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Sunday, 18 April 2021

Penny.

 This will be the hardest blog post I have written, and it is to let you know that my wonderful Penny finally lost her long battle last Thursday.

It is 20 years since she had Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and although she survived this the radiotherapy damaged the lining of her lungs which resulted in a gradual deterioration of the lungs which eventually became a very rare form of pulmonary fibrosis. 

18 months ago she developed pneumonia and we were then told to expect the worst, but Pen successfully battled through and came out the other side.

However, 4 weeks ago she once again developed pneumonia and this time it was followed by a blood clot on the lungs, and despite them treating this and sending her back home on Tuesday, it was clear things were still not good. On Thursday she was sent back in the evening to hospital as her blood pressure had become dangerously low but she passed away just after reaching hospital.

Last August she reached her 60th birthday, a birthday she told me several years ago she wasn't expecting to reach. I was also proud to have made it to our 40th, Ruby wedding anniversary, on February 21st this year.

To think we first met back at school in Lewes. Over 45 years ago and hardly a cross word between us in all that time, and despite all her health issues she hardly ever complained and always put on a brave face when talking to people.



February 21st 1981.



Penny at 60. 16th August 2020.


Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Chiffchaff and Moths.

 Over the past week I have managed a few visits to the patch as well as a bit of moth trapping.

Nothing particularly significant but I did get some stunning views of one of the local Chiffchaffs on one walk.






Chiffchaff.


Also on the same walk it was good to see the micro moths building well in number with plenty of Ancylis comptana. Probably the highest number I have ever seen here, and numbers are almost certainly still building. The Pyrausta ostrinalis is also having a very good year following a disaster in 2020. I also saw a Pyrausta despicata going to roost which gave me a photo opportunity.







Ancylis comptana.



Pyrausta despicata.



In the garden trap the numbers of moths have been pretty low and the only really good addition to the year list was a Brindled Beauty. Other than that it has just been more of the same common species.



Brindled Beauty.



Early Grey.

Finally I caught a male Emperor Moth for David. He got a few really nice images of it and as it was posing I got a couple of quick shots, unfortunately I didn't get the hind-wings showing, but it is still a very impressive moth.



Male Emperor Moth.








Thursday, 8 April 2021

Large Tortoiseshell 2021.

 April 6th 2020 was a day I will possibly never forget as I found my first ever Large Tortoiseshell in Britain. With it being in the main lockdown it was also only around 200 metres from home as the crow (or Large Tortoiseshell) flies. 

I then followed this up by a second find of one on my patch on the downland at the back of Seaford on the 14th June. Both these finds were totally unexpected, but as this butterfly appears to be currently re-colonising Britain it is now on the radar of many butterfly enthusiasts, and just before the end of March Nigel and I met up in a Sussex woodland in the hope of perhaps stumbling across another one.

The weather was excellent with warm sunshine and light winds and with several butterflies seen including our first male Orange-tip of the year and several Peacock and Comma we somehow remained hopeful. After a couple of hours wandering about we accepted the inevitable that it just wasn't going to happen, after all this is an extremely rare butterfly still and it was a bit of a long shot coming across one. At this point Nigel had to leave and I was also considering moving on, however, I decided to see if I could maybe get a photo of the Orange-underwing moth. We had seen a few of these on our wanderings, but each time they had seen us first and all we saw was a moth flying up to the tops of the trees.

Eventually I came to a clearing in the woodland and as I entered it I saw a butterfly on the ground about 20 metres away. I could see enough of it to see it was a Tortoiseshell and my thoughts were that it seemed maybe too big for a Small Tortoiseshell. Quickly looking through the binoculars I was amazed to see it was indeed a Large Tortoiseshell. It was very flighty and as I carefully approached it fluttered up a few times and after just one photo it took off very powerfully and chased a couple of Peacock. After seeing them off I was relieved when it returned to the exact same spot which allowed me to run off a few quick shots.

At this point it once again took off at speed and once again chased 2 other large butterflies, this time however it unfortunately didn't return. The behaviour of the butterfly, holding territory and chasing other butterflies that entered the territory would indicate it to be a male. I did hang around for another hour or so in the hope it would return, but with the clouds building up it soon became evident it was not going to grace me with its presence again!!















Male Large Tortoiseshell.

I did contact the Warden of the woodland and as it is in a very sensitive area for other wildlife he did suggest that at the time I should not broadcast the sighting as too many visitors could severely damage the habitat, and as I am a firm believer that the wildlife comes first I agreed to keep it under my hat, telling only Nigel and the County recorder. (Nigel was not happy)!!




Saturday, 3 April 2021

Micro Magic.

 With too much time on my hands, as Pen is still in hospital, I have been spending yet more time trying to improve on previous photos of some of the stunning micro moths that inhabit my little patch.

With numbers of both the Pyrausta ostrinalis and Anylis comptana building it was good to see my first Pyrausta nigrata yesterday, and with cooler conditions, once found, the insects were slightly less active.

Bearing in mind these insects are just a few millimetres long it does take patience and a better eyesight than I have, but in the end I have achieved a few shots I am pleased with.



Pyrausta ostrinalis (Scarce Purple and Gold).



Ancylis comptana (Little Roller).



Pyrausta nigrata (Wavy-barred Sable).


On Thursday I was lucky to have my first ever sighting of a mating pair of Common Lizards. It was interesting seeing the male holding the female in position using his head and back leg. The path was too narrow to move past them without disturbing them so I had to wait several minutes for the coupling to finish.



Mating Common Lizards.

The local Blackthorn is now starting to flower and a lovely Red Admiral was seen nectaring on the flowers of one bush.



Red Admiral.

The tiny Brown-tail moth larvae are now coming out of hibernation and they are becoming very visible in their larval tents. These larvae should also be known as Cuckoo food!!



Brown-tail Larval web.

A very tame Robin was then seen in a bush making tiny calls to me. It was so close I had to move further back to photograph it. What a shame it wasn't a much rarer bird!!



Robin.

Finally yesterday, I spotted a group of 4 Wheatear in exactly the same spot that I saw the group of 3 earlier in the week. This time it was 2 males and 2 females and the nearest bird was a stunning male. Still not close enough to get a good shot, but just about close enough for a record shot.



Male Wheatear.

With the forecast now getting much cooler it remains to be seen if I can find anything in the next few days before I am likely to be housebound doing my nurse impression!!














Thursday, 1 April 2021

Spring is in the air.

 With a few very warm days promised, and with Pen in hospital and me not being able to visit I decided the best way to stay sane was to go for a longer walk than normal from home.

Just before the end of March I generally get some of the rarer micro moths appearing on my patch, and it was good to get some good sightings of the Scarce Purple and Gold (Pyrausta ostrinalis), as well as a single Anylis comptana which is a very small and local moth. So small my aging eyesight lost it pretty quickly. Pyrausta despicata were also seen in small numbers.






Pyrausta ostrinalis.




Pyrausta despicata.


My first Bloody-nosed Beetle of the year was also seen, although I have seen quite a few of the Lesser Bloody-nosed Beetle already this year.



Bloody-nosed Beetle.

Further into the walk I came across a stunning pair of Stonechat with the male in full breeding plumage and looking particularly smart. He was busy displaying to his partner and she seemed very suitably impressed. He constantly landed on the top of bushes with the valley behind giving a clear background.





The beautiful male Stonechat.



Female Stonechat enjoying the display too.

Towards the end of my walk I came across a small party of 3 Wheatear, my first of the year. The male was spectacular, but unfortunately kept his distance. The 2 females were a bit closer and the photos of one showed it to have a small growth, possibly a tick on the neck.


Wheatear.

A stunning walk with 6 species of butterfly seen, all the species I have already seen this year with the bulk of them being Brimstone, followed by Peacock. Comma, Small White, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral being the others. Just one very large Wall Brown larva seen. Chiffchaff were heard most of the way too making it feel very Spring-like.








Thursday, 25 March 2021

Dotty about Bee-flies.

 It's amazing how suddenly things spring to life. Out for a stroll one suddenly realises that there are insects out and about and one of the more commonly seen insects are the Bee-flies in the early Spring.

Most of them are the Dark-edged Bee-fly, but in the area around here we also have the more unusual Dotted Bee-fly.

For some time now I have been trying to get a half decent shot of the Dotted Bee-fly but have failed consistently. Yesterday I was photographing an Oak Beauty moth when I spotted a Bee-fly on the lawn. As it was starting to get cool I thought I should move it to keep it safely away from the Magpies that patrol the lawn looking for food when no-one is about. Although I saw several Dotted Bee-flies last year on the lawn I did expect it to be the Dark-edged so it was a great surprise to see it was a Dotted. It was also a little drowsy with the cool temperature which gave me the opportunity to spend time with it taking several photos.

Bee-flies certainly are strange but wonderful insects and their Latin names are also good.

For the Dark-edged Bee-fly please see my previous post.












Dotted Bee-fly  Bombylius discolour.





Sunday, 21 March 2021

Eggar Surprise.

 Perhaps it was just a little too cool on the night of the 17th March as there was only one moth in the trap the following morning. However, what a moth it was.

A Small Eggar in very good condition, and strangely much better condition than the ones that I had reared through as well as it being a lovely calm day to photograph it.

There is a question as to why it appeared in the trap with the possibility of it being the escaped larva from last Summer, I brought 7 larvae home to rear through and one that I called Houdini somehow escaped. I assumed it would have perished as there was no food plant within easy reach and as the remaining 6 larvae continued to feed for another 2-3 weeks I thought it would have starved. There is also the fact that had it managed to pupate, most outside Small Eggar pupa don't generally emerge for 2 years although of course if it found a sheltered spot it may emerge after just the one year.

The other answers would be that it either flew from the colony which is just under a mile away, well within easy reach for a strong flying moth, although why it would leave the area with plenty of prospective mates and food as the colony is quite close knit is another question, or maybe there is a closer colony that I'm yet to find. Whatever the answer is we will probably never know but it certainly was a great moth to find in the trap.

I could almost delete the photos I took of the other male as these were so much better.



Male Small Eggar.


Also this week a search of my Wall Brown creche resulted in 35 larvae found. This was over a larger area than my record count of 50 a few weeks ago with the main area where I normally find good numbers I struggled and only found 3. Fortunately good numbers were found in other areas of the site. Many of the tussocks do seem very sparse this year, especially in the area I only found the 3 so I hope they are not struggling to find enough food. However, although 35 is down on the 50 it is still very close to my previous best counts of 40 from 2 years ago.

Further on I was pleased to see my first Bee-flies of the year with several Dark-edged Bee-fly taking advantage of a warm sunny spot. It is also an excuse to re-post one of my all time favourite photos that I took of a Dark-edged Bee-fly back in 2019.



Dark-edged Bee-fly from April 2019.