Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thursday 30th. June 2011

As I crossed the Common on my way out this morning , for once , it wasn't Purple Hairsteaks that were my target species , but the colour was the same . I was heading for a site just outside of Tonbridge that I visited last year , thanks to information from fellow Blogger Adam/East Malling , Ditton and Barming , and only just outside the patch of fellow Blogger Warren / Pittswood Birds . It wouldn't have been any good knocking for a cuppa though , as he would be working . Arriving at the site , the conditions were perfect , and in a large Bramble patch , started to record species taking a nectar breakfast . Like many other sites this year , Large Skippers were very well represented , though not surprisingly , they are showing wear from a long time on the wing now . Several White Admirals were arriving to nectar , but most were damaged from mating/fighting , again surprising as the species at High Elms is only just emerging . Comma also was well represented , with the usual aerial battles between males seemingly more important than breakfast . As the temperature started to rise , I walked up the track to the spot where I saw three of my target species last year . It was still before 1000 , the witching hour when the males of the species hopefully fly down from their high perches to take salts from the ground . Several dog walkers passed by with a look of 'what's that dodgy looking bloke doing here' on their faces . Another hopeful with camera and binoculars arrived , but decided to look further into the woodland . Still no movement in the treetops , so I had a walk back to the large Bramble patch , where Meadow Brown , Speckled Wood , Red Admiral and Large , Small and Green-veined White were added to the list . With 1000 approaching , I walked back up the path and in the distance saw two butterflies land on it some distance in front . My pace quickened , but , as I approached , realised that they were two more Red Admirals , one very fresh that didn't want to be photographed , and a very tatty one that did . As I reached the spot for viewing the tree tops , my heart stopped as I looked down and saw my target species , a male Purple Emperor , 'His Majesty' , down in the grass at the side of the track . With pounding heart and shaking hands , I fired off shots as he 'bumbled' his way through the grass . Eventually , he made his way onto the path , where his colours could be seen much better . By now , I must have taken some 50 shots or so , when he took off . That's it I thought , but at least I saw him . After a charge down the path away from me , he turned around and headed back , and on reaching me , flew around me several times , before landing on the tripod leg , into which the camera was attached . I watched as he started to lick , what I can only think were left over salts from my sweat , whilst carrying the tripod in the recent heat . Carefully , I managed to remove the camera from the tripod head , but now , with the 100mm. lens on and my arm outstretched , The butterfly was too close to focus the camera . The male seemed content with my salts , so I decided to lay the tripod on the grassy area , and move back a bit , hoping that he would stay . I soon realised that he wasn't bothered with me as long as the salts lasted , and I was able to move around the tripod to get the refracted light right to show the magnificence of his fully opened wings . Had I been standing at the top of this shot , his wings would show brown . During this time , miraculously , no dog walkers or anybody else for that matter came along the path , but then two ladies with several dogs approached , so I picked up the tripod again , and he stayed . One of the ladies spotted 'His Majesty' and was over the moon to see him close up , as she was a regular , knew they were about , but had never seen one . They move on , and I got back to photographing . Eventually the sun went in , and he took off into the surrounding trees . No sooner had he gone , then two chaps came along with binoculars , but when they stopped to chat , it turned out that they were birders doing a tetrad search for Firecrest , for BTO . They also mentioned that they surveyed for breeding birds of prey too . I mentioned the fledged Common Buzzards up on the Greensand Ridge , and they took the approximate location to record the successful breeding on that tetrad , and I even had some shots still on the card to prove it . We also talked about the Purple Emperor , but with little sign of the sun returning , they went on their way . Five minutes later , the sun did come out , and so did you know who . I resumed my position , on my knees , well , wouldn't you in front of 'His Majesty' ? and started shooting again . Soon after , I saw movement down the track , it was the two birders , taking a chance that he might have showed up again . A wave from me speeded up their pace , and they too were able to get great views of the butterfly . Then the chap who passed by earlier came down the path from the other end and my wave to him almost had him throwing away his walking stick and running to where we were . He too 'filled his boots' , or should that be card with shots . He then headed for the car park , so there was only one other thing to try ! Well , it had to be ! Eventually more clouds rolled in and he flew off , this time , for good . I did see a Purple Emperor fly from the top of the Oak a bit later , but it could well have been the same individual , so have just recorded the one . I mentioned earlier that the Purple Emperor 'bumbled' it's way when walking on the ground , a movement that looked very strange , but when it was ready to go , no trouble at all , up and away , and when it was flying around me , I could hear the sound of it's wing beats .
On the way back to the car park , I did manage to find a fresh White Admiral , probably a female from the size of it , and in a last snippet of sunshine , another provided the underwing shot .Whilst looking at the tree tops earlier , I had another opportunity to get Volucella pullecens in flight .
I must admit , I drove home with a smile on my face .

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Tuesday 28th.June 2011

Firstly , many thanks to Dean/DDD , again , for identifying yesterday's two moths . The first was Oncocera semirubella , a name I recognised from last year once seen , but couldn't remember it , and the second , probably Crambus perlella . Cheers Dean .
Also left over from the same post , the photo of the recently emerged Chalkhill Blue , which I know I uploaded on the post , but then disappeared somewhere on Blogger , and still being unable to edit once published , could do nothing about it .
Today , and tomorrow being volunteer days up on the Greensand Ridge , I didn't expect to be posting till Thursday , but , having worked strimming/flailing paths all morning in very humid conditions , the flail , which I would add was not being used by me , broke down . The Warden headed back to the yard , and with lunchtime approaching , I finished off what I was doing and followed . By the time I got back , the flail was in many pieces , and the repairs needed new parts .
After lunch , the Warden headed to the engineers for the parts , and with nothing that I could do on my own , and with threatening skies , I was sent home . It just so happened , that I took my good camera and big lens with me today , just in case there was an opportunity during the day , or at the end of it , to pay another visit to the Buzzard's nest . I arrived at the site with thunder rumbling in the distance and the light deteriorating .There followed 40 minutes that I could only describe as ' you couldn't write it' .
I reached the nest , to find just one juvenile at home , and it looked like the one that didn't seem as far forward on the previous visit . It was sitting almost motionless , apart from when it backed to the edge of the nest and defecated . From the corner of my eye I spotted an adult fly in , but not to the nest . Neither adult or juvenile called . I never saw the adult again , but a movement some 3 mtrs. further up the nest tree , proved to be the second juvenile . It started climbing further up the tree , sometimes pulling itself up with it's beak . The one in the nest took no notice as the other climbed higher until it half climbed , half fluttered onto a branch some 5/6 mtrs above the nest . As the branch took the bird's weight , it snapped , and the juvenile was forced into it's maiden flight , crashing through branches , calling all the time , and was lost to sight some 30 mtrs away in dense woodland . I heard an adult calling and it seemed to head to where the juvenile had landed . The second juvenile carried on as before , but after a while , started to get agitated and stretching up out of the nest . I just knew that this one was about to leave the nest too , but only managed a blurred shot as it did so , it's body above the diagonal branch and it's legs trailing below the branch . After a bit of 'flopping about' , it started to get it's tree legs and started to look at what was about from it's higher perch , but always frustratingly the other side of the trunk . This one did not try the tree climbing , staying on the same branch for a few minutes . Then , with the first spots of rain , lightning flashing in the near distance and several heavy claps of thunder , it too took off into the unknown , a second after this shot was taken . If the flail hadn't broken down , the earliest I would have got to the nest would have been 4 o'clockish , the nest would have been empty , and the forty minutes watching both juveniles fledge from their nest would never have been witnessed .
ShySongbird , unfortunately my two copies of the Fitter , Fitter , Blamey guide , paperback and hardback , the second picked up at a boot sale for 10p in almost unused condition , are both the 'Great Britain and Northern Europe' versions , so I won't be calling 'drinks all round ' just yet .

Monday, 27 June 2011

Monday 27th. June 2011

Well , the wind was back again this morning , plus a temperature of 25C at 0900 . I decided to head up onto the Downs , generally for butterflies , but more specifically to see if the Chalkhill Blues had emerged yet . The reserve managed mainly for this species failed to produce any , but it did produce a mating pair of Ringlets ( 96 recorded in total ) . Further along the Downs , my first female Marbled White of the year . The female differs from the male with light brown/white markings on the under side of the hindwing , as opposed to the male's black/white markings ( 15 in total recorded ) . The Small Blues were found in exactly the same place as last time , but they are no longer pristine . This and another male fought constantly ( 3 in total recorded ) . My search was not in vain for the Chalkhill Blue , when in a sheltered corner I disturbed a male that had only just emerged , my first of the year , and the only one recorded . A flash of orange had me chasing in the heat , but I did manage this shot of the Dark-green Fritillary , the only one recorded , before it headed off again . Other species recorded , Large White (8) , Small Skipper (25) , Meadow Brown (90) , Common Blue (2) , Small Heath (8) , Small White (3) , and Comma (1) , a total of 13 species .
A few reptiles were also found , mainly Slow Worms , but 2 Adders , surprising given the conditions were also seen . The first , a female beat the camera , but the second , a male stayed just long enough for a couple of shots . Still not a great deal of colour on the chalk grassland , but these few are doing their best ,Wild Basil/Clinopodium vulgare , a member of the Labiate family .
one of my favourites , the tiny Squinancywort/Asperula cynanchica , a member of the Bedstraw family ,Wild Thyme/Thymus serpyllum , another Labiate ,Dwarf Thistle/Cirsium acaule , a member of the Daisy family ,Common Rock-rose/ Hellianthemum nummalarium ,and finally Common Centaury/Centaurium erythraea , a member of the Gentian family . Back near the car , this Field Grasshopper was feeling lucky playing on the road .
And finally , a couple for the man . The first I should know as I was told it last year , but my memory doesn't last that long , and the second , a silvery version , that looks like it could be related .

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sunday 26th. June 2011

My plan last night was to get out early this morning , to do the full butterfly transect at High Elms , before the temperature got too high . I pulled off the drive just after 0800 , the car thermometer read 20C , blue skies and warm sunshine . So much for planning . The conditions , with practically no wind , were perfect for spotting Purple Hairstreaks , so I made a quick stop on the Common , having found the species emerged yesterday . The glade that the Ash tree stands in was in full sunshine , but after 20 minutes watching , just 2 PHs were seen high in the Ash and showing no signs of coming down to the Bracken below . It just showed how lucky I was to find that one yesterday , in poor butterfly conditions . A pristine Red Admiral made the book , but not the lens , but a freshly emerged Comma , with the 'normal' underwing , as opposed to the golden underwing of the 'hutchinsoni' form , did pose .
The transect at High Elms started very well , with six Marbled Whites compared to two recorded in the rough triangle of grass . Several male Ringlets were found fighting over a recently emerged female , whose wings had not even finished opening . When given the opportunity , she was quite happy for a rest on my finger , away from the males . In all , 138 Ringlets were recorded today . A smart female could not be used to describe this female Common Blue , one of two recorded , they must surely be the last of the first brood of this species . As expected , Meadow Browns were the largest species recorded , with 225 found , including three mating pairs , one pair pictured . Burnt Gorse produced more Marbled Whites , in all 18 were recorded , including this recently emerged male . As I said yesterday , Large Skipper have done well this year , they seem to have been on the wing for ages , and although this specimen is starting to fade , there was nothing wrong with it's ability to get to the nectar in this Self-heal , using that incredible tongue , 7 in total recorded . The small glade once again produced two male , identified by the four dark bars across the forewing , but I also found another two in another small glade near the Orchid Bank . Other species recorded were , Small Skipper (49) , Large White (6) , Speckled Wood (2) , Red Admiral (1) , Small Heath (2) , Green-veined White (2) , Small White (2) , Dark-green Fritillary (1) , White Admiral (1) , and Essex Skipper (1) . A total of 17 species recorded on the two hour transect . Whilst photographing the SWFs , I had three Buzzards overhead , it looked like a single adult with two juveniles , and later , near the Orchid Bank spotted a Hornet .The two Bee Orchids found a while back , are now in full flower , just hope they don't get damaged and will re-appear next year .
On my way home , I stopped off at the old farmhouse to see how the House Martins were getting on . Lots of activity and calling over head , and more birds seen on the wing than last visit , so I am assuming that the second brood could well have fledged , with this weather , they could well go for a third . I couldn't be sure if the heads poking out of these nests were juveniles or adults . I did see my first 6 spot Burnet moth today , looking absolutely pristine , but wilst waiting for it to come to rest , I was distracted by the Dark-green Fritillary flying by . I lost the DGF some way down the meadow , and the Burnet moth was not re-found . Apart from a few Plume moths , the only other moth found was this Silver Y , no doubt enjoying this Mediterranean climate . Whilst waiting in a small glade for the White Admiral to re-appear , which it didn't , the opportunity arose for an in flight shot of Volucella pellucens , mind you , this specimen seemed to be practising it's hip-hop moves . Heading home , the thermometer read 26C , I was well pleased to get inside with a cold drink .

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Saturday 25th. June 2011

The main feature of today's weather , once again , was the wind . The morning was overcast , the afternoon slightly brighter , before starting to clear about 1600 , but the wind persisted all day . When things started to brighten up , I went for a look up on the Common . Entering the glade opposite the car park , the one with the Ash tree amongst the Oaks , I saw two butterflies scrapping , which turned out to be a Meadow Brown and a Large Skipper , but when they moved off , I spotted another butterfly on the Bracken under the Ash , my first Purple Hairstreak of the year . Not a rare species , but often overlooked as they spend much of their time high in the Oaks , or in a 'master tree' , at this site , an Ash on the edge of the glade , which is higher than the surrounding Oaks . It would have been great to get an open wing shot , especially as the specimen was in superb condition , but it was hanging on for grim death as with some gusts the Bracken leaf was almost turning upside down . A couple of gusts later , it was off . Last year on this site , the first sighting of the species was on the 5th. July . Now I know that they have emerged , I will visit the glade on a regular basis .On the heathland area , the Field Grasshopper was much more prevalent than it's Meadow relation . The Bell Heather/Erica cinerea , which has been in flower for some time , is now starting to go over , and it's replacement , Heather/Calluna vulgaris , is just starting to flower . The Buckthorn/Rhamnus catharticus , the leaves of which provided food for the Brimstone caterpillars , is now sporting it's clusters of black berries , to ensure it's future . Marsh Thistle / Cirsium palustre , with spines all the way down the stem , is also starting to flower , but these will not smell of honey like the Creeping Thistle/Cirsium arvense . Like the Violet Helleborines at High Elms , the Broad-leaved Helleborines here will be flowering soon , their flower spikes starting to unfurl . Heading back towards the car , the Large Skipper , a species that seems to be doing exceptionally well this year , was found , this one , nectaring on Common Toadflax . At the car park , Tansy/Tanacetum vulgare , a member of the Daisy family , with it's rayless , button-like flowers was also found in flower . Last sighting of the day , was this pair of Dock Bugs/Coreus marginatus , making that their species would be represented next year .