazing cover given the amount of rain falling . 10/15 minutes later the sun came out again , and it was interesting to see that even before the rain stopped completely , Red Admiral , Green Veined White and Comma , were down and basking . Walking up to Burnt Gorse , the drips from the trees was almost the same as standing out in the rain , but getting into the sunshine on Burnt Gorse soon dried things out . A plant that seems to be spreading quickly there is White Melilot , a member of the Pea family . A plant that is coming to the end of it's flowering is Agrimony , a member of the Rose family , and the gone over flowers produce burrs , that will attach to anything that they touch , thus spreading the seeds far afield . There are still plenty of Silver Washed Fritillaries to be seen , but their condition , especially the males , are very variable . This one having lost almost one quarter of it's wing surface through aerial battles and mating , but still flying strongly . The females are still doing their duty , at one stage , in a sunny interlude , I had three egglaying on two trees in front of me . For once , this female didn't bother about laying on the shady side of the trunk , which made the photography easier . The end of her abdomen can be seen secreting the egg into a fissure in the bark . While the weather was holding , I checked the Hemp Agrimony at the Orchid Bank , but no sign of WLHs . There was a female Large White , resting in the sunshine , and also , a pair of Small Whites , mating close to the ground . I was making my way back to the car , when I met Keith , the chap from the Ash tree on the Common . He was there for the WLHs as well . As the sun was still out , we went back to the Orchid Bank and Burnt Gorse , but still didn't find any . On Burnt Gorse we found the odd Common Blue and a single male Brown Argus . After about an hour we started back , and as we approached the Buddleia where we had met , we found a White Admiral nectaring on the flowers , a little bit tatty now , but always a good species to find . The underwing in particular had lost all that vibrant colour that it had when it had freshly emerged a few weeks ago . Last stop was at the Violet Helleborines , which , at this time of day , were bathed in sunshine . A most enjoyable , and unexpected last hour to the day , which had started very changeable , but finished in warm late afternoon sunshine .
My thanks go , once again to Dean , for identifying yesterday's moth as a Light Emerald , I knew 'the man' would know .

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Wednesday 29th.July 2009

I wasn't sure if any wildlife would be found today , but when we went to look at a hedge that we intend to lay this Winter , things began to look better , as it was near a lake , and close to some Reptile refugia . Around the lake , growing alongside the Water Mint , was yet another member of the Labiate family , Gipsywort , a super little plant , with white flowers , spotted purple , in tight whorls at the base of the upper leaves . The square stem , of all members of this family can be seen in the photo . Not far away , I found an umbelifer , a member of the Carrot family , Angelica . A movement over on the far bank caught my eye , and it turned out to be a pair of Black Swans , looking as if they hadn't woken up properly yet . Just before reaching the hedge , we had to pass two pairs of refugia , but before reaching the first , I noticed a female Adder , laying out on the grass , a good 3/4 metres from any cover . She was not only big in length , 60/70 cms. was my estimate , but also big in girth , arousing my suspicions that she was carrying young . Unlike the Grass and Smooth Snake , which both lay eggs , the female Adder retains her eggs within her body , and when the time comes , gives birth to live young . Adders mate April/May , and the females give birth around August , and juveniles start being found shortly afterwards . I cannot be certain that she was carrying young but is my best guess , but when she moved off , the motion was very laboured . Another female was found sunning herself on the first felt refugia , but moved off quickly before I could get a shot . Under the same felt when lifted , was an immature Grass Snake . When ready , it took off at a rate of knots .
The second pair of refugia produced a male Adder under the corrugated tin , and another immature Grass Snake under the felt , but he was off almost immediately . Having checked the hedge , we moved off onto another site to replace some way markers . Very dull after the first site , but I did find the front half of a Grass Snake slough , the discarded skin . When these are found , they are in varying states of damage , dependant on how active the snake is as it tries to snare the slough on vegetation , then wriggle out of it . This particular one was very intact around the head , and the eyes , the mouth and the scale pattern can be clearly seen . It can be identified as a Grass Snake by the lack of the zig-zag pattern of the Adder .
Whist walking along rides , several Southern Hawker dragonflies were seen , hawking for insects in the sunshine , then heading for somewhere to shelter , when the sun disappeared . This immature male chose a spot on a Bracken covered bank , that I nearly broke my neck climbing . Fortunately , the sun didn't re-appear before I got my shots , I would have been well sick if it had , and he continued hawking .
Only other thing of interest was this moth , found in the middle of the track , so after photographing , I moved it into vegetation on the side . I think I have seen it before , but cannot ID it , but I know a man who might , Dean .

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

28th.July 2009

Just one question today ,

How do Barn Owls pass away the daytime hours ?

Sorry it's not sharp , but it was in a shed , I didn't want to use flash , and camera was hand held .

Monday, 27 July 2009

Monday 27th.July 2009

A thoroughly horrible morning , with drizzle and periods of heavier rain , up to past lunchtime . But a glimmer of blue sky had me heading out for a local look around , starting with the farm lake . I arrived in a decent patch of clear sky , and managed my first lap around the lake , in pleasant sunshine . The Little Grebe are still two adult pairs and the one juvenile , now as big , but not as colourful as the adults . The five Coot youngsters were as noisy as ever , constantly asking for food . No sign of the first brood youngsters , so I can only assume that the male drove them off the lake soon after the second brood hatched out . He probably drove off the Mandarin family as well , as I have not seen them since that one fleeting glimpse a good while ago now . Even the four young Mallards have gone , but they should have been big enough to look after themselves . Just two Emperor Dragonflies were recorded , along with many newly emerged Common Darters , but no sign of any Black Tailed Skimmers . Common Blue , Azure and Blue Tailed Damselflies were also recorded . Gatekeepers were by far the most numerous butterflies , but it was noticeable that there had been an emergence of Common Blues , as 13 males , and a single female were recorded , and I swear she had a smile on her face . Whilst walking in the long grass , I put up a Silver Y , day flying moth , which as usual dived into the vegetation further on , only to dive out again several times , and finish up out in the open , amongst the shorter grass at the top of the bank . Unusual , because they normal try to hide themselves , so as I got the camera out , I quite expected it to fly off again , but it didn't . I managed to get really close , but unfortunately , from this angle , the 'Y' in the middle of the wing , looks more like a '2' . I got half a dozen shots , then left it alone . As I started my second lap , clouds were building , and got thicker and consequently the pace increased . Nothing new was found , but as I was finishing , I heard slashing in the last corner of the lake . I couldn't make it out without binoculars , but with them , I was able to make out a Little Grebe , trying to eat a female Emperor Dragonfly . I don't think it would have caught the dragonfly , more likely , it was either downed onto the surface by rain , and couldn't escape the surface tension , or it had had it's time , died , and was just floating on the surface . Whatever happened , the Little Grebe was trying to break up the abdomen , and finally , disappeared into the emergent vegetation with the remains , wings and all , sticking out of it's bill . Before I reached the car , the rain started , but I decided to have a look at Keston Ponds , hoping that it was just a short shower , which it turned out to be . Apart from anglers , it was quiet , but I was pleased to record a pair of Small Red Eyed Damselflies in tandem , so hopefully we will have them again next year . Around the edges of the top pond , Figwort , a member of the large Labiate family was in flower , supported by those square stems , and it seemed very popular with the bees .
A quick look around the Ash tree found little movement from the PHs , but on the heathland area , I noticed a probable female spider , guarding her egg sack , within its protective web . With rain threatening again , a last stop at the stand of Nettles , confirmed that all was well with the Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars . Hopefully , if thing continue well in the next few weeks , they will pupate , and emerge as adult butterflies before the weather gets too bad , then hibernate in a warm , dry place to emerge again , May-ish , next year . Whilst checking them , I noticed a Shield Bug , with a smaller insect next to it . The smaller one turned out to be a youngster , and on a leaf , very close by , I found what looked like the Sheid Bug creche , with insects of varying sizes .
I just beat the next shower to the car , and headed home .
Next two days on the Greensand Ridge , so posting will depend if anything of interest is found .

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Sunday 26th.July 2009

The object of today's excercise , was to establish the emergence of the White Letter Hairstreaks at High Elms Country Park , having been informed of a sighting yesterday by phone .
But to get there , I had to cross the Common , which meant of course , stopping at the Ash tree . Even in the windy conditions , 15/20 specimens were seen , with at least 5 down on the lower vegetation . Some seen were in reasonable condition , like the one above , but others rated on the other end of the spectrum , having lost more scales from it's wings , than were left . A partitularly strong gust of wind deposited a flash of colour , down amongst the grass , and when I checked , it was a very clean Painted Lady . Even this early , you could feel the day slowly deteriorating , so I headed off for High Elms . On arrival I checked the Conservation Field site without finding any signs of WLHs , but on my way back across the field , I managed to equal my best number of 6 Spot Burnet moths on a single flower . Last time , I had six on a Greater Knapweed flower at Fackenden Down . This time , they were on a Field Scabious , and if one hadn't flown off just before I got there , it would have been a new best number . There were two pairs mating , on either side , and two singletons , just watching I suppose .
On the way up to the Orchid Bank , I checked the Violet Helleborines , and found that both had started to flower . Surprising really , as the second one to show was a good 2/3 weeks behind the first , but is in about the same flowering position as the first now . The sun , when it came out was on some of the Budlleia bushes along the way , but not on the one where the WLH was seen yesterday . On another bush , I counted nine Peacocks , all nectaring as if their lives depended on it , and it was interesting to see the Whites were nectaring on a different bush . I suppose it reduced the number of arguments .
I reached the Orchid Bank in good sunshine , and I thought I had found a WLH , at a distance , in amongst the flowers of the Hemp Agrimony , but it turned out to be a single Ringlet wing , fluttering in the wind . I thought that it was probably torn off by a Hawker Dragonfly , prior to eating the remainder , as I have witnessed this on several occasions . Searching the other heads of flowers , I came across the rest of the poor Ringlet , not the prey of a Hawker , but of a white Crab Spider , that didn't want to be photographed , and abseiled down into the lower vegetation . I checked the other stands of Hemp Agrimony , but still didn't find any WLHs . I stayed on the end of the Orchid Bank till the weather returned to it's cloudy state , and at one time had six Silver Washed Fritillaries in view at one time , but the urgency seems to have gone , and this well tatty individual landed right next to me and posed . He even moved onto my finger , but as I didn't have any nectar , jumped straight off onto the flowers . The females that I saw had some damage , but not as much as this specimen . No egg laying was seen today , but it was noticeably cooler in that wind .
By lunchtime , the sky was totally clouded over , and that's the way it stayed all afternoon .

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Saturday 25th.July 2009

Having aborted the proposed visit to Thursley Common , the other side of Guildford on the A3 , because of the weather earlier in the week , I decided to give it a try this morning , as the outlook looked much more favourable . As I drove round the M25 towards Junction 10 , I began to wonder if I had made a good decision , as the blue skies I left at home , became more cloud laden the further I went , but I carried on . I arrived at the Moat Pond car park at about 0915 , and was welcomed by first the call , then a very brief sighting of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker , the first that I have seen/heard for a couple of years now . That seemed to set the theme for the visit , as I continually heard and saw Great Spotted and Green . The sun was just coming out from a bank of cloud , so I had a quick look at Moat Pond , which produced absolutely nothing , not even a Four Spotted Chaser which are always about , just a large number of , to put it politely , Mallard type ducks .Two Nuthatches and a family of Coal Tits were feeding in the Scots Pines , as I headed off to the main path through the wet area of the Reserve . The first photograph I took was of a butterfly , on the boardwalk , warming up in the sunshine . I had a good idea of it's species , but wasn't positive until I got home and confirmed it with the books , a Grayling . I got two shots , then tried to get onto the sunny side of the specimen . I was very careful , but obviously not careful enough , as it flew off purposefully , not to be seen again .
The first Dragonfly spotted was a Four Spotted Chaser , of the form 'praenubila' , which sports extensive markings near the wing tips , as well as the spot in the middle of each wing . A Damselfly that I usually see here , and not at many other sites , is the Emerald Damselfly-Lestes sponsa , a superb little specimen , that doesn't confirm to the 'Damselflies rest with their wings parallel with the abdomen' statement , but neither does it fit with the 'wings at right angles to the abdomn of Dragonflies' , perhaps it just likes being different . Thursley Common is well known for it's Raft Spiders , and I found one , 'doing what it says on the tin' . sitting on a raft . Well an old piece of duckboard . This one was just a youngster , about 2 cm. from front legs to back , but I have photographed larger specimens on previous visits . About halfway along the track , Black Darters , a species of acidic pools and moorland bogs , became the most numerous species . The male , as the name denotes , is mainly black , and smaller than it's relation the Common Darter . The female is much more colourful , and a brighter specimen completely . I found several freshly emerged females in the long grass , and the males were searching such areas lookin for them , with only one thing in mind when they found one . The biggest problem was when the cloud rolled in , as it did several times , bringing with it much stronger winds , making photography and following specimens almost impossible . It was in a sheltered corner , out of the wind , that I had my only sighting of Banded Demoiselle , a male . This is a species that I usually find in good numbers , but like Emperor Dragonfly , only three were found today , they were not on the wing in that wind . Another species that I find here is the Small Red Damselfy , another lover of acidic bog pools . Apart from the smaller size , it can be identified from the Large Red Damselfly , by the red legs and pterostigma-patches on ends of wings , compared to the black legs and pterostigma of the LRD .
All along the duckboards , whenever the sun came out , so too did the Common Lizards . They seem to come in all colours , but brown and green seem to be the most numerous , with lots of juveniles around . Other butterflies seen were few , just Peacock , Meadow Brown and a still very good conditioned female Large Skipper . I looked on the regenerated Heather , following the fire a couple of years ago , for Silver Studded Blues , but did not find any . But whilst there , I did get good , if distant sightings of two adult male Redstarts , and later saw a juvenile . Unfortunately , no sign of Dartford Warbler . After lunch , the cloudcover got thicker , so I decided to do one last lap in the reverse direction . No new species were found , but on a log in one of the ditches , I found 'the mother of all Raft Spiders ' . It was huge . I would estimate 5 cm. from tip of front , to tip of back legs . I can't be sure , but I think it was a female , and she was quite happy for me to get my shots , after which , I left her in peace .
A really good day out , and made even better by a phone call whilst writing this , that a White Letter Hairstreak was found at High Elms today .
No need to say where I will be tomorrow .