With uncertainty over the weather forecast for today , I decided to stay local , and almost duplicate yesterday's visits , without the encumbrance of the timed butterfly transect at High Elms . Another reason being that I am leading a visit to the site for members of Butterfly Conservation , Kent Branch , to Kent's top SWF site , their words not mine , in 3 weeks time , and wanted to find the areas that SWF and WA are using , not to say that they will be there on the day .
An extra visit first to a second Purple Hairstreak site , up on West Wickham Common . The conditions were right , with a bit less wind than yesterday , but still nothing to report on the PH scene . I however , did get an opportunity for a less than normal view of a very fresh looking Comma . In another Bramble patch , it was very quickly obvious that there had been an explosion of the Longhorn Beetle-Strangalia maculata , what a wonderful name . They look so ungainly in flight , with long legs dangling below , similar to the St.Mark's Fly . But , when a female turns up on the scene , it's a case of all pile on , and those legs can be used to force your opponent off . I followed up with a visit to the Ash on the Common , once again coming away empty handed .
High Elms was already steamy when I arrived in the car park , and following the walk towards Burnt Gorse and the 'White Admiral glade' , so was I . The Bramble patches that the White Admirals and Silver Wash Fritillaries visit , are bathed in sunlight , then as the sun gets higher , they are in shade and no longer used , the butterflies using others that have come into the sunshine . So it was a case of following the sun , and waiting for the butterflies to arrive , either looking for females or using the Bramble as a filling station , as this one was doing . The WA must have one of the most colourful underwings , only to be outdone by the Purple Emperor in my mind . In a quiet spell , I ventured out of the glade and headed for the heat of Burnt Gorse , well named in the present conditions , where I found the second Bee Orchid of the season . Like many species , I can remember when they were found in their 10s , not the odd one or two . In the small corridor that leads towards Hang Grove , I found 4 specimens of White Mullein-Verbascum lychnitis , not a rare plant , but uncommon . As I reached the 5 bar gate at the top , and as far as one can go , a noisy tractor carrying bales of silage , must have disturbed a large bird , that would have been very close to the gate . By the time I got the 100mm lens on it , it was heading for the woods . A Common Buzzard , I think , but some unusual light patches towards the end of the wing . Also at the gate was another of my favourites Vervain-Verbena officinalis , a super little flower . Back in the heat of Burnt Gorse , the Black Knapweed-Centaurea nigra , has come into flower , just in time for the SWFs .
Speaking of which , I have increased my estimate after today's visit to 10+ , and in the small glade that the females seem to prefer for egg laying , I found a pair mating at about head height on a small Beech . It can be seen from this shot exactly how they get their name , the underwing washed with silver .
Apart from those recorded in 'White Admiral glade' , I also recorded the species again on the edge of Burnt Gorse and in this small glade too , and have increased my estimate of WA to 8+ . I didn't get a sighting of the White-letter Hairstreak that Keith saw yesterday though . As broken cloud started to roll in , another look at WA glade produced a few more sightings , but in between , I noticed some small , Hairstreak sized butterflies , duelling at the top of a small Ash . Right next to it is a Wych Elm , and many of the leaves on this tree have been munched . Looking into the sun , I only had silhouettes of the butterflies , with no colours or markings discernable . They could have been White-letter or Purple Hairstreaks , I will have to keep an eye on that tree .
On the way back to the car , a caterpillar literally dropped to the ground in front of me , just as I was about to pick up a feather from a Great Spotted Woodpecker . If my memory serves me right , it is the caterpillar of the Buff Tip moth , ID'd by Dean a while back , which had probably been blown out of a tree by the increasing wind . On the edge of the car park , another caterpillar , and another ID'd by Dean , that of the Yellow-tailed moth . If you want to see what this will pupate into , have a look at the superb shots on Dean's blog/DDD , posted on the 29th June , just be careful where you step going back to that date !
And finally , having reached my 500th. post in just over 2 years , I've decided to slow down a bit on posts , as I seem to be living on this computer these days . I also need to spend some serious time on the pictures taken since getting the new camera . As well as being fewer , I think future posts will be shorter too .
19 hours ago