Sunday, 4 September 2016

Sunday 4th. September 2016

A catch up on sightings over the last few weeks include :
A female Stag Beetle around the woodpile in the corner of the garden .
At  Keston Ponds , a male Small Red-eyed Damselfly caught on the wing ,
a pair of mating Black-tailed Skimmers ,
and two of four Brown Hawker females , ovipositing on floating logs and other debris .
A visit to Leybourne Lakes at New Hythe didn't live up to expectations , but did produce female Tufted Duck with broods of 4,7 and 8,
and a female Emperor Dragonfly ovipositing whilst being buzzed by a male Common Blue Damselfly .
The annual visit of Kent Butterfly Conservation to High Elms fell short of what was expected , having found a single White-letter Hairstreak in the bottom glade before the group arrived , it had moved on before we reached the glade , but 16 species were seen , which was below average , but did include Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral , the other two target species . An Alder Moth larva was a bonus find . Needless to say , a week later I had 9 WLHs on transect . An opportunity also arose to photograph male
and female SWFs , nectaring on the same Hemp Agrimony head , female on the right . That species is also
one that has done well this season , with several females seen oviposting on tree trunks . When this one
moved on , I found several eggs . On my last transect , I found a very freshly emerged Painted Lady , but it
doesn't look like a mega influx of the species this year . A bonus was a Jersey Tiger day flying moth , found
nectaring on Hemp Agrimony near the Orchid Bank , a species which seems to use railway lines to extend their range . Forest Hill in SE London is it's unlightly stronghold .
Below Biggin Hill airport , Chalkhill Blue numbers increased to 69 including three mating pairs ,
and with males well out-numbering females , competition was fierce , with three males here attempting to couple with a single female . Another female gave an opportunity to get an open , topwing shot , seemingly
 not bothered with attracting searching males . Also found on site , Soapwort / Saponaria officinalis , a
member of the Pink family .
A trip down to Marshside , near Reculver in search of Willow Emerald Damselfly proved difficult , with both
heat and wind a problem , but with much searching , singles then a pair in tandem were found and finally a
mating pair , making the journey well worthwhile . A stop on the way home at Cliffe Pools , though very
short on Odonata , did produce male Emerald and Scarce Emerald Damselfly , but sadly not the hoped for
 Southern Emerald Damselfly to complete the trio .
On a site near Hutchinsons Bank , it was an all male affair , with 3 Large Whites contesting the ownership of a Buddlihia bush with a male Brimstone , bottom left .
Amongst the grass , the pretty day flying moth , Oncocera semirubella was found .
On Hutchinsons Bank itself , I saw my first Small Copper of the season . Usually by now I would have
recorded many , but this year the species seems to be having problems all over the country . One day on leaving HB , I decided to look for WLH eggs on the Elm where I photographed larvae earlier in the season . The seach proved fruitless for eggs , but it did turn up a Comma larva , behaving strangely under one of the
Elm leaves , and looked to me as if it was getting ready to ' hang up ' and pupate . I left it to do his thing ,
and a week later , went back to see if I was right , and there under the leaf was a Comma pupa . A phone
call from Martin had me heading back to HB in the hope of seeing one of the Clouded Yellows that had
taken up residence . After much chasing , not good in the heat , I managed to get a few shots . On the same
visit , a Common Buzzard soared overhead looking for a meal .
With news of Southern Migrant Hawker showing up again in Essex , an early morning start for myself and Keith found us at the West Canvey Reserve , and with no other cars in the car park , a long , hot search
started . Halfway round and no sign of SMH , but we did find a small number of Wall , worth the trip on their
own , and whilst photographing them , were treated to a Peregrine cruising overhead looking for breakfast . Eventually we did find the target species in a ditch alongside the sea wall , but they were distant and constantly charging about in the lush vegetation . Another diversion came in the form of 2/3 Short-eared
Owls that flew up from the long grass as we passed only to be mobbed by the local corvids before disappearing again . On the way back to the car park we found a pair of mating Hornet Hoverflies /
Volucella zonaria , who moved several times in front of us , the sound of their wings incredible , being so close . With very few photo opportunities with the SMHs , we decide to head for a nearby reserve , and
there we had better luck , so a long , hot day finished well , with even the M25 behaving on the way home .
Up on the Common it has been really quiet with not a single Purple Hairstreak or Small Copper being found and even more common species such as Brimstone in short supply . On one visit though , I did manage to
snatch an open-winged shot of a female Large White , unusual for the species , and on another visit found a web of the Labyrinth Spider / Agelena labyrinthica , and managed to coax the occupier out into the open by
vibrating the web with a seed head . The other interesting find was on one of the paths , where mining wasps
, probably Ectemnius sp. , had dug their nests . Whilst watching them , I spotted a Ruby-tailed Wasp , but it
looked different to ones have seen before , having a ruby band on the thorax as well as the tail . I believe this to be Hedychrum nemelia , also a Cuckoo Wasp , which lays it's eggs in unattended nests . When hatched , the larvae feed on the larvae of the host , before emerging as adults . Mind you , the host is no angel as it
preys on hoverflies . This one on the left , struggling to take it's prey underground of feed it's larvae .
My latest visit to the Biggin Hill site found 3/5 Clouded Yellows , the windy conditions and highly active butterflies making a positive count and photographs impossible . In a sheltered corner , I did manage to
photograph a freshly emerged female Brown Argus , and one of several Small Heath , that seem to have
bucked the trend and had a reasonable season .
 And finally , a couple of birds to finish with , a Common Tern at Bough Beech Reservoir ,
and a Green Sandpiper outside Willow Hide at Sevenoaks Reserve .