Sunday 29 September 2013

Autumn Moths

Even with all the excitement last week with the rare Long-tailed Blue butterflies I still managed to get the moth trap out a few times. For most of the week the weather was favourable with light winds, although the overnight temperatures were a little lower than they had been.
Despite this I still caught a few new species and also some nice individuals.
The Black Rustic.
Dark Sword-grass

and the Sallow

All these moths are quite common but were all very fresh individuals. Now its waiting for the wind to die down before the next attempt.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Its a Female Long-tailed Blue !!

So there we were thinking we'd had another wasted day in our quest to find the Long-tailed Blue, with the sea mist never really clearing and the chances of any Long-tailed Blues flying very poor. Giving up we were heading back to the car when we saw the shape of the sun amongst the low cloud and the temperature rose a degree or two. I spotted a Small Copper as we climbed a small hill and as the Copper flew off in one direction another butterfly flew in the other direction. This one however looked like a blue of some type. Panic ensued whilst Nigel and myself tried to keep on it. It settled very briefly on bramble, just long enough to confirm the id as our first British Long-tailed Blue. Could we possibly get a photograph now as it took off and kept landing very briefly. It then settled halfway up a grass stem and stayed there for a record shot each with the wings slightly open.
Will it open its wings for us. Not only did it open its wings but it was in a position where we could both take several pictures at the same time. It was also in superb condition and had only recently emerged. A real experience to see one of Britain's rarest butterflies and one that I never thought I would ever see here.

Thanks are also due to Colin!!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Hunting Long-tailed Blues

Anyone interested in wildlife, and particularly butterflies could not have missed the fact that this year has been the best year in living memory for migrants with good quantities of Painted Lady, Clouded Yellow and particularly the very rare Swallowtail and Long-tailed Blue. An excellent find of a newly emerged Long-tailed Blue by Colin Knight locally was the incentive for myself and Nigel to spend far more time than we should have to try and find one for ourselves. For the last 3 days we have searched two areas whilst hearing about another Blue that we had just missed.
One of the beauties of hunting any species is that you never know what else you will come across. There are few butterflies flying now but Small Coppers are still appearing and several of these have been spotted.
 There are also many dragonflies with Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters being the most common. This is a male Migrant Hawker.
The bizarre looking peppered Moth larva was a great find by Claire, very hard to see with its amazing camouflage.
I was very pleased to find the fantastic female Wasp Spider, only the 2nd one I have seen and without doubt the most colourful of the British spiders.

Monday 23 September 2013

Canary-shouldered Thorn

When I was sorting out the moth trap this morning I nearly missed this Canary-shouldered Thorn, a fantastic looking moth. I thought it was a honeysuckle flower that had fallen off the bush next to the trap. For a Thorn it was surprisingly happy to sit and have its photo taken. Other interesting moths included 2 more L-album Wainscot, this time I managed to improve on my other photo effort with this moth. Mallow, Autumnal Rustic and feathered Brindle were all new moths for the trap.
The fabulous Canary-shouldered Thorn

L-album Wainscot

On the fence near the trap was a real surprise, the rare micro moth
Ethmia Bipunctella

Thursday 19 September 2013

New Moths

With the wind dropping at last there was a quick last minute decision to put the moth trap out last night. With autumn now just about here I was hoping for a few new varieties, although I was not too hopeful as the temperature was not exactly balmy!!
I was quite surprised this morning to get a bit of variety in the small quantity of moths with my first Pale Eggar, L-album Wainscot and Feathered Ranunculus.
The next problem was the poor light available for the photography followed by the rapidly increasing wind, but the clouds were for a short time a little lighter to give a bit of a chance.
Pale Eggar
L-album Wainscot

Feathered Ranunculus

Tuesday 17 September 2013

The 30 Year Old Grass Snake!!

During a particularly quiet time I looked back on some of my old film photographs and decided to try to copy them using the good old method of holding them up to the light and photographing them with the macro lens. There was one in particular that this primitive method worked quite well on, and it was one of my favourite pictures from that long distant past!!
At least 30 years ago my best friend of the time, Dave Cripps, came over for dinner with Lin as well as a young grass snake he had come across. In those days I was using a Mamiya 645 camera with a waist level finder, this helped to get a really low viewpoint. Only a few shots were taken, film being a bit expensive!! This one was by far the best with the tongue flickering.
The other picture I'm showing here didn't work quite so well and the photo has also started to deteriate a bit, but I'm including it for its scarcity value as not too many people have seen this happening. In the 70s and 80s I spent an awful lot of time watching badgers. So much so that at school I picked up the nickname Badgerbob. During that time I witnessed badgers mating twice. Unfortunately my notes from the time have been put away safely? I think this mating pair was at a sett near Denton, Newhaven. 

Thursday 12 September 2013

Copper Wall

At last there appears to be some Small Coppers emerging, this butterfly has not had the best of times for the last couple of years so it was good to see several battling away today on the local patch. Most other butterflies are now showing their age although the odd Adonis Blue is still looking good. There are also large numbers of Speckled Wood flying at the moment. Most of the Wall Brown have now gone but there was a single female seen today that was in pretty good condition still. This will probably be the last decent individual seen this year unless a 3rd brood appears.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Meadow Brown aberrant.

I went looking for Autumn Ladies Tresses and dragonflies today near to home. On a bank where the tresses are never numerous I found just a couple, with the best one not quite yet in full flower. Along the hedgerow where I was hoping for several dragonflies I came across a Meadow Brown aberrant semi alba. Not the most exciting aberrant butterfly but still nice to see something a little different. As far as the dragonflies went, well, they didn't!!


Monday 9 September 2013


Although I concentrate mainly on butterflies and moths I am also very keen on all aspects of wildlife. Often whilst looking for butterflies I get diverted by another creature or insect and dragonflies living in similar habitat to the butterflies often catch the eye. I am particularly keen on the two demoiselles  that live in Britain. I had three bits of luck with these in a space of three days during July with the male and female Banded demoiselles whilst looking for White Letter Hairstreaks followed  by the spectacular male Beautiful Demoiselle whilst looking for Purple Hairstreaks.
Male Banded Demoiselle

Female Banded Demoiselle
Male Beautiful Demoiselle

Saturday 7 September 2013

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

For the last 3 days I've had brief visits in the garden from a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. Mostly in the early evening when the light has started to go. Today though, it appeared around lunchtime and stayed just long enough to get a few grab shots of it. Before today I had planned to mention the moth and put a couple of shots I had prepared earlier (August 2009). I am still showing these as well as one shot from today. The moth today was being blown about quite a bit in the stiff breeze and the lack of sunshine also didn't help at all. This year has until now been quite poor for this migrant moth from the Mediterranean area but maybe numbers will now start to pick up as offspring from any early moths may now be on the wing.
August 2009


September 2013


Friday 6 September 2013

Hairstreak Hunt

A final trip to West Sussex yesterday before the weather broke hoping for more Brown Hairstreaks. Possibly four were seen but only one was not camera shy. With temperatures approaching 30 degrees it was probably too hot even for the butterflies as after a look around for egg laying areas she settled in the shade and stayed there for some time. Unfortunately she was showing her age with a small bit of wing damage as well a faded appearance. It was still good though to watch her behaviour as she walked along the blackthorn twigs hunting out places to lay her eggs.
First she settled on the twig.
Then she walked along the twig hunting out the best places to lay.

In the evening I put the moth trap out again as the weather was going to hold until about 10 am on Friday. Nothing rare caught but I did get my first Centre-barred Sallow as well as another Gold Spot which has been one of my favourite moths.
Centre-barred Sallow.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Thorns and Feathers

With the summer drawing to a close I am getting a few different moths in the trap. New to me last night was a male Dusky Thorn.

Also in the trap was a pair of Feathered Gothic. This is the female.

And this is the male with the feathered antennae, which is where one part of the name comes from!!

Monday 2 September 2013

It Started With An Egg!!

Over the last 2 years I have spent far too many hours looking for immature stages of the Wall Brown. This butterfly may not be the most beautiful butterfly but it does have a character all of its own and it has suffered large losses across Britain in recent years making it a good butterfly to study. The downland around Seaford is now one of the best places to see this butterfly in Britain.
Until last week I had recorded all the stages except the egg. As with most butterfly eggs they are found easiest when seeing a female in egg laying mode. I saw a female laying and after she moved 2 eggs were found. When first found it was creamy white but 6 days later it had changed to the pattern below.

I have found the larva the easiest to find of the immature stages. On warm days in the early spring the first brood larva can be found on the long grass feeding. They generally stay in the same grass clumps for several weeks until they pupate. They then become almost impossible to find!!

In all the hours I've spent looking for the pupa I have only found one!! Considering the fact that they do not move and I know where several larva were it is very odd that they cannot be found more easily. This spring I spent well over 6 hours looking with no success. This one below was found in 2012.

The end product, a fresh male adult Wall Brown.