Thursday, 29 August 2013

Thursday 29th. August 2013

A catch up on new interest found over the past week . On Sunday last , a visit to Hutchinsons Bank found two Clouded Yellows still patrolling the Cutting , but also a larvae of the Elephant Hawk
Moth , feeding on it's foodplant , Rosebay Willow Herb . Not the easiest of things to photograph on
the plant , so I temporarily moved it onto the bench to get a better view . As can be seen in the pictures , the 'Elephant' part of the moth's name comes from the larvae , with it's trunk-like front end , not the moth itself , which is pinkish in colour , and far from elephant-like .
On Tuesday , Martin and myself went off in search of the last butterfly of the season ,the Brown Hairstreak , which we failed to photograph at Bookham Common recently . Deepest Sussex , the Rifle Range at Steyning , our best chance of seeing this species . Things looked good early on , with specimens seen high in the Ash and Field Maple trees behind the Blackthorn / Bullace 'mini forest' in front , exactly what the females wanted for egg laying . But for some reason , the females did not
come down to do their duty , even Neil Hulme couldn't encourage them down low . I did get a couple
of record shots from about 5 mtrs. , but they don't really do justice to the species . We did also find
Adonis Blue and Clouded Yellow further up the hill , along with several Wall , under and topwing
pictured , including two females that were egg laying deep in grass tussocks , well out of view . I see from reports that the females 'played ball' yesterday , and everyone got the shots they wanted , that's life . A quick visit before lunch yesterday surprisingly found another EHM larvae on the same stand
of Rosebay Willowherb as the first one . This one showed up better as it was resting when found , and it's 'head pulled in' and scare off anyone looking pose . This one was half as big again as the first
one , quite a handful . Once again two CYs were found in the Cutting . After lunch , I spent a leisurely hour or so up on the Common , mainly spent re-checking the marked Buckthorn shrubs . I was just about to give up , when lo and behold , I found my first ever Brimstone pupa case , albeit the
butterfly had already emerged . I have spent hours looking for one of these and at last I found one . Also found on the heathland area was a new hoverfly for me , Sphaerophoria bavata , one of the
smaller , very active specimens . Today , a spur of the moment decision saw me heading for Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey , in search of a Wryneck that has been seen over the last couple of days , a species I have never seen . When I arrived at the bush that it had been favouring , a Magpie was sat on the top and no sign of the Wryneck . I met up with a couple from Dartford who had arrived at first light , and they didn't find it either . A look at Capel Fleet and the Raptor viewpoint , produced little , not surprising with all the farm work going on , and the track to the car park and back at Elmley only produced 1 Wheatear and 6 Yellow Wagtails , with just one Marsh Harrier high over . Not a single Lapwing or Redshank seen . I did get some consolation on the way home when I called
in at Sevenoaks Reserve , and after a short wait was treated to Marianne's Kingfisher outside Willow Hide .

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Saturday 24th. August 2013

After over 5 years , and according to Blogger this my 1000th. post , actually it should be 1043 posts , I have decided to retire from "full time blogging" , and in the future will post when "new" interest is found , rather than recycling findings for a sixth year . But , in the meantime , a catch up on the last couple of rather quiet days .
On Thursday I decided on a visit to Old Lodge Reserve on Ashdown Forest , which was my first mistake of the day , as I can only compare the visit to one to the morgue in a hospital . It was so quiet in both song and visible interest , it was unbelievable . The only migrants found were 3 juvenile Common Redstart , that always kept a good distance in front of me as made my way up the gully from the bottom of the reserve . Keeping their distance in front too were 2 juvenile Green
Woodpeckers , but at least I managed to get one of them in the viewfinder , just . Another juvenile
Woodpecker , Great Spotted this time , was the only other shot I managed during a two hour visit . Even the Odonata that I had hoped to find , Black Darter and Small Red Eyed Damselfly failed to show , finding just two Common Darters and a single Common Blue Damselfly . Arriving back at the car , I made my second mistake , by deciding to visit Weir Wood Reservoir , in the hope of catching one of those migrating Ospreys on their way South . Unfortunately none turned up , so had to settle for the local Great-crested Grebes and Canada and Greylag Geese , with some of the former still with very young offspring . With the sun still out , I decided to stop off at Bough Beech Reservoir on my way back home . Still a surprising amount of water considering the time of year , and plenty of muddy margins on the North Lake , but unfortunately very few birds . That mud had
attracted 7 Green Sandpiper , 4 of which I managed to get in the viewfinder , a single Common Sandpiper and a few Lapwing , which were spooked by a low flying small aircraft , taking the Com. Sandpiper with them just after my arrival . Further out in the North Lake towards the island , a female
Shellduck was feeding along with her 3 , almost fully grown offspring , pictured .
I had hoped to post shots of the final butterfly to emerge for the year , the Brown Hairstreak , on this post , and have been watching Sussex sites , but very few have been seen , but Martin from Hutchinsons Bank had been on a Surrey Butterfly Conservation visit to Bookham Common , where they had found a fresh specimen , see Martin's shots , link on my side bar , 'Martin's Butterflies' . After two and a half hours slogging around a vast area of Blackthorn on the site in very humid conditions , Martin had a fleeting glimpse of one as it zipped over a Blackthorn bush , but that
was all . The only shots that I took on the visit were , a 'very mature' male Broad-bodied Chaser , and a fresh specimen of the bracket fungus Laetiporus sulphurus / Sulphur Polypore or Chicken of the
Woods . Other interest found were a female Roe Deer and a Weasel that flashed across the track in front of us with prey in in it's mouth and two Clouded Yellows . We moved on to Denbies Hillside above Dorking , with the wind getting up and the promised cloud on the Western horizon . Along the
top path , the first male Adonis Blues were found with a vibrant blue more vivid than their Common relation , and also sporting the broken white border which is not so on the Common Blue . The Chalkhill Blue population was well down on previous visits , but many mating pairs were still found . Another Clouded Yellow was found on the top path , and another 4 in a field further along the track
at the bottom , making it 7 on the day . Down on the grassland , a moth flew by me and once settled ,
was able to identify it as Clouded Buff , a species that I have found it here in previous years . We also started to find good numbers of Silver-spotted Skippers , including several courting couples , where
the male stayed very close to the female including during flight . But , it did make these fast flying butterflies a bit easier to follow in flight , and before long the inevitable happened when they
coupled . I offered this pair my finger , which they readily accepted , but getting them to get off after getting some shots was a different matter , as they seemed quite happy doing what comes naturally exactly where they were . As we headed back to the car , the sun was all but gone and most butterflies had gone to roost . Heading home and hoping to join the M25 at Reigate , plans were thrown into disarray when we found the onslip being shut off due to a caravan on fire between Jct.8 and 7 , and gridlock in the surrounding area . Fortunately , Martin knew an alternative route along back lanes , and once we got away from the immediate jam , we made good time back . I knew Martin bred tropical butterflies in his back garden , and when he asked if I would like to see them , I jumped at the opportunity . A most enjoyable half hour followed in his butterfly house / greenhouse , and he has allowed me to post a few shots of what was on show . He did mention Latin names , but there was no way I could remember them , I can't remember my own sometimes .
Naturally enough , 'Tiger' was somewhere in this ones name ,
this was a male 'Zebra' ,
and this the female of the same species , with a hint of orange in her white stripes ,
the first of two consecutive shots of a female Zebra , egglaying almost under my nose ,
and the second , a split second later , as she flew off having layed her egg ,
and finally , a species with 'Postman' in it's name .
That's me up to date , will post again when I find some new interest .

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Saturday 17th. August 2013

Catching up on the last few days , on Thursday last I did the full butterfly transect at High Elms , in sunny but very windy conditions , the latter keeping numbers down somewhat , but 19 species were recorded , which was very respectable , given that several common species didn't show , but a couple of less common species were found . The full list was :
Small Copper (2) , Large White (16) , Small Heath (1) , Meadow Brown (163) , Painted Lady (2 -

both pictured . They were at either end of the Conservation Field and both nectaring ) , Green-veined White (2) , Ringlet (1) , Common Blue (33 - including two egg laying females ) , Silver-washed
Fritillary (8 - including two egg laying females , one of which , pictured , being well past her sell by date ) , Small White (22) , Brown Argus (7) , Speckled Wood (1) , Small Tortoiseshell (1) ,
Brimstone (2 - male pictured) , Gatekeeper (16) , Chalkhill Blue (1 - pictured , a male , only the
second specimen recorded on site , the first was also on the Conservation Field last year ) ,
White-letter Hairstreak (3 - one pictured , well down on last visit , and only recorded in the bottom

glade) , Comma (4) and Peacock (24) , both pictured . As on previous visits , lots of migrant SilverY
moths flying up from the ground vegetation when passing through , whereas the Burnet Moths seem to have finished now . This morning before the cloud rolled in and the wind got up , I had a short visit to Spring Park Pond , finding a few Common Blue Damselflies , a female Southern Hawker , busily
egg laying but very edgy , probably due to the wind and several pairs of Common Darter , some egg
laying , but others like this pair , having not quite reached that stage yet . Other interest found
included the Common Froghopper / Philaenus spumaris , in quite large numbers , and several
specimens of the hoverfly Eristalis pertinax .

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Tuesday 13th. August 2013

With cloud due in from the West by lunchtime , I got out early in somewhat autumnal conditions , arriving at Denbies Hillside , overlooking Dorking just after 0800 , well before the promised bright start to the day . My two main targets were Silver-spotted Skipper and Autumn Lady's-tresses , a member of the Orchid family . As I headed for the main slope , it was obvious that Chalkhill Blues
were having a very good season , but being so early , both males and females were still snoozing at
roost . Mind you , some of them must have stirred earlier on , as I found a mating pair amongst the
other snoozers . By the time I had walked down one of the diagonal paths to the bottom corner of the site , I hadn't seen a single SSS , but the sun was starting to warm things up , so hopes were still high . A very large refugia provided the next interest , with two female Adders stretched out along it's
length , but a male that was at the top end of the refugia disappeared before I could include him in the viewfinder . His movement caused the two females to move off , but fortunately , they both from on
top to underneath the refugia . I gave them some time to settle , then lifted the refugia to find them
both settled and not too bothered by my presence . In fact , before they decided to follow the male ,
the pair posed together , before one slithered off , followed by the other a short while later . Some distance away , another refugia produced a much more active female that was on her way almost
immediately , but I did manage to get a shot of her scenting me as she made her exit .  Whilst I was photographing her , things got quite noisy overhead , and looking up found one of the local Magpies
having a spat with one of the local Kestrels , unfortunately I only had the 100mm. macro lens with me . By now the sun was warm and by the time I walked up the steps to the top path again , I was sweating . After a drink , I carried on my search for SSSs , more hopeful now with the rise in
temperature , and it wasn't too long before I had my first sighting , when it landed on the flower head
of an umbellifer . From then on , sightings were regular , in fact the visit probably provided the best
numbers of the species for several years on the site for me . They were still well outnumbered by the CHBs , and with the sun out , the hillside seemed to be bouncing with the species . There seemed to be plenty of females amongst them , and mating pairs , could have been 100+ , were everywhere . But
the male that had coupled had to work hard to keep his female from marauding bachelors , in this shot he was beneath the two other males . I headed up towards the seat in the top corner , and was
pleased to find a female SWF nectaring on Marjoram , and down the bottom of the slope a male flew past me uphill , heading in her direction . As I headed down the slope through the longer grass , I
spotted a female Wasp Spider sat in her web , complete with the zig-zag markings , but this is the bottom of her abdomen . A little later she moved to the edge of her web , which gave an opportunity
to get a shot of the top of her abdomen , from where the common name of the species comes . Just below her , I thought I was going to get a mating pair of SSSs , but after following them for some
time , with difficulty , the male , seen half hidden behind the female , gave up , much to my annoyance . No sign of any Adders laying out on the refugia this time , but on lifting it , a  male , on
the right had joined one of the females , so I lowered the tin and left them to it . Other species of butterfly seen on the visit included Large , Small and Green-veined White , Large Skipper (pictured ,
still looking very dapper) , Small Copper , Common Blue , Gatekeeper , Brown Argus (pictured ,
male ) , Meadow Brown , surprisingly few , and Small Heath . Unfortunately , no sign of second brood Adonis Blue , Clouded Yellow or a Long-tailed Blue , I had a good look around the Perennial Sweet Peas on the bottom track , to no avail . And finally , a couple of plants seen on the way round ,
Autumn Gentain / Gentianella amarelle ,
and Clustered Bellflower / Campanula glomerata , the main plant with the blue flower , being strangled by Common Dodder / Cuscuta epithymum , a member of the Bindweed family , which seems to have a strangle-hold over the whole site this year , but unfortunately no sign of the Autumn Lady's-tresses that I had hoped to find .