Sunday, 26 March 2017

It all Adders Up To Spring.

Following my lucky find of the Black Adder on Friday I decided to head for one of my favourite Downland sites for Adders on Saturday. After parking the car I had already decided I was not going to be lucky as we were suffering from a strong Easterly wind that had a definite chill to it and the walk to the area where the Adders are found was not too pleasant. Therefore it was a very nice surprise to find an Adder basking under the first bush I came too. Nearby in the most reliable bush 2 males were curled up together in a very sunny spot. Fortunately the direction of the wind gave the snakes shelter from the worst of the wind. Following a long walk around the area a further 2 Adders were seen making a total of 5. With the wind blowing so much the snakes didn't feel my presence, I assume because the bushes were vibrating in the wind. 



Male Adders. (Hopefully friends)!!









Even the grass was curled up.


Today, Sunday, I walked around my butterfly patch to see if I could find any Speckled Wood. Unfortunately all I saw were the usual Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstones and Commas. However, one Comma I came across was ovapositing and as I watched her I saw her leave an egg behind on a Stinging Nettle. The egg was shining in the light until I moved closer when I lost it to view, not helped by the fact that I was also hoping to get a photo of the Comma laying more eggs. When the butterfly had moved away I hunted for the egg again and I spotted it again by going to where I had originally had the light shining off it. I then tried to photograph the egg by carefully holding the nettle with one hand and taking the picture on full magnification. Apart from a tingly thumb I was quite pleased with the result. A fabulous looking egg too.



Comma egg on Nettle.




Friday, 24 March 2017

'Black Adder Goes Forth'.

This was always my favourite of the Black Adder series, despite many people taking the mickey out of me due to the rather good looking Private 'Bob'. 

What brings me to such rambling you may ask!!
A gorgeous Spring day took me to a local woodland looking for some more Brimstones roosting. Although I saw several I wasn't lucky to see any once they had roosted. However, I did come across a very smart Black Adder!! This rare colour form of the Adder, also known as 'melanistic' are seen occasionally and due to their rarity are always good to see. I personally have seen a few over the years but haven't managed any decent shots of them. This one was in the middle of some bushes and it wasn't possible to get some clean shots of it. Fortunately, with my telephoto lens it was possible to get some reasonable close shots without having to disturb it.



Close-up of the Black Adder.



Melanistic Adder.







Melanistic Adder soaking up the heat.


With definite signs of Spring it was good to see plenty of Wood Anemone coming into flower covering the woodland floor. Bluebells will shortly be following!!



Wood Anemone in the leaf litter.


As well as the Brimstones there were several Peacock flying and many Comma. The hibernating butterfly species seem to have had a good Winter. As the afternoon went on the Comma butterflies sought out areas to bask and this included fallen trees where the heat remained the longest. One very smart Comma posed superbly on one of these, whilst another posed among the Wood Anemone.



Comma on a stump on the woodland floor.



Male Comma.





Saturday, 18 March 2017

Grebes.

With Matt going away yet again, and me having to get up at some unearthly hour to take him to be airport, I made a bit of a diversion on the way home to visit a small lake that I had been told held a pair of Great-crested Grebes. Although the pair of Grebes had finished their impressive courtship ritual they certainly both looked impressive in their full adult breeding plumage. Whilst there I saw some nest building and lots of preening between diving for fish. Unfortunately in the time I spent there the birds only came relatively close a couple of times, as they spent most of their time in the area where their nest is being built. However, during this time I did manage my best images of this beautiful bird. Whilst there I saw and heard several Chiff Chaff and several Buzzards were also seen, including a pair displaying.



Great-crested Grebe.



Great-crested Grebe looking resplendent.



Great-crested Grebe preening.




Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Lepidoptera Day.

With the first decent Wednesday for some time it was good to meet up again with Nigel for a day hunting butterflies and moths. With it being so warm there was plenty of butterflies about with possibly 20 plus Comma, as many Brimstone, a couple of Red Admiral, several Peacock and a single Small Tortoiseshell. I was also hoping to see the Orange-underwing Moth, a Spring woodland moth. These moths are quite scarce and are normally only seen flying high up near the tops of the trees. We saw 10 of these moths and even had 2 of them on the ground where the males pick up salts, acting very similar to the Purple Emperor. Nigel was on site just before me and in that short time he had found a Purple Hairstreak ova amongst Oak buds.



Comma.



Orange-underwing.



Purple Hairstreak ova, looking like a small sea urchin.



Monday, 13 March 2017

Re-visiting The Emperor.

With several more Emperor Moths emerging from the reared pupa, Paul kindly invited me back today to admire these spectacular moths. My last visit to him was just after the first moths emerged and neither of us could make it early enough in the day and the light was past its best. Today however the light was superb and with both fresh males and females I made the most of the opportunity. It would have been really nice to have got these in the wild, and I have in the past managed some reasonable shots of the females but all but one male from the past was reared. 
During the session it became clear that the female had started to send its pheromone out and one of the males that had flown away actually returned as he sought out the female and was mating with her by the time I left. My thanks again to Paul for this opportunity to photograph these beautiful insects.



Male Emperor Moth.



Male Emperor Moth under-side.



Female Emperor Moth.



Female Emperor Moth. (The yellow protrusion sending out pheromone).



Male Emperor Moth sitting pretty.



Female Emperor Moth.






Sunday, 12 March 2017

Woodland Turns Yellow.

A gorgeous day yesterday had me hunting out my first Brimstone of the year in a woodland near Lewes. Although I left home in a sea mist it wasn't far inland when the sun started to show. In the wood it was actually very warm and my first sighting of a Brimstone soon came. From then on several of these beauties had been seen with a minimum of 6 seen, this included 3 battling together. A few settled occasionally, but at this time of year the males Brimstone rarely stops as they search for any females hiding in the undergrowth. By 2.30 all had gone to roost but I fortunately spotted a male roosting under a Bramble leaf. Several Comma were also seen with 4 battling together in one part of the wood and another 2 individuals seen in other spots. A single Peacock made up the butterflies seen. Another sign of Spring was a Chiff Chaff calling in the tree tops.



Brimstone.



Roosting Male Brimstone.



Comma.



Thursday, 9 March 2017

Spring Is Here.

A brilliant day started with seeing a good number of Great-crested Newts performing their courtship. Also a smaller number of Palmate Newts too. Following this a quick check on the Wall Brown larva with 2 found straight away. By mid morning the sun had burnt the sea mist away and I was pleased to see a Peacock as well as my first Small Tortoiseshell of the year. It was then a hunt for my first Adder of the year, although the cool breeze wasn't helping a single Adder was found and this male was getting as much heat from the sun by laying along the top of some Gorse. An extremely painful place to lay!! Corn Buntings were also very evident with many calling, a smart Red Kite also flew over.




Male Adder.



Laying on a Gorse Bush!!






Adder close-up.



Corn Bunting.



After getting home the weather was still so good that I decided to head out again with a walk from home. As I was leaving the close my first Comma of the year was seen. It was quite a tatty individual but a surprising sighting. Another Small Tortoiseshell was also seen as well as a fabulous view of a Woodcock flying past. All in all it really was a great day.