Saturday, 30 May 2015

Saturday 30th. May 2015

A visit up on the Common came up with surprises in the shape of several Brimstone caterpillars of all
sizes , Surprising as I have not seen a single egg laying female , so can only think that they wait till I get to the car before starting . A look in the wooded area where Broad-leaved Helleborine thrive ,
found at least 35 specimens and the final figure should be around the usual 50 when they all show and come into flower . A first for the year was this Mother Shipton day flying moth , reputedly
having the profile of the 'old hag' on it's wings . On the stump of a Scots Pine , I found this orangey/red slime mould . A bit of research followed , and I think it might be Dianema corticatum ,
or not as the case might be . If it is , it will be a first for me . The reader might remember the Pheasant's nest with 11 eggs that I found some time back . All the eggs had gone on a visit , but I was unsure if they had hatched or been predated . With no shells around the nest , I was leaning towards
the latter . On the visit I found a couple of clues to confirm this , the first were two shells that had obviously been predated , then I came across an undamaged one that had been hidden under moss and
roots . Two suspects came to mind , Corvid or Fox . Whichever was the culprit , I'm reasonably sure that the clutch did not hatch .
A visit to the small reserve with feeders started with a stop off at a very quiet Bough Beech
Reservoir , where the only interest was the Common Tern who as usual are nesting on the floating platforms and plastic island on the main reservoir . Moving on , I stopped at the same puddle as I did
last year , and spent an enjoyable half hour watching House Martins and a single Swallow , collecting mud for their nests . My next stop was at a bridge over the River Eden to look for Odonata . Good numbers of Common and Azure Blue and Blue-tailed damselflies and a Downy Emerald perched on the river side of a large Bramble area that looked a certain photographer and camera in the water if any attempt of a shot was tried . The Banded Demoiselles fluttered in the sunshine and a pair
attempted to mate in a more photo-friendly place . With the wind and inexperience , they never did get it together and flew off separated . Only a handful of White-legged Damselflies were found , all
creamy coloured specimens , like this immature male . The bankside vegetation also produced what I can only describe as 'Mission Impossible' . The male Green Dock Beetle / Gastrophysa viridola
attempting to mate with the inflated female . With no food in the feeders , the little reserve was quiet birdwise , but I did hear a Cuckoo calling from the far end , and a single Grass Snake under a tin refugia once again did a 'Usain Bolt' before I could even aim the camera , but a few Four-spotted
Chasers and three Broad-bodied Chasers , kept me occupied , once again risking the camera and a
ducking for the sake of a shot , the one pictured being a female .
The latest butterfly transect at High Elms LNR did nothing to lift the morale , as although reaching the heady heights of 30 butterflies on the two and a half hour transect , 19 of them were Common
Blues , a few of which were females like this one . With 5 Green-veined Whites and 2 Brimstone recorded , four singleton species made up the final total , but at least one of them was an egg laying
Green Hairstreak , and after she moved on , I searched the just opened bud of the Bird's-foot Trefoil
to find a tiny white jewel , smaller than the head of a pin , stuck to the tender young leaves . Again on this visit , orchid numbers increased with 2 more Man Orchids (19) , 6 more Fly Orchids (29) and 5
more Birds-nest Orchids (10) being found . The first flowering Common-spotted Orchid ( pictured ) of the year was also found . On the downside , I found another predated Long-tailed Tit nest whilst on Burnt Gorse . I have also made a couple of visits to Hutchinsons Bank whilst the Glanville Fritillaries are on the wing . They are a short living species and the periods of bad weather
whilst they have been about must have reduced their numbers , but they are still there . I think
Martin's highest count was 39 , but more recently that has dropped to the low teens or single figures . There has been a steady stream of visitors to see this species from all over the country , as it is the only site on the mainland where they can be seen . The Isle of Wight is the only other site for this species in the whole UK . The other star species of the site Small Blue is very slow in putting in an
appearance this year , I have only had a maximum count of 7/8 so far , which is very low indeed . Common Blue females were also found here , one of them flying low and slow looking for the perfect
place to lay her eggs . The spot was chosen , she dropped down and here abdomen extended into the
vegetation . Again I waited for her to move on and then found the two eggs that she had laid . On another visit , I found a Comma , 'form hutchinsoni' , quite apt for the site , with it's golden brown
undersides , compared to the normal dark undersides . The last interest found was the black and white Brassica Shield Bug / Eurydema oleracea , who's spots can be white , red or even yellow , just to
confuse the identification .

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Saturday 23rd. May 2015

A cool , windy visit to Sevenoaks Reserve , in the hope of Garden Warbler , proved a failure , with not a single note being heard , never mind a bird being seen . The usual mixed Gull and Goose flocks were also absent from in front of Tyler Hide , but at least one Little Ringed Plover , seemingly
arguing with a Lapwing over territory on the furthermost island , did give a photo opportunity , albeit distant . Nothing out of the ordinary found until reaching Kingfisher Hide , where Wren was building a nest behind an open flap . Just hope nobody closes it . Several Reed Warbler singing around
Slingsby Hide , and a male Reed Bunting arrived with food and dropped into the reedbed in front . The Egyptian Goose family seems to be reduced by one gosling to 10 , but the remainder are growing
very quickly . Walking down to Long Lake , more exposed to the cool wind , just the odd immature damselfly was seen , everything else was sheltering . But when I got to the clay spit and looking over towards Tower Hide , House and Sand Martin , Swallow and Swift , were all making the most of the
conditions , hawking insects from just above the lake surface on the way up towards the Visitor
Centre , before returning to the far end to start over again . At least it gave an opportunity for some
in-flight practice , though once again the subjects were distant , in the middle of the East Lake , the
Swift proving most difficult to lock onto and sending the AF into a nervous breakdown . A stop on the Common on the way back home , found one of the Long-tailed Tit nests , that I have been
watching being built , lying out in the open and ripped apart , most probably by Corvids . The amount of work and the number of feathers which lined it was just incredible .
The Butterfly Transect at High Elms LNR seems to be going from worse to worse , with just 19 butterflies of 9 species being recorded on the two and a half hour transect . The only high spot was
my first Large Skipper of the year . Doing much better are the orchids , with a late specimen Early
Purple Orchid , the only one I know of on site , 5 Bird's Nest Orchids , which have shot up all of a

sudden , and the first White Helleborine to come into flower , a really robust specimen this one . Other than those , Man Orchid has increased to 17 , and Fly Orchid to 23 . Other interest found were
4 iridescent green beetle on a Hawkweed flower . There are several similar species , but I think these could be Green Dock Beetle / Gastrophysa viridola , but as ever , open to correction , and an Oak
Apple , about the size of a large conker , and formed by the larvae of a gall wasp of the family Cynipidae , not to be confused with the Oak Marble Gall which is also found on the same tree species .
A couple of visits to Hutchinsons Bank , when the sun was shining , most important to have any chance to see the Glanville Fritillaries on the wing proved successful , finding visitors from as far
away as Bristol enjoying the sightings . Numbers are really good , with Martin recording 33 GFs on
his transect this week . Just hope this cloudy , cool weather passes soon , and have something better , in the hope of successful breeding for the species . Also on site , the Small Blue has emerged , but in very small numbers . I have only seen 3 individuals , a mating pair and a singleton , some good

weather would help them too . Another Painted Lady was found yesterday , but it looked absolutely
exhausted , managing only to make short flights before landing again . I think it will be fingers
crossed for this butterfly too .
And , finally , the reader might remember the Emperor moth caterpillars that I was entrusted with last year , that hatched earlier this year , including a deformed female which I 'hung up' hoping for a male to find her , which did happen , and she laid around 30 eggs on Gorse , which on advice , I brought
home . Well , those eggs are now hatching and the caterpillars will be returned to the wild when they have grown on a bit . The story has now gone full circle .

Monday, 18 May 2015

Monday 18th. May 2015

The latest High Elms LNR butterfly transect showed very little change from the last , with just 26
butterflies of 10 species , plus 9 Orange Tip eggs being recorded . The only new species was
Common Blue , with just a single male found . 6 Green Hairstreak were recorded , with four of those
being egg laying females , on their favoured Bird's-foot-trefoil . One of them showed a small part of
the brown upper-wing colour , explaining why they are so hard to spot in flight . A few Burnet
Companion , day flying moths , and a couple of migrant Silver Ys were also found . On the way
round , another Fly Orchid was found , now in full flower , and 7 Man Orchids , which were just
starting to flower , from the bottom up as usual . Also found was the first White Helleborine of the
year , though still to flower .
A visit to Spring Park Pond proved very quiet indeed , with just two immature Azure Damselflies ,
and about a dozen Large Red Damselflies , two of which were attempting to clasp and mate with the
other , only no one told them that they were both males , as can be seen by their markings .
Friday turned out a bit better than forecasted , so decided to have a look at New Hythe , especially as a couple of Turtle Doves and Cuckoos had been reported recently . Everything was very wet from the previous day's rain , but hearing a Cuckoo calling I made my way to the Sunken Marsh , catching just a glimpse before it dropped out of sight . Even if it hadn't , I would have been shooting into the sun , so decided to get round to the river side , arriving just to see the back end of the bird fly across it and calling from the other side . I stayed in cover hoping that it would return , but it didn't . I was just about to give up , when the rarest sighting of the day appeared from the vegetation behind me , Phil / Sharp by Nature , the local blogger . Phil was thinking the same as myself , and with the bird seemingly staying over the river , we had a chance to catch up on things , before moving on over the mound , around Abbeymead and across the railway to the East Scrub . Lots of immature damselflies
on the way , the best being this immature drab form female Common Blue Damselfly . Another senior moment , should read immature Red-eyed Damselfly - thanks for the correction Marc . Also found in
the vegetation was a 14 Spot Ladybird / Propylea 14-punctata , and a small colourful moth that I have
been trying to identify since , without any joy . If anyone could help with the ID , it would greatly appreciated . In the East scrub , we had a fleeting glimpse of a female Hairy Dragonfly , but apart from that and several singing Nightingales and Common Whitethroats , our walk back along the millstream was un-interrupted . Phil left , but I decided to give the Sunken Marsh another go , first having my lunch . Arriving , I heard the Cuckoo in exactly the same place as earlier on , and like earlier it moved almost straight away , calling soon after from the Poplars along the railway line . I started back to the car park , stopping at the last fishing platform before the tunnel , alongside the paper factory . I thought I might get an in-flight shot of the bird , but that didn't happen either . But , whilst I waited , a rustle in the reeds and a reed stem toppling over , alerted me to a Water Vole , just 2 mtrs. from where I was standing . With the large lens attached to the camera , I couldn't get far enough away to get it in focus , so had to swap to the 100mm. macro lens . The Vole took my
presence and the lens change in it's stride , and gave a most enjoyable 10 minutes as it demolished a small area of reedbed at an astonishing rate . The amount eaten to the size of the animal
was incredible , but it all came to an end as a couple of dog walkers approached , although completely at ease with the sound of the camera shutter , the first sound of their voices and the Vole disappeared deep into the reedbed , not to be seen again . I had intended to head home , but something made me turn off at the Ham Street water treatment plant and park up again . A short walk towards the diver's bridge found a male Hairy Dragonfly patrolling the ditch , and although I waited for almost half an hour , he didn't come to rest once . Also in the ditch , a Moorhen's nest with at least two eggs . I then had another look along the ditch to the East Scrub , finding as before very little , but as I approached the Scrub , ringing out from alongside the railway was the call of the Cuckoo again .
I made my way to the far end of the ditch , and against a dull sky managed to get a few shots of the bird before flying towards the railway crossing , where it again perched high in the trees . I caught up
with him just as he was making his next move and managed o few in flight shots before it flew acoss the railway line and was next heard over the other side of Abbeymead . Must admit , I was glad he had flown some distance as my energy levels were running on low by now .
On Saturday I made a visit to Hutchinsons Bank and had an enjoyable couple of hours wandering about the site and whilst doing so recorded 16 species of butterfly , albeit 9 of those producing a singleton sighting . Brimstone still the most numerous species , but 5 Common Blue and my first
Brown Argus of the year , a male , added to the mix . Down on the bottom track , a female Holly
Blue was also a year first . No sign of Small Blue or Painted Lady that Martin had recorded in the previous couple of days , but a Long-horned Beetle which I think is Stenocorus meridianus , but
as always stand to be corrected  , also added to the interest on the visit .
With a Fun Walk going on over the Common and surrounding areas , I hadn't intended to go out yesterday , but an afternoon call from Martin had me hot-footing it back to Hutchinson's Bank , where he had found at least 2 Glanville Fritillaries on the wing . Thankfully they were still around
when I arrived and the sun was still out too . A great way to finish off the weekend photographing
this superb butterfly . Hopefully , more will emerge during the next few days , and hope these two survive today's heavy rain and strong winds . I have since read that the species emerged on the Isle of Wight over this weekend too .