Thursday, 27 June 2013

Thursday 27th. June 2013

It was early doors this morning , alarm 0345 , on the road 0430 , to help with the bird survey on a farm near Bewl Water Reservoir , starting at 0530 . Thankfully the weather was better than the first visit in April , but the sightings were not much better , and we didn't get the Red Kite and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker this time . Lots of Tit families in the hedgerows and a recently fledged Wren family , and a Common Buzzard soaring overhead were the highlights . Roger is going to let me know the full results and if I remember , I'll post them at that time . Just a couple of shots taken on
the way round , I thought I hadn't seen this hoverfly before , and digging when I got home , think it is Xanthogramma pedissequum . I have had a close relation X.citrofasciatum before , but not this one . I missed the Grass Snake that was sunning itself on the edge of a pond , but did get an immature
White-legged Damselfly . We were finished the survey by 1000 , and as I was almost passing it on the way home , I decided to stop off at Lullingstone Country Park , where the other Keith from High Elms had photographed the first Dark Green Fritillaries of the year at the weekend . Only trouble with that plan was that the nearer I got to Lullingstone the cloudier it got . I made my way quickly to the Orchid Bank , situated in the middle of the golf course , and on arrival , spotted two DGFs on the bottom of the slope . As I spotted them , the sun went in , and they disappeared . I started my search of the slope , but after two circuits , there was no other sightings and the sun was still missing too . I
did find the two Lizard Orchids / Himantoglossum hircinum , more than last year I believe , but well down on previous years . Described as an untidy-looking flower spike , I suppose it is , but when you
look closely at the 'lizards' , there is nothing untidy about them , and they do look like lizards . The sun came and went , with the usual result of butterflies on the wing , then not , but still no DGFs. I
did find a male Large Skipper , nectaring on one of the Greater Knapweed flowers , which is a favourite of the DGF too . Later on , I found a female , giving the chance to compare the two . The
dark sex brand on the upper wing of the male is missing , and the abdomen is shorter and wider than that of the male . Also on the wing were 20/25 Common Blue , 3 Small Heath , a single male Brown Argus and a single Meadow Brown . Other orchids found included two Bee , several Fragrant and
lots of Pyramidal , including an unusual pale specimen . Of course the more normal colour of the
orchid is pink , and it just so happened that I photographed the first DGF on such a flower . Once I got sight of the DGF , I kept it like that and managed to get a good number of shots on another of  it's
favourite flowers Field Scabious . With the cloud came the wind which is not unusual for the site , but try as I may , I couldn't get a decent underwing shot whilst it was nectaring . The best I could
manage was when it was sheltering in ground vegetation , waiting for the sun to re-appear . By 1300 , the cloud cover was almost total and the temperature had dropped , and had only seen definite 2 possibly 3 specimens , worrying as it is about 5 days since Keith had his sightings , and once emergence starts , it usually continues at a rate . I will get another opportunity to get back again , so I
headed back to the car park , on the way getting a male Banded Demoiselle , also sheltering , and in
the same area , the flower of Deadly Nightshade / Atropa bella-donna . Before heading home , I searched a pull-in on a busy road and found 23 specimens of Green-flowered Helleborine / Epipactis
phyllanthes , a member of the Orchid family , in their early stages . Like many things , that number is well down from the 70+ specimens that used to be found there .

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Wednesday 26th. June 2013

Even though the sun wasn't out this morning , it was humid , so I set off to do the full butterfly transect at High Elms LNR , which was well overdue . I feared the worst again as after doing the Conservation Field side of the road , just 7 butterflies had been recorded . Burnt Gorse helped improve things , but just 8 species were recorded in all . The full list was , Common Blue (24) , Small
Heath (1) , Large White (2-1 pictured) , Large Skipper (1) , Meadow Brown (9-1 pictured) , Red
Admiral (1) , Dingy Skipper (1) and Speckled Wood (3) . The Large Skipper and Meadow Browns were the first on site this year . Other interest was a Roe Deer in the long grass on Burnt Gorse and a male Emperor Dragonfly , hawking in the Golf Club car park . On the way round , 10 Bee Orchids
were recorded , including an unusual 'twin flower' specimen , usually the flowers are singles up the stem . Many of the Pyramidal Orchids that were in bud last visit , are almost in full flower , showing
how they got their name . Also at their best are the White Helleborine , some reaching 50-60 cms. in
height , and certainly brightening up the woodland floor . The Birdsnest Orchids are reaching their
'sell by date' , and will soon be just seed heads .5 more Man Orchids were found , bringing their total to 13 on site . Also on the way round , found the first specimens of the year of one of my favourite
plants , Grass Vetchling / Lathyrus nissolia , a member of the Pea family .
After lunch , and with the sun having disappeared , I set off for Hutchinson's Bank , still hoping for a glimpse of Martin's Clouded Yellow or Glanville Fritillary , and that the sun might return . The sentry
was on duty as usual and seems to have got rid of the hitch-hikers . Down in The Cutting a male
Common Blue wasn't giving up hope of the sun re-appearing . Several female Small Blues were looking to egg lay , and I managed to photograph the laying and the egg again . Elsewhere , three was
a crowd , no matter how small , but eventually the joined pair managed to get rid of the interloper ,
allowing them to get back to their business . Whilst photographing the pair , I spotted a movement up a grass stem which turned out to be the jumping spider / Heliophanus cupreus again , and this time I
actually saw it jump in an attempt to catch a small fly . This was the moment it launched itself , but it wasn't successful this time . I was just about to pack up and head home , and was being bitten to
death by Red Ants , when I spotted this dark area in the long grass . I put my finger under those legs ,
and this wonderful creature was quite happy to get warmth from my fingers . It is a Privet Hawkmoth
, probably a female from the size of the abdomen . While I was photographing her , Malcolm , one of the volunteers on the site came by and was able to get a good view . He asked my name , then said that he had just been talking to a chap in The Cutting , who had mentioned my name , and that his name was Keith from High Elms . I knew Keith would be interested and asked Malcolm to let
him know where I was , which he did . When Keith arrived , I put the moth on the shady side of a fence post and Keith filled his boots . When he was finished , I returned the moth to where I had found it , and Keith got stuck into photographing the mating Small Blue pair . I left him to it , as I was already late . The strangest thing of all is that I had made arrangements with the parents of the other Keith I know , to visit their house to photograph , a Privet Hawkmoth that they had in their garden , but it flew overnight .

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Tuesday 25th. June 2013

Just over a month ago , fellow enthusiast Martin and myself visited Abbotts Wood to see the Pearl Bordered Fritillary , and we were successful . On the way home that day we decided to try and complete the double with Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary , at another Sussex site . Quite often , the two are on the wing together , the PBF at the end of it's flight and the SPBF at the start of theirs . The weather on site was sunny and the temperature rising , but almost the whole site was covered in Bracken . Walking along the paths , a Painted Lady was seen nectaring on Buckthorn and a Red Admiral flew strongly through . Turning the refugia placed around , two female Adders (one
pictured)  and a large Grass Snake were found . There were also a few Black-tailed Skimmers around
and a female Broad-bodied Chaser was willing to pose . Martin extended his search to the surrounding area , and returned to tell me that he had found a SPBF there , but needless to say , when we got back , it had moved on . Another Painted Lady was seen and later , a speck of orange came speeding towards us , and stopped to nectar on Bramble flower , we had got our first target species ,
the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary . As it had already warmed up , it was very mobile , and later we had one each when a second appeared briefly . We spent time following and photographing the remaining specimen until it too disappeared , but not before it showed it's underwing and those black
chevrons framing the seven 'pearls' , from which it takes it's name . Those chevrons are red on the PBF . Apart from a couple of Speckled Woods , the only other species seen was this female
Brimstone , pictured nectaring on Marsh Thistle , just before searching a Buckthorn for a suitable leaf , and then laying one before moving on . Just before leaving , two Cinnabar Moths were seen . We then moved on to the South Downs to search for late Burnt Orchid , as we had failed to find the early ones last month . I had to try and refind a site I visited many years ago , but memory isn't at it's best after many years and the habitat had changed so much too , but after much walking and
searching , we did find three specimens of Orchis ustulata , two pictured , another target found . The cloud started to build and the wind was quite strong , but we did manage to get our third target , the
Wall butterfly . A member of the Brown family and once a very common species , but has been lost
from many inland areas , and although found in coastal areas is still listed as scarce . Lots of Viper's
Bugloss (pictured) and Wild Thyme in flower , but very few butterflies nectaring on either except a
few Common Blues and a very fresh looking Small Tortoiseshell , which even at ground level was
being buffeted by the wind . Another Cinnabar Moth was also found before we moved on , but noy before we had a Clouded Yellow speed past whilst we were having lunch . Our third site was near Beachy Head , and the next target Frog Orchid . Once again it was down to my grey matter to get us into a gully , where I had seen them many years ago . It worked better this time , and
we were soon searching that gulley . Eventually about 20 specimens of this rare Orchid were found
and Martin topped it off by finding a Frog Orchid x Common-spotted Orchid hybrid . Well pleased , we started home , making a short stop at a high site on the way . We hoped to find more Wall , but
just one was seen . A male Yellowhammer called all the way up and down in front of us , and then got a bonus when a female Adonis Blue butterfly landed in the grass beside us . A nice finish to a
great day out .

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Sunday 23rd. June 2013

Both yesterday and today , I tried in vain to attempt to refind the Clouded Yellow and Glanville Fritillary that Martin found whilst on transect at Hutchinson's Bank on Friday afternoon . Yesterday morning I got out as soon as it stopped raining , but en route to the site , got soaked from the waist down from the wet vegetation along the way , then when I got there , any brightness disappeared and it started raining again , a real wash-out , literally .
This morning was drier , but the wind was still as strong , with no encouragement for butterflies to get on the wing . Two hours searching failed to find the two species , but surprisingly , 8 species were found , 6 of them being singletons . Small and Common Blue were the two species that managed
more than one specimen , with Grizzled and Dingy Skipper , Small White , Speckled Wood
(pictured) , Small Heath and Large Skipper (pictured) , made up the rest of the sightings . Both pictured butterflies were tucked up in vegetation in a very sheltered corner . It was another day of searching the vegetation to find anything of interest , but it paid off with this colourful spider , which
I believe to be Mangora acalypha , on an Ox-eye Daisy head . Keeping on the same colours scheme ,
was this Burnet Moth caterpillar . One set of insects were definitely not bothered by that wind was the Bumblebees , they always showed well when everything else disappeared from view . It was
almost impossible to miss this Queen Buff-tailed specimen , which dwarfed the Greater Yellow
Rattle on which it was resting . A few more plants found in flower on site included ,
Silverweed / Potentilla anserine , a member of the Rose family ,
Tufted Vetch / Vicia cracca , a member of the Pea family ,
and Bladder Campion / Silene vulgaris , a member of the Pink family .
Very few birds were seen or heard , but a Garden Warbler was singing unseen from Hawthorn scrub and a pair of Bullfinches were heard calling .
Anyone wanting to see shots of Martin's beautiful Clouded Yellow , including topwing , there is a link on my sidebar .