I arrived at Down House , the home of Charles Darwin to do the Bird Survey , in beautiful sunshine , albeit still a bit on the cool side . As I got out of the car in the car park , I was welcomed by 6 Swallows , perched on the wires across the road . I think these two are this year's young , lacking the red on the face . Unfortunately , they were well spread out , so to get a half decent shot , had to just ignore the other four , otherwise they would have been just specks . Another 'charming' sight came when I entered the formal garden , when I came across a charm of 15/20 Goldfinches , feeding on the heads of the Black Knapweed . They too were mainly youngsters , as , like this one on the ground , lacking the red face of adulthood .
Things were going well with 15/20 young Starlings were recorded , noisily , and 3 Mistle Thrushes alighted on one of the mature trees . Then , as I entered the walled kitchen garden , everything went quiet . With the sun warming the brick wall , I was hoping to find some butterflies , but only Whites were on the wing . In one of the borders in front of the wall , a member of the Brassica family , had been well and truly munched , and there sunning themselves were at least 2 dozen Large White caterpillars in varying stages of growth , some not long hatched , and the odd few looking not far off pupating . They will all eventually pupate this Autumn , and overwinter as such , to emerge as adults next late April/May . The next part of the survey took me into Great Pucklands , a large meadow , with good stands of Black Knapweed , Ragwort and Creeping Thistle , but the majority of these have gone to seed now . But the odd ones are still being defended by Small Coppers . As I walked over a rise , and down the bank beyond , I had a 'deja vu' moment , remembering Rambling Rob's post of coming across a Fox that he almost stepped on . I was about ten paces off , when the long grass at that distance , exploded , as two female Roe Deer leapt up and headed off at speed . By the time I got the camera out , they were out of sight . I carried on , and at the end of the meadow , heard movement in the scrub next to the fenceline . It was the two Deer again , and again they took off without a chance of a picture . I followed them with binoculars along the top fenceline , then they broke downhill , towards the Golf Course . That was the only picture opportunity , but it was at a good distance . The excitement over , back to the survey , and the few birds that were around . In the woodland behind the Cricket field , where the 2 Violet Helleborines were found , another four were found deeper in the undergrowth , but all had finished flowering , but plenty of seed pods bode well for future years . Butterflies were well down on last visit as well , but a few respectable Meadow Browns were recorded , but the same couldn't be said for the odd Brown Argus , looking very faded . By the time I got back to the house , just 17 species of birds had been recorded , together with 9 species of butterfly , but noteably , 8 Small Coppers and a lone Painted Lady .
Before heading home , I always go back to the Walled Kitchen garden , to see if anything new has turned up . Today's new arrivals since my first visit were the hoverfly Eupeodes luniger , posing in a Bindweed flower , and , first seen hawking for insects , but then settling on a fruit bush , was a male Southern Hawker . I did find 2 Hornets during the visit , the second as I was about to leave , and spent some time trying to get a shot . In ten minutes of trying , I failed miserably , mind you , the Hornet did not stop once , spending most of the time deliberately bumping into vegetation , in an attempt to dislodge it's next meal .
In answer to ShySongbird's question re. my last post , I have managed to contact my 'pro' again , and he says that the specimen that I photographed was so light in colour because it had probably only just emerged from it's cocoon , and would darken up quite quickly from then on .
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