Saturday, 30 April 2011

Saturday 30th.April 2011

A sunnier morning today , but still a strong breeze blowing , encouraged me to do the High Elms butterfly transect today , as although not good conditions , this wind is set to keep blowing for a few days . Arriving at the Golf Club car park , I first went to have a look at the dipping pond . The Moorhen was still on her nest , enjoying the warmer conditions . When I passed a little later , she had moved off and four youngsters could be seen in the nest . Then began a very frustrating half hour listening to and try to get sight of a bird , singing from deep cover , a song that I have never heard before . Whilst on site , I described the song as 'scratchy beginning like most Warblers , like a mix of Mistle Thrush/Blackcap ( but much slower ) , some descending notes similar to Willow Warbler ' . At one point it showed and I got some sort of shot which I couldn't really see on the LCD screen in the sun . Each burst of song lasted about 6/7 seconds , and it sang for 95% of the half hour I listened to it . Towards the end , it flew into the centre of a large, thick Holm Oak , but I couldn't find it . When I got home , I downloaded the shot and enlarged it , and the only thing I can make out of it is a male Blackcap . I heard lots of Blackcaps singing whilst doing the butterfly transect , but none sounded like that one .

The transect itself started quiet in the open part of the Conservation Field , which was itself open to the breeze . By the time I got into the fenced section , and especially behind the hedge that divides the two area , the sheltered area began to get the notebook going . The main species recorded again was again Dingy Skipper (29) , this one nectaring on Bird's Foot Trefoil which is just coming into flower , and Grizzled Skipper (7) did well again . Had I spent more time in this and other sheltered areas , I'm sure many more of both species would have been recorded , but the idea of transect recording is to keep moving on the same route each visit . Before leaving thatarea , I recorded my first Brown Argus of the year , a male , identified by the blueness of the abdomen and the orange spots fading out towards the leading edge of the forewing . I can't believe that I have been recording Orange Tips (6) now for almost four weeks , my first record being on the 3rd. of this month . This male still looking good , nectaring on Herb Robert . After yesterday's bright male Holly Blue (1) , this female looked much less colourful and almost sultry . Speckled Wood (9) , were found in most sunny glades , the males fighting over ownership as usual , Green-veined White (3) and Small White (2) were also recorded . Just about evenly split , Burnt Gorse and the Orchid Bank produced Green Hairstreak (8) , all males involved in aerial battles , causing loss of more and more of the scales on their wings , and consequently their pristine looks of the weeks gone by ( sorry again Warren ) .For the umpteenth time I thought a male and female Brimstone (6) were going to mate on Burnt Gorse , and for the umpteenth time they didn't . 10 species recorded on the visit was reasonable given the conditions . Several Burnet Companion and Pyraustra purpuralis moths were also seen . Leaving The Orchid Glade , I noticed this Dryad's Saddle or Scaly Polypore/Polyporus squamosus . Passing the farmhouse with the nesting House Martins on the way home , I stopped for a look , but all the birds seemed to be feeding , way high in a clear blue sky , but this Goldfinch stopped to see what I was doing . Having lunch on the patio , there were several male Large Red Damselflies hanging around , and whilst looking around the garden , there was the answer . There seemed to have been an emergence of females this morning , this being one of them , not coloured up yet , but already it can be seen that she is of the form melanotum , one of three forms of female in this species .
And finally , one of Carol's pride and joys from the garden , an Iris which she calls 'rhubarb and custard' .

Friday, 29 April 2011

Friday 29th. April 2011

With not a drop of the promised overnight rain , and a cool , windy morning , things were not looking good for getting out today . Given the conditions , I took Carol to do the monthly shop before lunch , and with little improvement , and not prepared to go far on a Bank Holiday , I just spent an hour or so at Spring Park Pond this afternoon . Things had warmed up a bit , but it was still windy on my arrival . Around the Pond the number of St.Mark's Flies was incredible , and some were insuring that next years population would be large too . In the wind , the few butterflies seen were sheltering , like this Holly Blue , looking almost like a Common Blue , with very little dark marking on the forewing . The conditions also grounded this male Orange Tip . I watched it trying to land on some Bracken , taking several attempts to make it , only to be driven off again by a gang of St.Mark's Flies . Close by , also sheltering , was another of the many Hoverflies , this one being Helophilus pendulus . Moving on to the small sheltered meadow , I found two immature Broad Bodied Chasers , neither of which seemed interested in reducing the number of flies . Speaking of flies , I found this copper coloured species on the path as I re-entered the woodland , but haven't been able to identify it yet . Another look at the pond on the way past found nothing new , but on the Bramble nearby , a hunting spider was doing it's best to reduce the fly population . Whilst photographing it , a movement of yellow caught my eye . It turned out to be a lemon yellow Crab Spider . It showed quite well for a time , before disappearing to the underside of the Bramble leaves . With so many flies around , I was pretty sure of it's intentions . Sure enough , the wait was not long before one of the St.Mark's Flies settled on the leaf , and before it knew what had happened , the Crab Spider had it from underneath . I managed to get around the other side , where the Crab Spider was tucking into it's meal . Within a few minutes the fat abdomen of the fly was completely flat , having been sucked dry by the spider .A small moth was spotted on a Dandelion seedhead , but the wind didn't make the shot easy . Once again , Dean/DDD has identified the moth as the Small Yellow Underwing , many thanks .
And finally , having replied to Marianne's comment on the last post regarding male Broad Bodied Chasers 'blueing up' from their gold/yellow immature colouring , I manage to find a couple of the shots that I mentioned . As can be seen , the 'blueing' starts at the tip of the abdomen , spreading back to the thorax . I'm not sure exactly how long this takes , but would say 1/2 days .

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Thursday 28th. April 2010

After yesterday's 11 hour door to door trip , it was time to catch up with some of those jobs that have been waiting to be done this morning . After lunch , I did have to go into town , and just happened to return via Spring Park Pond . No sign of the Large Red Damselflies , or anything else at the pond , due to a strong Northerly wind . So I headed for the small meadow , hoping that being more sheltered , I might find some interest . As I entered it from the woods , it appeared that every St.Marks Fly in the area had moved into the Bracken and Bramble , waiting for the wind to abate . Walking the small path , I caught a glimpse of a Broad Bodied Chaser , but lost it in flight as it was buffeted by the wind . Reaching the end and just about to retrace my steps , there on the path , my first Small Copper of the year . Then , just before re-entering the woods , another sighting of the Broad Bodied Chaser as it was disturbed by the swarm of St.Mark's Flies . It settled back down , and I managed to get a few shots . Being newly emerged , it is impossible to say whether it is a male or female , as all newly emerged specimens are this colour . If it is a female , it will basically stay this colouration , but if a male , the abdomen will change from yellow/gold to powder blue . the pristine condition of the wings also confirm that it is newly emerged , as mating and airial battles between males will soon damage their delicate
fabric . I checked out the rest of the vegetation for any others , but only found this Hoverfly / Myathropa florea , resting , waiting for the sun to come back out again . I spent more time than I intended , searching for the 'drummer' of a very delicate drumming coming from the top of an Oak , but every time I got into a good viewing situation , the drumming stopped , only to carry on after I moved away . Was it a Lesser Spotted , we will never know , as I never once caught sight of it . I wasn't alone though , I was accompanied by this Blackbird singing from under a large Yew .
In did eventually get back home and finished the jobs in time to have a quick look at the Farm lake . On arrival , this female Green Woodpecker flew from the lake side , and watched me from a nearby tree . The Coot family is already -1 , I found the remains of one of the youngsters on the far side of the lake . If previous years are anything to go by , if just one or two of the youngsters gets to adulthood , that's a result . A female Mallard was also caring for 8 ducklings , but the owner tells me that she has already lost 3 of the youngsters . Around the edge of the lake , with the Coltsfoot finished , the Cowslip getting that way , the next species to do it's thing is the Ragged Robin / Lychnis flos-cuculi , a member of the Pink family .
And finally , having found the 'flower on a stick' back in flower again at Spring Park Pond , am posting it again , in the hope that someone will recognise it . Personally , I'm of the opinion that it could be yet another 'introduced species' .

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wednesday 27th. April 2011

Just before 8 o'clock this morning , I met Phil/Sharp by Nature , at The Old Lodge Reserve , managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust , on Ashdown Forest . The first thing Phil did was to put on a fleece , to combat a strong , cold wind , blowing in from the NE , I hadn't bothered to bring a fleece . It was soon evident that the wind was not only strong and cold , but had an adverse effect on the birding , with much less song than last visit and fewer birds to be seen . But we started our walk around , Phil's first on the reserve , and at least the wind blew away the clouds and revealed blue sky , but it was still cold . We did soon manage to find birds like the several pairs of Stonechats , who incidentally were the stars of the show , this male and female favouring a sheltered dip on the top track , which also attracted Common Redstarts , several Warblers , Goldcrest and a pair of Song Thrushes . After a couple of hundred metres , the smell of smoke and burning filled the air , and we came upon an area of devastation , mainly outside the reserve , but encroaching some 20 metres onto the reserve , caused last Monday evening by some idiot having a barbecue in one of the tinder dry car parks . The fire almost reached a house on the edge of the reserve , but was fortunately extinguished just before it got there . But the site produced an opportunity to a Carrion Crow that we watched fossicking about for a charred meal . At the top of the slope leading down to the small stream , Phil picked up a Common Buzzard being mobbed by a Corvid in the distance , and when the Corvid gave up a second bird joined the first , and it was very noticeable the difference in colour between the two birds . Later , when the temperature rose somewhat , 7 were seen together , albeit at even a greater distance than these together with a Kestrel . Many fewer Redpolls were seen today , just a handful busily flitting from Pine to Pine , constantly calling , before disappearing into the tops of the trees . We did get a very distant sighting of the Ravens , although when we passed the nesting area , there was nothing seen or heard . We managed to see 5/6 Common Redstarts , but like the other species , they were not willing to come close to the camera , in fact the female wouldn't even face the camera . The odd Tree Pipit was seen and heard , but they too didn't perform as normal , probably due to that wind . In all 36 species were recorded on the visit .

Other interest found included ,

several Green Tiger Beetles , several very busy Wood Ant nests ,one of the few flowers found , Tormentil/Potentilla erecta , a member of the Rose family ,and an enormous web in the top of a Gorse bush . We thought at first it was Brown Tailed moth , but it turned out to be full of tiny spiderlings . 2 Green Hairstreak , 1 Orange Tip , I Brimstone and a White sp. , rapidly blown past on the wind were also recorded . A fleeting glimpse of 2 Roe Deer and a few Large Red Damselflies , completed a most enjoyable day , in very good company .

And finally , in answer to a couple of comments made on previous posts :

ShySongbird - It would be wonderful to think that the Large Tortoiseshell would re-establish itself here , but so few individuals seem to migrate from the Continent there is very little chance of this happening . My feeling is that it was a migrant , encouraged by the run of SE winds at the time before the sighting , and it's condition being that of specimen that was coming to the end of it's cycle , the fresh specimens being due on the wing late June/July .

The Wessex Reiver - Thank you for your time and effort spent in identifying the 'wasp type insect' , which turned out to be a Bee . We both came up with the same conclusion , so hopefully we are both correct .

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Tuesday 26th. April 2011

Just 12C. on the car thermometer , as I arrived up on the Downs this morning , and with a stiff breeze blowing from the NE , even when the sun peered through , it was still cool . I wondered if the different conditions would produce different results with the reptiles , but apart from a large female Adder , that I have been expecting to see for the last few visits , nothing had changed . Just her , 9 Slow Worms and a single Common Lizard , was all that was recorded today . It was a good job that some of the flowers had come into flower , including the Horseshoe Vetch/Hippocrepis comosa , similar to Bird's-foot-Trefoil , which is also flowering , but not so robust . An important plant , as it is the foodplant of the Chalkhill Blue which will hopefully on the wing in July/August . Also in flower this visit was it's relation Sainfoin/Onobrychis viciifolia , the pair of them being members of the Pea family . Even in the cool conditions , I recorded my first Small Heath of the year , a pristine male . The conditions didn't stop the business in hand for this female Green Hairstreak ( sorry Warren ) , as she meticulously chose where she was going to lay her eggs . The species will use several plants , Dogwood , Broom , Gorse , Bird's-foot-trefoil , or , as in this case Common Rock Rose . I watched her for quite some time , and after she moved on , I found one of those eggs that she had laid , tucked down in the tender new leaves of the plant .
Day flying moths were also found in numbers , with 15+ Treble Bar , 5+ Burnet Companion , pictured , so it won't be long before the Burnet Moths show , as it's name denotes , and yet another member of the Pyrausta family , P. nigrata , although they shouldn't be on the wing for another month , several were seen today . Before leaving , a check on the Early Purple Orchids revealed 44 flower spikes , with most flowers now fully open . On the bottom track , 1000s of tiny yellow flowers on the Crosswort has turned the green ground vegetation yellow .
Two species found need some searching , but I'll post them whilst doing so , an insect with Wasp markings on the abdomen and orange legs and antennae , and after much digging and head scratching , I think this Wasp-like insect is in fact a Bee - Nomada goodeniana . I'm sure this has come up before , just a shame the old grey matter can't retain the information these days .
and a moth , which I think is not a day flier , as it was being buffeted about by that wind badly .
Once again , I am endebted to Dean/DDD , who has identified the moth as a Lace Border , thanks Dean .