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 .


Phil said...

Lots of butterfly info there Greenie. Plenty of Small Coppers at Dungeness last Friday.
Not surprised New Hythe didn't excite, it's been quiet through the late summer, although Whinchat and Redstart livened it up somewhat last week.

Ken. said...

That is a good blog, I found it a nice read. you got a nice selection of pictures to go with it.
The Short Eared Owl was a good find, never read about then arriving down here this early.