Monday, 30 August 2010

Monday 30th.August 2010

With butterfly numbers dwindling fast , I decided to have a last visit of the year to Steers Field , on the Downs above Dorking , and the dwindling numbers were apparent as soon as I got on site . Once again , a stiff breeze was blowing across the hillside , as it was last visit , but it was no longer jumping with butterflies . Those that were about , were a mixture of very faded and reasonably fresh specimens .In the early morning light , a pair of Adonis Blues were mating , with another male waiting to take over given the opportunity .I found about 6/8 Silver-spotted Skippers , more than last visit , but it was hard work finding them , especially given the breeze . On the top path , I found several Nomada goodeniana , a species of Cuckoo Bee , this one having just caught another insect , which it carried to a tunnel on the ground , before disappearing .
Yet again , I've got it wrong . Many thenks to Gregg for identifying the above as a solitary wasp Cerceris rybyensis . The annoying thing is that I thought I was spot on this time !

On a lower track , I found this pellet , which I put on the stone to photograph . It contained snail shells and lots of other debris , possibly that of a Little Owl ? Even Chalkhill Blue numbers were well reduced , but there is still time to find a mate . At the bottom of the hillside , for the second time running , I found a second brood Dingy Skipper . Typical , never found a second brood before , now two this year .
Also at the bottom of the hillside , were good numbers of Swallows and in amongst them , a smattering of House Martins , one pictured .
Carrion Crows were the largest bird species seen after the Hirondines , but Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were also seen . The star of the day though , was a juvenile/female Common Redstart which I put up from the scrub . I've never seen them here before , so would assume that they were just passing through on passage . I hung about hoping that it would pose for a shot , but it wasn't seen again , unfortunately .
By lunchtime , a lot of family and walking groups were trekking across the hillside , so I decided to move on , even though the cloud was increasing .
My other stop was a large area of Blackthorn bushes , down near Gatwick Airport . On my last visit here , I found a single pristine male Brown Hairstreak . Within 10 metres of where I had photographed that male , I found this not at all pristine female , looking as if she has been the object of several bird attacks .Shortly after she flew off , I found another female , a Southern Hawker this time , on the nearby Brambles .Also on the Brambles was this Speckled Wood .
Having been walking all day , I was about ready to leave the second site , but decided to have a look at an area near the road . A movement in the vegetation revealed a second female Brown Hairstreak . This one was resting for a while , before returning to young Blackthorn shoots , deep in the vegetation , to lay her eggs . I watched her for 10/15 minutes , with the sound of aircraft lading and taking off , within about 1/4 of a mile from where I was standing .

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Saturday 28th. August 2010

Another disappointing bird survey at Down House , produced just 16 species , with the best of the bunch being 8 Mistle Thrushes which flew in calling , landing in the London Plane in the formal garden . The butterflies did much better with 8 species being recorded , the most numerous being the Small Copper , five of which went into the book .
Almost as numerous were the Hornets recorded on site , four in total .
At the far end of the large meadow , I spotted a male and female Roe Deer , probably the same pair I posted last survey . They were feeding right over in the furthest corner .
With no cover , I was only able to get so close , before they spotted me .I got a bit closer , before they had had enough , and headed for the nearest vegetation .
In the woodland , I came across Lepiota rachodes-Shaggy Parasol .
In the same woodland , the Violet Helleborine , posted after the last survey , has now finished flowering , and the seeds are almost ready to drop , and hopefully produce more plants next year . On one of the formal lawns , Paxillus involutus-Brown Roll-rim .
On the way back home for lunch , I stopped in at High Elms for a quick look around . No sign of White-letter Hairstreaks or Silver-washed Fritillaries , but Common and Holly , female pictured , Blues were recorded , amongst others .
Also on the wing were at least another four Hornets , and I saw one catch a Hoverfly from the Hemp Agrimony , and devour it in a matter of a couple of minutes . Watching the Hornets hunt , it was amazing how few insects they managed to catch , most evading their attacks easily .
After lunch , I helped Carol in the garden , and we were visited again by an immature Southern Hawker , this time a female , when she landed on a Geranium . After getting several shots , I gave her the same offer that I gave to the male previously , and she obliged . Only trouble was , with the 100mm. lens on , I couldn't extend my arm far enough to get a decent shot .And finally , a moth found nectaring on the Hemp Agrimony at High Elms , perhaps a bit too worn to get an ID , but perhaps ?
And once again , Dean/DDD comes up with the answer , Tawny-barred Angle . Thanks very much Dean .

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Wednesday 25th.August 2010

My Warden had other business first thing this morning , up on the Greensand Ridge . While he dealt with that , I went for a look for fungi after a cool night . A sample of the species found were :- Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca - False Chanterelle , Lycoperdon foetidum ,Lactarius quietus / Oak Milk-cap ,
Boletus badius / Bay boletus ,Sparassis crispa , an unusual cauliflower like species , parasitic at the base of conifers . Boletus edulis / Cep or Penny Bun , the basis of most dried Mushroom soup , Calocera viscosa , a young specimen ,Amanita rubescens / The Blusher , I managed to catch it before it changed it's hair style like Dean's ones did ,
Langermannia gigantea / Giant Puff-ball , (£1 coin for size comparison) ,
and lastly , Coprinus plicatilis . Some work did get done eventually , but that came to a halt with the onset of heavy rain , for once forecasted correctly .

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Tuesday 24th.August 2010

With volunteering cancelled at the last minute , I decided to visit Sevenoaks Reserve ( Kent Wildlife Trust ) . In very squally conditions , these were the highlights ,
At least 3 Kingfishers seen , albeit at distance , none willing to pose on the posts right outside the hide , but the way they were chasing about , there could well have been more .
Around many of the lakes Gipsywort-Lycopus europaeus , another Labiate with a square stem was found . An old Willow tree was sporting a good growth of Laetiporus sulphureus-Sulphur polypore/Chicken of the Woods .Apart from Lapwings , a couple of Common Sandpipers in their 'bib and braces' identification , were the only waders seen .Passing by one of the islands was a family of Mute Swans , in line astern formation .
The Egyptian Geese were in much less formal order as they left the water to graze .
Getting back to the car just as a heavy shower started , I decided to look in at Bough Beech reservoir on the way home .Not much about except for this Common Snipe , and 2 Common and 3 Green Sandpipers , but they were well out camera distance .
I had to cross the Greensand Ridge to get home , so you should know what happened by now ,A large adult Grass Snake under the first refugia lifted .Followed by a female Adder under the second .Things went quiet then except for a Violet Ground Beetle-Carabus violaceus ,and under another refugia that held a very fast moving immature Grass Snake , the slough of that reptile , totally intact .
Once again , I made it back to the car by the skin of my teeth as the next heavy shower started .
Not wanting to push my luck any further , I headed home .

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Sunday 22nd.August 2010

A look around South Norwood Country Park before the weather went pear-shaped , had me wondering why I just didn't stay in bed this morning . The lake , apart from drying up , looked nothing unusual , with just Coot , Moorhen , Canada Geese , Black-headed Gulls and Mallard loafing about . The usually smart male Mallard , looking very drab in his eclipse attire . On the bank , nothing much happening either , and that encouraged these two Carrion Crows to catch up on their sleep .
The stream feeding the lake had dried up , and the area had been taken over by Himalayan Balsalm-Impatiens glandulifera , in several shades of pink down to almost pure white .
Not at it's best now , but this is one of only a handful of stands of Soapwort-Saponaria officinalis , to be found locally . It is a member of the Pink family . Walking around , it was noticeable how few nectar producing flowers were about , now that the Creeping Thistle has all gone to seed , but Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea-Lathyrus latifolius , was doing it's best to plug the hole . Can never be sure with this species if it is truly wild , or another garden escape .
A Cormorant , Grey Heron and a fly-over Great Spotted Woodpecker completed a rather uneventful visit .
Back home , a brief spell of sunshine , produced a couple of Small White and a single Holly Blue , which was better than the 2 Large Whites seen at the Country Park .
Then , into the garden flew a large dragonfly which hawked for food for a while , before settling . I thought from a distance that it was the female Southern Hawker that has had to be rescued from the car port several times . I went for the camera , sure that it would be gone when I returned , but I was wrong , as it was still perched when I returned , not the female , but an immature male . He even flew off and settled again , but this time at waist height as opposed to above head height as before .
He didn't seem to be bothered about my presence , and allowed a close up shot of the thorax , showing the different shapes of the front and rear wings , the rear wings being shaped to allow them to pass below the abdomen when in flight .A side shot of the thorax shows the large compound eye and the muscular thorax - the engine to which the wings are attached .
Once I had taken the shots I wanted , I pushed my luck for a finger shot , but he wasn't playing , and took off , not to be seen again .
And finally , the only other interest at the Country Park was this insect , which caught my attention by it's cumbersome flight , and crash landing into vegetation . My first impressions was a Bee , and with the unusual head/eyes and 3 dots between the eyes , I thought it would be relatively easy to identify , but I haven't been successful so far . Any ideas ?
A bit more digging since posting , and I think it is one of the Mining Bees-Andrena carantonica .
Once again , Greg has put me back on the straight and narrow by identifying the Bee as one of the Leaf-cutters , Megachile sp. He also informs me that the three spots , which I thought were diagnostic for my original identification , are to be found on almost all of the Bee species in the country , some 250+ of them .
Thanks very much for the information Greg .