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Sunday, 2 October 2022

Coleophora.

 During the year I have neglected posting much about my moth finds, except of course the Lace Border. However, there are other moths out there amazingly, and during 2022 I discovered 2 more notable moths on my patch and they were so similar I thought it was just one species until I was corrected by the Sussex micro expert, Tim Wilton.

On the 10th of June I was wandering lonely as a cloud over the patch when I spotted a very small, thin moth in the grass. I set about getting some photographs which were far from easy to get. Tim kindly identified this moth as Coleophora pennella or Bugloss Case-bearer which is actually a National A rarity.



Bugloss Case-bearer.

11 days later I was in the same area when I spotted another one which didn't seem quite so flighty. This one I managed to get better photographs but it wasn't until I had posted some pictures on the Sussex Moth Group sightings page that Tim sent me an email to tell me this was actually a different species. This one was a Coleophora lixella or Downland Case-bearer. Not quite such a rarity but still a National B rarity.






Downland Case-bearer.

Both fascinating looking moths which get their name from the larvae that have a hard case that they live in to protect them as they feed.

On this 2nd session I also came across a Bordered Straw, a scarce moth that is a migrant moth. This year far more than usual have crossed the English Channel and I have also had a handful in the moth trap. However, it is always far more rewarding finding moths out in the open countryside.



Bordered Straw.








Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Autumn Is Here.

 With Autumn now here the insect World seems to have slowed down pretty quickly, although there have been some highlights which I have generally missed.

I have visited the Levels a couple of times with Nigel and each time we have seen some nice creatures with several of the extremely rare Fen Raft Spiders. All those seen were juveniles of varying sizes, although all were much smaller than the very large adults.



Juvenile Fen Raft Spider.

This year started off with large numbers of baby Dark Bush Crickets, but few of these seemed to have made it through to adulthood as there have been very few adult Crickets seen. Perhaps the drought affected their food supply. There was a small area on the Levels that we saw both a Roesel's Bush Cricket and a Dark Bush Cricket. Hopefully a few more will turn up in other sites before the Winter sets in.



Roesel's Bush Cricket.

In the same area was a lovely Comma which was a true winter Comma, being very dark underneath, which really helps to show the 'Comma' mark.



Comma.

Also around the Levels were several Migrant Hawkers. These dragonflies are often numerous in the late Summer to early Autumn, and this year is no exception. I have several photos of these from the past so I don't very often stop to photograph them, but with little else about I did take a few shots of one that settled nearby.



Male Migrant Hawker.

On another trip I was visiting Lisa in Worthing on the weekend that some Long-tailed Blues had been found along the seafront. Although the idea of the visit was not to take photographs, with these butterflies being just around the corner from where Lisa lives we did have a walk along there to see them. If we had gone in the other direction we would have seen several more and of those there were some in much better condition than the ones we saw. However, having seen some earlier in the year and many since the first invasion in 2013 I wasn't at all bothered by missing the other ones.



Male Long-tailed Blue.

On  local walks I have seen mating Wall Brown two days running. The first pairing was whilst doing a 3rd brood count on my 4 mile circuit. The 2nd pairing was just by the road near to home. These were quite lucky to have survived as they were nearly hit by a car as they flew briefly out over the road. Fortunately, they did settle just by the kerb before flying into the edge of the meadow. On my 3rd brood count I reached 51, which was extremely good, especially as the weather went downhill for much of the latter part of the circuit.



Mating Wall Brown.

Finally another nice Clouded Yellow that was photographed in the meadow. It's always good to see some of these colourful butterflies late in the season. They certainly add a lot of sparkle to the day!!




Clouded Yellow.














Tuesday, 13 September 2022

The Third Brood.

 The 3rd brood for the Wall Brown started this year on the 24th August, the earliest start of this brood that I am aware of in Sussex.

I noticed at the start of this week that some were already looking past their best so I decided to walk my 4 mile survey circuit to do a count. In past years I have only done a 3rd brood count once, but with it being a perfect day (at least when I started the count), I was confident that I would see quite a few butterflies.

Along the top of the valley I saw good numbers and it was looking very good for an excellent count. As I reached the furthest point however, the cloud built up and many butterflies went to ground and it wasn't until I was almost at the end of the circuit that the sun came back out and the butterflies woke up. Despite this I still counted 51 Wall Brown on the circuit, all but 3 of them were males. One female was an absolute beauty and she also, unusually for this species, allowed a few photos to be taken of her. Not sitting on a nice background, but this is what this species often rests on.



Female Wall Brown.


After finishing the count I then spent some time in the area that I monitor Wall Brown larvae over the winter and I was pleased to see at least 20 more Wall Brown that also included several egg laying females. At one point I was watching one of the females deep in a tussock lay an egg and just a short while later another female came into the same tussock and laid an egg about 2 inches away from the 
first one. 



Wall Brown egg.


During the survey I was also very surprised to see a Small Blue. This species finished its 2nd brood several weeks ago so this is thought to be from a very partial 3rd brood which is certainly unusual. During the walk I actually saw 13 different species, which is pretty impressive this late in the season. This included Adonis Blue, the Small Blue, Clouded Yellow and a very fresh Speckled Wood that I was pretty sure had only just emerged.




3rd brood Small Blue.

I also saw what could well be my final Lace Border of the year. This year I think I have seen a minimum of 52 individuals of these extreme rarities from the 2 Sussex sites. 

At the end of last week I managed to photograph a Clouded Yellow in my local meadow, a species I haven't photographed for about 3 years. In the heat of the day they just never settle so a cloudy cooler day helped no end.



Clouded Yellow.

On Sunday a visit to an old favourite Dragonfly haunt produced several Willow Emerald and a female Migrant Hawker. Other delights in the past few days have been a Weasel and Stoat and a probable Honey Buzzard along with thousands of hirundines as they prepare to migrate back to Africa.




Female Willow Emerald



Female Migrant Hawker.


















Saturday, 10 September 2022

Dungeness.

 Last Monday David persuaded me to go over to Dungeness in the hope of getting close views of Glossy Ibis and Wood Sandpipers.

Unfortunately, the hoped for Ibis and Sandpiper didn't happen with only distant views of the Ibis, however, we did get some fine views of Curlew Sandpipers as well as a few other waders. The weather was a bit up and down with the storms approaching so we had cloudy spells and the odd brighter bit and the difference in the photos was quite evident.

It certainly made a great change for me after I had dusted off the birding lens!! Jennie also had a great dinner ready when we returned to David's home and once again a special thanks to both of them for a great day and early evening.






Curlew Sandpipers.



Snipe.






Ruff.


















Snipe preening and sunbathing.




Black-tailed Godwit.


Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Vestal.

 A warm cloudy and breezy day last week had me wondering what to do as I fancied getting out and about. The sun was due to appear just a little later so I decided to once again try for a local Brown Hairstreak. I have spent many hours over the past few years trying for one with no success at all, and this day was not looking promising either as the sun was not showing at all, that was until it was too late in the day.

The day was brightened up though with a gorgeous Vestal. These very small moths have a stripe across the wing that varies between straw colour to a gorgeous pink and this one was probably the smartest one I have seen over the years. These moths are migrants and to think this little guy had flown across from France!! Unfortunately the moth kept landing in deep grass but eventually it landed in an area where I could get some shots without grass in front of it. After several shots it seemed to fall asleep so I was able to clear more of the grass to get a clearer image.






Vestal.

After a long walk I returned to the same area as the sun had at last decided to show and I then saw Willow Emerald, Small Copper and an egg laying Green-veined White. In between laying the butterfly rested in a reasonable position and I also saw where she had laid a couple of eggs. 



Female Green-veined White.



Two Green-veined White eggs.

Considering the weather a slightly better day than it could have been.




Thursday, 1 September 2022

A Fine Few Days and a Sussex Record.

 Last Sunday I had a great day out with Lisa starting with searching for Adonis Blue in West Sussex. As usual when I am with someone else I tend to concentrate on finding interesting things to see rather than to actually photograph them myself, although I was tempted with a Hornet Robberfly that had caught a male Adonis Blue, as well as a rather nice Autumn Lady's-tresses.



Hornet Robberfly with Adonis Blue lunch.



Autumn Lady's-tresses.

We then went further into West Sussex hoping for a Brown Hairstreak, but at this point our luck ran out although it was still a great walk followed by a short search for Willow Emerald which was slightly more successful.

The following day Lisa was meeting a friend in the afternoon near to me so I took her to my local patch hoping to show her my colony of Lace Border. As it happened we didn't have to look for very long as one appeared almost straight away. We then saw five in total, this has been my largest count this year here. I was also able to show her a beautiful Wasp Spider. Both these two species were new to her as the Hornet Robberfly had been the day before. We also saw several fresh Wall Brown, these followed my first 3rd brood Wall Brown of 2022 from last Wednesday. Both 2nd and 3rd brood are currently on the wing although very few tatty 2nd brood are now left.

After Lisa had left to meet her friend I strolled further along the valley where yet another mating pair of Hornet Robberfly gave me some photo opportunities. It can't be a very pleasant experience for the female having the male holding her on the eye with those sharp claws!! Before this year I had never seen mating Hornet Robberflies, I've now seen them mating 4 times in the last 2 weeks or so.






OUCH.
 Mating Hornet Robberflies.

On Wednesday I headed to the other Sussex Lace Border site as the weather was not good for a local walk with the wind being a North Easterly. Having found 5 on my local site with Lisa I thought I had a chance to beat that total as the other site is less vulnerable and probably more suitable for the species. However, I certainly wasn't expecting to see so many of this very rare moth. My final total of 28 seen that day is a Sussex record count by a country mile according to the Sussex county moth recorder.

 Until I found the first one on my patch on the 14th July 2020 there had only been 4 other Sussex records since the 1970s so sightings averaged at one every ten years so 28 would be 280 years worth seen in just over an hour!!



One of the 28 Lace Border seen.












Thursday, 25 August 2022

Lace Border Still Looking Good.

 Despite several searches I hadn't seen a Lace Border on my local site since the 3rd August and I really thought that perhaps the long hot summer had killed off the Wild Thyme that the larvae feed on here and the colony could possibly have died out. My colony is very localised and could quite easily suffer with extreme weather events like the summer we have experienced and I am taking great care of looking after the site for the insect. Historical records in Sussex indicate that they struggle getting a foothold in the county for some reason so in such a small site they could easily die out and that is what I thought had possibly happened.

Last week I heard that a Lace Border had been seen on the other Sussex site so myself and a colleague did 3 individual searches which were all negative. I was therefore not very optimistic on my walk on Tuesday as I wandered across the site, and I wasn't really even looking for the moth, so it was a special moment when a tiny white moth suddenly flew past me and settled nearby, although I had to carefully walk around it to get a positive identification, it was indeed a Lace Border in pretty much perfect condition. A few photographs later I carried on walking across the site where another 2 Lace Border were seen, both too in very good condition. Such a relief to find that the colony was still going strong

Photographs of 2 different moths from the session.







Lace Border.

Also seen on this quite short walk was a very large Wasp Spider that was munching away on a Grasshopper. Hopefully she won't catch any Lace Border!!






Female Wasp Spider with Grasshopper.

I also tried something a little different with a close up view of Eyebright. These tiny flowers are usually sitting tight to the ground, but I spotted this one that was on an erect stem which I thought gave a more interesting view.


Eyebright.

Yesterday I had the pleasure to show Alice from Buglife around my patch, as she is involved in a scheme to improve the diversity and quality of chalk downland. I was particularly pleased to be able to show her a Lace Border. We also had some great views of Hornet Robberflies including another mating pair. It certainly seems to be a great year for these stunning insects, although the Grasshoppers would probably prefer it not to be as we saw one Robberfly that had caught a Grasshopper.