Sunday, 31 May 2009

Sunday 31st. May 2009

With the forecast of an even hotter day today , I set off early for Keston Ponds and Bog . Not early enough , as I found out from the traffic that there was a Charity Walk in the area of Hayes and Keston Commons , and the roads were already almost at gridlock .
So I turned around and headed for the Farm Lake , which was also on the route of the Walk , but hadn't been reached as yet by the walkers . The most obvious thing on arriving at the Lake , was that some of the male , larger Dragonflies were patrolling certain areas of the bank . At least 5 male Emperors were patrolling and scrapping when the two patrollers met . I must have attempted 25/30 shots of him in flight , but this was the only one that came anywhere near passable . Several aerial battles ensued , and on two occasions , I saw both fall onto the water's surface still fighting . On both occasions , they managed to overcome the surface tension and get away to fight another day . If either , or both hadn't managed to get off the surface , which both were trying to do to the other , they would have died , not from drowning , as they float on the surface , but from starvation , as in this game it's a matter of feed or die .
The Black Tailed Skimmers are still emerging in numbers . I found another in the variegated Rush , giving better light for the shot . As can be seen , the abdomen is fully extended , leaving just the wings to dry out , which wouldn't take long given today's temperature and warm breeze . The next time past , I saw the newly emerged take it's first flight , leaving just it's exuvia behind . All around the Lake , it's relations were emerging , some to the trees , and some like this one to the vegetation at the waterside . Over on the far side of the Lake , some of the early emergents , having now coloured up , have returned to the water , to find and fight for their territories . As I posted before , the females will stay the gold and black colours that they emerged in , but the males , like the Broad Bodied Chasers will become powder blue on the abdomen , and like the BBCs , have yellow spots along the sides of their abdomen . Apart from the size of the abdomen , the main difference between the two species is that the Black Tailed Skimmer does not have the dark markings at the base of each wing that the BBC does . The male BTS can be confused with the male Keeled Skimmer , but that does not have the yellow spots , and as it's name implies , has a narrow join type line along the top of it's abdomen . Also the male Scarce Chaser , but that has no yellow spots either , but does have dark patches at the wing bases . As well as the Dragonflies above , Azure , Common Blue , Large Red and Blue Tailed Damselflies were also recorded .
Butterflies were few with just Common Blue (3) , Painted Lady (4) and a single Large White being recorded .
I attempted again to photograph the Swallows , which today seemed as if they might have been taking Damselflies off the surface , rather than skimming a drink . As the first shot shows , some of the 'hits' , looked downright dangerous . Walking around , I came across this pair of Garden Spiders , and going with the norm , that the female is bigger , then the male seemed as if he wanted to know , but she didn't , and in the end chased him off . By now it was really warm , and even a passing Hornet stopped on a Lillypad for a drink .My last hour , was spent watching and photographing the latest newcomers . I hadn't noticed them , tucked up on the side of the vegetation in one corner , until I spotted what I think is the male , making repeated dives , then taking the proceeds to the corner just mentioned . I am leaving the remainder of this
post as a series of pictures , so you can quietly enjoy , as I did whilst taking them .

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Saturday 30th.May 2009

Today's target species was the Adonis Blue butterfly , so an early start to miss the traffic saw me at Denbies Hillside , high above Dorking , shortly after 0830 this morning . This has got to be one of my favourite butterfly sites . I was taken to the site , many years ago , by a couple of old boys I used to go out with every week , and have been going back ever since . This is the view from the far end of the site , looking over Dorking .On arrival , and for most of the morning , I was the only person on the site , and on such a glorious morning , I felt privileged to be there . There was a stiff breeze blowing along the South facing slope , and the morning dew was still lying , and very few butterflies were seen to begin with . One of the first things I found , was my first Bee Orchid of the year , surprisingly in flower . I found another later , but someone/thing , had trampled on it . Also found were large numbers of Fragrant Orchids (pictured) , a couple of Man Orchids and a single White Helleborine . I started to find a few butterflies , and then found my first Adonis Blue , a female , which like many of the Blue species , is brown . The identifying feature is the castellated white/black border , as opposed to the white border of the Common Blue . Soon after , I found the first male , not pristine , as they have been out for a while already . These are part of the first brood , usually quite small in numbers , and later in the year , late July /August , a second , larger brood will hatch . To show that they have been out for some time , this male proves the point . Like the Chalkhill Blue which will emerge before the second brood , the Adonis Blue lays it's eggs on the large amounts of Horseshoe Vetch that grow on the site .
My attention was drawn away from the butterflies , when a 'mewing' was heard overhead , and looking up to the top of the slope , a pair of Common Buzzards came drifting across on the thermals , looking absolutely majestic against the cloudless blue sky . Down in the grass , an old friend , the Cardinal Beetle put in an appearance , and also amongst the grass , Eyebright , so called because it used to be made into a solution to 'make the eyes sparkle' , was also wanting to be seen . Further down the slope I came across a pair of Adonis Blues , with the male with only one thing on his mind . He chased the female from pillar to post , and would not take no for an answer . Eventually , he must have worn her out and joined her on the ground . Within a short period of time , he had his way , and the deed was being done . Whilst photographing this pair , my attention was being constantly dragged to a Yellowhammer in a bit of scrub , constantly telling me that he had 'a little bit of bread , and no cheese' . Further on down the slope , I found two Green Hairstreaks , one of them feeding on the Horeshoe Vetch . Another first for the year was the Burnet Moth , just freshly emerged , and not yet coloured up fully , and also good numbers of Burnet Companion moths , as you would expect , and a single Mother Shipton .
Up in the top corner , a male Kestrel was looking for a meal , hanging on the wind , his head perfectly still . At one point , he did drop to the ground , and seemed to fly off with what could have been a Slow Worm , but I couldn't be sure . Along the top path , and for the second day running , I found a single male Meadow Brown , but this one was happier to pose than yesterday's , even though his wings were not fully inflated . On the top edge against the scrub , Common Rock Rose , the food plant of the Brown Argus , is brightening things up . Readers from last Winter , might remember me posting that the Surrey Group were hedgelaying along the railway line , near Dorking , at the bottom of the Downs . Well , this is the view of our work from the top of the slope . The tall hedge on the left of the shot , this side of the railway line is where we finished this Spring , and will continue this Autumn .
Apart from those posted , 17 other species of birds were recorded , and including the Adonis Blue , 8 species of butterfly . Of note , Butterfly Conservation asked people to do a 2 hour count of Painted Ladies today , but my experience was that the migration is all but over , having only seen 10/12 passing through whilst I was there .

And finally , another moth ID please . Quite a large one , but not willing to come out fully into the open , pity , because it looked colourful .

Friday, 29 May 2009

Friday 29th.May 2009

The farm lake was my first of four sites visited today . At 0830 the temperature was already 18C , despite a stiffish breeze . I was hoping to find more emergence , but the water level was much higher than on my last visit , which meant that water from the borehole had been pumping in for quite some time , and as this water comes from 230ft. down , it cools down the water temperature in the lake and delays emergence , which is linked to daylight hours and water temperature . Several Black Tailed Skimmers lifted off on my approach and other species recorded included Blue Tailed , Large Red , Common Blue and Azure Blue Damselfly , the last two were seen egg laying . Just 8 Painted Ladies passed through whilst I was there , but were probably still warming up . Other species recorded included a pristine male Brown Argus , Common Blue , a female Orange Tip (pictured) and Large White . As I left , heading for High Elms Country Park , you could tell it was going to be a hot one .
The full butterfly transect was the undertaking today . In the short time taken to get there from the farm lake , the Painted Ladies had warmed up and were starting to steam through , although , not in the numbers seen earlier in the week . By the end of the transect , 48 had been recorded .Apart from Common Blue (21) , other species were few and far between . Dingy Skipper is really living up to it's name now , perhaps 'Ragged' might be more appropriate . Speckled Wood (4) , Large White (2) , Small Copper (1-pictured) and Brimstone (1) made up the numbers .Day flying moths were in good numbers , with Burnet Companion (23) , Silver Y (3) and Mother Shipton - pictured (4) . Most of the birdsong on the way round was provided by Blackbird , Blackcap , Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff , with the noise coming as usual from the Rose Ringed Parakeets .
The best Fly Orchid is now on it's 7th.flower , with three more to go ,
All over the Park , Common Spotted Orchids are in flower ,
The Man Orchids are fully out ,
And on the Conservation Field , I found the first Pyramidal Orchid flower spike of the year .The Bird's Nest Orchids are steady at 10 , and fully out ,
And the Greater Butterfly Orchid is in flower too .
Before heading home for lunch , I made a quick stop at West Kent Golf Course to see if there was any sign of the Small Blues there . Unfortunately , as I arrived where they are usually found , the sun went behind cloud , and this species really does need the sun to be on the wing . With the sun in , I was again joined by butterfly , this time a male Common Blue with a mis-formed front wing . It didn't seem to bother him , and when the sun started to show , he flew off without trouble . Most of the species seen at High Elms were recorded here , with the addition of Holly Blue and Peacock . Just before leaving , I disturbed what I thought was two Foxes . One definitely was , but the other was a Deer , a very small Deer , not much bigger than the Fox . I only got a glimpse as it made off for cover , but when it got there it 'coughed' back at me . I am not saying it was , but there is a possibility that it was a Muntjac , from the size and from the cough , as the Muntjac's other name is the Coughing Deer . Was it ? I shall never know for sure .
After lunch , I set off for Spring Park Pond . Immediately on arrival , it was obvious that several male Broad Bodied Chasers were holding territories around the pond , and aerial battles were continuous . In one corner , a female , taking no notice of what was happening above here , was diligently dipping the end of her abdomen into the water , each time , releasing a single round egg , that will sink to the bottom of the warm shallow water , to start the next generation . Whilst there , I managed another two year firsts , with my first Meadow Brown , feeding on Bramble flower around the edge of the pond . Not the best of shots , but it just wouldn't get into the position that I wanted it to . Then came the second , when a male Emperor Dragonfly , swooped across the water , much to the annoyance of the male Broad Bodied Chasers , who lifted off to engage him in battle . He flew backwards and forwards across the pond , and I thought , there is no chance of a picture . Eventually , he rested for a few seconds , and I got this shot . It was literally seconds , before the Broad Bodied Chaser males 'saw him off'. I carried on watching and , after quite a while , he came to rest in front of me , showing nicely the dark dorsal line along the abdomen that is helpful in this species identification . The only other species recorded were Azure and Large Red Damselfly . Other butterflies recorded around the pond were Painted Lady (50+) , Common Blue (1) , Orange Tip (1) , Speckled Wood (2) , Small White (2) and Large White (2) . Lastly , can anyone help out with this bad shot of a small moth , found on a walk yesterday near Ashford . I took 3 shots , but the AF obviously didn't want to know .