Saturday, 31 July 2010

Saturday 31st.July 2010

It was 6 o'clock this evening before today got anywhere near Summer . The rest of the day was made up of heavy drizzle , grey skies and an occasional , fleeting glimpse of the sun .
It was one of these bright interludes that encouraged me out this afternoon , and I headed for Salt Box Hill , below Biggin Hill Airport , close enough to get back quickly if the weather deteriorated . No sooner had I arrived on site , for the second day running , I recorded Common Buzzard , thanks to a Kestrel warning me of it's presence . But with the 100mm. lens on , and the light conditions , it was just a silhouette . The ground vegetation was alive with Grasshoppers and Crickets , like this Dark Bush-Cricket -Pholidoptera griseoaptera , looking like some prehistoric , armoured creature . When it moved , it was identified as a female by the ovipositor extending from the end of her abdomen .
Given the conditions , and the fact that the two Dartmoor ponies had only been taken off site a couple of weeks ago , I did not have much hope for the Butterfly transect . To say I was surprised with the totals would be an understatement . These results combine the fenced , grazed area , and the unfenced , ungrazed one :-
Meadow Brown (41) , Common Blue (37) , Brown Argus (10) , Gatekeeper (29) , Peacock , pictured on Lesser Burdock ( 9) , Green-veined White (2) , Ringlet (4) , Painted Lady , pictured on Marjoram , a most unexpected , pristine specimen (1) , Large White (4) , Comma (4) , Small Heath (20) , Silver Washed Fritillary , a first for this site , (1) , Small Tortoiseshell (1) , Small Copper , a very pristine specimen pictured , as they all were (4) , Large Skipper (1) , Speckled Wood (1) , Marbled White (2) , Large White (4) and Brimstone (9) .
Speaking of which , a couple of individuals posed for seldomly seen shots , of the top wing ,
the proboscis , which can be unwound , to enable the insect to collect nectar from deep into a flower ,
and one of my favourite colour combinations , the sulphur yellow of the male and the purple ofthe Spear Thistle flower .
A totally unexpected 19 species , on a day that I would have been happy with half that number .

Friday, 30 July 2010

Friday 30th. July 2010

After two days volunteering and not getting out yesterday , I earned a few more brownie points , then set off to check the local sites .
The Ash tree on the Common only produced two high Purple Hairstreak sightings , but whilst there a migrant Silver Y moth posed , showing the Ys well , and the strange ear / horn type appendages on the head . Also in the dry grass , an Essex Skipper .
On to the Farm lake , where I was welcomed with the constant calls of three Little Grebe chicks .
These have to be a second brood , but I never saw anything of the first . Good numbers of Common Blue butterflies , second brood again , and also of Gatekeepers . This was one of three very fresh looking Red Admirals recorded on site . Odonata recorded were in small numbers , but Emperor , Black-tailed Skimmer , Common Darter , like these two in tandem , still a few Blue Tailed , Azure and Common Blue Damselflies about . As I was about to leave , calls from further down the valley alerted me to what looked like a family group of four Common Buzzard . As they came closer , they must have found a thermal , and started to rise on it . By the time they were overhead they were really high , but I still couldn't get all four in the same frame , and had to settle for these two .
After lunch , with clouds rolling in , I headed for High Elms , and as usual , as I got there the sun disappeared . Another three Red Admirals were recorded , all on the same Buddleia bush .
On the Orchid Bank , and on the area around it , I recorded 6 White-lettered Hairstreaks , some like this female , in pristine condition , but some , like this male who has obviously fought a few battles , not quite so pristine . The Hemp Agrimony is coming into flower , and is already become a nectar supermarket for the many Peacocks and Commas already feeding on it . Burnt Gorse produced another mating pair of Common Blues , and the male Silver Washed Fritillaries are still courting any females that they find , even though they are not so dapper as they were . At the far end , a male Brimstone had nestled himself down in the vegetation , waiting to see what the now wall to wall cloud would bring . As I walked back , a grey , fast flying insect caught my eye .
I managed to follow it , and when it slowed down , I recognised it as my second migrant moth of the day , a Hummingbird Hawk moth . Strangely , it wasn't nectaring , and almost appeared to be looking for a suitable place to lay eggs , who knows . It didn't stay long , but I managed about 6 shots . I saw it again a couple of minutes later , but this time is just disappeared at speed . I only saw one last year , but didn't get a shot , so was pleased with the result this time .

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Tuesday 27th.July 2010

Just a few shots from yesterday and today .
1 of 2 juvenile Jays that noisily took up residence in the garden with their parents yesterday .
Female Adder ,and male Adder , I came across up on the Greensand Ridge today .Also up on the Ridge , a strange pairing in a field , Shetland Pony and Alpaca , I think .He's probably called Al , but I couldn't help thinking he should be called Dean , from the latter's early years !
That's scuppered any chance of getting my moths identified in the future .

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Sunday 25th.July 2010

Wall to wall cloud welcomed the morning of the Field Trip to High Elms , with Silver Washed Fritillaries being the main target . I left a bit early for a look at the Ash tree on the Common , but only got 4/5 sightings high up , no specimens coming down onto the lower vegetation . Leaving the car park , a brown flash by the barrier had me stopping and photographing a juvenile Robin , that was happy to sit and pose . This turned out to be the only shot I took today .
The weather was no better at High Elms , and the 19 species seen yesterday , in much better conditions , seemed like a dream . I was relieved when we made our first stop at a pathside Buddleia bush to find SWF and White and Red Admiral nectaring on the flowers . Burnt Gorse was bathed in cloud , but we managed to find the odd butterfly species and topped up with a few day flying moths . Right down the far end , a single Marbled White , Small Copper and Large Skipper raised the hopes of better to come . We actually got some sunshine , which increased the activity , so we headed for the first of the glades where the SWF lay their eggs . The SWF sightings increased , including females , but no egg laying was observed although one courting pair was seen . We did search for , and find , eggs that had been layed on a Scots Pine . More SWF sightings on the way to , and on the Orchid Bank , then one of the group spotted a small butterfly on a Hazel bush , and White-lettered Hairstreak was added to the list . This shot of the species was taken a couple of weeks ago . A second was found on the Orchid Bank itself , to be followed by a third after lunch in the Conservation Field , the advantage of many pairs of eyes .
The look around the Conservation Field did not produce any new species , but several fresh Brown Argus and another Marbled White were recorded .
By the end of the visit , the same 19 species of Butterfly that I recorded yesterday had been found , plus WLH , Holly Blue and the Marbled Whites , bringing the total count to 22 species , with a probable 23rd. , when Hairstreak sized specimens were seen in silhouette , high in an Ash tree , probably Purple .

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Saturday 24th.July 2010

As I have Kent Butterfly Conservation members coming to High Elms for a filed trip tomorrow , concentrating mainly on Silver Washed Fritillaries , I thought I had better make sure all was in order before their visit . I decided to do the full Butterfly Transect , starting and finishing at the Golf course car park .

But first , a couple of moths that I came across during the visit . The first , one of the Plume moths , I wouldn't attempt to identify it further , and a Burnet moth with one wing missing , revealing the rarely seen hind wings . It might have been one wing short , but it didn't stop it mating .
The Butterfly Transect produced 19 species : Meadow Brown (230) , Gatekeeper (51) .Small Copper (4) , Ringlet (5) , Large White - pictured (6) , male with no dark markings on the topside of the forewing , just on the underside of that wing , and the larger female , with all the markings on that topside of the forewing . Peacock (5) , Small Skipper (3) , Essex Skipper (3) , Common Blue , including a pristine 2nd. brood male - pictured (14) , Large Skipper (1) , Brown Argus (6) -with most being freshly emerged females , identified by the orange spots reaching the leading edge of the forewing without fading . This shot also shows the lack of the spot between the 'boomerang' marking on the underside of the forewing and the abdomen in this species , which is present in the Common Blue .
The male Brown Argus , showing the fading orange spots and bluing of the abdomen .
Small White (6) , Green-veined White (1) , Speckled Wood (3) , Red Admiral (2) , Silver Washed Fritillary 12/15 , including a female , egg laying on the bark of a Scots Pine .One of several eggs found on that tree . When they hatch , the caterpillar will climb down the trunk , to feed on the Violets which surround the tree . Comma (4) , White Admiral (5) and Brimstone (6) .
After lunch , a quick look at Spring Park pond , to find that the travellers had been moved on , without any rubbish being left , and a sighting of the scruffiest Kestrel , hunting over the meadow . The Ringlets I recorded at High Elms were all very tatty , so I was surprised to find this pristine one around the pond .

Friday, 23 July 2010

Friday 23rd.July 2010

Once the weather improved after lunch , I headed for White Hill , to see how the Chalkhill Blues were getting on . Numbers have exploded since last week , and good numbers of females were seen . Like several of the Blues , the females are brown . My estimate for the species on site was 200+ and that total included a minimum of 20 mating pairs . One pair were getting hammered by a still stiff breeze , so I helped them to a more sheltered place , after a finger shot .
I then visited two Reptile survey areas , and between the two , recorded 10 Slow Worms ,
including this group of four .
11 Adders , including one dead individual , and this male (right) and female , tucked up cosily together . Too late to mate this year , but no harm in laying down some building blocks for next Spring , and 2 Common Lizards , this one trying to blend into the background . Chalkhill Blues were recorded on both sites along with Small Copper , good numbers of very fresh Brown Argus and this Peacock , posing on Old Man's Beard /Travellers Joy . One for Dean on his birthday , and I don't think this is a day flyer , as it was just playing dead on Greater Knapweed . Thanks to Dean/DDD , identified as Dusky Sallow .
And finally , Dean posted a rare , for his area , Small Scabious a while back , and I commented on how we take the species for granted . This shot is just one very small area of the Downs , taken today , and every tuft of light blue , is a Small Scabious .