Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Wednesday 23rd. July 2014

Having being told by fellow enthusiast Terry Laws on Sunday's butterfly walk that the Lesser Emperor dragonfly had been seen at New Hythe recently , I got permission from the 'resident Blogger' and headed off to try and see this species , that would be a first for me . Before Wrotham Hill I was in sunshine and cloud , after it was solid cloud , and so it was as I arrived , and for some time before those clouds broke . Finding a lightly spot , I passed the time watching a noisy flock of
Lesser Black-backed Gulls , showing off their acrobatic flying skills . Every now and again , a pair
got into a fight , plummeting  down still engaged in combat until disappearing behind surrounding
trees so I never saw the final outcome . With the sun came a few Odonata sightings , Brown Hawker ,
Black -tailed Skimmer ( pictured , this male obviously very active with the ladies from the amount of blue pruinescence that has been rubbed off his abdomen by their legs during mating ) , Common Darter and Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselfly , but no sign of the hoped for Lesser Emperor . A bit later , three birders came by , one being Terry , who after visiting the scrub area over the railway , joined me in the search . Still without a sighting , we decided to move along the lake to a
more sheltered area , on the way finding an immature male Southern Hawker , and the search continued . Having found Red-eyed Damselfly on Lilly pads earlier , Small Red-eyed Damselfly
were found at the new spot , identified not only by size but by the blue on the underside of segment 8.
In the time in this area , we had three fly-by sightings of a male Lesser Emperor , enough to make positive ID , but not enough to get a shot , most frustrating . In between sightings , we had several visits from a female Emperor Dragonfly , ovipositing on floating vegetation and here on a branch
sticking out of the water . The end of her abdomen can be seen well into the material as she deposited a single egg . I also noticed a piece of vegetation about 3cms. long , with a caterpillar type grub at
one end , moving like a snake on sand , propelling the vegetation along . We weren't sure if it was in
trouble or not , so decided to rescue it . On dry land , it stayed in it's tube just showing it's head . Unsure of what was best to do , I returned it to the water but very close to the bank , in case it was trying to get to land . Next time I looked it was gone . Any ideas would be appreciated . Before leaving , we decided to have a last look at the first area again , on the way finding a Brimstone
Moth , and on arriving , couldn't believe our eyes to see a male Lesser Emperor in combat with a male Black-tailed Skimmer . They soon parted and the LE settled just 1 mtr. off the ground and 3 mtrs. away , with no obstructions between . We grabbed our cameras , and as we were about to hit the button , the male BTS returned and chased off the LE , not to be seen again . So near but so far , but by far the best sighting of the day . We did wait for the hoped for return , and whilst waiting were
visited by a family group of Mute Swan . All day long , we had been plagued by horse flies , and at one stage Terry swatted one that fell to the ground . Before it recovered I picked it up by the wing
and got a few shots to ID the species . Checking the books when I got home , it appears to be
Chrysops relictus , a member of the Tabanidae family , and how about those for a pair of eyes . As Terry and I were about to leave the car park , we heard a Turtle Dove 'purring' near the Millstream . We went and tried to see it and although it called another couple of times , we didn't see it .
Today was an away day with Martin , starting at Chobham Common where the target was Grayling .
Already hot on arrival , a walk to the top of the mount did find the species but  didn't cool us down , but a few of these very plain butterflies that usually land on the ground with wings closed were
found . One actually did show a bit more underwing than the others did , shame about the dead grass
in front . Just two Silver-studded Blues were found , including this female , in what looked perfect habitat for the species . Only other interest found were lots of tunnel webs of the Labyrinth Spider /
Agelena labyrinthica , and at the entrance to one was a spider , legs in front , ready to rush out and grab anything landing on it's web . Our second site was up on the Downs above Dorking , where the target species was Silver-spotted Skipper . Walking in the heat was bad enough , walking uphill was really hard work , but it was worth it when we got to the site to find good numbers of SSS . The heat also meant that none were staying still , especially the testosterone charged males , and a photograph of one was almost impossible . Some of the females were egg laying , which gave a better chance of a
photo like this one . When she moved on , I searched for her egg , finding it laid singly on Sheep's-
fescue grass , the sole food plant of the species . Any eggs layed will remain as such through the Winter , hatch in the Spring , pupate and appear as adults this time next year . I did finally manage to
get a male in the viewfinder , while he was attempted to court the female above him . His chat up line can't have been good though , as soon after , she flew off , leaving him in his own . Our last stop of the day was a quick look around Hutchinsons Bank , where we were pleased to find two female Chalkhill Blues on the wing , the offspring of adults seen on site last Summer .


Phil said...

Well done with the LE Greenie. I first saw it in the SW corner of Abbey Mead, presumably you relocated it somewhere else? Shame you missed out on the picture!

roger.wood800 said...

It's taken me years to think of doing it, but I've recently taken to carrying a pair of scissors as part of my kit.