Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Tuesday 17th. April 2012

By the time I got parked and up onto the Downs , that blue sky was becoming very limited , with a bank of cloud rolling in . The wind bringing that cloud was also blowing across the Downs , and it still felt cool without the sun . I first checked on the Early Purple Orchids , but they are still just rosettes of spotted leaves , with no sign of a flower spike . In it's usual place between two areas of
chalk grassland , a Speckled Wood was being buffeted by the wind in front of me , but managed to find a sheltered spot and allowed a couple of shots . Within a few minutes , a surprise in the form of a
juvenile , last year's , Adder , in an area where I have never found the species before . Good news , as the female Adder always returns to her hibernacular to give birth , and consequently , those young are usually found around that hibernacular at this time of year . This will be an area to keep a good eye on . I had seen Dingy Skippers reported down on the South Downs recently and was hoping that they might be showing up here too , given the usual short delay between the two areas , and sure
enough , the first of 8 of the species lifted from the grass in front of me . Dingy being a good description of this butterfly that looks more like a moth , but that dingy colouration means that it is really well camouflaged . About the sixth or seventh found was during a prolonged cloudy period ,
which gave the opportunity for the shot on the finger . Across the grassland some different flowers
are coming into bloom , like this Common Milkwort / Polygala vulgaris . Of interest , as well as this blue variety , it can also be found in mauve , pink or white . Whilst on the wooded edges of the
grassland , Yellow Archangel /Lamiastrum galeobdolon , a member of the large Labiate , square stems , family , is helping to brighten things up . Whilst photographing one of the Dingy Skippers , I notice movement down amongst the grass roots , and on having a good look , found that although the
year is still young , life and death scenes are already being played out . I couldn't make out what exactly was happening , so I picked up the two involved , which turned out to be a Crab Spider /
Xysticus cristatus , who had managed to get hold of one of the many small miner bees that were on the wing , and as if to prove the theory that 'size doesn't matter ' , the Crab Spider seemed to be well on top of the contest . A short time later , I found another Crab Spider , this time it was the species that can change it's colour to suit the flower which it uses to ambush it's prey as they come to feed .
This one is Misumena vatia , and can come in white , green and the yellow form , some spotted , some not , and it looks like another of the mining bees as it's meal . Needless to say , the ambient
conditions were not really conducive to finding many reptiles , but over the visit , 7 Slow Worms ,
5 Common Lizards , including this prehistoric looking individual , and a male Adder that was
pointed out by another enthusiast , who had seen him attempt to muscle in on a pairs courting , but was seen off very easily by the larger male . No sign of any Orange Tips , but the other food plant ,
on which the female will lay her eggs , Alliara petiolata / Garlic Mustard or Jack-by-the Hedge , is now coming into flower . The female will also use Cardamine pratensis / Cuckoo Flower or Lady's Smock or Milk Maids , depending where you come from . Of interest , also seen a Fox and a Sparrowhawk , but no sign of Common Whitethroat yet . And finally , given that the topsoil over the
chalk is very thin in places , thus little nutrient , very small , stunted flowers , like this Cowslip are found . I used the pencil rather than the 35mm film canister so as not to overwhelm the little thing .


Warren Baker said...

Another post packed with little tit bits of info Greenie, I try to stuff it all in my brain!

More cool showery stuff on the way, the weather has caught up with the seasons at last :-)

ShySongbird said...

I agree with Warren, it's a great post, full of interest. I thoroughly enjoyed it Greenie :-)

I'm trying to work out why Common Milkwort doesn't look familiar, I looked it up and it says it grows pretty well everywhere but it did mention chalky ground which we don't really have. Maybe I should look a little farther afield.

The Dingy Skipper does look very moth like. Lovely photo of the Speckled Wood!

Those mining bees weren't having a good day yesterday! The Crab Spiders changing colour was fascinating and I loved the Lizard photo.

Ken. said...

Great shot of the Crab Spider on the yellow flower.
A nice selection of wildlife shots, and I thought pencils was for writing with :-)

Alan Pavey said...

Nice one Greenie, I'm still waiting to find Dingy Skipper will try Dunge soon. Nice to see Adder where you didn't expect it too.

Paul said...

Hi Greenie, a great and varied blog as usual mate. Nice to see one of your juvenile adders, that was born last year too.

Note- Do you have an email address please, so I can drop you message, cheers Paul.

Greenie said...

Paul ,
My email is - jfmgaa@aol.com