Thursday, 29 April 2010

Thursday 29th.April 2010

After two very hard days back working on the Greensand Ridge , my Warden is back on light / supervisory duties , so guess who was on heavy duties ? , I set off this morning in hazy sunshine to do the Down House bird survey . Unfortunately , contractors are working on the gravel paths in the main garden and walled garden , so I wondered if it would be worth it at all . As it happened , I did record 20 species during my visit , the best of the bunch being a Garden Warbler in the woodland by the Golf Course . Would have been better with a hirundine or two , but I had to wait till I got home , as whilst having a coffee with Carol in the garden , she spotted our first Swift over the house this year . Just 5 Speckled Woods were recorded at Down House , whereas the garden did better again with Speckled Wood , Orange Tip and Holly Blue , all joining us for coffee .
After lunch , still in hazy sunshine , I set off for Burnt Gorse , to look again for the early Skippers . As is usual for me , the sun became more and more watery , and I didn't hold out much hope on arrival . But I was wrong , as after just a few minutes of searching , I found the first of 7 Dingy Skippers . Well named , and looking more like a moth than a butterfly , and with the typical Skipper clubbed antennae . The wingspan of this species is only about 30mm. , so with the drab colour and it's size , it is not easy to follow them in flight . A flash of orange had me thinking of an early Small Heath , but when it settled , it turned out to be the day flying moth Burnet Companion , so named as it is usually found in the same habitat as Burnet moths . I had sightings of Peacock , Orange Tip and Holly Blue , but no sign of Grizzled Skipper . Right down at the bottom of the slope , I found a mating pair of Bee-flies-Bombylius major , although the one on the right seems to have touched down , all wings are still working hard . It was soon after that another movement led me to the first of 2 Grizzled Skippers recorded today . This species has a wingspan of about 26mm. , so are even harder to find or follow in flight . Things were quiet around the Wayfarer bush at the top of the slope , just 2 Green Hairstreaks recorded , but it appears that a cafe has opened on this prime real estate , now that the flowers are opening . Leaving Burnt Gorse , I headed to check on the Bird's nest Orchids , but still , no sign , but I did find a very freshly emerged Speckled Wood nearby . The Orchid bank was my last visit , and it looks as if it will be a good year for Common Spotted Orchids , with good numbers already showing in leaf . Another member of the Orchid family , the Twayblade , are just getting their flower spikes , unfortunately , they get no more colourful than this usually . But , today , I did find an unusual variegated specimen , the like of which I have never seen before .
Arriving home , Carol was in the back garden trying to get rid of a Magpie that was attacking a family of Blackbirds . Three times she had to drive it off , and this seemed to be what it was after , a juvenile , which got under some plants , and stayed there , motionless .


Phil said...

I still haven't managed to find a Green Hairstreak Greenie but I understand that New Hythe has produced them before so i'll keep looking there. I understand why the Dingy Skipper is so named but why Grizzled?

Warren Baker said...

Garden Warbler! Ive been looking all week for one of them!

Why is it such a good year for holly blues compared to last year Greenie ?

PS answer my much more sensible question before Phils silly one :-)

Greenie said...

Phil/Warren ,

In asked order ,

Grizzled apparently means 'dark hairs mixed with grey or white' .
Re. GH , there are probably the most overlooked butterfly because of size and colour . Always showing green underwing when settled blends in nicely . Brown topwing flying , could be any insect . The Scrubs should hold them , try the edges where scrub meets trees , in a sunny spot . Watch out for aerial battles .

Holly Blues are predated on by a ichneumon wasp , which injects it's eggs into the living caterpillar , the growing grub then feasts on caterpillar . Holly Blue numbers tend to be good for a few years , then crash . I think last year was one of those , as you say this year looks better .

ShySongbird said...

Another interesting post Greenie. Warren's question about the Holly Blue prompts me to ask why it is such a good year for Orange Tips (at least it is here),I didn't see any last year!

I don't think I have ever heard of the Twayblade, I may have seen it and not realised what I was looking at, I shall look out for it now.

That is a lovely photo of the juvenile Blackbird, I hope it survives the clutches of the Magpie!

Phil said...

That picture of the mating bee flies is amazing - never seemn that photographed before -photographing one on its own is hard enough.... terrific picture

Greenie said...

ShySongbird ,
I'm sorry but I do not have a definitive answer to your question , other than the fact that the weather must have suited , eventhough very cold at times , the overwintering chrysalis , and the warm spell came exactly right for emergence . I too have recorded many more this year .
Of interest the Twayblade is derived fron old Norse for 'two leaves' . They should be in your arae .

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Greenie.
Some great photo's there. A good day had.
Reading these comments today is a bit, Question Time, So...What settings on your camera did you use to shoot the skippers, and Burnet Campion ?

Anonymous said...

Good to see you got both target Skippers, Greenie and you`re not kidding about the hard task of following them once they take flight.