Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Tuesday 27th. September 2011

A foggy , cool morning , gave the perfect opportunity to take Carol to do the monthly shop , and get that out of the way . Over lunch , the skies began to clear , and that was all I needed to get out . Having heard that the ponies had finally been removed about two weeks ago from Salt Box Hill , the London Wildlife managed site below Biggin Hill Airport , I decided that I would see if anything was left of the site . The answer is that the ponies seem to have eaten all the long grass , much favoured by the Marbled White butterflies , but have left untouched the regrowth of the Ash , Hawthorn and Dogwood , cleared by contractors . The presence of the ponies on site for the best part of a year , without any 'clearing up' being done after them , has meant that their droppings will have enriched the ground , which has encouraged many species that are certainly not on the agenda of this Site of Special Scientific Interest . Chalk grassland it most certainly not . Without treatment to the scrub , the site will return to scrub in very quick order , and then I suppose Lottery money or something similar will be applied for , and the whole circle will turn again , as it has done three times before to my knowledge . The good thing about the visit was that it was in barmy , warm sunshine , that would have been very nice back in the Summer . Also that refugia have been laid , to monitor the reptiles on site , and refugia can't be passed by in my book . A few Slow Worms were found , then right at the top of the site , a flash back to yesterday morning , when a very confiding Wood Mouse was
disturbed from it's sleep . Just five butterflies were recorded during the visit , with three of them
being Meadow Browns , which are coming to the end of their flight season now , and the other two

being a femaloe and male Brimstone , the first of the species that I have recorded for 3 weeks , and could well have been encouraged out of hibernation by the rising temperature . Fortunately for them , some pollen sources were still available , like the Dandelion pictured , and also several stands of
Great Mullein / Verbascum thapsus , a member of the Figwort family . The highlight of the visit though , was just before the end of the visit , as I approached an old fire site , around which a good growth of Hedge Bedstraw / Galium mollugo had sprung up . From a distance I could see movement but couldn't make out what , until I got closer and found my second Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the year . It must have felt at home in the warm conditions , and unlike the the first at High Elms which
was concentrating on feeding , this one had another thing on it's mind . It was a female , as she was
 laying eggs on the fresh end growths of the Hedge Bedstraw , the end of her abdomen tucked under . I watched her lay many eggs as I photographed her and she had probably been there some time before I arrived . Since getting home , I have read that she could have laid up to 200 eggs on the site , and given the warm conditions prevailing , they could hatch out in 6/8 days , so I will be visiting again in about two weeks time , when , with luck , I hope to find the caterpillars . After a few minutes , she flew off and quickly was out of sight . I put up 5 Pheasants whilst on site , but the only other birds of note were on my way back to the car , when I heard two Common Buzzards calling ,
but did not get sight of them .
On the way home , I made a short visit to the Farm lake , still in glorious sunshine . Just two feral Pigeons , one of which landed on the lake surface before flying off again , were additions to the Coots and Moorhens . 2 Meadow Brown and a single Speckled Woods were recorded , along with 8
Common Darter and this male Brown Hawker that was enjoying the afternoon sun , in between feasting on the many insects that were trying to enjoy it too . At least 4 male Migrant Hawkers were
also recorded , this one being found on my second lap around the lake , in almost the same place as the previous Brown Hawker .


Phil said...

I didn't even realise that Hummingbird Hawkmoths reproduced in this country Greenie. So much to learn, so little time!

Warren Baker said...

Do the eggs over winter if they dont hatch Greenie ? Do the larvea overwinter at all ?

I suppose I should llok it up on the web!!

Greenie said...

Warren ,
As I understand it , neither eggs nor caterpillars could overwinter in our weather conditions .
Most adults will migrate South before that period , but some are thought to hibernate here , and they are the specimens seen very early in the Spring , before the annual migration , which like Painted Ladies and Clouded Yellows , varies in number from year to year .

Ken. said...

Hi Greenie.
Nice photo of the Hummingbird Hawkmoth, I am yet to see one this year.