Thursday, 9 July 2009

Thursday 9th.July 2009

Being a reasonable morning , I decided to do the Reptile and Butterfly survey at Fackenden Down , near Shoreham , and after my last visit , very poor on reptiles and recording the first Chalkhill Blue of the year , I didn't know what to expect . As soon as I got on site , the lack of butterflies was very evident . Usually , recording starts as you cross the stile , even if it is the common species , but even they were in very low numbers today . No reptiles at all in the first small field , but had 3 Slow Worms under the first refugia in the second field . As I reached the second set of refugia , I spotted a female Adder , slowly leaving the top of an ant hill , less than 2mtrs. away . What a cracking shot that would have made , her coiled on top , but it wasn't to be . By the time I had the camera ready , she was in the long grass , heading for the vegetation behind the refugia . I sat down , and followed her progress from the moving grass , hoping that she might return to the ant hill . No such luck , but she did break out of the long grass , just at
the side of the refugia .Fortunately , I was down wind of her , if she had scented me , she would have been off . Slowly but surely , she came further out , flicking her tongue out at frequent
intervals . When she was happy that she was not in danger , she draped herself behind the

corrugated tin , and enjoyed the sunshine , as I did watching her . Only 2 other Adders were recorded today , one , a young male , in a similar position behind a refugia , and the other , a sub adult male , together with 5 Slow Worms , all under the same piece of roofing felt . The Slow Worms stayed put , but he was off like a rocket . In all , 18 Slow Worms were recorded .
I know I've posted several 6 Spot Burnet moths recently , but I just couldn't resist this one , 6 x 6 Spot Burnet moths on the same Greater Knapweed flower . What was so special about this particular flower , I just don't know .
After finding the first last visit , I didn't find any on this , until two thirds of the way round , and then it was just a singleton . The books say early July , and with that hot week , I was expecting to see many more .
11 species of butterfly were recorded , in low numbers , including a very fresh Peacock that did not want to be photographed , and a mating pair of Ringlets . Birds of interest seen/heard , include Yellowhammer , Chiffchaff and Green Woodpecker .
I then moved on up the lane to White Hill , a chalk grassland site managed by Butterfly Conservation (Kent) . Things were quiet here too , so , apart from the odd Chalkhill Blue and Large White , I found myself looking at some of the wildflowers in bloom . A very common plant ,
but a good source of nectar at the moment is Self-heal , another member of the large Labiate family . It was once thought to have medicinal properties , curing people , without the help of a doctor , hence it's common name . Another Labiate , and very often found on ant hills that Rabbits use as loos , is Wild Thyme . Whilst on site , I recorded 8 species of butterfly , including 8 Chalkhill Blues , my first on the site this year . Only birds of interest were a pair of Sparrowhawks , heard and seen above the woods , at the top of the bank .
I hadn't intended to , but on the way home , I stopped off at Lullingstone , and headed straight for the Orchid Bank , in the middle of the golf course . Not this time for the orchids , but for a probable last look for Dark Green Fritillaries . I saw them when they were fresh , just emerged , but time and aerial battles have reduced that initial vibrancy of colour . It was still very windy , and most were tucked up in the long grass . The males that I saw were ragged , but the larger females , still looked very smart . Difficult to give an accurate number seen , because of the conditions , but my conservative estimate would be 25/30 . A good proportion of those were females , and several of them were egg laying , at the base of the vegetation , unworried by the conditions above . I follow one particular female , and when she got settled , I was able to get close and watch her in action . In this shot , her abdomen can be seen , reaching down into the vegetation , and laying her eggs onto , or close to Violets , the foodplant of her young .
A lot of the flowers have gone over on the bank already , but one of the late bloomers is the Harebell , a member of the Bellflower family .
Birdwise , several Skylarks were seen and heard , as were a couple of Yellowhammers , but not a lot else . On leaving , I couldn't go without a shot of the Lavender fields at Castle Farm . The wind was in the wrong direction , but downwind must be really aromatic .


Warren Baker said...

Are you allowed to roam through the lavender Greenie? (not that you would ask permission if the fancy took you!) It must be attractive to butterflies.

ShySongbird said...

The Lavender looked quite spectacular and as Warren says it must be a magnet for insects, bees galore I expect. The photo of the six six spots was brilliant!

Kingsdowner said...

Successful snakecharming again!
Is it always windy at the DGF bank on the golf course?

Greenie said...

ShySongbird & Warren ,
I've never been in , just past . From the road which runs along the top tree line , it looks very regimented , like rows of potatoes , except purple . They do have open days and arranged visits . Think it's all due for harvesting later this month .
Steve ,
Only on windy days .
No , seroiusly , it always seems to be at DGF and Orchid time , but as it is SW-ish facing and in a valley , not surprising .