Monday, 24 August 2015

Monday 24th. August 2015

Stuck indoors today with a temperature only half of what it was Saturday and pouring with rain , so a chance to look back on a couple of recent visits .
The slope below Biggin Hill airport produced a 50-50 split male to female Chalkhill Blues , 5 Brown
Argus and 4 Small Heath , amongst the more common species . A very pale female Gatekeeper , pictured , was also recorded . With many fruits ripening , like these Wayfarer berries , the 'A' word I feel is fast approaching . On the way home , a quick look in at High Elms was very quiet , so I made a point of looking at the Violet Helleborine , the un-browsed flower spike is still surviving , and a look
at the variegated Broad-leaved Helleborine showed that it did flower , but only managed two and several 'duds' at the top of the spike .
A visit up on the Downs in not the best conditions found Chalkhill Blue numbers well down on previous years , but surprisingly , Brown Argus numbers on par with Common Blue , they certainly seem to have had a very good season . On the way around , I found another female Roesel's Bush-
cricket and managed to get a clearer picture . That's about 6 seen this year , so have they always been around and just haven't spotted them before , or are they having a good year too ? On a log pile , no
sign of the hoped for Grass Snake , but a juvenile Common Lizard was enjoying the sunshine and
towards the back of the pile , a very confiding adult took no notice of me , or the Macro lens hood which was almost touching  it . Two Adders were seen , but both evaded the camera , but a group of
Slow Worms didn't . Females right and centre and a male , with blue spots , bottom left , the one with a smile on his face . Only other interest found was a very fresh female Red Admiral , a species that
has been hard to find this year , recorded just twice on the High Elms transect so far .
Arriving home , Carol told me that there had been a large dragonfly around the pond all afternoon , so
I went for a look and found a female Southern Hawker , busily ovipositing in the moss around the pond . I then spent ages trying to get a close up of her ovipositor , even moving flower pots without spooking her , but her abdomen and wings were constantly on the move and 99% of the attempts
went in the bin , but one shot was successful . This curved blade is normally in a sheath beneath segments 8-10 , but when ovipositing is lowered and used to cut a small slit into the chosen material , then a single egg is then deposited and is protected from would be predators .
Fellow enthusiast Keith and myself , have been waiting for an opportunity to search for Brown Hairstreaks , and on Saturday we headed off to the River Mole , South of Gatwick Airport , as unfortunately the species isn't recorded in Kent , although I know of some sightings just over the border in Surrey . We arrived about 0900 with the temperature already in the low 20s C , and within 10 minutes had the first of 8/10 sightings . Great , but they were all around the tops of trees or non-stop fly-byes . We checked large areas of Blackthorn and a nearby meadow but we didn't have a single sighting down low . By midday it was clear that we had failed and decided to move to another site , around the old railway station at West Grinstead , now part of the Downs Link , a great area for walkers and cyclists , and being a sunny day , had attracted both in number . We decided to walk North , checking the Blackthorn bushes which line both sides of the path . We checked a large meadow , full of Common Fleabane and other nectar rich plants , but only found a Brimstone , a few Meadow Brown and a couple of Brown Argus . Fortunately , some parts were shaded by the trees on either side almost forming a tunnel which gave some relief from the sun . Butterflies here too were few and far between , but a flash of orange disappearing into the shade proved to be our first Brown Hairstreak of the day , a female that was egg laying deep in the vegetation . Within a short space of time a wave of cyclists came by and spooked her . Keith went to investigate another meadow whilst I carried on down the track , finding another female BH , and in a more photographical position , on
the vegetation on the edge of the track . I called to Keith then looked up and down the track , and found walkers and cyclists approaching from both directions . Fortunately , Keith managed to get a
few shots , before the cyclists arrived and once again spooked her . Neither were seen again , but I went back to where the first was egg laying , and after a while managed to find one of her eggs ,
surprisingly on Privet , not the normal Blackthorn . We carried on up the track for some time only finding the more common species of butterflies , but also several Migrant Hawkers , this male
stopping for a rest high up , between feeding sorties . We eventually turned round and retraced out steps back towards the car park , still checking every bush . We didn't get another BH sighting , so we
had to make do with a herd of Red Deer in a neighbouring field , the stag , as can be seen , in full antler . Having a late lunch in shade near the car , we had at least 3 Silver-washed Fritillaries . We decided to make a stop on the other side of Gatwick Airport on the way home , another BH site . By now the temperature read 29 C on the car thermometer , but it wasn't too far to the Blackthorn area . We failed to find BH on the visit , but \I did find a couple of plants of interest . The first was Betony /
Betonica officinalis , a member of the Labiate ( square stems ) family , and from that same family ,
Skullcap / Scutellaria galericulata , but much weaker specimens than the ones found at Westbere Lakes earlier in the year . A moth found during Biggin Hill visit ,  has been identified by Martin as
The Shears , thanks for that Martin .
And finally , on the 18th . , there was a commemoration flight by 25+ Spitfires and Hurricanes that
took off from Biggin Hill and returned an hour later . These were just four of the flight remembering 'The Few ' . As you can see , the light was awful that day .


roger.wood800 said...

Great shots!
I too had gone to Biggin Hill thinking it'd be a good opportunity to see the planes and also pay a visit to Salt Box Hill and/or Down House.
Thanks to the cold and grey conditions the trip ended at the aptly named Spitfire Cafe

Ken. said...

Pleased you got to see the Brown Hairstreak, it made your trip worthwhile. That's a nice looking cricket, as far as crickets go.

Admin High Elms said...

I think your Shears Moth may be Straw Underwing Thalpophila matura?