Not a very good start to the week yesterday , when a planned visit with Keith to deepest Surrey for the Purple Emperor butterfly , had to be called off last minute due to traffic chaos on the M25 following an accident . We had to stay local , and a re-visit to Lullingstone Country Park proved fruitful , as Dark Green Fritillary numbers have exploded . I made a conservative estimate of 250+ , but would not be surprised if the true figure were in the 500-1000 bracket . We were lucky enough to find two , mating pairs during our visit . Also recorded were several juvenile Skylarks , this one posing on Greater Knapweed . On the same species , the Burnet moths were having their annual competition to see how many they could fit on one flower head , 5 here .
A walk along the bank of the River Darenth , produced good views of Chubb , just for Phil .
Odonata were few , just appearing in the sunny spells , or making more like this pair of White-legged Damselflies , found in the 'wheel' position .
After a late lunch , the rest of the afternoon was spent at High Elms . White Admiral and Silver washed Fritillary numbers have increased , and the first female SWF was seen ovipositing in one of the usual spots . In one of the small glades , as the sun began to fall , butterflies were nectaring on Privet flower , these included White Admiral , and in the same shot , one of 3 White-letter Hairstreaks recorded , my first for this year . Heading back to the car , several hoverflies-Volucella pellucens , were dancing in the sun's rays .
Today started well , with a quick stop at the Ash tree on the Common , on the way to volunteering . At last , two Purple Hairstreaks were found on the Bracken in front . I tried to get a shot of the 'streak' on the underwing , but failed miserably . The pair only wanted me to see their pristine topwings . They will not stay like this for long when the fighting starts . My volunteering lasted about two hours , when I nearly took the top off the middle finger , right hand , with a petrol powered hedgetrimmer , my own stupid fault . A quick visit , seen and dealt with within 20 minutes in the Minor Injury Unit , brilliant , but that was the end of my day on the Greensand Ridge .
A look this afternoon didn't find the PHs , but did turn up my first Gatekeeper of the year , and a second later on West Wickham Common , both identified as males by the dark marking , sex brand , on the topside forewing . And finally , on the way back to the car , scrambling over a fence , White Bryony-Bryonia cretica , a member of the Gourd family , not to be confused with Black Bryony-Tamus communis , a member of the Yam family .
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