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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Right Place, Right Time.

On Monday I perhaps stupidly decided to do a count on my patch of the 1st brood Wall Brown. Stupid because it was far too windy. With it being a good 4 mile round trip as well, and agreeing to meet up with Matt later for an orchid foray I had to also get a move on. It is difficult getting the timing right for these counts as the peak time for the butterflies never seem to be the same time as the weather is perfect, or coincides with when I have the time. The only reason I am glad I did it was at one point a fresh male flew up from under my feet and promptly settled on a Gorse bush. I very rarely see Wall Brown settle on Gorse so it was extremely lucky and perfect timing. The butterfly also sat still for me and allowed me to take 10 shots, also very rare for the Wall Brown!!



Male Wall Brown on Gorse.



After counting just 22 Wall Brown, which was disappointing, but perhaps in the wind, not too surprising, it was meeting up with Matt to go looking for the Burnt Orchids that grow locally. Here on the South Downs we have the early and later form of this delightful orchid. This year is very good for this the early form with an estimated count of 200-300 plants.









An assortment of Burnt Orchids.

We also checked out a dew pond hoping to see some emerging dragonflies, although it was much too late in the day really. However, we did find around 8 excuvia of the Emperor Dragonfly as well as a Broad-bodied Chaser and Hairy Dragonfly.




Sunday, 13 May 2018

Glorious Glanvilles.

With a so called' Big Birthday' this year Pen wanted to take me away somewhere that I really wanted to go to for a special treat.

I thought about it for 5 minutes or so and then thought that the Isle of Wight may be a good opportunity to see the Glanville Fritillary in its natural home. I have only seen this species a couple of times before, and both were in an introduced colony. This made me feel that I hadn't really seen them where they really live naturally. Looking quickly at the flight season I saw that the area around Ventnor was where the earliest sightings each year was and they are often on the wing before the end of April. Well, that was that decided and the bookings were made. Then the problems arrived with 2 really cold spells of weather and most butterflies being very late appearing this year. I kept checking whether any had been seen and it was all negative news. It was not looking good!!

The day after the birthday we headed off, catching the ferry and arriving at our hotel in Ventnor mid afternoon. The weather was a little breezy and cloudy, conditions that were expected during our stay, also not very helpful!! 
I soon left Pen resting in the room and headed out along the promenade and within 5 minutes I had found some Glanville larva. This was a bit of a bonus, although I was hoping to get these further along the coast. At this point I realised that the chances of an adult flying were even less than I had thought. I had heard though that this site often gets both the 1st and last sightings of the year which gave me the tiniest hope.



A group of Glanville Fritillary larva.



Glanville larva feeding on Plantain.

Other than this no other butterflies were seen in the cool conditions so I headed back to the hotel, pleased that at least I had seen part of the life cycle of this special insect. It was at this point that I thought the nearest I would get to photographing an adult Glanville would be the mosaic that was along the seafront!!



The mosaic along the promenade.


The next morning I was out quite early, and despite the cool breeze, at least the sun was shining. In the sheltered spots it was actually warm. Just beyond Bonchurch I headed away from the seafront onto some scrubby land and it was here that I saw my first butterfly of the trip, a Wall Brown!! Due to my local studies of this species I probably see more Wall Brown than anyone else in the Country so I did find this a bit ironic. 
When I returned to the hotel Pen wasn't feeling too brilliant and she wanted to rest on her own, so it was back out again. This time I headed up on Bonchurch Down where I saw another 6 Wall Brown as well as several Brown Argus, Dingy Skipper, Common Blue, Small Heath and my first Small Copper of the year. 

The following day the wind had changed direction and was now blowing straight onto the land, however, at least it was a lot warmer. I wasn't out quite so early this day and it was around 8.30am when I was walking along the promenade when I saw 3 Common Blue fighting amongst themselves. I thought this was a bit more promising as these were the first butterflies I had seen along the front other than a couple of Small White. Suddenly a 4th butterfly joined in the battle and I was amazed and mightily relieved to see it was a really fresh Glanville Fritillary. I can't remember a time when I have been so excited about seeing a species before. I then enjoyed nearly an hour of watching this beauty and taking the odd photo when it landed in an open area. It was generally landing on the ground so opportunities were few and far between. I'm not sure if this was the first UK sighting of this species in 2018, but I'm not aware of any others. Eventually I thought I had better get back to Pen, although on the way back I did spot another darker Glanville which had a small tear in the wing.













The spectacular Glanville Fritillary.


Later we drove out to a couple of other sites where plenty of larva were seen by a good friend earlier in the year. At Shepherd Chine I did find 8 larva and I did disturb a butterfly that flew up from under my feet. Unfortunately, despite a good search I could not re-locate it. It could well have been another Glanville?? Compton Chine didn't produce any sightings of larva or butterfly.



Glanville Fritillary larva at Shepherd Chine.


Late in the afternoon it was back along to where I had seen the Glanville earlier, as by now the clouds had rolled in and it was much cooler. Despite a lengthy search I couldn't find it roosting at all. The only butterfly I could find was a roosting Common Blue that was sitting on top of an Oxeye Daisy bud.


Male Common Blue roosting.


On the final morning I once again searched in vain for the roosting Glanville. I did spot 3 Common Blues this time, and at one point the sun very nearly came out, just enough to tempt one of the Common Blues to open up very briefly.



Common Blue warming up.


A very memorable trip that was so much more successful than we ever expected it to be.




Monday, 7 May 2018

Seaford Grizzlies.

In the local area I do have several Grizzled Skipper colonies, however, none of them are particularly large colonies. I saw my first 2018 Grizzled Skipper on April 22nd and since then we have had hot weather followed by very cold weather. Now it has become hot again, and the numbers of Grizzled Skippers are as high as I have seen for a few years. I have found some roosting on the cold days, roosting early in the morning, basking in the sunshine and buzzing around in a way that only Grizzled Skippers can.

In doing so I have managed some of my better Grizzly shots, even if it has meant many visits and a few hours of hunting.







Roosting Grizzled Skipper.



A Roosting Pair.



This one flew around in circles!!



A Morning Grizzly.



Grizzled Skipper starting to Wake up.



A Grizzled Skipper still dew covered, looking a little damp. A haze of blue Ground Ivy behind. Worth getting up at 5.50am for!!

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

A Hint Of Orange.

With the weather continuing in the cold, breezy and cloudy conditions I headed out in desperation hoping to find some Orange-tips in an area where in past seasons I have seen small numbers. Regrettably Orange-tips these days are not anything like as numerous as they used to be in East Sussex, certainly partly due to over aggressive cutting back on the verges by the Council contractors. This often happens in the late Spring and early Summer when the eggs and larva are on the Cuckoo Flower and Garlic Mustard, so many are basically cut up in the mowers!!

When I arrived in the area where I was hoping to find some roosting butterflies it was even cooler than I expected, and the Cuckoo Flower was also past its best. Eventually though I did find a female roosting in the undergrowth which gave me a few opportunities despite the dreadful weather. After getting a few shots I moved on and in a sheltered corner and during a very short sunny interval I had a male Orange-tip fly past me. Fortunately it settled several times for periods of cloud, to fly again in the short sunny bits. It still seemed pretty cool, and the breeze made it extremely tricky, but in the end I did manage to get a few shots worth hanging onto. Needless to say, with such little sun the butterflies were certainly not in the mood for opening up and showing their top wings.






Female Orange-tip.







Male Orange-tip.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Green-veined White.

It now seems that the heatwave we had just over a week ago never happened with the past week being full of clouds and cool breezes. 
On Tuesday, I could quite easily have just stayed at home moaning about the weather and wondering what to do. However, during several walks on the patch in recent days I had seen good quantities of Green-veined White butterflies. In warm conditions this species is extremely difficult to get close to, so on Tuesday I decided to go and see if I could find some roosting. 
As soon as I arrived in the area I found both a Green-veined White and Large White roosting and in a short time I had found several more. The biggest problem I had was a strong breeze blowing along the bottom of the valley where I was. In the end I was extremely pleased with the results I managed despite those dull and breezy conditions.
It certainly was better than doing the housework!!!!




Green-veined White on Cowslip.






Green-veined White on Bluebell.



Large White roosting.



Pair of Green-veined White.







Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Green Hairstreak Heaven.

Every Spring I look forward to my first sightings of both the Orange-tip and the Green Hairstreak, as both these species to me really herald the butterfly season has started in earnest.
Exactly a week after my first Orange-tip of the year, I came across my first Green Hairstreak. It was along the valley on my patch, and strangely, on the same bush that has produced my first Green Hairstreak of the year before, back in 2010. It had almost certainly emerged that day, as I had checked that bush for the past 3 days without luck.

On Saturday I was very limited for time as I had already arranged to meet Phil in the early afternoon and all I managed was a couple of quick grab shots of the butterfly before I lost it to sight. However, on Sunday I returned to the bush in the morning. I have noticed before with this particular bush that the Green Hairstreaks show well on a sunny morning, generally keeping in the lower portion of the bush and staying in a smallish area. This was the case again on Sunday as for nearly an hour I spent watching and photographing him. He soon seemed to accept me too which meant I had time to concentrate on getting the best angles. It turned into one of the best sessions I have had with this species.












Green Hairstreak.

With both Wall Brown and Grizzled Skipper, seen on Sunday, and today a Small Heath my year total has now hit 15

Sunday, 22 April 2018

An Emperor Day.

On Thursday I was really pleased to find my first ever male Emperor Moth without the help of a pheromone lure or a virgin female Emperor. I was walking up a slope at the far end of my local patch when I saw it on the bank drying its wings. I managed 3 quick shots before it flew off at pace. A really beautiful sight, and as ever with this species, one wonders why more at not seen as they are quite spectacular, not rare and quite large!!



Male Emperor Moth newly emerged.


On the walk before this point I had seen my first confirmed Large White of the year as well as several Green-veined Whites including a mating pair.



Mating Green-veined Whites.

Speckled Wood numbers have also suddenly increased with several seen throughout the walk.



Male Speckled Wood.

Once home my first Holly Blue of the year flew through the garden. It seemed that many butterflies had suddenly appeared with the mini heatwave going on.

With finding the Emperor Moth I thought I would try my 3 year old pheromone lure to see if it would still work. It wasn't long before I found out as at least 6 male Emperors were soon coming in to investigate. It is always a pleasure seeing these spectacular moths at close range.






Two different male Emperor Moths.