Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Wednesday 7th. May 2014

Must admit , when I picked Martin up for a trip into deepest Sussex , the wind and grey sky did not look good for finding our quarry , Wall Brown and Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterflies . Crossing the Kent / Sussex border , drizzly rain became heavier , and doubts raised became stronger , especially with the forecasted clearance from the West showing no sign of appearing . But , as we pulled in to the car park at High and Over , just South of Alfriston , the first rays of sun appeared , albeit accompanied by a very strong wind . We headed along to the lookout point high above the meandering River Cuckmere where we were mainly sheltered from the wind , but beyond that point , just above the Litlington 'White Horse' , it was like walking into a wind tunnel . I returned to the car for binoculars , which I had failed to put in before leaving , but was presented by my first Wall
Brown sighting , a female attempting to find a sheltered spot but still being hit by gusts . Returning
to the lookout , without binoculars , the increasing periods of sun encouraged a few males , with the
dark sex brand on the forewing , to appear and warm up , but they too didn't like the wind and soon disappeared again . In between sightings , I went looking amongst the nettles and brambles , finding a wasp with different markings on it's abdomen , which on looking up at home turned out to be a
German Wasp / Vespula germanica . Close by I noticed this strange black larva on some Goosegrass .
At the time , the only thing I could come up with was the larval stage of the Bloody-nosed Beetle / Timarcha tenebricosa , and was chuffed when I got home and Googled it , to find I was right . Martin
spotted a female Red Admiral attempting to egg lay on the nettles but being hampered by the wind ,
but eventually she managed to lay a few single eggs , before being blown away . Two small red ladybirds , unusually with red heads , in a compromising position , caught my eye , but they looked
too engrossed to be bother by me watching them . They turned out to be a pair of 24 Spot Ladybirds /
Subcoccinella 24-punctata . A group of Small Tortoiseshell larvae were also found on the nettles ,
and breakfast was being taken by a female Scorpion Fly , apparently she chose the St. Mark's Fly . Whilst at the viewpoint , a Wheatear landed briefly on the path and departed even quicker , and I saw my first Swift of the year , enjoying that wind . As we walked back to the car Martin noticed a female Speckled Wood egg laying on grass beside the path , but she was gone before I could get her in the viewfinder . We crossed the road from the car park and had a look at Cradle Valley , hoping for some orchids and less wind . We found the latter but not the former . Very few butterflies were seen , but plenty of birdsong from Common Whitethroats , Blackcaps , Song Thrushes and a single Yellowhammer .
After returning to the car and having lunch , we made the short trip to Abbotts Wood for our second quarry , Pearl-bordered Fritillary . White fluffy clouds in blue skies greeted us on arrival , but even though in woodland , the wind was still strong . We visited the site last year , finding the species towards the end of their flight time and said we would make it earlier this year . On arrival in the northern area , it was obvious that a large amount of clearance had been done since last year , probably doubling or trebling the coppiced area , but as we soon found , the butterflies were staying true to their original area , with just one male being found outside of it . Specimens were found
almost straight away , the males constantly searching for mates , and only allowing a photographic opportunity when they stopped to refuel , usually on Bugle flowers . A couple of females were also
found , this one having just deposited the start of next year's generation . Being very similar to their relation the Sm.PBF , the positive identification being the red chevrons in front of their 'pearls' on the
underside of the hindwing , the SPBF having black chevrons , and being smaller in size . Surprisingly , just 10/12 specimens were seen , although they are very difficult to follow , flying low and fast over the ground vegetation . Even less were found when we searched the second area managed for the species , with just one male seen searching the ditch alongside a wide , open ride .
Birds heard / seen on the first site included Common Buzzard , Willow Warbler and at least two singing Nightingales . The most numerous species seen was the Speckled Yellow day flying moth ,
they were everywhere . Several Hairy Dragonflies were also seen , but I only managed to get one
male in the viewfinder , and he was on the far side of a ditch on a swaying bramble leaf , I couldn't get anywhere near the females that I saw . My favourite shot of the day came when I spotted a 'colourful lump' on the ground in a small clearing . Without binoculars , I slowly headed towards it ,
taking a shot every five metres or so , until I got to about 10 metres away . Then the 'lump' jumped up and scampered off . I think he must have been dust-bathing , as there was quite a dent where he had been hunkered down .
And finally , we have been seeing a lot of a pair of Coal Tits around the garden , and on Monday Carol saw one with food in it's bill , heading for the Ivy clad fence in the bottom corner , where I had placed a hollowed out branch , with entrance hole , a couple of years ago . With binoculars , I kept watch from the other corner , and was delighted to see the pair arriving at the nest with food on a regular basis . Would be nice if the parents brought the young to the feeders a bit later on .


Ken. said...

Lovely photo's of all those little creatures,especially the lady birds.
It will be nice to see the Coal Tit's fledge and make good use of your feeders, a chance for you to get some great shots of them.

Alan Pavey said...

Lovely post Greenie and great ID skills :-) Nice to see pics of Wall Brown and PB Frit.