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 .

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Wednesday 19th. August 2015

A look up on the Common failed again to find any Purple Hairstreaks but a couple of butterflies did make it into the viewfinder ;
a pristine male Brimstone ,
and a very fresh Brown Argus .
Only other interest found was lots of stunted , like many other plants this year , specimens of Common Toadflax / Linaria vulgaris , a member of the Figwort family .
The first of two High Elms LNR butterfly transects was carried out in a brief sunny spell in an otherwise cloudy day , and the results reflected this , but it was my only chance that week . Just 12 species , including 15 Brown Argus but only 7 Silver-washed Fritillary and not a single White-letter Hairstreak .
A visit to Sevenoaks Reserve became a day of reflections , as the only opportunity to photograph a
Kingfisher was when one perched briefly in the Willow on the island outside Willow Hide . Plenty of sightings , but not a single landing on the stick in front of the hide . Whilst waiting , this juvenile
Grey Heron proved a bit more obliging . A pair of Gadwall began the reflections theme ,

An unexpected reflection came when a Green Sandpiper flew in . It spent a lot of time out of view ,
Not to be out-done , a Little Egret , that had been preening up in a tree on the left-hand island ,
decided it was time to reflect on looking for a meal .
The tiniest of Little Grebes joined in ,
as did it's Great Crested relation . Eight species of butterfly were recorded , all in small number , and Odonata were represented by Brown , Southern and Migrant Hawker , an immature male of  the latter
being the only one willing to be photographed . Damselflies were represented by Common Blue , Blue-tailed and Small Red-eyed . The walk back to the car , produced a pair of Speckled Bush-
crickets enjoying the sun on an Alder leaf , the female on the right , sporting her scimitar shaped
ovipositor , and on a flowering Hogweed , a Rose Sawfly / Arge pagana , showing it's orange / yellow abdomen .
A visit to White Hill , above Shoreham railway station , a site managed specifically for Chalkhill Blues , found reasonable numbers , 75+, several females amongst that figure , but I have seen many more on site in previous years . 10 species in total were recorded , including another 7 Brown Argus .
A couple of Treble Bar , day flying moths were also seen , a species I personally haven't seen much of in recent years . The strangest sighting was when I spotted something yellow down in the grass .
It turned out to be just a male Dark Bush-cricket , but it was the first time I had seen the underside of
it's abdomen and certainly caused some head scratching before it was sorted out .
Today's HE butterfly transect was in better weather this morning , though it clouded over as I got back to the car park . 16 species were recorded , 29 Silver-washed Fritillary , with over 50% of those
being female , although some of them are rather tatty to say the least , but things look very good for
next year . Several fresh Peacocks were recorded , hopefully , Winter will be kind to them in hibernation , to emerge and breed next Spring . Several Hawker dragonflies were seen on the way
round , Brown , Migrant and on Burnt Gorse a very smart male Southern Hawker , posed in the sunshine .
And finally , a moth found sheltering on the back of the house from the overnight rain , turned out to
be a Willow Beauty . Many thanks to Martin for the ID .

Monday, 10 August 2015

Monday 10th. August 2015

A picture catch up on the last week , began with a look in up on the Greensand Ridge and finding 5
Adders . Most were half hidden under heathland vegetation , but this male was sunning himself on a log .
A look in at Keston Ponds on the way home , finally found a few Small Red-eyed Danselfly / Erythromma viridulum . This species seems to be slowing up in their colonisation in recent years , after initially seeming to be making inroads at some pace .
The Holly Blues on West Wickham Common are still in good numbers , with fresh males like this one emerging , seemingly by the day .
All is not so peaceful on the Heather patch , as this Honey Bee found , when it was caught , dismembered and eaten by a Hornet .
The High Elms butterfly transect produced 18 species , the highlights being 7 White-letter Hairstreak , 31 Silver-washed Fritillary ( including 3 egg laying females ) , 8 Brown Argus ( female
pictured ) and 26 Common Blue , a count that already has overtaken the best first brood figure . The dry weather seems to have finished off the Ringlets , with just one recorded , and the golden
underwing of the Comma form hutchinsoni , has been replaced with the standard dark underwing .
Helping with the Down House transect , these results were reflected , but good numbers of Small Copper were recorded . Once again whilst in the large paddock , we made contact with the two Roe
Deer fawns , and just before leaving the site , found a moth on a Black Knapweed head . I thought I was going to trawling the web for an ID , but fortunately Marcus emailed me before I got started ,
Dusky Sallow . Also found on the way round was a female 'long-winged' Roesel's Bush Cricket ,
similar to the one Phil / Sharp by Nature found loafing in his garden on a chair .
A look up on the Common found things very quiet , the only interest found was the flowering of
a few of the Broad-leaved Helleborines , a few because the Deer have browsed the flower spikes of
probably 75% of the plants , which is very disappointing .
I have made a couple of visits to the slope below Biggin Hill Airport , and on one of these recored 11 species on a very small site . Having found male Chalkhill Blues previously , it was good to find the
first female of the year , and by the time I passed returning to the car , she had been found by one of
the males and they were starting on next year's population . Also seen , a Common Buzzard that flew
over continuously calling . On a much greyer day , as I passed Keston Church , the unmistakable shape of a Red Kite drifted over . I jumped out and fired off a couple of shots without having a
chance to adjust any settings .The result was a silhouette , but on the computer , I managed to lighten
things up .
A few insects I have found , starting with Hoverflies :
Another of the larger species , Volucella inanis ,
to one of the smallest , Sphaerophoria scripta .
An unusual Sawfly , Tehthredo marginella ,
a fly of the Conopid family , Physocephela rufipes , which is parasitic on the larvae of Bumblebees .
A flower I don't see very often these days , Soapwort / Saponaria officinalis , a member of the Pink family . Sometimes double flowering specimens are found , but these are cultivated garden escapees .
And finally , I found this female Southern Hawker , crashing about in the carport the other day . I
grabbed a mop from the garage and encouraged her to settle on the head . When quietened down , I managed a few shots before taking her into the back garden , where after a bit of cleaning up , she flew off .