Monday, 17 May 2010

Monday 17th.May 2010

When I turned in last night , I tried to decide which butterfly to search for today , Duke of Burgundy Fritillary or Wood White . Either involved a long drive , but the forecast was favourable . This morning , that forecast had changed to clouding over and chance of showers . The two butterflies were put on hold for another day , and I set off in the early morning sun , to look for a new colony of Early Purple Orchids , once again found by fellow butterfly enthusiast Keith , whilst he was walking to see the colony that I posted , just off the A21 , near Green Street Green . After searching for about an hour , I gave up , and walked across the fields to Burnt Gorse , whilst the sun was still shining . In one of the fields , I found a 'weed of cultivation' , as it is described in the book , Common Fumitory-Fumaria officinalis . For once , the sun was still shining when I arrived at Burnt Gorse , just , as already clouds were starting to bubble up . On the main path , I found a female Brimstone , enjoying the warmth . 3/4 Green Hairstreaks were also recorded , but none around or on their favourite Wayfarer bush . One was very fresh and was probably a female , but the one I found down at the bottom of the slope , had the looks of a male that had been involved in aerial combat . The damage to the hindwing and the obvious loss of scales from the underwing caused by those fights , but the damage does give a chance to see the plain brown topwing , seldom seen , as the species always closes it's wings when at rest . Also recorded were a single , very tidy Peacock , this one would have overwintered as an adult , as freshly hatched specimens will not be seen until early August , and 7 Dingy Skippers , a couple of which looked like females . The sightings finished with the sun , so I headed off to check the Bird's Nest Orchids , just below the Orchid Bank , finding just one specimen breaking through the leaf litter . More White Helleborines were found on the way to the Orchid Bank , but none yet in flower . The Fly Orchid that I found last visit , has got it's first flower , and I found a further two specimens close by . Of interest , this plant secretes sex pheromones that attract male Digger Wasps . The wasps attempt to mate with the flowers , the wasps pollinate the flowers whilst doing so . The flowers are left alone when the female wasps emerge about 2 weeks after the males . Also on the Orchid bank , the first Twayblade flowers are opening . Still without the sun , I headed for Keith's newly found Bird's Nest Orchid colony , where things are really moving on at a pace . In all , 22 new flower spikes were found , and more to come I'm pretty sure , this shot showing 11 of them , and the upright brown sticks are the remains of last year's plants , topped by the seed heads . Most were quite small , but one individual specimen should have open flowers on my next visit . I walked back to the car , then drove to where I had started looking first thing . After about 20 minutes , I found the EPOs , a nice colony of 9 flower spikes , I shall keep an eye on them in future years . As I was reasonably close , I decided to visit the small reserve that I visited when I visited the other EPO colony . On the track , in shady conditions , I noticed a 'white' butterfly , flying towards me , stopping at times at plants of Garlic Mustard/Jack-by-the-Hedge . As It got closer , I could see it was a female Orange Tip , and as she stopped about 10 metres in front , I moved in to get a shot , but she was away again before I could do so . Keeping an eye on the plant that she stopped at , I had a good look , and found her egg , layed directly behind the flower . Of interest , the female will only lay a single egg on each plant , the reason being that when hatched , the caterpillars have 'cannibalistic' tendencies . By the time I reached the reserve , I was greeted with sunshine , but I could see from the sky it wasn't going to last . 3 male Brimstones were patrolling the top of the slope , scraping on a regular basis with 2 Green-veined Whites , this one refuelling on Bugle . Halfway along the slope , a very fresh Green Hairstreak flew by , and I managed to follow it by eye as it landed on the vegetation . I followed carefully , and found a female , egg laying in the fresh top leaves of Common Rock-rose-Helianthemum nummularium , her abdomen reaching as far down as she could manage . When she moved on to lay further eggs , her efforts could be seen , nestled down amongst the fresh young leaves . In one area of the grassland , at least four of these Bees , probably one of the 'mining' species , were flying in to their nest sites , carrying lengths of material beneath them , and pulling it into the nest , in this case , the area middle right of the picture . The piece this one was carrying was bigger than a match .
And finally , I know I posted this moth species before , but the way it was posed on the Germander Speedwell , I couldn't resist posting Pyrausta nigrata again .
And really finally , ShySongbird commented last night that St.Mark's Flies are said to last about a fortnight after St.Mark's day , 25th.April . Another week and they will have doubled their lifespan , and provided a good food source for many birds , but there were still lots of them still around today , especially along the fieldside hedgerows .
Two days volunteering now , but Wednesday is Dormouse/Adder survey day , so it could be interesting .


Warren Baker said...

I went out today Greenie, in the hope of finding a few Buttelies - but a stubborn cloud came over! It was clear sky to the south and north!! Do you think I did something bad in a previous life :-)

ShySongbird said...

Lovely photos and the moth on the Speedwell was particularly beautiful, Greenie.

So much of interest again today. Really fascinating information concerning the Fly Orchid and the Digger Wasps, I know I keep saying it but Nature is incredible! The cannibalistic Orange Tip caterpillar info was equally interesting.

Thank you for the mention :) I'm still a little unclear though, do you think the longer than expected life span could be connected with weather conditions or perhaps just one of those unexplainable things.

Anonymous said...

Great post Greenie. All the best for the Dormouse/Adder surveys.

Greenie said...

Warren ,
Why just mention 'a previous life' ? Perhaps you should have been looking for 'butterflies' !

ShySongbird ,
We have had several frosts during the Fly's time on the wing , which I would have thought would not be good for them ,but they keep going . I think we will have to put it down as you say to 'one of those unexplainable things' .

Kingsdowner said...

An exhausting but productive day!
Considering the hours I spent looking for Bird's Nest Orchids (finding only one) your colony seems rather greedy.

I had a look at Preston Hill yesterday - nice place with plenty of Dingies and Grizzlies.