Monday, 6 July 2020

Southern Migrant Hawker.

It was one of those days today in a very good way.

After a reasonably successful morning seeing lots of Purple Hairstreaks I was clearing out some rubbish to the dustbin when I saw a strange dragonfly patrolling over the garden.

What was strange was mainly the size and colour as all the dragonflies that would normally be seen in the garden were either larger or smaller. I was just hoping it would settle to allow a closer look but it didn't look as though it was going to do that.

Eventually though it stopped and settled on the ivy covered fence allowing a closer look. I was frankly none the wiser as it wasn't a dragonfly I recognised. Fortunately the camera was still to hand so I quickly got the camera from the kitchen and went back, unfortunately though I hadn't made enough of a mental note of the exact spot and the camouflage was so good it took me several moments to see where it was still sat.

After getting a few shots I could then check the books and it turned out to be a female Southern Migrant Hawker, also known as the Blue-eyed Hawker due to the bright blue eyes the male has. Although this species is expanding rapidly in the UK especially in Essex and Kent I certainly wasn't expecting to see one in the garden.

To think that Matt and myself went all the way to Canvey Island in Essex in 2017 to see this species and then one turns up in the garden!!

That day in 2017 I think we only saw males, apart from perhaps a few flight views of females.

Last year I did see a male at Pevensey Levels and the year before one at Rodmell.

Female Southern Migrant Hawker.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Eggar Explosion.

For those regular readers of this blog you may remember that I have had several posts concerning the Small Eggar.

Back in 2017 I found a larval web of this moth, which was a bit of a surprise as it is considered close to extinction in Sussex. Every year since I have found small numbers of these webs on my patch with a highest yearly total of 5.

When the webs started to appear this year I was once again pleased to find a small number in the regular area, but then a couple more were found nearby, and then James also found a small number.

I decided to spend an afternoon walking the area to see if I could reach a double figure count of webs, I certainly wasn't expecting to find the amount I did as at the end of the walk I had reached 27 webs. This was according to the Sussex Moth Recorder, Colin Pratt, the highest count in Sussex for many decades.

Although seeing this number was very exciting I decided there must be more as there was a large area of private land where access was not possible. I then contacted the landowner and gained permission to explore the area and after quite a thorough search I managed to more than double the count ending up with a grand total of 58 webs.

With each web holding many larvae the area has it seems become the main stronghold of this Nationally scarce moth in Sussex. 

Mass of Small Eggar larvae on larval webs. (larvae in top web more advanced).

Small Eggar larval web, note foliage surrounding web has been eaten.

Small Eggar larvae, top 2 one instar ahead of the other 3.

Near fully grown Small Eggar larva.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Marbleous Morning.

Each Summer I really look forward to seeing the lovely Marbled White butterflies flying again as it really is a true sign of long Summer days.

Last year I couldn't find the time to take advantage of my local colonies so I was determined to see them very early in their flight season this year.

I saw my first Marbled Whites this year at the very early date of 4th June when I saw a male and female flying in dull conditions. Despite it being dull though they were very hard to approach as is often the case with this species.

Five days later I was up on the Downs very early to see them waking up. At this point the numbers were still very low, but I really wanted to get some photos of them before they picked up too much wear and tear.

For once the wind was very light which was what I needed for a session such as this as the Marbled White often roosts very high up on the grasses so with any little breeze they are blown about making it very difficult to get pin sharp results especially as the light is still poor at this time.

Although the resulting photographs were not as good as I managed a few years ago I was still really pleased to get some results, especially after missing out last year. I was also able to see the Fox cubs for a final time before they disperse and then back home before 8am for breakfast.

Into the light.

Male Marbled White.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Clearly Clearwings.

Following my first ever UK sightings last year of Clearwing moths I have had several trips out to try and see more species.

With a little help from some friends I  have managed 2 new species so far this year as well as seeing an old favourite from last year.

My first new target was the White-barred Clearwing and with one failed attempt with Nigel I had more detailed instructions from Derek and this put me in a more favourable location and just a few minutes after putting the pheromone out a couple of these little gems were seen. 

White-barred Clearwing.

I then attempted to find the Sallow Clearwing, but was possibly too early in the season for this one, however, whilst I was trying Derek turned up out of the blue and said he was trying for both the Sallow and also the Red-tipped at a site a little further along the footpath. As I didn't have the Red-tipped pheromone I joined him, and although we still failed with the Sallow we were lucky enough to get the Red-tipped Clearwing. Certainly the best looking Clearwing I've seen so far.

Red-tipped Clearwing.

The other Clearwing I've seen this year is the Yellow-legged Clearwing. This species I did see several times last year and is certainly the one that I've seen most of. Yesterday I went to a private woodland and as soon as the pheromone was placed a very fresh individual flew in. It was by far the best individual I've seen of this species and the yellow legs really stood out. Several more were also seen yesterday and several more photographs were taken.

Yellow-legged Clearwing.

A less colourful Yellow-legged Clearwing.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Another Large Tortoiseshell!!

Back in April during the strict lockdown I found a Large Tortoiseshell just around the corner from my house, and at the time it seemed that it was a once in a lifetime event.

On Sunday, still having to stay pretty close to home, I managed to get out for what was meant to be a quick walk on the patch, which included an attempt at finding a Six-belted Clearwing using a pheromone lure. This was actually unsuccessful, but as I packed the lure away a Scarce Forester flew up. This is the first Forester I've ever seen along the valley as far as I can remember, and certainly the first Scarce. Whether it was attracted in by the pheromone it is difficult to say. However, it was a lovely moth and a great addition to the patch.

Scarce Forester.

It was at this point that I nearly turned around and headed home, but for some reason I went a bit further along the valley, possibly thinking I might see a few Small Blue. (A very good decision)!!

I then did spot a reasonably fresh Small Blue and was about to attempt a photo when a large orange butterfly caught my eye. My immediate thought was a Dark Green Fritillary, but the flight seemed wrong. It then landed on the Bramble and it was clear and obvious that this was a stunning Large Tortoiseshell. For the next couple of hours it continued to perform well, mainly nectaring on the Bramble flowers or resting in a Hawthorn bush. As it was so hot it didn't give many opportunities for an open wing shot, but a few grab shots were taken showing the beautiful top wings. One wing was damaged along the edge, but the colours were very good and a massive improvement on the tired looking specimen from April. With breeding of this very rare butterfly now confirmed in Dorset the chances of running into one has increased enormously.

Finding one of these very rare butterflies is a special event, but to find 2 in a matter of a few weeks is just unbelievable. If it wasn't for having to stay close to home and not being able to travel long distances for other species I doubt I would have seen either of them. Staying local really can pay off.

Large Tortoiseshell on Bramble.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Moth Highlights Pt 2

Some more of my catches in the moth trap, but first is one of my favourite micro moths that is quite scarce. The Olethreutes arcuella is found in a few ancient woodlands where the larvae feed on decaying leaf litter. The private wood where I survey is a very good site for this really tiny moth. It is easily over-looked as it is so small and it is only when examined closely that the true beauty of the moth is revealed.

Olethreutes arcuella.

Back to the garden moth trap and the following have appeared over the past few weeks on the odd occasions that I have put the trap out.

Treble Brown Spot.

Poplar Kitten. (my first Kitten of any kind).

Eyed Hawk-moth.

Elephant Hawk-moth.

Clouded Silver.

Brussel's Lace.

Privet Hawk-moth.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Moth Highlights So Far. Pt 1.

During the general lock-down along with many others I would guess, the moth trap got a little more use than usual.

I certainly don't trap as much as I really should, but on those occasions there are often new moths that I haven't caught before or something worth photographing.

Here is a small selection of some of the more spectacular moths.

Waved Umber 8/5/2020

Common Swift 8/5/2020

Shuttle-shaped Dart 8/5/2020

Lime Hawk-moth 21/5/2020

Cream-spot Tiger 21/5/2020

Small Elephant Hawk-moth 21/5/2020

Blair's Mocha 21/5/2020

Pebble Prominent 21/5/2020