Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Wednesday 31st. July 2013

With jobs to do and the weather , didn't get out yesterday , but did find a moth in the carport . A bit of
digging and I came up with the Dot Moth , feel reasonably confident on this one . But not quite , as Spock has identified the moth as the Cabbage Moth , a close relative . Many thanks Spock .
This morning it was drizzling , so took Carol to do the heavy monthly shop and finished off some jobs . After lunch the skies cleared a bit and I was out the doors and up to High Elms . I parked at the Golf Club car park , and as I passed the Pro Shop I spotted a Hornet on the path . Fortunately no one
came past whilst I was on my hands and knees getting some shots . I'm not sure if it was injured or just blown to the ground by the very gusty wind . It kept on the move which didn't help
photography .and when I had finished , it accepted a stick which enabled me to position it well away from the path . Then I was able to head for the bottom glade , whilst the sun was still out . On arrival , it was good to see more of the Canadian Golden Rod and Hemp Agrimony in flower , and good numbers of butterflies nectaring on them both and the other species in flower . I headed straight to the stand of CGR that I found the White-letter Hairstreak on at the weekend , and was very pleased to
find two this time . Once again the gusting wind made things difficult . I was even more pleased
when a very pristine female , identified by the larger size and longer tails , dropped into the same
stand , which made a 300% increase in numbers since the weekend . The three of them necctared , not bothered by my presence at all , until another strong gust , and they headed back up into the
trees . Good to see good numbers of female Meadow Brown , along with several SWFs , including two courting pairs , when the female flies in a straight line and the male flies in a corkscrew pattern
around her , whilst keeping up with her pace . Several Large ( female pictured ) , Small and Green-veined Whites were also recorded . Other newly emerged species included Brimstone , Comma and
Peacock ( pictured ) . I then decided to check the Orchid Bank , to see if the WLHs had emerged there , but on the way met up with a group of Rangers and volunteers on a wildlife walk . As soon as I mentioned WLH , everyone wanted to see them , so it was back down to the bottom glade , where they all got good views of the species , a first for many of them . By the time I got back to the Orchid Bank , the sun had gone and it had cooled somewhat , and no WLHs were found , hopefully they should emerge there by the weekend . Back home later on , a female Holly Blue was seen in the garden , but just as I got there , another gust of wind took her off , not to be seen again .

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sunday 28th. July 2013

Fresher conditions this morning following overnight rain , but with a very blustery wind , but buoyed up by yesterday's PH finds , I returned to the Commons just after 0800 and spent the next hour and a bit , not seeing a single one , in fact , seeing very little apart from a female Roe Deer that bounded away from the heathland area and disappeared into the woodland without trace . Giving up , I thought that as WLH were out at Spring Park , they should be at High Elms , so that's where I headed . My plan was to head straight to the bottom glade , where the Canadian Golden-rod and Hemp Agrimony were both starting to flower , but the clouds rolled in as I arrived , so I made a detour into some of the
other glades , finding the first Broad-leaved Helleborine of the year in flower in one of them , but not a lot else . By the time I eventually reached the bottom glade , the clouds were beginning to break , but any insects on the wing were at a premium , especially given the strong wind . A Comma was one of the first butterflies to appear , and having lapped the glade several times at speed , settled in the
milky sunshine on a Dogwood leaf . My hopes were raised when from distance , I spotted a small
butterfly on the yellow CG-r , but when I got closer they were dashed by a very small Ringlet . After about an hour , the zig-zag flight of a Hairstreak was seen as it dived into the ground vegetation half way down the glade . When I got to the spot there was no sign , until a gust of wind blew a leaf and I spotted something hanging on the underside . As it attempted to climb onto the top of the leaf , I saw red markings and white streaks , but another gust of wind caught it before I could be sure . I managed to watch it cross the central path and then lost it from view . I carried on scanning the open flowers and a few minutes later saw something near the top of some CGr . Approaching carefully , I could see
that it was my target , a White-letter Hairstreak , at long last . I let it feed , and slowly got closer , firing off shots as I did so , but that wind was definitely not conducive to photography , and most
went straight into the bin , but the odd one or two turned out not too bad . Without the wind , the situation would have been perfect , with the subject at about shoulder height , but with the wind .
After less that 2 minutes and about 20 shots , another gust blew the top of the CGr till it almost reached the ground , and when it came back up , there was no sigh of the WLH , and that was the last I saw of it . I stayed in the glade some time and was joined for a while by a male SWF , but when he had checked out every corner and didn't find a female , he was off . On another stand of CGr , I did
find a Speckled Bush-cricket . With no sign of a return of the WLH , I was ready to move on , when a continuous 'kek-kek-kek' call had me looking into the distance and high above the tree line . I only had the 100mm. macro lens with me , but took a couple of shots of a large and small bird . It wasn't
till I got home and enlarged the pictures that I realised that it had been a Sparrowhawk trying to drive off a Red Kite . I made my way back to the Orchid Bank and on arrival found a group of four butterfly enthusiasts . I stopped for a chat and found that they were at HE for the SWF and WLH and they came from near Dene Park , where I had been earlier in the week for PEs . Whilst chatting , a
Common Buzzard passed over the far end of the Bank , calling as it did so . I directed the group to the bottom glade and we went our separate ways . Even though the sun had gone in , I still had to pass through the other glades on the way back to the car park , finding a female SWF egg laying in
one , and a nectaring female in another glade .
And finally , found in the garden this afternoon , the caterpillar of the Buff Tip Moth .

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Saturday 27th. july 2013

With the other surveyor still recovering from hospital treatment , I was asked to help with the butterfly survey at Down House , where I do the bird survey . As with other sites , Meadow Brown , Ringlet , Gatekeeper and Small Skipper won hands down , but I did manage to double my Small Copper sightings for the year , when I found two specimens in aerial combat . They did finish
eventually , and both returned to sentry duty . Both were very small specimens , not unusual in later broods of the species . Also recorded were two Dark Green Fritillaries , one a fly-by probable male ,

the other a very light coloured female found nectaring on Black Knapweed close to the house . Alsofound on the way round was a single Peacock caterpillar , usually found in groups , but this one
looked full grown and had probably left the group to pupate . Around the Sandwalk , the Violet Helleborine numbers have increased from 5 to 9 , which is very good news .
The afternoon was spent doing a barbeque , hastily rearranged , following the 'near end of the world' weather forecast for this afternoon . As it turned out , it stayed dry till a short shower just after 1530 , so we could have left the arrangements as they were .
This morning , yet another search for PHs up on the Commons , and for once it was successful with 7/10 specimens recorded . It was impossible to give a set number , as they were very mobile and very
easy to double count . Most were seen moving high in Oak trees , but a couple dropped down briefly
onto lower vegetation allowing a few quick shots , before they returned to their high perches . By 1030 , the clouds had rolled in and I headed home . Whilst catching up with some jobs in the garden , the skies cleared , the sun came out , and the humidity shot back up again . There was no change in the weather after lunch , so I headed off for Spring Park Pond , quite expecting to get caught in the expected rain . As I was the only one on the site , everyone else must have been heeding the forecast .
Odonata proved disappointing , plenty of Common Blue Damselflies , many in tandem and
ovipositing , a single female Blue-tailed Damselfly , two male Common Darters and a female Southern Hawker , which was chased off by the Common Darters , were all that was recorded . In the
shallows around the edge , lots of Water Boatmen , living their upside-down lives . Also in good numbers , nectaring on the Creeping Thistle , were these small wasp type insects , which I don't
remember noticing before . I thought that orange band around the abdomen would make identification easy , but it took lots of digging when I got home and have come up with Nomada sp. possibly N.fucata , not a wasp at all but a bee . The recent dry , hot spell brought lots of butterflies to the pond , searching for moisture . All three Whites , Holly Blue , Red Admiral and an ovipositing Comma were all seen . The a couple of less expected species turned up . The zig-zag flight of a
Hairstreak , dived down towards the centre of the pond . When I managed to find it on a Lily pad , it turned out to be a Purple Hairstreak , one of six visiting whilst I was there . I thought I had a seventh ,
but when I found that one , it turned out to be a White-letter Hairstreak , my first sighting of the year . I watched it walk down the leaf of a Yellow Flag Iris , it then slumped onto the floating pond weeds
to reach the moisture . I have found the species before on the site , but not around the pond . Another welcome find were three male Common Blues , like the Sm. Copper , small specimens , but the first
of the second brood that I have seen this year . And finally , plants around the pond in flower , included ;
Common Water-Plantain / Alisma plantago-aquatica ,
Water Mint / Mentha aquatic , a member of the Labiate family ,
and Purple Loosestrife / Lythrum salicaria .
The first meaningful rain started at 1930 , so we could have had the barbeque this afternoon after all , but it did seem knock out the Broadband connection for most of the evening , which is why this post is so late .

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Thursday 25th. July 2013

Got out after lunch , and headed straight to High Elms , to search for White-letter Hairstreaks again . On the way through Cuckoo Wood , I stopped at the glade where I had SWFs mating recently , and
was glad to find two females nectaring on the Bramble flowers , and not at all interested in the advances of 3/4 males . The aerial battles between the males has already caused some damage to
some specimens . Also in the glade were two White Admirals , they seem to be having a good year all over . I was even happier in the next glade , when I found at least 4 female SWFs egg laying .
Three were laying as per the book , in crevices on the bark of an Ivy glad Scot's Pine , but one was thinking ahead , as when the caterpillar emerges it has to climb or drop down to the ground , where
it's food plant , Violets are found . This female was making that easy , buy laying on a fallen tree . After laying 5/6 eggs , the females would flutter back down to the ground or low vegetation , and rest before repeating the exercise . In all I recorded 10/12 SWF , which after the late start is a good result for the species . I checked the Hemp Agrimony at the end of the Orchid Bank and found it still in bud , but some on the Bank was in flower , but the Canadian Golden Rod is still to flower , and no WLHs were found . Heading down to the bottom glade , I found both of their nectaring plants in flower , but even after one and a quarter hours of searching , didn't have a single WLH sighting . Comma , SWF , WA and Peacock were all recorded in the glade along with the more common species , and in sunny periods , hawking for insects , was a Hawker dragonfly . When it
clouded over , I watched it return to the edge of the glade , and finally settle in a small Sycamore , unfortunately about 4 mtrs up .  When I got close , I could see that it was an immature male , when
mature , the three marking at the end of the abdomen will be blue , and make him much easier to identify , even in flight . I headed back to the Orchid Bank for one last look before heading home , and found Terry Laws , true to his word on Sunday , that he would come back in better weather to try for pictures of the SWFs , and I'm pleased to say he succeeded . Terry hadn't found any WLHs either , so he headed for Burnt Gorse and I headed for the car park . A couple of bits of interest found on the way round today ,
what I believe is a female Common Cockchaffer , spotted hiding under a leaf ,
and yet another black / yellow insect , possibly a wasp of some sort , on a Hogweed flower , which I am still working on . Any suggestions gratefully received .

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Wednesday 24th. July 2013

Yesterday morning , I tried again for Purple Hairstreaks on both West Wickham and Hayes Common , and once again I failed to find any . Whilst looking , I did find a few bits of interest ,
several large sheetwebs , each with a tubular retreat for it's occupant , the Labyrinth Spider / Agelena labyrinthica , this particular occupant having just dealt with a young Grasshopper that probably got blown into it's web ,
after finding the Long-winged female Conehead on a previous visit , this time it was a female Short-winged Conehead , again a female , this time with the short upturned ovipositor ,
lots of grasshoppers , especially on the heathland areas , including this Common Field Grasshopper ,
and , found in the garden late afternoon , this moth , which I hope is Buff Ermine .
Today , after waiting in for a delivery , I made another visit to Dene Park , near Warren's patch , to look for more Purple Emperors . The clouds were just breaking and the sun soon appeared , which made it very humid again . I had one quick sighting early on , then it went quiet , but from about midday to 1300 , I and four other watchers had dozens of sightings , albeit at 40-50 feet around the top of one of the master trees . The most butterflies in view at any one time was three , but there could well have been more . One specimen came tantalisingly close , but at the last second , swooped back to the tree tops . Also seen were a handful of PHs , likewise all high up , a single SWF , a couple of Commas and a few White Admirals . The sightings came to an abrupt end , so I left the site and headed for White Hill near Shoreham , the site managed specifically for Chalkhill Blues by Kent BC .
By the time I arrived , it was almost wall to wall sunshine , but with a strong wind across the slope . Chalkhill Blues were seen almost immediately , but not in the large numbers I have seen in previous years on site . Like several of the 'blue' butterflies , the female is brown , and several newly emerged

specimens were seen , along with males , some of which have already started to loose some of their coloured scales . Searching the length of the site , I found four mating pairs , but there were probably
more amongst the ground vegetation , this pair were on Marjoram / Origanum vulgare , a member of the Labiate family . The Field Scabious has now been joined by the Small Scabious , Scabiosa
columbaria , both members of the Teasel family . The last relative to flower , the Devilsbit Scabious / Succisa pratensis , is still in tight bud , but seems to have escaped the interest of rabbits this year .
Harebell / Campanula rotundifolia , a member of the Bellflower family ,
and Eyebright /Euphrasia officinalis , a member of the Figwort family , and a favourite of mine , was also found . As was this moth , which I should know , having found it before . I know it doesn't have
a common name , and have gone through the UK Moth searches without success . I know I'm going to kick myself when I see the name . Many thanks to Alan for identifying the moth as Oncocera semirubella , and yes , the kick has been administered .