Thursday, 29 May 2014

Thursday 29th. May 2014

Even though it was overcast and the odd spit of rain this morning , it was good to be out again .
I started off at Bough Beech Reservoir , where at least two pairs of Swallows have returned and started refurbishing their nests , high in the roof of the open barn . Whilst watching them zip in an
out , one dropped to the floor , not 5 metres away from me , looking for insects . The scrape held nothing out of the ordinary , and with so much water in the main reservoir and the North Lake , no mud to attract any passing migrants . A few juvenile Pied Wagtails searched the tide line and the odd
Common Tern fished the North Lake , taking it's catch back to the rafts on the main reservoir , where
I counted 15+ , but too far off to be sure of nests or eggs . On the way to the River Eden near Chiddingstone , a farm track I passed had become the building supplies yard for the local House

Martins , as up to 15/20 at a time , arrived to get the repair materials for their nests . Down at the river , with a calling Cuckoo in the background , Azure , Common Blue and the odd Red-eyed

Damselflies along with immature male and female White-legged Damselfies were seen .

Male and female Banded Demoiselles were around too , but the brightness didn't last long and the wind got even stronger . Turning my attention to the vegetation along the bank , and only just making
it in the month , a Mayfly / Ephemera danica , the only one I saw was sheltering in the grass .
A mating pair of Green-legged Sawfly / Tenthredo mesomelas , the female on the right , much large than the male , as many females are in the insect world .
A first for me , Woundwort Shiedlbug / Eysarcopis venustissimus , on it's namesake plant ,
which is just coming into flower , Hedge Woundwort / Stachys sylvatica , a member of the Labiate family .
My last stop was at the reserve with the feeders in the woods , which was very quiet . One Grass Snake and a few Slow Worms along with another Glow Worm larvae , and a Tree Bumblebee /
Bombus hypnorum . One of the few butterflies seen today was a Peacock , looking not too bad
considering that it could be 10 or 11 months old now .

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Wednesday 28th. May 2014

A third dank , miserable day trapped indoors with cabin fever , and not much improvement likely till the end of the week , means an unexpected look back to last Sunday , the last time I got out and about , when the sun was shining , some of the time .
Another worrying trip to Hutchinson's Bank , where the Old Surrey Downs Project sheep , having eaten everything in sight in their original paddock , and been moved to a more sensitive paddock , an area where both male and female Glanville Fritillaries have been recorded in the last couple of weeks , could mean that the sheep are now eating any eggs layed in the area  by the female Fritillaries , or those of other species of butterfly . A case of 'deja vu' , after the destruction of Salt Box Hill by Dartmoor ponies a couple of years ago by the same Lottery funded project and this time in direct conflict with the management plan which states that grazing will only take place in October and November . With a change in control in the local elections , it will probably take ages to find someone responsible from the new Council ( the site is owned by Croydon Council ) , to start to put things right . Meanwhile the destruction to habitat continues .
Although the weather was changeable , I did manage to find three stages of Orange Tip , all within 20
metres of each other . An egg , layed on the flower head of Garlic Mustard / Jack by the Hedge , a
short distance away , a caterpillar of the species , the first I've found this year , feeding on the seed
pods of the same plant species . Further on a worn , male adult , at rest on a grass seed head . Just a pupae and it would have been the complete life cycle . Other butterfly species seen included ;
a superb , freshly emerged female Common Blue ,
and further up the slope , a mating pair , who must have thought they were on a roller coaster , as one minute they were vertical , next horizontal , blown by the strong breeze ,
and I finally managed to get a female Small Blue in the viewfinder , this one had been nectaring on Horseshoe Vetch / Hippocrepis comosa , a member of the Pea family .
A couple of other insects caught the eye , a male Thick-legged Beetle / Oedemera nobilis , only the male has these 'guns' on his hind legs ,
and a colour co-ordinated Leaf Beetle / Chrysolina hyperici .
A couple of plants to finish with , Jack-go-to-bed-at-Noon or Goatsbeard / Tragopogon pratensis , so called as by noon , the flower closes into it's green bracts . This specimen complete with Cuckoo Spit , which isn't spit nor supplied by a Cuckoo . The froth is produced by young leafhoppers , froghoppers and aphids , whipped up from the sap from the host plant and air , and acts as protection for the youngsters from their predators . The Cuckoo bit comes from the timing of the the froth appearing on plants and the arrival of the migrant bird .
And , looking like lots of tiny Sea Urchins , the flowers of Salad Burnet / Sanguisorba minor , a member of the Rose family .
Finally , one of the moths that I can identify , Mother Shipton , allegedly showing the face of the 'old
hag' after which it was named .

Friday, 23 May 2014

Friday 23rd. May 2014

After Monday's away day , a catch up on some visits made during the rest of the week .
A trip to Hutchinsons Bank failed to find a fresh emergence of Glanville Fritillary , but whilst
looking , I did come across this Glow Worm / Lampyris noctiluca larvae , looking very similar to a Ladybird larvae , but larger and with different markings . Also found were two species of
Ichneumon , a very large family , with over 2,000 in Britain alone , so needless to say , I am having
trouble identifying them . If anyone has any ideas , I would be grateful to hear . Always a problem to
photograph as they just don't stay still . Another of the site's rarities is just coming into flower , Greater Yellow Rattle / Rhinanthus angustifolius , not to be confused with the much more common Yellow Rattle / R.minor , a plant on the Red Data list . Also just coming into flower is Kidney
Vetch / Anthyllis vulneraria , a member of the Pea family ,and just in time , as this is the foodplant for the caterpillar of the Small Blue butterfly , the female laying her eggs on the open flowers . Just as
well , as the numbers of the species has increased noticeably recently , although I haven't yet spotted
a female , which like many of the Blue females , has a brown upper wing colouring .
A very poor butterfly transect at High Elms LNR , almost turned into an Orchid hunt on my way
round , finding Birdsnest Orchid , for once out in the open , in full flower , and several of the White
Heleborines have come into flower , and the first Broad-leaved Heleborine that I have found this
year , yet to come into flower . Additional Fly and Man Orchids were also found .
This morning I visited Sevenoaks Reserve with very changeable weather and a strong wind blowing
across the site . Very little was found on the water , but overhead , Swift (pictured) , Swallow and Sand and House Martin were hawking for insect low over the water and high overhead . Outside
Tyler Hide , a drake Shellduck was doing his best to get the interest of a female , but she was only interested in feeding and preening . Whilst , on the closest island , a Lapwing was sitting tight on her
nest , a job I wouldn't have fancied with the recent thunder storms . On the way down to Sutton Hide ,
some new arrivals at one of the many nests of the species around the site . 3 of the 4 Garden Warblers heard last visit were heard this time , but not a single sighting . The practice with the Swifts was put to use down alongside Long Lake , when amongst the Odonata seen was a dapper male Downy
Emerald , but only showing in periods of sunshine .
Two success stories to finish on , the Coal Tits have fledged from the bottom of the garden , and the Treecreepers have gone too . I was hoping to see them go but it didn't work out . One of the last shots
I got shows just how well developed they were .

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Tuesday 20th. May 2014

A planned butterfly trip 'out West' was almost over before it started yesterday , as on checking the traffic conditions on the computer , before picking Martin up , showed the M25 clockwise completely shut between 8 and 9 because of a serious accident . I still called for Martin , and with the navigation in his hands , we cut across urban SE and SW London , and joined the motorway at junction 9 , without too much loss of time . From there on it was trouble free to our first destination , Cotley Hill , a Wiltshire butterfly reserve , arriving before the sun got up on the hill . Regardless we
made our way onto the site , and it wasn't long till we were finding our target species , still at roost and covered in the overnight dew , Marsh Fritillary . Slowly , the sun's warmth crept around the hill ,
but plenty of specimens were found , including pairs that had coupled the previous evening , and spent the night together . With the sun came much more movement after the initial warming up
stage , which proved to be the best opportunities for pictures . Like many species , the female is
larger and less vibrant than the male , lets hope that fat abdomen is full of eggs . The males were now
starting to scrap and charge around , but this one was found breakfasting on a Common-spotted
Orchid . After a while we decided to walk to the top of the hill , finding on the way one of several Yellowhammers along the way . Towards the top  , a small number of very active Wall Brown were
also found . The only shot I managed was of a male , trying to hide under a blade of grass . There was a cooling breeze on the top , along with a single Corn Bunting 'jangling his keys' , and a few Meadow
Pipits . By the time we started down the track , many more MFs were on the wing , and a mating pair
on Yellow Rattle , both with open wings , and a full underwing shot of a female , resting , having
recently emerged . Down at the bottom of the hill , without the breeze , it was very sultry and there were MFs everywhere , along with good numbers of Dingy Skipper , Small Blue and Green
Hairstreak to name just a few . Also down there was another , or the same male Yellowhammer ,
singing his heart out , and a noticeable emergence of 5-spot Burnet Moths . With the MFs becoming almost impossible to photograph through constant movement , after 4 wonderful hours on the hill , we returned to the car to head for our second site , hopefully to see two more Fritillary species and 'The Duke' . Half an hour later , we pulled up in the car park of Bentley Wood , renowned for Purple Emperor later in the year . A quick chat to a couple of fellow enthusiasts having lunch in the shade , and we were off . The area we headed for was a clearing in the woodland , and being so , offered very little cooling and probably even more sultry than the previous site . It was long before we saw our

first target , Pearl-bordered Fritillary , now coming towards the end of their flight period , and looking past their 'sell by date' , but still very active and difficult to follow in flight in the

conditions . Even more active were their relations , the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary , who are just starting their flight period , and were in pristine condition . Numbers of both species above were low , and much following , losing, re-finding and re-losing went on , but during this time , our third target
species was found , Duke of Burgundy .
Other interest included yet another male Brimstone , thwarted by his proposed partner , and a few
Grizzled Skipper , a species that could well have been the subject of another visitor's sighting of Chequered Skipper , seen twice in flight , but didn't manage a photograph . Never say never , but that species is only found in Argyll , in western Scotland . In between sightings , I spent time trying to photograph a white and black moth . I never did manage a shot , but we came to the conclusion that it was a Clouded Magpie , perhaps . Two others did get in the viewfinder , Speckled Yellow on
Bluebell , and with Martin's ID skills , Brown Silver-line , which dived straight into the grass as
soon as it saw the camera . Just after 3pm. we headed back to the car to start the journey home to avoid the rush hour on the M25 , well happy with our 18 definite species of butterfly seen and 2 probable , as we were concentrating on the target species and Small and Green-veined White were most probably seen , but not positively identified . Thankfully , the M25 behaved on the way home , but with an outside temperature of 28C in places , the humidity of the day continued all the way home .