Sunday, 29 July 2012

Sunday 29th. July 2012

Didn't get out yesterday as we had visitors , so with heavy showers due after lunch , I got out early to do the Down House bird survey . Given the time of year , I didn't expect much , so wasn't too disappointed at what was recorded , and that was just 15 species , which could well have been a lot less had I not recorded 5 of those in the last few minutes of the visit . Only excitement was when I put up a female Roe Deer , down at the bottom of the big meadow . I got a few shots , but they were all rear end .On the way round , butterfly numbers were also poor , but 7 species were recorded : Large White 2 , Small Skipper 8 , Small White 2 , Green-veined White 2 , Gatekeeper 15 , Red Admiral 1
and Small Copper 3 . All three of the Small Coppers were pristine , and this one was of the abberation 'caerulepunctata' , sporting blue spots across the hindwing , above the copper bar . Whilst on the Sandwalk , I checked the Violet Helleborine found last visit . It is doing very well , but no
flowers have opened yet . It has also produced a second flower spike , and in the shaft of sunlight that it was standing in , the violet colouring on both stems showed well . Whilst photographing the VH , I heard movement in the vegetation in the small meadow beyond the cricket field , both of which adjoin the Sandwalk . As I crossed the cricket field , I did so in the cover of a large Hawthorn on the
hedgeline of the small meadow , and on looking through the hedgerow ,saw another female Roe Deer
grazing on the far side . After a short while , a male appeared out of the scrub behind and joined her . During the time I watched them , he mirrored every movement she made , until eventually they were lost to sight , behind the scrub . The male had a fine set of antlers , as this is rutting/mating time for the species , much earlier than the Red and Fallow . Talking of the rut , another sign of Autumn , with
 Blackberries starting to ripen , would imagine it will be a good crop this year , given all the rain . As I left the site , clouds were already building , and as usual , I made a stop at Keston Ponds , and a scan from the road found a family of Mandarin Ducks over on the far bank . I made my round , arriving behind them just as the heavens opened , but fortunately the shower didn't last long . I was surprised
to see such a young family , as the books say the species has one brood in April/May , and I photographed a juvenile on site a good two months ago . In one of the few sunny spells I found a pair
of Red Eyed Damselflies in tandem on the Lily leaves on the top pond , but no sign of the Small Red-eyed Damselflies that I was hoping to find . Back near the car , one of two male Black-tailed
Skimmers was holding territory on the edge of the middle pond . No sign of a female , but from the marks on the powder blue abdomen , this specimen had already done his duty .
And finally , before our visitors arrived yesterday , I found this female Ichneumon sp. I went for the
camera thinking she would be gone when I got back , which she had , but then returned a few minutes later . Now that is what I call an ovipositor .Although it doesn't show up well , the tip is white and looks incredible in flight . I tried to get a side on shot to show it better , but she decided she had had enough and disappeared .

Friday, 27 July 2012

Friday 27th. July 2012

Catching up on the last couple of days , on Thursday with the hot , sunny weather continuing , I decided to see how the Reptiles and Dormice were getting on , up on the Greensand Ridge . Once again , the temperature was about 20C on my arrival , but what was found was definitely not the same as yesterday . As some of the refugia were still in shade , I concentrated on the Dormice to begin with , and in the fourth box , found a male and female . Both were in good condition , and hopefully
will breed successfully . This was the male , just before I posted him back into his home . With all the rain earlier , and now the warmth , the vegetation around the site has gone crazy and at times it felt like battling through a jungle . Almost at the end of the boxes , another male and female were found , and hopes of another family from them in the future . With things warming up , I turned my attention

to the refugia , but as I said it was nothing like yesterday . A single Grass Snake and two Slow Worms , one minus the end of it's tail , amazing the difference in two sites not that far apart . The only Adder found was a dead one , basically the skin and the backbone was all that was left of the reptile , the rest having been eaten away 'by nature' . Eight species of butterfly , including this
Comma were recorded , apart from Meadow Brown , most of the rest were singletons .
In the afternoon I had a look at Spring Park Pond , which held a few species of damselfly , but no

dragonflies . Of interest around the pond I found Common Hemp-nettle / Galeopsis tetrahit , worthy
of better than a 'Common' name , Water Mint / Mentha aquatica , both members of the large Labiate
family , and just starting to flower , Purple Loosetrife / Lythrum salicaria . A few butterflies were recorded around the pond , but things improved when I visited the small meadow , having fought my way through Bracken that was far taller than myself . Small Skippers , Gatekeepers and a single Marbled White and my first Brown Argus for some considerable time , were some of those recorded , but pride of place went to a female Red Admiral that was flitting between Stinging Nettles on the edge . As I got closer , and constantly stung for my
efforts , I could see that she was egg laying , on selected Nettles . Never staying still for any length of time , this was the only shot I managed of her . When she stopped in a more open area , I took note of where she appeared to lay an egg , and when she moved off , I checked the Nettle leaf , and there was
her single egg , attached to the leaf . This species lays single eggs , unlike their relatives , the Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell , which lay multiple eggs on a given plant . In total nine species were recorded during the visit . I had another look at the pond before leaving , little had changed , but I did get the opportunity to photograph the two forms of female Azure Damselfly . 90% of the female
population are of the green form like the one here ovipositing , but the odd 10% is made up of the
blue form , pictured above .
This morning , I had a run to the tip / recycling depot , so also visited the cemetery and the adjacent Country Park . I obviously chose the wrong time to go as had to queue for nearly half an hour to get in . When I finally got to the Country Park , it was very quiet , and muggy . Still young Coots and
Moorhens around , young of the latter getting a preening lesson from one of the adults . Most unexpected sighting was a really young family of Great Crested Grebe , with one of the offspring still
getting a ride by the adult . They were well out in the lake and I only had the 100mm. macro lens with me , hence the long distance shot . After a while the family moved off behind the island , so I made my way to the next feeding platform around the lake . As I approached the platform , I could
hear the constant calling of the youngsters , and was pleased to find them much nearer than before . As can bee seen , the three all being different sizes . They waited together whilst the adults searched and found a steady stream of food for them .
This afternoon , I spent a couple of hours at High Elms in another attempt to located any White-letter Hairstreaks . The bottom line was that I failed to get a single sighting , and a week on from the BC visit , Silver-washed Fritillary numbers do not seem to have increased as would have been expected .
I found 3 perhaps 4 females , one pictured , added to them some 5 or 6 males , the total population would not be more than 10/12 , quite a dip from the 35/40 recorded a couple of years ago . I shall keep looking for the WLHs , I just hope we haven't lost them . On the way around , a Broad-leaved
Helleborine , a bit more colourful than the one on the Common , was found in flower . Only other
interest found was this Silver-ground Carpet moth , I think .

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Wednesday 25th. July 2012

Firstly , nearly missed a correction to a spider ID on last Saturday's post . Many thanks to Greg for identifying the Conb-footed Spider , Theridiidae , and not the Crab Spider that I thought it was , Cheers Greg . A catch up on yesterday when I managed to get out for a short while up on the Common , before visitors arrived . Purple Hairstreaks are still in short supply , but I did find my first female of the species , identified by
the small area of purple on the top forewing , if the light is in the right direction of course . Also
around was a Gatekeeper with a very flashy underwing . Unfortunately , it never opened it's wings to
see the top colours . A very fresh Small Copper , no doubt encouraged to emerge into all this sunshine was also found . The Whites are starting to show up more recently , like this fresh Green-
veined White . Over on the other side , the first of the Broad-leaved Helliborines have come into
flower . Today , with the other surveyor abroad , I headed off for the down to do the Reptile survey .
Arriving at 9 o'clock , the temperature was already 20C , and hopes of finding anything I thought were close to nil , but there is always the butterflies too , so off I set . Both sites surprisingly did produce both Adders and Slow Worms . 19 Slow Worms were recorded , much fewer than last visit ,
but Adders , at 11 , were up on that visit . All but one of the Adders were female , like this one , and
several of the adult females were found with specimens , being two years plus in age . The
only male found was a bit fiesty , hissing his displeasure at my interest in him . The hoped for Clouded Yellow failed to materialise , so no new species were recorded on either site , but the Chalkhill Blues on both sites , and neither was the one managed specifically for the species , have exploded . Very hard to be positive with all the movement , at times the whole site seemed to be a sea of dancing blue , but I estimated 200+ and 350+ on the two sites , and that was conservative .
Interestingly , I saw 11 mating pairs on one site and none on the other , here the male is on the left . On both sites , males and females were constantly emerging and drying their wings in the sunshine .
As usual , with several of the Blues , the largest congregations are found , around animal droppings .
And finally the sun has brought out the Harebells / Campanulla rotundifolia , a member of the
Bellflower family .

Monday, 23 July 2012

Monday 23rd. July 2012

Well , at least the sun came out for the members of Kent BC , on their visit to High Elms yesterday .Unfortunately , many butterfly species did not . On previous visits , an average of about 23/24 species were seen , this year that figure was 13 , and several species were singletons , and probably wouldn't have been recorded had there not been so many pairs of eyes looking . The saving grace was that the 'main attraction' that several were hoping to see for the first time , including one young lad of about &/8 years old , the Silver-washed Fritillaries did put on a good show , with male , female , mating pair on the wing and female egg laying all being photographed . Another hoped for species , White Admiral , was also seen with three specimens being recorded , but there was no sign of any White-letter Hairstreaks , not surprising as I don't know of anyone having seen the species on site this year .
The species count was 4 better than that recorded on my transect on Saturday , but it was in keeping with this very strange year that such species as Red Admiral , Sm Tortoiseshell , Speckled Wood , Sm.Heath , Common Blue , Brown Argus and Holly Blue were all absent from the notebook . But , with some very gone over Bird's-nest Orchids and the amazing sight of so many Yellow Birdsnest , the members left very happy , much helped by the best sunshine for ages .
I got there early and had a scout around the areas where I would be taking the group , but even
earlier , I stopped up on the Common and at last managed to photograph a Purple Hairstreak , low
down on a small Oak , and within minutes was photographing my first female Gatekeeper of the year .
Today , I did the butterfly transect at the set-aside farm , further up the valley from High Elms . It was quite windy , but much drier than my last visit , but still the species count was low , with just 7 being recorded . Sadly , at least one third of the meadows have been cut for hay , and that is not good for species that lay their eggs directly onto vegetation . It shouldn't make too much difference to species like Ringlet and Marbled White , which scatters it's eggs around it's foodplants , so I was somewhat surprised that the Meadow Brown count was 400+ , as opposed to MW-21 and Ringlet-11.
I was hoping to pick up a few less common species around the edges of the meadows , but just a couple of Whites made the notebook . The greatest excitement came when a Roe Deer dived out of the field edge into the wood , followed by another three , a female and two youngsters , probably last year's , a little further on . The female headed straight for the woods , but the two youngsters ran
down the field and stopped to see who I was . A few seconds later they were off again through the
long grass , breaking cover to cross one of the cut sections , before disappearing back into long grass .
By the time I finished the transect it was very hot , and as I had to pass by on the way home , I stopped off at High Elms , and walked in the shade towards Burnt Gorse , which when I got there , held less butterflies than yesterday , not surprising given the heat . One of the small , shady glades did
at least allow me to photograph a female SWF , egg laying on the trunk of a tree , the only British species to do so . Some others lay on buds and branches , but not on trunks .

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Saturday 21st. July 2012

With the big day coming up tomorrow , I thought I had better do a visit today to see if there was anything about for the Kent BC visit . A quick stop on the way up on the Common was fruitless , but the cloud had just rolled in as I arrived . The car park at High Elms was packed , just as it will be tomorrow , but the cars today turned out to be members of Orpington Field Club , on a field trip to the site . I found them later up on Burnt Gorse , there was hardly room for me .  Butterfly numbers over the whole site were up , but nothing like the 'norm' , if there is such a thing . Two of the three species that tomorrow's visitors will hope to see were not found today . They were White Admiral and White-letter Hairstreak , and Silver-washed Fritillary numbers do not seem to have increased since last weekend , but there were long cloudy periods during the visit , and the species just disappears without the sun . Tomorrow , hopefully will be less cloudy . The best news was the 17
Marbled Whites found , by far the best total recorded since they arrived on the site , interestingly none found on the fence Conservation Field , which was cut and grazed last Winter . The rest of the
species list was , Small Skipper 23 , Green-veined White 1 - this female was frantically trying to find suitable egg laying sites , Gatekeeper 17 - including my first female , Meadow Brown have exploded
to 200+ , Comma 2 ( 1 pictured ) , Ringlet 35+ - not doing so well this year , Small Heath 1 , and Silver -washed Fritillary 5 - 3 males and two females . All were seen on Burnt Gorse , none at the end
of the Orchid Glade or the other small glades . The males , with the dark sex brands on the forewings
were constantly approaching the two larger females , but they were not interested in the male's attention , and just carried on feeding . When fed up with the males , the females would carry on
feeding , wings closed , making themselves far less obvious , and showing that superb underwing . A few flowers found on the way round included ;
Musk Mallow / Malva moschata .
On the Conservation Field , a single flower of Perrenial Flax / Linum perenne ,
Feverfew / Tanacetum parthenium , a member of the Daisy family .
Other interest found included ;
One of several Cinnabar Moth caterpillars found on their foodplant , Ragwort .
Another Crab Spider , this one feeding on a Honey Bee , as if the species didn't have enough problems . Many thanks to Greg for the correct ID of Comb-footed Spider , Theridiidae .
Another , or the same immature male Southern Hawker , much more drab than the blue one seen last wekend .
A very defiant Devil's Coach Horse , rearing up in my hand , having found it struggling on a path .
A few seconds later , a change of tactic , feigning death . I returned it to the side of the path , from there it scuttled away .
I met up again with some of the OFC members below the Orchid Bank , and asked if they knew about the Yellow Birdsnest . They didn't , and were amazed by the sight of so many of this rare plant that have emerged this wet Summer .