Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Wednesday 30th. May 2012

The main objective today was to visit the owners of the Farm lake that I have been visiting for over ten years as they are moving to pastures new tomorrow . They have allowed me access , whenever I have wanted , and can only thank them for all the pleasure that their lake has given me over the years . A bonus was that they had mentioned me to the new owners and they are quite happy for me to carry on as before , so it was a case of sadness on their departure and gladness that I can carry on , treating their lake as mine . I made my usual visit , to what I must say was a fairly subdued lake , finding damselflies far more abundant than dragonflies , but still the odd surprise came along . Blue-
tailed Damselflies were the most numerous species seen , with plenty of mature males , like this one having his breakfast , a moth I saw him catch . Plenty of females around too in their various colours ,
form violacea ,
form rufescens ,
and form rufescens-obsoleta , a sandy coloured specimen , this one in 'the ring' with her male .
In one corner of the lake , a small , fast flying dragonfly had me spending a lot of time and energy ,
trying to get a shot of this little jewel in the air , a male Downy Emerald , one of three recorded today . Anyone who has tried will know just how exasperating this species can be to photograph . Whilst walking through the bankside vegetation , a medium sized dragonfly took off and landed some way further on . A search of the landing area confirmed my suspicions , a freshly emerged
Black Tailed Skimmer . Like yesterday's Broad Bodied Chaser , all newly emerged specimens have this gold and black colouration . The female will keep these colours , but the male will get a powder blue abdomen , topped off with a black tip , hence their name . The strongly tapering tip to the abdomen and the claspers at the very tip , with which he will hold the female at the back of the head in order to mate on the wing , make this specimen a male . The female has a less tapering tip to her abdomen and obviously lacks the claspers .
A close up shows the muscular thorax , the engine-house of the insect , enabling it effortless flight and high speed change of direction .  Also that most of the insect's head is taken up by those enormous compound eyes , giving it all round vision . The answer to the question once
again was yes , and this shot also shows one of the points that separate dragonflies and damselflies . Those large compound eyes of dragonflies come together at the top of the head , whereas the eyes of damselflies sit either side of the head , far from touching . After the photo call , I went back to where
he had lifted off from and after a bit of searching found his exuvia . I had thought I had seen one earlier , but when I got back to the corner I started from , I was able to confirm my sighting when I
found a male Emperor Dragonfly , my first this year , some way off on the back of a reedbed . Hopefully closer shots will come soon . Whilst trying to get this shot , a pair of Four-spotted Chasers mated on the wing in the same bay , but never came near the camera .Butterflies were few and far between , but I did record Peacock , Small Heath , Holly Blue , Green-veined , Small and Large White ( pictured
nectaring on Ragged Robin ) . The day flying moths Siver Y and Burnet Companion were also seen .
Other interest seen were a Roe Buck which chased off through the orchard on my arrival , two Hobbies doing acrobatics over the woods and loads of Dace of all different ages around the margins
of the lake . And finally , whilst looking through other shots taken at Spring Park Pond yesterday , having been under the impression that all the newts photographed were Common / Smooth , I found
 just a single shot of one that wasn't . Looks like any of the other males chasing a female , but that filament on the end of the male's tail , makes him a Palmate Newt .

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tuesday 29th. May 2012

I decided to have a quick look at Spring Park Pond first thing this morning , as it is usually a good spot for Broad Bodied Chasers , one of the dragonfly species found yesterday up on the Ridge . I arrived about 0830 , temperature already 18C , but no sign of any Odonata . I'm afraid that this site has deteriorated as regard species since the pond was first formed , the main problem being introduced vegetation , albeit a notice on the gate asks people not to , clogging the whole thing up , necessitating a yearly clear out of the vegetation , which means that many larvae are pulled out on the mud and roots  , and although left for a time on the side of the pond , do not manage to get back into the pond . I've chatter with the Ranger re. the problem , but there doesn't seem to be much else that can be done , not wanting to use chemicals . But , one group's loss is another's gain , as under the
water was alive with Smooth / Common Newts . I don't think I have ever seen so many at once before , with the males with their raised crests , chasing the non crested females . Every now and
again , an intruded would come on the scene , but the incumbent males usually saw these off . I was hoping to photograph a female laying an egg in a folded blade of grass or the like , but unfortunately didn't manage that . After about an hour , and still no sign of any Broad Bodied Chasers , I decided to see if I could find any on the woodland edge vegetation , which also failed , so I headed for the
small meadow , finding specimens of the Thick-legged Flower Beetle / Oedemera nobilis , only the
males have the thick thighs , and the Red Tipped Flower Beetle / Malachius bipostulatus , on the way . The small meadow was very quiet , but then I saw what I thought was a female BBC , but on chasing it down , proved to be a queen Hornet , same colour abdomen and almost as big . I tried hard
for a shot , but she stayed amongst the dead bracken and bramble . Then , a BBC flew in and landed on a dead stick , the blue abdomen identifying it as a male . A couple of minutes later , and a female
turned up . But , be careful of identifying yellow specimens of this species as females , as all juveniles emerge in this colour , the male's abdomens turning blue as they mature . Walking away
from this female , a splash of red crash landed in the long grass . It turned out to be the day flying
Cinnabar moth , and the answer to the question is yes . Heading back to the pond , I found a Garden
Chafer / Phyllopertha horticola along the way , and patrolling over the pond , at least four male BBCs . I also spotted the exuvia of the species , still gripped to the vegetation that it used to
transform from larva to dragonfly . While watching the males scrapping , a female flew in , and straight away one of the males grabbed her , mated on the wing , and then stayed close whilst she
started laying her eggs , carrying his genes . Each time she dipped her abdomen into the warm , shallow water , she would release a globe shaped egg that should hatch quickly in the warm water .
Whilst egg laying , another male tried to mate with her , but the original male drove him off , and while they were both out of the way , she made her escape . More damselflies were about now too ,
many egg laying in tandem , like these three pairs of Azure Damselfly , and the Dock Bugs / Coreus
marginatus weren't going to be left out of all this procreation business ., tumbling in the bankside vegetation . I found some of last year's stalks of Purple Loosestrife and set three pieces in the bank ,
overhanging the water . As I left the pond all three were occupied , but my favourite perch was this
one , on a soon to open Yellow Flag Iris . Butterflies recorded were Orange Tip , Peacock , Holly Blue , Large and Small White . As I walked across the meadow to the car , Yellow Rattle /
Rhinanthus minor , a semi parasitic plant and member of the Figwort family , had just started to flower .
Now some tidying up from last night's post . Firstly thank you to ShySongbird  who I know spent much time trying to ID the beetles , and putting forward a possible for the second one .
Next , thanks to Phil for IDing the third beetle as the Click Beetle / Athous haemorroidalis , even if we had to put up with his toilet humour , Cheers Phil .
And finally Greg who corrected the ID of my first shot last night as Cryptocephalus aureolus or
C.hypochaerides , not the Mint Beetle I thought it was . Then IDd the red and black beetle in the same family C.bilineatus , only to correct it a few minutes later to C.bipunctatus . I read the first message , Googled the first ID and found a yellow and black beetle . Now , how do I tell Greg that he is wrong ? I thought the only way was to try the professional entomologist who helps when I'm really stuck . He came back with C.bipuntatus or C.biguttatus , both of which are rare , stating it's very difficult to tell them apart . It was only then that I found Greg's amended ID . But the professional also IDd the second beetle as
Dascillus cervinus , so all are now identified . Thank you all for your help , it is very much appreciated , apart from Phils jokes of course .

Monday, 28 May 2012

Monday 28th. May 2012

Well , the recurring problem with the car cropped up again last Thursday at Ashdown Forest , but the garage couldn't look at it till this morning . The news was not good , I am just waiting to find out how much the parts will be and how hard the repair bill will hit my back pocket . Anyway , leaving the garage I decided to have a look at a couple of reptile sites . The first , a reasonably new one to me , was still in shadow when I arrived , but that soon changed as the sun got up above the surrounding trees . But that did not make any difference to the reptiles , as I did not find a single one . The visit
turned into another insect search , finding some old friends like the Mint Beetle / Chrysolina menthastri (pictured) ,correct ID is Cryptocephalus aureolus or hypochaerides , thanks very much Greg , the first appearance of the 'Thick leg' Beetles and several Harlequin Ladybirds , along with three species that I am struggling with ID for , but more of them later . Beginning to feel like I've forgotten what an Adder looks like , I moved on to the Greensand Ridge . Whilst looking for reptiles , I also checked the Dormouse boxes , expecting as usual at this time of
year , that a good number would be occupied by Tits . And so it turned out , with some boxes still
with eggs , some with very young chicks , and many where the family had fledged already . It was in one such box that I found the first of two Dormice found on site , a male who hadn't even bothered to put in any leaves , just sleeping on the moss and feathers supplied by the previous occupants , the Blue Tits . He did however become very active , very quickly , when I slid the roof over . A juvenile
Grass Snake was the first reptile found , with another two found later on . By the time I found the first Adder , the temperature was well into the 20sC , but it was found under a corrugated metal
sheet , and heavens only knows what the temperature was under there . About two thirds round , it was nice to get out in the open around the edge of the lake , where , in the shallows , large Carp were spawning in good numbers .Lots of damselflies in the vegetation , a single male Banded Demoiselle
blew past me on the wind and my first Broad Bodied Chaser of the year , a male sat out in the Yellow Flag Irises . I had only taken my old camera with me , so when I pointed it at a male Downy Emerald that stopped for a split second near me , I didn't expect the finished article to be in
the frame , never mind reasonably clear . I probably should mention that all but one of the other attempts did evade the viewfinder . On the way to the next refugia , a migrant day flying moth landed
in the grass in front of me , the SilverY , no doubt glad to have got away from the Euro crisis , and a
bit further on , a home grown species , a Small Copper , a female from the size of the individual . The second Dormouse came almost at the end of the visit , and this one couldn't be bothered with any
bedding either , but he didn't have an old nest to get his head down on either , but he was quieter than the first one and just sat with the roof off the box whilst I got a shot . The second Adder , another
male , was much more camera shy than the first , staying well tucked up in thick vegetation . Only
other interest found on site was a predated Pheasant's egg , looks like the work of a Corvid to me , and four Speckled Woods , the first I've seen for a while . And finally , three ID's required ,
Yet another red and black species , about the size of a ladybird . Now IDd as Cryptocephalus bipunctatus or biguttatus , both of which are rare . Thanks to Greg .
Just about as drab as the previous one was colourful . Now IDd as Dascillus cervinus .
Many thanks to Phil / Sharp by Nature for identifying this one as one of the Click Beetles Athous Haemorroidalis ,  apparantly abundant - piles of them ! His joke , not mine . Cheers Phil .
And finally , an unusually shaped specimen . I'm still looking , but any suggestions would be appreciated .

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sunday 27th. May 2012

In an attempt to beat the heat , I set off early back to Hutchinson's Bank , in the hope that more Small Blues had emerged , and to get better photos . As I parked , the car thermometer was reading 18C , so I didn't win that one . Much of the grassy areas were still in shadow and wet , but the first butterflies
were just getting up , like this very fresh female Common Blue . In keeping with most of the blue family , the female is brown with a varying dusting of blue . I checked the triangle first , finding just Dingy Skippers , but noticed a butterfly land on the bridleway . It turned out to be my first Painted

Lady of the year . It looked absolutely exhausted an rested for a while , before heading for the side of
the bridleway , where it seemed to find from minerals , no doubt from a passing animal . Failing at the triangle , I went to look at the cut , another hotspot for Small Blues . Within seconds , a specimen
flew past me and landed a little way in front , and I was sure there were more to be found . In fact this was the only one found , and it wasn't till a later look at the triangle that I found my second and final specimen . I followed it for some time waiting for it to rest and open it's wings . Eventually , it
did as asked , but only for a couple of seconds , then it was off again . Trying to follow these tiny butterflies is almost impossible , and I didn't see it again . Other species seen on the visit included
several Brimstones , this female was resting between laying her eggs . Still several male and the odd
female Orange Tip , this male refuelling at Herb Robert before setting off again . At least 3 female
Holly Blues , all looking for Ivy to lay their eggs , but having to use Cornus / Dogwood . I also recorded my first Brown Argus of the year , a tiny , very fresh male , identified as such by the fact
that the orange spots on the topwings do not reach the leading edge of the forewing , as they do in the female , and the blueing on the abdomen and topwing . A single Green Hairstreak , several Grizzled Skippers , and many Small Heath , together with Large , Small and Green-veined White were also seen . A couple of new , to me , hoverflies were also found . I think they are -
a newly emerged , from the wings , Syrphus vitripennis ,
and Meredon equestris , but I stand to be corrected on either .
Before getting out of the sun , I watched a pair of mining bees bringing materials to their nest hole .
Here the bee arrives with the material , pointing towards 2 o'clock ,
and there it goes down the hole . I'm going to leave it there , as this post has taken for ever to upload .