Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Wednesday 25th. June 2014

On Monday morning , I popped over to Martin's for some advice on the Emperor Moth larvae that I am caring for . Whilst there , I got the opportunity to photograph a female Spurge Hawk Moth that he
has reared . Today a male hatched , and there could well be a lot more in the future . I was also able
to photograph an Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar , green rather than the brown later instars that I
have seen in the past . I couldn't leave without a few more shots of the exotic Zebra .
A trip up to Burnt Gorse at High Elms failed to relocate the White Admiral , or find another , and Silver-washed Fritillary sightings were the same as last visit . Good to see a fresh female Small
Tortoiseshell , they are certainly making a good comeback . A female Red Admiral , one of several

seen recently , was hassled by the locals on a large Bramble bush . A brief visit to the bush was also made by a Humming-bird Hawk Moth , but that was seen off almost immediately by the locals too .
This morning , I made a recce visit to Dene Park near Tonbridge , prior to a visit with Keith . A chilly wind was blowing across the site and it took some time to warm up . Butterflies were few , even Meadow Brown and Ringlet were hard to find . Whilst waiting a bit of in flight practice with
Volucella pellucens , one of the larger hoverflies . A few White Admiral started to appear , but none
were willing to be photographed , indeed during the visit , just one made it into the viewfinder . But all was forgotten , when walking the triangle of paths for the umpteenth time , I spotted a shadow and slight movement in the sun on the back path . As I approached I could see it was a Purple Emperor , a

male , taking minerals from the path . He stayed closed winged , hardly moving for 2/3 minutes . I could hear voices approaching , and I think he did too , as a couple of times , he flicked his wings
open and shut , before finally taking off at speed . That was the only sighting , but made the visit very worthwhile . This afternoon , I had a look around Hutchinsons Bank , and pleased to see that the sheep had been taken off site . Lots of Marbled Whites around , but the Small Blues seem to have almost gone over now . Martin tells me that he had another / the same , Humming-bird Hawk Moth egg laying whilst he was doing the transect today . On the way off site , a look at the Peacock
caterpillars , found that they have spun a tent on the next leaf down in which they are crowded . Well , it is almost Glastonbury .

Monday, 23 June 2014

Monday 23rd. June 2014

A picture catch up on the last few days .
This Wood Mouse ballooned as it gorged on the sunflower seeds in the back garden .
This Song Thrush was going mad in a neighbour's garden when we returned from shopping .
Unfortunately , a pair of Magpies were searching for it's nest and found it , removing all four chicks .
A visit to Hutchinsons Bank found this female Humming-bird Hawk Moth , busily egg laying on Hedge Bedstraw / Galium mollugo .
A look at the batch of Peacock eggs as I was leaving , found many already hatched .
After a sweaty few days for Keith , on Saturday morning , a visit to Ashdown Forest found 'Short-toed Eddie' still in residence , albeit at distance , across the valley from Gills Lap car park .
The local Magpies tried to move him on .
In his own time , he lifted off majestically ,
And was soon in 'hunting mode' . Keith and others actually watched it land and take a probable Adder , before taking off again and swallowing it in flight , like slurping down spaghetti .
Even one of the local Ravens looked diminutive against 'Eddie' and didn't worry him .
Having had our fill , we headed for Old Lodge Reserve to search for Odonata . On our way along the
top track it was good to see good numbers of Common Redstart with young , although the adults
were never far away , keeping a watchful eye . Woodlark and Tree Pipit were also seen , but not the
hoped for Spotted Flycatcher . Juvenile Stonechats were also seen , waiting to be fed .
The ponds on the way down to the stream in the valley produced male Keeled Skimmer ,
Four-spotted Chaser , pictured , Azure , Common and Large Red Damselflies , along with Broad-bodied Chaser and Emperor Dragonfly , including an egg laying female , but not the hoped for Small Red Damselfly . The stream proved to be the best area as a Brilliant Emerald was holding the attention of photographers gathered , as it charged up and down , being attacked by the other species .
It returned a couple of times to a Heather perch on the bank I was on , and without falling in , managed to get a couple of shots . A Golden-ringed Dragonfly also appeared at intervals , but wasn't prepared to be photographed , disappearing almost as quickly as arriving . A male Beautiful
Demoiselle did everything possible to encourage a female to mate , but all she wanted to do was to sit in the sunshine .
Common Darters were found , freshly emerged on the way back up the slope , but not the  hoped for Black Darter . Our final stop of the visit was over the other side of the Forest to look for Silver-studded Blue , which we failed to find .
But we were treated to a Grass Snake swimming across one of the ponds ,
Several more Emperor Dragonfly , finally getting a male in flight in the viewfinder ,
and a Golden-ringed Dragonfly that we watched hunting around a Gorse patch , finally catching what looked like a bee , and settling to eat it's meal . Our final treat was a pair of Turtle Dove that Keith located calling , deep in Willow ,  giving a brief glimpse before flying off .
This morning , in a short sunny spell before lunch , and on the strength of a call from the other Keith last evening , I spent an hour in the area between Burnt Gorse and the Orchid Bank looking for the Silver-washed Fritillary that he has seen yesterday . I ended up with 3 sightings , with two males together in the same glade that he had seen one in . A bonus was another first for the year , a White Admiral , nectaring on Bramble , just as the clouds rolled in , and the WA headed for the trees beyond .

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Thursday 19th.June 2014

With Carol entertaining an old friend to lunch yesterday , I took myself off in very overcast conditions to Lullingstone Country Park , to see if there were any signs of Lizard Orchid , and , hoping that the clouds would clear to maybe get an odd one or two Dark Green Fritillaries , especially as Martin had recorded one on his transect at Hutchinsons Bank the previous day . With drizzle falling on my arrival , I first visited the nearby layby to see if the Green-flowered Helleborine / Epipactis phyllanthes were showing . After some searching , I did manage to find 29 flower spikes of this 'Nationally Scarce' member of the Orchid family . Mind you , whilst most of the family have
colourful or exotic flowers , this member has flowers the same colour as the leaves and stem , maybe because it does not need to attract insect for pollination , as the plants are self-fertilised . Returning to Lullingstone , still drizzling but very humid , I set off for the Orchid Bank , in the middle of the golf course . A few butterflies came up from the ground vegetation as I passed , including my first Small
Skipper of the season , a male , identified by the 'sex brand' line mark on it's topwing . The search for Lizard Orchid was not going well with no sign in their normal spots I looked further up the bank , but this area too failed to produce , but it did produce a view of the coming weather , broken light cloud .
Before long , the bank was in searing sunshine , interspersed by the cloud , and each time the sun shone , the bank bounced with butterflies , rising out of the vegetation . To begin with , it was

Marbled Whites that were most dominant , but other species like Ringlet , Meadow Brown and a few more Small Skipper began to appear , but no sign of any DGFs . A singing Yellowhammer drew me
further above the Bank , where I also found a Common Whitethroat feeding it's brood , hidden in the scrub . Then , an unmistakable flash of orange passed me , heading for the Orchid Bank . By the time I got down there , the next spell of sunshine produced 4 male DGFs already in combat , with no sign of any females . Needless to say , they were difficult to get near in the conditions , but I did find one ,
stumbling around in the grass , looking like he had only just emerged , without a hair out of place ,
for the moment . In total I estimate 25+ were seen , always a difficult species to count as they are so mobile , but sure that they all emerged within the last two days . Mind you , it was noticeable that
some Greater Knapweed flowers were more popular than others , perhaps they were supplying
'amber' nectar ? A couple of other bits of interest include a small but colourful , as yet unidentified ,
spider , and very confiding bird that I believe is a juvenile Linnet .
Today , I did the full High Elms butterfly transect , and although numbers were greatly increased , taking out 101 Ringlet and 115 Meadow Brown , the only excitement were 3 Marbled White , two of
which were mating , supplying an unusual angle on the subject in hand , before returning to a more
normal pose , the female above with the brown underwing and golden leading edge of the forewing . Only other interest found was 10 or so specimens of Yellow Birdsnest or Dutchman's Pipes /
Monotropa hypopitys , a saprophyte that feeds on decaying organic matter .From a quick look , it doesn't look like we will get the large numbers of the species that have been experienced over the last couple of years , but time will tell .

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Wednesday 18th. June 2014

After spending the weekend and Monday with a stinking cold , I decided that the best remedy was to get out and about yesterday . With the cloud forecasted to break up mid morning , I set off for deepest Kent , to search for the Norfolk Hawker . I arrived at Westbere Marshes at about 1000 , but there was no sign of any clearance and also a cool wind , not the conditions for Odonata . Regardless , I walked the ditch , searching for a roosting specimen , but to no avail . There was the odd moment of sun , but not enough to change the situation . By 1200 , still without a sighting , I decided to move on to East Blean Woods , to see if I could do any better with the Heath Fritillary butterfly . I remember arriving in the car park many years ago with the two 'old boys' I used to go out with , finding swarms of the butterfly as soon as we got out of the car , but that was not the case now . A lot of the area around the car park is now well overgrown , but I carried on looking , avoiding the Giant Hogweed , which wasn't there last time I visited . Eventually , I did find 7/8 , mainly worn specimens in the area , but
then went looking further afield . Not that far away , I found a recently cleared area with a reasonable amount of Common Cow-wheat , the food plant of the larvae of the species , having sprung up following the clearance . Still dull and windy , any Fritillaries there were more interested in
'hunkering down' , but every time the sun broke through , those present got on the wing for a short time . I probably found another 7/8 in this clearing , but nothing like those halcyon days of some time
ago . Returning to the car to get some lunch , the skies opened and the sun was searingly hot . I also got a call from fellow enthusiast Keith , at work , re. the Short Toed Eagle that had been inhabiting Ashdown Forest for a couple of days . He was considering going when he got home , and we decided to keep in touch and decide what to do late afternoon . Having recharge the batteries , I decided to return to Westbere , in the hope of doing better in the changed conditions . Still windy , I walked and re-walked the ditch , and eventually , I did see a Norfolk Hawker on the wing , but it did not stop , and with the amount of vegetation , it was impossible to follow . Reed Warblers in the surrounding area sang , unseen under the now almost cloudless skies , and Banded Demoiselle and an immature
Ruddy Darter kept the interest , but no further NH sighting .  Also frustrating me was a plant seen amongst the Phragmites , but the grey matter just couldn't recognise it . A search through the

books when I got home turned it up , Common Valerian / Valeriana officinalis , with it's unusual leaf structure , another species first seen with the 'old boys' many years ago .Deciding that the wind won , I made my way back to the car and decided to cut across country to Ashdown Forest  , mainly to find out if the bird was still there , and whether it would be worthwhile Keith coming down after work . The answer to the first part was obvious with the number of cars packed into the car park , and I learned later that there was another packed one over the other side of the site , an area the bird also frequented . Walking down the broad track the gathered birders were scanning the sky , I joined in but couldn't see anything until a chap with a scope felt sorry for me , and I got my first sighting of a Short Toed Eagle . It stayed high up , hanging on the wind for about 20 minutes , before stooping into the valley at just after 1600 . The birders who had been on site the previous two days reckoned that it had gone to roost , and the assembled group moved further down the hill towards an area of Pines , where the bird apparently roosted the previous two nights . While the bird was 'hanging high' , I took a few shots , the bird showing as a small dot in the middle of the viewfinder . When I got home , I
was pleased with a record shot , that at least showed some detail on the tail . Keith didn't manage to get off work early , and as |I returned home he was still talking of going down for a look , but decided against it . Hopefully the bird will remain till the weekend , when we'll give it another go .