Monday, 22 August 2011

Monday 22nd. August 2011

With heavy rain forecast for tonight/tomorrow , I decided to head out early to Denbies Hillside near Dorking , to try and find the Silver-spotted Skippers that had eluded me on my last visit . As I arrived on site , a large bank of cloud started to roll in from the South , and although it remained warm , the sun disappeared . As it happened , that was a blessing in disguise , as this species , once warmed up , are very fast fliers , and therefor difficult to photograph . As I walked along the hillside , it was immediately obvious that the numbers of butterflies of all species had dropped considerably , none more so than the Chalkhill Blues that were previously in clouds , now , many of the males looking well past their sell by date . I concentrated on the small tracks running diagonally down the hillside , where I have found the SSSs warming up in the past . It took some time , but eventually I managed to get shots of one doing exactly that . In spells of milky sunshine , others began to feed offering further opportunities . The second brood Adonis Blues are showing well with a good mix of males and females . This particular female caught my eye , but I wasn't sure if she was wanting to be seen , or just keeping out of the way of the males . No sign of a Clouded Yellow which was a possibility , but I did find an unexpected female Essex Skipper , looking a bit worse for wear , but the only Small/Essex Skipper that I have come across for nearly a month .
One of the two best finds of the visit , were this melanistic Adder who was willing to pose . Although referred to as a'Black' Adder , it can be seen that the zig-zag markings along the length of the body can still be seen . This is only the second melanistic specimen that I have ever found , but I am glad to say it stuck around a lot longer than the previous one , I seem to remember just getting two shots of that one . The second find literally came out of the blue . I was walking the very top path , finding nothing different from what I had already seen , when this monster passed me from behind and settled on the path in front , a Hornet Robberfly/Asilus crabroniformis . I started taking shots , then it took off and attempted to catch a fly/bee in flight , but failed . It flew past me again , this time at head height ,sounding just like a Hornet , and landed almost in the same place for a short while before disappearing for good . I had hoped to come across one , I have seen them here in the past .
On previous visits at this time of year , the parasitic plant Common Dodder could be found all along the upper tracks , but it was not to be found there today . I did however find just a few specimens right down at the bottom of the hillside . It grows like a necklace on it's host . When I saw the next plant , I thought that it was a third , white form of Common-hemp Nettle , but when I got home I started digging , and given the flower description in my book 'lower lip spotted purple , furry outside' , I started thinking to myself , could this possibly be Motherwort/Leonurus cardiaca ? Any thoughts would be appreciated . Whilst on the site , I had a few sightings of the moth Clouded Buff , but just before leaving , I found what I think are male and female of the species and managed to photograph both , but as usual , I stand to be corrected .


Mel Lloyd said...

Hi Greenie. I wonder if your plant might be field woundwort (Stachys arvensis). Not seen it myself but the flowers look right. Mel

Greenie said...

Mel ,
Thanks for your input , but two things against Field Woundwort , the clour of the flower and the fact that Denbies Hillside is on the North Downs and consequently lime , which is a no-no for that species .

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Greenie, I've never seen Clouded Buff, it certainly is a colourful little moth. Nice SSS shots.

Phil said...

Hi Greenie
Sorry for the late post, been up Rutland for a few days and didn't get back until monday night. Anyway, a nice collection again, never seen SS Skipper but i'll probably have to wait until next year now. Those Hornet Robber flies are pretty impressive aren't they, unless you're on their lunch menu!

Mel Lloyd said...

Just checked NBN species list and Stachys arvensis on it for Denbies hillside so maybe it on edge of the site somewhere. OK. Am home now but brain still a bit fudgy. What about calamint?

Greenie said...

Mel ,
I think you have it there .
Com. Calamint/Calamintha sylvatica fits the bill for me , especilally given the short-stalked clusters of flowers . I didn't think of smelling it .
Not Motherwort , but still a first for me .
Thanks very much for your help .

Mel Lloyd said...

Greenie, You are most welcome. I always smell plants - adds another dimension to id! Motherwort looks quite different with really fluffy flowers. Glad to be of service :-) Mel

Ken. said...

Hi Greenie.
Nice to see that you found the Silver spotted Skipper's that have eluded. Great shots of the melanistic/black Adder.