Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A Bit Orange.

I've always struggled to get pleasing shots of Orange-tips, and due to this I had the very successful trip to West Sussex earlier in the Spring. Here, Orange-tips are more numerous as there is a lot more of the popular foodplants, Cuckoo-flower and Garlic Mustard on the roadside verges. Since that trip I have suddenly got a bit luckier locally with open wing shots and roosting shots. Today I was walking along a local path in sunny, but very cold conditions, when I came across a male Orange-tip that wasn't sure whether to roost or warm up. I managed a shot in roosting mode followed by an open wing shot. It now won't be long before this delightful species finishes for the year, but hopefully a few more will be seen over the next few weeks. Small Coppers continued to show well today. I also saw 2 Grizzled Skippers and my first Small Heath of the year.

Male Orange-tip.

Orange-tip and an Ant.

Orange-tip warming up.

It was also pleasing yesterday to see a distant Osprey that was circling near Arlington Reservoir.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Cinnabars and Coppers.

Yesterday I was planning a butterfly survey, but, with the weather being almost wintry I decided against it. Instead it was back to a stroll around the local patch in more hope than anything. The wind was very cool, but from a direction that at least the patch was partly protected from, it felt okay in the few sunny bits. A few Wall Brown were seen but apart from that it was just a few newly emerged Cinnabar Moths in the grass trying to warm up. These at least gave me a chance to improve on previous shots of these moths.

Cinnabar Moth.

Just before I found the 2nd one shown here I saw what I thought was a Ring Ouzel fly across the valley. The binoculars were on close focus and by the time I had adjusted the focus the bird had vanished in the bushes. On trying to relocate the bird I saw this Cinnabar and as I finished taking photos the bird flew over our heads and this time it called too. There was now no doubt it was an Ouzel. It was then seen again flying back across the valley where the white chest was very visible!! Matt had seen and photographed one at Seaford Head in the morning so it may have possibly been the same bird.

We then headed North where a smart Wheatear was seen. Along that valley the weather deteriated even further and we nearly gave up, however, with the sky looking a little brighter in the distance we battled on seeing 2 Brown Hares and several Common Whitethroat. James then spotted a slightly worn Green-veined White roosting on a Dandelion clock. This at least gave us a few photo opportunities.

Green-veined White on Dandelion clock.

Looking pretty on a nearby Cowslip.

We now even had a little light rain falling, but we pushed on and as we reached the turnaround point we started to see more as the clouds suddenly lifted and sunshine came through. 3 Small Coppers seen at the same time was very uplifting, especially as last year at this site only one 1st brood Small Copper was seen. With 2 more seen in the afternoon we had a 500% increase on last years poor showing!! We also saw and heard 2 Mediterranean Gulls flying overhead for around 30 minutes. A single Dingy Skipper was also seen and photographed. The best sight though was as we were leaving the site I spotted a very fresh Small Copper going to roost on some tall grass. The sun was now hiding behind light cloud, but we could see the sun was going to be fully out again soon and as this happened the butterfly opened its wings quite wide as it tried to get the last of the days rays. A brilliant end to a surprisingly good day.

Dingy Skipper.

Roosting Small Copper.

Small Copper warming up at the end of the day.

Friday, 21 April 2017

A Dingy Day!!

With clouds covering the sky, but slightly calmer winds I called up to my local patch for the 2nd day running. However, following yesterday when I didn't hang about due to the really cold conditions, today I straight away had at least 7 Wall Brown flying around me fighting for the right to land on the warmer bank in front. These territorial battles went on for some time with the butterflies landing in front of me between battles and although several pictures were taken none were good enough to keep.
Eventually I decided to move on, as the sun had come out, and as I was leaving the area a little butterfly flew up and landed nearby. Through the binoculars I could see it was a newly emerged Dingy Skipper, my first of the year. The wings were still a little creased up. It was then seen climbing up some grass to dry out and whilst it was doing this a couple of shots were taken.

Newly emerged Dingy Skipper.

Dingy Skipper drying its wings.

After leaving the Skipper I found a few more Wall Brown flying in the area as well as my first Small Coppers on the patch. The sun however wasn't out for long and I soon ventured back to the area where the Wall Brown had been battling. The temperature though had dropped too much so I had a very quick look to see if I could find a Wall pupa. As usual I failed on this mission, although I did find a pale coloured Marbled White larva.

Marbled White larva.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Morning Wall.

With the local Wall Brown now on the wing I was keen to try to get some shots of this notoriously difficult butterfly. As I have been studying this species for many years I felt confident that I would find some butterflies even though there are not many flying yet. Unfortunately the very cold strong wind was a North Easterly which was not quite what I was hoping for. On first arrival I saw 2 butterflies right where I expected them to be as they tried to warm up. I soon had the 2 males fighting for territory. It was difficult to know how many different butterflies I saw but it was almost continuous action until the wind veered around a little too much. I then wandered off for a while hunting other species but once again the cool breeze meant little was seen. Returning to my Wall Brown spot I was pleased to feel the breeze had improved just enough and once again I was seeing territorial behaviour. A great couple of hours although not too many photos.

Male Wall Brown.

Today Nigel and I visited another of our local Early Spider Orchid sites. I first checked this site on Sunday and found around a dozen plants. Today, a wider hunt resulted in around 60-70 plants with some small groups and one plant with 2 flowers very close together on the stem. 4 Small Coppers were also seen, my first of this year. This brings me to 16 butterfly species this year. The only downer for the day was finding a large dead female Adder. It wasn't at all clear what had caused the death as it looked didn't look damaged at all. It was just upside down and a bit smelly!!

Early Spider Orchids.

Early Spider Orchid with 2 flowers together.

Small Copper.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Wall Brown Appears.

I have been checking my regular Wall Brown area for most of the past week as I was sure the first brood were imminent. Yesterday morning, another search started and almost immediately I saw an orange/brown butterfly with the distinctive flight of the Wall Brown. I watched him for several minutes as he was staying around an area out of the cold breeze.

The first Wall Brown of the year.

Nearby was a nest of Brown-tail Moth larvae. They were all on one side of the nest trying to warm up. A couple of Grizzled Skipper were also seen, although in the cool breeze most butterflies were taking shelter.

Brown-tail Moth larva.

Another visit this morning produced at least 4 Wall Brown flying with a few aerial battles between the males, all trying to have the warm patch for their territories. 
On the end of a Hawthorn twig I spotted a smallish, but really smart spider that I assume was hoping to ambush an insect. It was also possibly sitting on its nursery? My thanks to Nigel for informing me that the spider looks like a Agalenatea redii.

Agalenatea redii.

Talking about spiders, last Thursday Pete and I went to check out one of the local colonies of Early Spider Orchids. There are only a few showing at the moment as it is a bit early in their season but one plant was showing well with another alongside it giving a different shot to my past efforts.

Early Spider Orchids.

Friday, 14 April 2017

A Very Good 'Good Friday'!!

With the sun shining again I headed up to the patch in the hope that the Wall Browns would be on the wing. Alas, this wasn't the case but on a longer walk than planned plenty other goodies were waiting for me. It was soon evident that there was more of a breeze blowing than I had wanted and it was quite a cool breeze too. I started off looking for the very fresh Grizzled Skipper that I had spotted yesterday morning. No sign of this but the 2 Wall Brown larva I have been monitoring were still in the same tussock. Some great views of Common Whitethroat were also had. Along the valley the tatty Grizzled Skipper was seen for the 4th time, I was wondering and hoping that I would see a fresh one here. I then saw my first odonata of the year with a lovely Large Red Damselfly that even stayed put long enough for a few shots.

Large Red Damselfly.

Grizzled Skipper.
 The tatty individual. Why can't I get a perfect specimen performing like this one!!

Following this I decided to head much further along the valley hunting Green Hairstreaks. Although I saw several Hairstreaks on Tuesday at Devil's Dyke I still hadn't seen any local ones and I felt sure there should be some showing now, despite my earliest record for the local site being 19th April. 
Halfway to the turnaround point I came across a pair of Peacock where the male was doing a courtship dance around the female. Both butterflies were really tatty and it made me think if I would still be trying it on when I get to the old peoples home!! After a short while the old girl got a bit fed up with the amorous old boy and flew off!!

Geriatric Peacocks getting fruity!!

At last I reached the furthest point and I suddenly saw a Green Hairstreak fly up right by me. It was in pretty good condition but probably not totally straight out the box. 

Green Hairstreak.

At this point I also had a very fresh Grizzled Skipper that didn't hang around for a photo as well as a flighty female Orange-tip. 
It was then a long walk back to the car. On the way back another Green Hairstreak showed itself. This was on a bush where I have often seen them in previous seasons. Back to where the tatty Grizzled Skipper was seen earlier I saw another Skipper. I immediately assumed it was the tatty one again but looking through the binoculars I could see it was a much fresher one. Although it didn't pose as well as the tatty one had I still managed a couple of shots.

Grizzled Skipper.

I was now feeling a little jaded and with just 100 yards to go to the car a Holly Blue flew up from the path by my feet. Cursing as Holly Blues rarely pose low down I watched it fly down the path looking as though it might land again low down. It then did something I can't remember a Holly Blue do before, it landed on a twig sticking up. I quickly got in position as I could hear a family coming down the path. The butterfly then started to open its wings to reveal the fact it was a fresh female. As usual with this species it didn't open its wings fully, but just enough, and just in time before the family went past disturbing it.

Female Holly Blue.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Go West For Orange and Green.

Orange-tips in East Sussex seem to be doing slightly better than the poor performance from last year although numbers in West Sussex are much better. This I'm sure is down to the over enthusiastic mowers that the councils in these parts use. Well before the larva mature and head off to pupate all the Cuckoo Flower and Garlic Mustard in the verges are cut meaning less butterflies for the following year!!

With this in mind James and I headed West looking for some Orange-tips, one of the gems in the butterfly season and a great sign of Spring. On the way we decided to try Devils Dyke for Green Hairstreak. Although I have some good local colonies of these they are yet to emerge this year around here. Meanwhile at the Dyke they have been out for a few days and in the couple of hours spent here around a dozen were seen along with a smart female Holly Blue.

Green Hairstreak.

Female Holly Blue.

It was then onto an old favourite site for the Orange-tips. Unfortunately it wasn't as good as it used to be so despite seeing a few we went searching for other good looking sites. Eventually we saw some Cuckoo Flower and Garlic Mustard in a field so we parked up and found several Orange-tips and a couple of Green-veined Whites flying. Eventually the Orange-tips started to go to roost and photo opportunities presented themselves.

Orange-tip nectaring on Cuckoo Flower.

Orange-tip roosting on Garlic Mustard.

Orange-tip roosting on Cuckoo Flower.