Tuesday, 15 August 2017

In Search Of Adonis.

The Greek God of beauty!! When looking at the open wings of a fresh Adonis Blue it is clear where the name of this butterfly comes from. There are small numbers of Adonis Blue on my patch and the 2nd brood is now underway and looking really good. Despite the area being at the furthest point away from home and it always means a long walk to get there and back, I have spent several hours over the past 3 days watching, enjoying and photographing them. At the moment there are very few females, although those that are flying are in tip top conditions. During these visits I have also seen at least 23 different Wasp Spiders. These are having an amazing year at the back of Seaford.

The Amazing Adonis Blue.

Male Adonis preparing to roost.

This male was very near the Wasp Spiders.

Another Adonis Blue preparing to roost.

Male Adonis Blue catching the final rays of sunshine of the day.

A Wasp Spider female with a pack lunch.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Late Summer on the Forest.

It was good to get out with Pete yesterday for the first time for a long time. We decided to head out to Ashdown Forest to look for dragon and damselflies. As we arrived in the car park 3 Brimstone males were busy nectaring on the abundant Fleabane.

One of 3 Brimstone Males.

Around the acid ponds it was good to see the Raft Spiders with a couple of juveniles seen as well as an adult sitting out on the reeds around the pond.

Juvenile Raft Spider.

Adult Raft Spider.

We then had a bit of fun trying, and failing to photograph a male Southern Hawker in flight. In the corner of the pool he kept returning to hover within inches of the cameras.

Southern Hawker male.

Only one Black Darter was seen, a male, which was a little disappointing but several Small Red damselflies were active.

Male Small Red Damselfly.

Walking back along the top path Pete stopped to photograph a Heather bush. Whilst I was waiting for him I spotted a larva sitting on the top of the bush. I immediately recognised it as the larva of the Beautiful Yellow Underwing Moth. I have only seen one of these before and that was about 100 yards from where this one was. Whilst we were photographing this one with the backdrop of the Heather we spotted 2 more of these magnificent larva on the same bush.

Beautiful Yellow Underwing larva feeding on Heather.

Beautiful Yellow Underwing larva in defense posture.

On Wednesday a trip with Nigel to see the much rarer Fen Raft Spider, we saw several including some with nursery webs full of spiderlings. 

Fen Raft Spider keeping an eye or 8 on its babies!!

We also saw several Brown Hawkers with some still egg laying.

Brown Hawker egg laying.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Wood White Saves The Day.

With several attempts recently at the Brown Hairstreak with mixed success it was a risk yesterday with poor weather forecast and it wasn't too much of a surprise that we only saw a single male. However, where the sunshine would have helped with that species, cloudy conditions are pretty good for the Wood White and with them being only 20-25 minutes further on it seemed a good idea to head that way. My only visit to see them this year was during the first brood in heavy rain!! It wasn't long before the first one was seen with the conditions meaning they were not taking flight too often. With the odd sunny spell that brought them out to fly and nectar around a dozen butterflies were seen. This species is regarded as one of the most endangered in the UK and is far rarer than the Brown Hairstreak that was the original target.

Wood White nectaring on Common Knapweed.

Wood White preparing to roost.

Last night I put the moth trap out again and with cloudier conditions this morning there were several moths of interest. A new one for the garden was a Plumed Fan-foot. This is a notable moth as it has always been regarded as a very rare vagrant, although this year there have been many reports so it seems that there are several breeding colonies in the vicinity. Similar in a way to the Jersey Tiger, which has also expanded its range and is becoming more numerous. Another of these was by the trap this morning. Gold Spot and both Early and Canary Shouldered Thorn were also counted.

Plumed Fan-foot.

Jersey Tiger.

Gold Spot.

Early Thorn.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Wasp Spiders.

Late Summer each year I search for the fabulous Wasp Spider. Last year I found them on my patch in an area I hadn't seen them in before. Last week I started my search for the year but failed to find any. I was back in the area today and this time I was successful with 3 in the area and then another 3 in another new area. The female Wasp Spider is the one that is often seen as they sit in their web waiting for Grasshoppers to jump into their web. At the 2nd site I was looking through the binoculars at a female when I spotted a male in the corner of the web. The male is much smaller than the female and is not so brightly coloured. This was I'm sure the first male that I've seen. With this spider becoming more numerous it will be interesting to see how many are seen this year.

Female Wasp Spider.

Female Wasp Spider underside.

Male Wasp Spider.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Shooting Tigers.

I'm ashamed to say that my first moth trap of the year has only just happened. However, it was more than a worthwhile exercise as I had 4 Tiger Moths in the trap. 2 Garden Tiger and 2 of the more unusual Jersey Tiger. The latter I have now caught 3 years running so there must be a colony in the vicinity. I did try to get a photo with both types of Tiger in the picture but unfortunately they walked into each other and the Jersey flew off!! The remaining Jersey I decided not to try again with as Paul was keen to see the Jersey Tiger. There were a few other moths in the trap including Spectacle, Canary-shouldered Thorn and a very smart Burnished Brass. I hope it won't be such a gap before the trap goes out again!!

A pair of Garden Tiger Moths.

Jersey Tiger Moth 1.

Jersey Tiger Moth 2. (Note the slightly different markings).

Burnished Brass shining.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Hunting Hairstreaks.

Many butterflies have emerged early this year, in fact all the Sussex species have now been seen this year. Most years the Brown Hairstreak is the last one to appear, although the Grayling was the species this year that had that honour. The first Brown Hairstreak in Sussex was seen on the 7th July, around 3 weeks earlier than usual. They have also been seen in unusually high numbers, and even more unusually its been the normally elusive males that have been seen down nectaring on Creeping Thistle. Despite the poor weather James and I headed off to an area where sightings have been reported, although when we arrived in drizzly rain our expectations were very low. After wandering around for a while the drizzle stopped and the temperature increased slightly. I was still however amazed when scanning the thistles with the binoculars I spotted a Brown Hairstreak nectaring as it was still so cool that even the Meadow Browns were keeping their heads down. The Hairstreak unfortunately took to flight before we managed any photos but we very soon found another couple down. For the next 90 minutes or so we kept finding a few more down and this continued until the sun eventually broke through the clouds just after 4 oclock. After this we only found one more as this was now the time the Hairstreaks go to roost!! Most of the butterflies were showing a little bit of wear although one that was seen trying to warm up in the bushes appeared to be very fresh.

Male Brown Hairstreak on Creeping Thistle. (Even the fly on the thistle was sheltering from the weather).

A rarely seen open winged Male Brown Hairstreak.

Once the sun had come out Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers were everywhere and James also spotted a mating pair of Small Heath. We even saw a female Purple Emperor that didn't seem to be in too bad condition.

Mating Small Heath.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Silver Spots.

In the past couple of weeks since the first Silver-spotted Skippers first emerged the numbers have continued building to what is probably their peak about now. Each time I've been on the site I have seen some freshly emerged individuals and I've been lucky to find a few that have posed and not flown off in the typical manor this species normally does. Wall Brown numbers have also been very impressive this year and on my annual 2nd brood count this week I hit a new record of 115 butterflies, very welcome seeing so many of this species that has declined nationally at an alarming rate over the past 30 years. I even saw a Wall Brown in the garden yesterday while I was having my breakfast!! Other highlights this week was seeing a Vapourer Moth that wasn't flying past. I saw it flapping on Agrimony and I assumed it had been attracted to a female, that is flightless. Of course, I assumed wrong as the poor moth had got stuck to the seeds on the stem. After taking a couple of shots I realised the dilemma the moth was in and managed to release it.

Silver-spotted Skipper on Wild Basil. (Sounds tasty)!!

Silver-spotted Skipper on Common Knapweed.

Silver-spotted Skipper nectaring on Scabious.

Female Wall Brown.

Mating Chalkhill Blues.

Male Vapourer Moth stuck on Agrimony.

Agapeta zoegana.