I started on the Common , as usual , and saw plenty of Purple Hairstreaks at the two sites away from the Ash tree , but once again , nothing coming down low . I moved on to the Ash tree glade , and met Keith , another enthusiast that I met last year at High Elms , who had arrived early , and had got some good open winged shots of PHs . Even these individuals didn't stay down for long . Another couple came down whilst I was there , and I did manage a couple of shots , but not open winged . It was warming up quickly , so as we both had intentions of visiting White Hill , near Shoreham , we set off . By the time we arrived , the clear skies were building with cloud , but still not too bad . I had several male Chalkhill Blues on my last visit , and sure enough on our arrival , males could be seen 'bouncing' on the bank , but not in the numbers that I was expecting . We walked the lenght of the reserve , and we were both amazed at how little flower there was for the butterflies to nectar on . The Marjoram was just starting to flower , but very little sign of Black Knapweed and just one specimen of Greater Knapweed . Two interesting things we found were , these caterpillars that had almost stripped a Rose of all it's foliage , I haven't had time to ID them yet , but I'm pretty sure they are of a moth species , and a brown Crab Spider that Keith spotted on the track . I was reading the other day that these spiders can change their colour to suit the situation , so brown on the track was ideal for an ambush . By the time we had walked back to the main slope , we had found 2/3 mating pairs of Chalkhill Blues , and also several freshly emerged males . Keith's time was now up , so he headed off home , whilst I stayed photographing . Whilst photographing another pair , a pair , still joined together , got blown on the strong breeze , persued by several other males , and seemed to claim sanctuary , on the leg of my trousers . They seemed quite happy there , and even allowed me to encourage them onto my finger for a close up . I got my shots , then placed them gently amongst the vegetation , away from other males , to do what they had to do . Before leaving the site , I found a 'past it's sell by date' Meadow Brown , showing that being a butterfly isn't all about having fun in the sun , especially when mites manage to get on board .
Returning to the car for a drink , I then decided to turn tins on Fackenden Down . Almost immediately I noticed someone else doing the same thing . It was another of the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group surveyors , David . I had met him earlier in the season , and we decided to go round together . It was quite warm by now and neither of us expected to find much , but off we went . We did better than we expected , with three juvenile and one sub.adult- pictured Adders , and a good number of Slow Worms , several of them being gravid , pregnant , females .
Butterflies were few and far between , but there were some Chalkhill Blues , the odd Common Blue and one Brown Argus . Once again , good numbers of 6 Spot Burnet moths were found , including this pair , the picture of which encapsulates almost the entire life cycle . The beige parcel is the cocoon made by the caterpillar , in which to pupate , the black material on the cocoon is the remains of the chrysalis , from which the adult emerged , and the adults are mating , which will produce eggs to be layed by the female , to hatch out into caterpillars . Whilst walking around , we had been talking about many things , one of them being Clouded Yellow butterflies . We both said that we hadn't seen any this season , but David was going to Samphire Hoe later in the week , and hoped to see one there . About half an hour after that conversation , as we were heading back to the cars , survey completed , David was talking about something else , when he stopped talking , and we both blurted out 'Clouded Yellow' as a male shot past us on the breeze . This species is renown for not stopping , but always up for a challenge , I started to chase it down . It stopped well ahead of me , and I caught it up , and was just focusing from a distance for a record shot , when it was off again . Again , I was off after it , and after a couple of maybe stops , it settled well ahead of me on the track . Again I attempted a record shot from distance , and this time I managed it . I got closer and took a second , and then got closer still , chancing my luck with a third . And luck was with me today , for as I took the third shot , it took off again . I tried to follow it but it soon disappeared into the next field and away , but at least I had three shots of it . Now this species , is 99.9% only seen with it's wings closed , as I thought my three shots were . But , when I was looking back some shots later , I was amazed to see that my third shot had in fact caught the Clouded Yellow , at the milli second that it was taking off , leaving me with a blurry but very reasonable shot of it's top wing , something I have ever only seen in books . Lucky , or what . At the stile off the sight , we found a very fresh Painted Lady , and she was quite happy to pose for a shot . David and I parted company at the cars , and I headed off to see if there was any sign of White Letter Hairstreaks at High Elms , with Sunday's visit in mind . On the Buddleia on the track up to Burnt Gorse , I found White Admiral , Peacock and Silver Washed Fritillary all taking nectar together . The WA was off before I was in camera range , closely followed by the Peacock , but the SWF was too interested in the nectar to bother about me . By the time I reached the Orchid Bank , where the WLH are usually found , the cloud was thickening up again and it was starting to cool , and I didn't find any , let's hope we find some on Sunday . Several more SWf were sighted before getting back to the car , including several females , but no egg laying was seen .