Saturday, 25 April 2015

Saturday 25th. April 2015

The reader might remember these 'little jewels' , Emperor Moth caterpillars , which I was entrusted with early last June . Having gorged on Bramble leaves , they 'spun up' cocoons , and that was how
they spent the time from then till earlier this week . I have been checking on a daily basis during the warm spell of weather , and on returning home the other day , heard noises from their box . On
opening it , I found these two stunning males , but all the news was not good . With them was a
female , but she had deformed wings , having not fully expanded . I contacted Martin who had entrusted me with the caterpillars , and he advised me to take the female and 'hang her out' , which is what she would have done if she had been perfect , when the sun was out . The following morning ,
in sunny but windy conditions , I took her to the Common and place her in a sheltered position on some Gorse , the hope being that she would 'call in' a male by releasing pheromones which can be detected by males over very large distances , according to Martin . In that hope , I set the camera up on a tripod and waited , but apart from me getting 'goggle eyed' watching , nothing else happened . I left her enjoying the sunshine as there was nothing else I could do for her . Yesterday afternoon on my way back home , I looked in to see if anything had changed , and found her still where I left her ,
but now with 25/30 eggs stuck to the Gorse , her deformed life had not been in vain . Having read that the eggs are laid in batches , I moved her to some Bramble , in the hope that she might lay another batch there . I have since spoken again to Martin , who advises that the eggs on the Gorse be removed and allowed to hatch , then returned to the wild on Bramble , where the caterpillars can grow , so that is my next task .
In between dealing with the above , I have spent several hours over the last week , trying to catch up with one of many Ring Ouzels that have been passing through on migration . One had been reported on three consecutive days at Lloyd Park on the outskirts of Croydon , and I spent a warm afternoon criss-crossing this large and sprawling park without any luck . That evening I read that it had been recorded again that day , but at a sports field on the edge of the park . The following morning I headed off to the sports field and waited . Plenty of Woodpigeons and Stock Doves feeding on the ground , then after a long wait , a pair of Mistle Thrush dropped in . My attention was then taken by a dog walker entering the field from the far side and seemingly releasing the dog from it's lead , to chase the assembled birds . As it raced towards the middle , a last scan into one corner spotted the
male Ring Ouzel , who must have just dropped in , and I just managed three distant shots before the swirl of birds taking off , took him with them , not to be seen again , and not recorded again since . After lunch , I spent a pleasant couple of hours at Hutchinsons Bank , where Martin does the transect . He emailed me to say he had recorded 3 Grizzled Skipper the day before , so I hoped to see them , but failed to do so . A couple of Orange Tip males , Green-veined White , Peacock , Holly
Blue and several Brimstone , including another courting pair , were the species found . I decided , before returning home , to re-visit the Ring Ouzel site as most records were around 3 o'clock in the afternoon . I didn't have another sighting , but did meet the recorder , a birder/dogwalker , who passes the field every day with his dog at that time , Whilst waiting for a sighting , a noise in a conifer
alerted me to an albino Grey Squirrel , who only allowed two shots , before disappearing towards the top of the dense tree .
Feeling 'robbed' the previous day , yesterday morning I returned to another site near Warlingham , where I had also been looking for Ring Ouzels , and Brown Hares during the Winter . I stopped and looked with binoculars up the hill , and almost immediately spotted a male on the track . By the time I grabbed the camera , he was gone , but eventually it got even better , when a second male showed .
The two were being constantly harassed by the local Blackbirds , and although too far for the lens , managed a few record shots of the pair , in this one with one of the Blackbirds . They were on the far side of a horse paddock that had a diagonal footpath across it to a stile on the fenceline behind the birds in the shot . I did attempt to get closer via the footpath , but with no cover across the paddock , the wiley birds spotted me and flew further up the slope . The attempt wasn't wasted though , as apart
from several Skylark singing and displaying , a minimum of 4 Wheatear were also found , a male and
female posing for the camera , but they too wouldn't let me get close .
After lunch , I set off to look for the first Orchids if the year , parking up at Cudham Recreation Ground , and enjoying a very pleasant walk across the farmland towards Strawberry Bank , with more Skylarks , half a dozen Swallows and a couple of House Martins . With Bluebells in full
bloom , it's always nice to find the odd white one . Along the track , in exactly the same place that I first found it many years ago , Moschatel - Town Hall Clock / Adoxa moschatellina is in full flower ,
with it's four flowers ( clock faces ) on each side , and one on top for good luck . Reaching the orchid site , which I haven't visited for a few years now , I could only find 11 flower spikes , when they used
to be counts of 100/200 on previous visits . Hopefully it is just a blip this year , as nothing seems to have changed on the site . A bit further along the track is Strawberry Bank , a small chalk grassland site managed by LB.Bromley . I found a couple of Early Purple Orchids here in the past , but none this time . On the way back to the car , a few Labiates , plants with square stems were found ;
Yellow Archangel / Lamiastrum galeobdolon ,
Bugle / Ajuga reptans ,
and Ground Ivy / Glechoma hederacea .
Only other interest found was up on the Common on the way home . Looking like a wasp , but in fact a Cuckoo Bee , Nomada signata , I believe .


Warren Baker said...

You certainly got your Ring Ouzel fix Greenie! Have fun collecting all those moth eggs mate :-)

Phil said...

Nice post Greenie.
Well done with the moth sitting, all very interesting.
Haven't managed a Ring Ouzel this Spring, but did get my first New Hythe Grizzled Skipper for two years this week.

Kingsdowner said...

Fascinating caterpillar/lava/moth story!
Hope all's well with you Fred.

E Shilland said...

Hi Greenie
My first ever comment, but I've very much enjoyed your posts for some time now.
I live close to Strawberry Bank and can confirm there is one Early Purple, but sadly its flower stalk has been munched off, sometime between 10 days ago and the weekend just past. My mission this year is to find their other Cudham Valley location!