Sunday 27 October 2013

A First for Sussex

Continuing my look back at the summer, June 18th was a poor day for butterflies with it being overcast. Nigel Kemp had come over and as he was trying to get into orchids I took him to see some Frog Orchids near Eastbourne. Son Matt had seen them a few days earlier so I knew they were in flower. It was a new species for Nigel so I was pleased to locate the colony and we both took several pictures.
The Frog Orchid

I then left Nigel and wandered down the slope looking for more orchids away from the main colony when I stumbled across a strange plant. It was obviously an orchid and it was the same size and shape as a frog orchid. I thought it had to be a hybrid of a Frog Orchid and some other type of orchid but wasn't sure until I got home and checked it out on the internet. It was then established as a hybrid between a Frog and Common Spotted Orchid.

Looking in David Lang's excellent book on Sussex Orchids he states that Frog Orchids do hybridise with other orchids but there are no records of this happening in Sussex. On this I contacted David who confirmed this was still the case. Two days later I took David out to show him the orchid and he told me that in over 60 years of studying orchids he had only seen a Frog hybrid once before and that was on the Isle of Wight. It was very rewarding to have found something that had never been recorded in Sussex before, this despite the Frog Orchid being reasonably widespread in the County. I was pleased that once the news got out several enthusiasts managed to see the plant before the flowers went over.

On the way back to the car Nigel spotted a Small Yellow Underwing, a new moth species for me.

Friday 25 October 2013

Marsh Fritillaries plus.

A perfect day on the 14th June this year with a trip to Hampshire and Wiltshire looking for Marsh and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. I took Pete with me as he had never seen the Marsh Fritillary before. The first butterflies we saw were  Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries, these were freshly emerged specimens and very bright compared to the Pearl Bordered Fritillaries that were also flying in the same area.

With further searching a roosting female Brimstone was found which was in a great position.

We then went onto Wiltshire in search of the main quarry for the day, the scarce Marsh Fritillary. We were fortunate to find several of these and with the weather being quite overcast they were not as active as these butterflies can be.

Whilst we were watching the Marsh Fritillaries we saw a pair of Goshawks displaying over the nearby woodland.
On the way home we stopped at a site near Petersfield to see the very rare Sword Leaved Helloborine. An orchid species that neither of us had seen before.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Seasons End?

With no sign of the wet windy weather coming to an end I'm thinking that the moth trap is just about to be put away for the winter. It may have had its last go last Thursday night when the weather seemed pretty good. Only 9 macro moths were caught though including my first 2 November Moths.
 Unfortunately these moths were a bit camera shy so only a very poor record shot resulted. However, I did get another Green-brindled Crescent which resulted in an improved picture as well a late brood White Ermine.

Green-brindled Crescent

White Ermine

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Fox and Hummingbird!!

A fabulous day today with Autumn warmth and sunshine so I called over to Birling Gap for a walk towards Beachy Head and back. There were several Small Coppers about as well as Clouded Yellow. An unusual sight was a Fox Moth larva in a bush, I normally only see them on the ground!!

This Clouded Yellow posed nicely whilst nectaring on knapweed. Unfortunately the butterfly was looking a little worn after all the poor weather over the last few days.

I was then watching a Comma when a Hummingbird Hawk Moth which was settled on a bush caught my eye. I managed a couple of photos before it realised I was there and it flew off at amazing speed. In total 5 species of butterfly seen.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Drifting Back to Brown Argus.

Looking out at the weather today I decided to look back again. This time to the 29th May, a day when I visited my regular patch. The weather that day was quite warm but overcast, fortunately not heavy cloud though, pretty ideal conditions in fact. I am lucky to have a very good area for the Brown Argus, a very small member of the blue butterfly family, and I was hoping to find some freshly emerged specimens. On the way to the area I found a very nice Drinker Moth larva. This is a large larva which can be seen in long grass quite commonly.
Once I had arrived at the Brown Argus site I was pleased to find a fresh male quite quickly sitting off the ground on a bush.

With the sun starting to appear through the thinning clouds he soon opened his wings and allowed several photographs before he moved on.

In the same area there was a few newly emerged Dingy Skipper including this smart female.

She sat there long enough to get a photo from a more unusual angle!!

A great couple of hours spent in the middle of the Sussex Downs.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Yellow and Blue.

Over the last 2 days my spare time has been short but yesterday afternoon a trip to Hope Gap was in order. A Crimson Speckled Footman moth had been seen over the weekend and I would love to see another one of these very rare moths. There were quite a few butterflies flying in the warm late afternoon sunshine including several Small Copper and also some Clouded Yellow. I was lucky to see this Clouded Yellow settle. It was actually a helise with very pale upper wings.

Today I decided to visit my home patch. It was really relaxing after all the chasing of Long-tailed Blues recently. 11 species were seen, a very good number for October with another Clouded Yellow seen. Lots of Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown. More usual Autumn butterflies included this smart Comma.

Then, just when I was least expecting it another male Long-tailed Blue appeared, well away from the other sites where they have been seen and some distance from the coast in the middle of the Downs.

Sunday 6 October 2013

Male Long-tailed Blue and more Moths.

With the weather cooling down later in the week the incredible Long-tailed Blue bonanza could soon be over. Thanks to Nigel for finding a superb male near Eastbourne yesterday. When I arrived it had unfortunately vanished amongst the vegetation but with a long search I relocated it as it flew from under my feet and perched in a bush. This may be my last sighting this year of this fabulous little butterfly, although I may be tempted to have one more look in the next couple of days!! After all it could be many years before any more fly over.

With a really still night last night I put out the moth trap hoping for some rare migrant moths. This unfortunately didn't materialise but I did get some more common moths that were new to my trap.
Green-brindled Crescent.
This was a real beauty but not easy to capture the subtle colours on camera.

Figure of Eight

Blair's Shoulder-knot.

Thursday 3 October 2013

More Long-tailed Blue adventures

This extraordinary year for Long-tailed Blue continues with higher numbers recorded of this rare migratory butterfly than have ever been recorded in Britain before in history. I had just a couple of hours spare yesterday so another trip along the coast where Everlasting Pea was growing, the favoured foodplant of this species, to see if I could find any more butterflies.
Once the weather improved enough I had two definite sightings, one male and one female as well as another possible sighting. I managed a record shot of a male nectaring on the pea flower. I then had to cut my visit short but saw another older male on the return which also allowed some photos.