Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Tuesday 30th. August 2011

Not so much a post as a series of images , taken on trips in between the rain recently , on visits that I must say didn't produce a lot of interest . Up on the Downs , this Lace Border moth was keeping well down in the grass , trying to keep out of the strong wind .I watched this pair of Meadow Browns get tossed about by that wind until they finally managed to get on with the business in hand .I tried hard to get a shot of the tongue of this immature female Adder , but only managed to get the tip of it .The recent rain had brought lots of Roman Snails out to feed .On a footpath that had been cut , Sainfoin/Onobrychis viciifolia , a member of the Pea family , was managing a second flush of flower .Up on the Common , a Silver Y moth showed how well it's camouflage worked amongst the dead leaves . Had it not flown up in front of me , I would not have seen it .On the heathland area , it looked as if someone had been throwing potatoes around , but they are in fact fungi , Scleroderma citrinum/Common Earth-ball .Over at South Norwood Country Park , this male Kestrel refused to face the camera .Whilst on the lake , two , late , punky looking juvenile Tufted Ducks stayed close to mum .And Hedgerow Cranesbill/Geranium pyrenaicum , was adorning the pathside .
And finally , I was chatting to a fellow camera enthusiast the other day , and the problem of focusing through double glazing was mentioned . He suggested that the camera should be put on the 'landscape' program when taking such shots . I gave it a try when I got home , and must say that it works much better , even distant shots like above . Apologies if I seem to be 'teaching my Grandmother to suck eggs' , but I had never heard of it before , and if you haven't tried it , it's well worth a go .

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 .

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday 21st. August 2011

Four visits to local sites over the last two days did not produce a lot , but am posting the few bits of interest found .At the Farm lake , just the odd Common Darter , looking over mature now , and a couple of Common Blue Damselflies .Around the lake , Beaked Hawksbeard/Crespis vesicaria is becoming dominant , identified by the orange on the outer florets showing orange beneath .Caught in mid hover , what I believe is Sphaerophoria rueppellii .
Up on the Common in the heathland area in the afternoon ,I found 3/4 Beautiful Yellow Underwings , seemingly not so colourful as the specimens seen earlier in the Summer .Also in the Heather , several second brood Holly Blues , I wondered if these emerged from the eggs I saw being laid on Buckthorn by a first brood female .Just couldn't resist posting this 7 spot Ladybird , snug in it's Wild Carrot flower head .
This morning on Salt Box Hill , and yes , the ponies are still on site ,
the extremely poisonous fruit of Deadly Nightshade/Atrope bella-donna .Two Speckled Woods that were flirting very amorously , but never came to anything .Several Figwort Sawflies/Tenthredo scrophulariae were warming up in the early sunshine .Several white specimens of Marjoram were found . the normal one on the right .All the books say Small Heaths land , and keep wings closed ?
On the way back home , a quick stop at Keston Ponds produced a female Brown Hawker , ovipositing on the concrete apron of the middle lake , alongside the road , with the male patrolling above her .

Friday, 19 August 2011

Friday 19th. August 2011

Firstly , I must apologise to Greg who commented to let me know that the orange and black ground beetle that I found on the 14th. , was not Panagaeus bipustalatus as I had stated , but one of the Burying/Sexton beetles , either Nicrophorus vespilloides or N. interruptus . I only noticed the comment this morning and I have to say that they all look very similar , but must agree with Greg's correction and thank him for keeping the post on the straight and narrow .
This morning , after the defective grill on the new cooker was fixed by an early visiting engineer , I set off to do the full butterfly transect at High Elms , which turned out to be heaving with people today . Before I had recorded a single butterfly , an unusual hoverfly caught my eye , nectaring on Black Knapweed . I had a feeling that I had seen it before , not in the wild , but on another blog . Once again , Rob/The Living Isle came to my aid , as he had posted the species back in June . Honestly Rob , I'm not stalking you . This wasp mimic is Chryosotoxum bicinctum .
Getting back to the butterfly transect , the results were : Gatekeeper (33) , Meadow Brown (215- second best count of the year) , Painted Lady (1 - pictured ) ,Large White (9) , Green -veined White (1) , Small Heath (8 - pictured ) ,Brown Argus (10) , Small White (7) , Common Blue (11 - including 2 ovipositing females ) ,Speckled Wood (7) , Brimstone (2 - male pictured ) ,Red Admiral (1) , Peacock (1) , Comma (1) and Silver-washed Fritillary (4 - female pictured ) . Had the cloud not rolled in two thirds of the way round , I feel the numbers could have been even better .
Whilst on Burnt Gorse , I noticed two Migrant Hawkers feeding over the ground vegetation . One disappeared , and I watched the other come to rest on the woodland edge . I made my way over to the area , and found a male , perched at just over head height . Whilst trying for a better shot , I noticed a female , perched lower , at about waist level , a couple of metres to the left . It would have been nice to get them both in the same frame , but it proved not possible . Not a lot happening birdwise on the visit , but I did hear Common Buzzard whilst on Burnt Gorse and Tawny Owl whilst at the Orchid Bank .
Several Silver Y moths were seen , and also what I think is a Common Carpet .Whilst enjoying a late lunch in the sun lounge , I noticed a small moth flitting around the herbs Carol has growing on the patio , taking particular interest in the mint . Not surprising really , as it was a female Pyrausta aurata/Mint moth , and she was laying her eggs on the Mint . So we won't be using that .

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Wednesday 17th. August 2011

First , some left overs from yesterday . Being pushed for time , I published last night's post without reading it back , only to find that I had omitted the majority of the Reptile survey results , and , as I still can't edit anything already published , I couldn't do anything about it .
Anyway , along with the 4 Adders that I did mention , we recorded 19 Slow Worms , including 5 snuggled together under one tin , 9 Grass Snakes , varying in size from small to large , and 2 very young Common Lizards that could well have been born this year . On the way round , we also saw/heard several Common Buzzards and had close up views of two Tree Creepers . Right , that's yesterday finished , apart from thanking Mel for confirming the Black Nightshade .
Back to today , which was much less exciting than yesterday , until I went to strim out the bottom of a hedge , which I layed 2 years ago , in preparation of the Warden trimming it with the tractor and sidearm . Before I layed what was just a few mixed trees on a bank with large gaps in between , it looked nothing like a hedge , and was blotting out one of the best views on the Greensand Ridge , but , two years on , the only way to deal with the regrowth was the sidearm . So I started strimming at the far end , and as I got near to the end , I spotted what I thought at first was a bird's nest . I thought , that's great , they would never have used the original trees . When I got closer to see if I could ID which species had nested there , brown area in middle of shot , I realised that it wasn't a bird's nest at all , but a Dormouse nest , the first one that I have ever found in the wild , built in one of the Hazel bushes . The entrance is on the far side , and there was no one at home . Needless to say , the sidearm never did it's work , as there could well be other , occupied nests along the length of the hedge , I do hope so . Before leaving the site , I put some camouflage over the nest , just in case . The Warden will now wait a good two or three months before doing the necessary management on the hedge . Of interest , it was his first sight of a natural Dormouse nest too . Only other interest found today was this female Rosel's Bush-cricket , identified by that large , curved ovipositor and the pale margin to the entire pronotum side flap .
Finally , in answer to Alan and Warren's question as to whether this is a good year for Dormice , four families and 19 individuals is a good result , but families of 3 and 4 youngsters are a bit on the low side , but mustn't grumble . The definitive answer will come when all the records of monitoring sites are collated by the Mammal Society at the end of the breeding season .