Saturday, 30 June 2012

Saturday 30th. June 2012

After a showery morning , things started to clear up and brighten , so I made two local visits , the first to West Wickham Common in the hope of White Admiral or an early Purple Hairstreak , neither of which was found , and then after lunch to the Farm lake to see what was happening there . Neither visit was exactly exciting , but here are the best bits of both :
A smart Red Admiral which refused to show the upper wing .
One of three Large Skippers recorded , this a female .
A male Blackcap , singing continuously , but showing very rarely .
Except when he found someting tasty to eat .
On the Bramble , several Strangalia maculata , a very variable species of longhorn beetle .
Along the sides of the paths , lots of Dovesfoot Cranesbill / Geranium molle .
Creeping over the Ranger's fence , White Bryony / Bryonia cretica .
The Farm lake was very quiet , with no sign of the young Mallards or the young Little Grebe .
Lots of male Black-tailed Skimmers (pictured) , a single male Emperor Dragonfly andd a few damselfies , very disappointing .
Keeping up with yesterday's yellow theme , Lady's Bedstraw / Galium verum is coming into flower all around the lake . A singing Common Whitethroat , two Swallows and a very brief glimpse of a Hobby as it swooped on the surface of the lake were the only birds of real interest .

Friday, 29 June 2012

Friday 29th. June 2012

I spent the morning with grey skies and gusty wind , processing the remainder of the shots taken yesterday . A couple of heavy showers during the late morning were dried very quickly by that wind , and with some brightness showing , and prompted by an email received from a reserve Warden , I set off to see if I could find the 'unusual orchid' that was mentioned in that email . Finding a single orchid on a reserve would not be the easiest of tasks , but as I approached the area mentioned , I was so pleased to see the email sender , having just photographed the plant . So , what was this unusual orchid ? Lady's-slipper , Frog Orchid or Summer Lady's-tresses would have been nice , but Common Spotted-orchid ? How unusual is that ? The answer soon became apparent when I saw the plant in
question , looking nothing like the hundreds of other Common Spotted-orchids in flower over the
 bank . They were all variuos shades of pink/mauve , and all the flowers marked with lines and dots .
Looking at a single flower of the unusual orchid , the colour was reddish-purple , so markings were
evident , whereas the 'normal' plant looks completely different . This was the first time I have ever seen Common Spotted-orchid / Dactylorhiza fuchsii var.rhodochila , first recorded in Lincolnshire in 1979 . Many thanks to the Warden for letting me see this rare plant . I must admit , after the Warden left the site , I had a good look round , searching for any more specimens , but I didn't find any .
Whilst looking , I found a few patches of another of my favourite flowers , with the fabulous name , the delicate Squinancywort / Asperula cynanchica , a member of the Bedstraw family . The flowers
of Perforated St.John's Wort / Hypericum perforatum , which seem to have taken forever to open this year , have now done so . Also found were some large specimens of Self-heal / Prunella vulgaris ,
another member of the large Labiate family . Being large , the much overlooked flowers of this plant came into their own . Yellow seems to be dominating the flower colour at the moment , with the St.John's Wort , the Hawkbits and Hawkweeds , the Buttercups and Ribbed Melilot , and now being
joined by Nipplewort / Lapsana communis . With rain in the wind again , I decided it was time to get back to the car and home , finding either Dog Rose / Rosa canina or Field Rose / R.arvensis along the
footpath along the way , but couldn't decide which one it was . But I've just made an executive decision , and I'm going for the latter .

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Thursday 28th. June 2012

I suppose I should have been going to Deptford , South London for my first target this morning , once the grey clouds started to break up , but in keeping with the Camberwell Beauty butterfly and the Dartford Warbler , none are now found in the places that make up part of their names . So , it was down to Farningham Woods , near the junction of the M25 and M20 , and whilst on site , having to put up with the drone from the motorways . As I walked up the fieldside , I was pleased to find an
odd plant in flower , especially as I told someone earlier in the week that they would be . And the
super little flower I had come to see , Deptford Pink / Dianthus armeria . Knowing that there would be many more further on , I didn't photograph the first flowers found , but when I reached the main population , a strong wind was blowing the plants sideways . I attempted to get some shots , and failed , and nearly had a heart attack when a nearby Crow scarer went off . So it was the more sheltered plants lower down that made it to the viewfinder , along with a few along the way ;
Lucerne (also known as Alfalfa) /Medicago sativa , which also comes in yellow , green and black .
Common Poppy / Papavera rhoeas ,
Field Pansy / Viola arvensis , and
Common Mallow / Malva sylvestris .
My second target was handily on the was to my third , and being a rare member of the Orchid family , am always surprised to see it each time , alongside a layby on a busy road . But there it was ,
Green-flowered Helleborine / Epipactis phyllanthes , not exactly the most exciting of Orchids , and ,
even when the floers do appear , they have hardly any colour either . Must remember to go back and take exciting shot of flowers . Leaving the layby , I headed for Lullingstone Country Park / Golf Course . Having seen what I thought were Dark Green Fritillaries at Down House yesterday , I headed straight up to the Orchid Bank in the middle of the golf course , and as I crossed the fairway to get to the bank , had a flyby DGF , great . As soon as I got to the bank I could see male DGFs , searching the ground vegetation for emerging females , and every now and again , stopping at the 'service stations' , the Greater Knapweed flowers . Whenever I have been to see the DGFs , the wind has always been blowing , and today was no different , which made photography very difficult , with the object of the shot swaying crazily on the flower head , but with a mixture of high shutter speed , waiting for a slight lull in the severity of the wind , and luck , I managed to get a few shots of the
testosterone charged males , this specimen nectaring from one of the bi-colour Greater Knapweed flowers . I found hot-spots of butterflies all over the bank and on the areas above the bank , and
eventually found the first of three , less colourful than the males , females . All three females were approached by males , but they seemed much more intent on nectaring than mating . The underwing
of this species is very attractive , especially when caught in the sunshine , and the green wash on the undering , this one on the normal coloured Greater Knapweed flower ,  gives the species it's name . Other species seen to and from and on the bank were , Meadow Brown (25+) , Ringlet (3) , Small
Skipper (5) , Large Skipper (2) , Marbled White (4) - pictured , Speckled Wood (1) , Common Blue (1) , Small Heath (9) and Red Admiral (1) . My estimate on DGFs was (35+) . Lots of Pyramidal
Orchids on the bank , but no sign of the Lizard Orchid that I was hoping to find , nor Bee , but a few Fragrant ( pictured) , in various stages of growth were found . On the way back to the car park Henbane / Hyoscyamus niger , one of the most poisonous plants to be found , seems to have made a
comeback after not appearing last year . These are the last of the flowers , the majority having
finished and now the fruits are maturing in their place . Further down the track , I found it's relative ,
Deadly Nightshade / Atropa bella-donna . And finally , looking like little jewels in the long grass , Grass Vetchling / Lathyrus nissolia , most definitely a species that wouldn't be noticed if it wasn't for
their flower . When I got back to the car , the thermometer was reading 32C , time to get in the shade .

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wednesday 27th. June 2012

The bird survey at Down House this morning produced one of the best results since I started doing some 12 years ago . Perhaps not in quality , but the average species count of mid to high teens , was raised to 25 today . Nothing out of the ordinary , but Yellowhammer , Garden Warbler and Swallow were all good to record .  Whilst going round , I recorded butterflies as usual , but , apart from Meadow Browns , which were abundant , Small Tortoiseshell (1) , Small Heath (4) , Ringlet (3) and Large Skipper (2) were the only species to make the notebook . I did have a couple of long distance sightings that were probably Dark Green Fritillary , but didn't see them well enough for a positive ID . Whilst in the Sandwalk Woodland , I checked for the Violet Helleborines , finding just a single specimen , it's leaves suffused with violet ,
rather than the normal grey/green . Now the hope is that the Deer don't find it . From there , I headed for High Elms to check up on the Yellow Birdsnest . After finding 20 odd specimens , I told a fellow enthusiast , who proceeded to find 60 odd when he visited . This morning I counted 146 specimens and felt quite pleased with that number , only to be out-trumped by the Ranger of the site , who
informed me by email that they had counted 300+ specimens last evening . This is just one small patch of this 'rare' plant . I can only think that the conditions this year were just perfect , but it doesn't explain why they seem to be just in one small area of the woods . Before leaving , I checked on the places where I would expect to find White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary , but found nothing .
After a banana and an energy bar in the car , I headed to the set aside farm , further along the valley , to do the butterfly transect , still in humid , bright conditions , ideal for butterflies . Nine species were recorded , but once again , apart from Meadow Brown the other 8 species were all small in number .
the best of which were the only Marbled White seen , a very fresh looking male , and one of four
Large Skippers recorded , with not a sign of a single Small Skipper , and a pair of Brimstones , spiralling every higher in courtship , whilst being blown over the top of the slope by the freshening breeze . Given that the meadow was full of nectar holding plants , the results , like elsewhere , were very disappointing . Again on this visit , I saw a female Roe Deer , but right across the other side of the meadow , and she didn't hang around to wait for me to get over there . A couple of interesting plants found on the way round , Field Madder /
Sherardia arvensis , a member of the Bedstraw family , and a plant that I usually see less than 50 cms.
high , was found almost 2 mtrs high , Viper's Bugloss / Echium vulgare , a member of the Borage
family . The Viper part of the name I believe comes from the flower heads when young , looking like a snake's tongue . And finally , a moth found on a field gate at Down House . I think it might be Light
Arches , but with my track record , I wouldn't put any money on it .

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Tuesday 26th. June 2012

With a 'cloudy all day' forecast last night , and repeated this morning , I had arranged with Martin , the butterfly recorder for Hutchinson's Bank , to have a look at an orchid site that he had mentioned during last Saturday's walk . Needless to say the forecast proved wrong , they can't get anything right , with almost clear blue skies all morning . With that weather , and having some time in hand before meeting up with Martin , I just couldn't help myself , popping in to the Glanville Fritillary site , knowing that it will not be around for much longer . I searched the area where I had previously seen a single specimen on previous visits , but even with perfect butterfly weather , there was no
sign . Other species , Large Skipper , Meadow Brown , Small Heath , Marbled White -pictured , and Common Blue all showed up , but not the one I wanted . Time was running out , and I was searching with one eye , with the other watching the time . In the nick of time , once again a single specimen

flew in and landed on the path . A different specimen from those seen before looking back at previous shots , but the loss of hairs on the abdomen and worn white fringe on the wings , show he has been around for a good while now , could well be the last time I photograph the species this year , but I will look forward to hopefully find them next season . With that , he shot off and so did I to meet up with Martin around an electrical sub-station , not what I expected for an orchid site . But , as the old saying goes 'looks aren't everything' , the site came up trumps , with literally hundreds of Common-
spotted Orchids , this being just one small area few Pyramidal and a good number of Broad-leaved Helleborines , and a few 'wait till they flower' plants too . Also found on site was a single specimen of
Common Broomrape / Orobanche minor , and lots of specimens of a red stemmed , 2 mtr. high plant
with leaves clasping the stem , that I couldn't put a name to on site , but think it is Perennial Sow-Thistle / Sonchus palustris , a member of the Daisy family , but as always , stand to be corrected . As we left the site , we chatted to a chap who works there , who told us that it was originally a chalk quarry , before being levelled and the sub-station built . The banks where the orchids are growing was the surplus material from the levelling . Martin was going to do his transect at Hutchinson's Bank , so I gave him a lift , but couldn't leave without a look around . Plenty of Small Blues and Large Skippers
around , and also a first sighting of Small Skipper for the year , about time . Martin had mentioned 'another field , full of Small Blues' , on the golf course , beyond the Scout Camp . It sounded too good to miss , especially when Martin offered to show me where it was . From a distance , most of the
slope in front of us was yellow , and we agreed that 80% of that yellow was Kidney Vetch , absolutely unbelievable , and this shot is only a small part of the slope . We had a good look around and although windy , we found good numbers of Small Blues , then , as we made our way back down
the slope , I spotted what I have been hoping to find for ages , a mating pair . That really made my day , after photographing a mating pair of Large Blues last Tuesday , to get this pair today was brilliant , and thanks to Martin for showing me the site . I left Martin to do his transect , and headed home to take Carol shopping , arranged following that weather forecast , still in warm , sunny conditions . I know where I would rather have been , but by the time we finished shopping , the cloud had arrived , albeit late , and I suppose we do have to eat .