Saturday 31 May 2014

Rare Orchids and Moth.

It was a trip to Kent yesterday hoping for several rarities. Blean was a disappointment with no signs of the Heath Fritillaries. It was then a day of concentrating on orchids with another trip to the Monkey Orchids. At this site there were now plenty of Fly Orchid and a couple of Greater Butterfly Orchid.

Monkey Orchid.

With this site not producing any Late Spider Orchids it was onto another site that I had heard was quite reliable and at this site there were around 20 of this Kent speciality. Unfortunately the light was still very poor for photography but it was great to see this Orchid in reasonable numbers. Only the 2nd time I've seen this species. 

Late Spider Orchid.

Then it was moving to another part of downland to look for other orchids and, with the sun at last emerging, any insects. A very smart Bee Orchid was in flower and Man Orchids were also seen. I then had a strange moth fly past and I followed it to try to get an image to identify it. I did get a poor shot which enabled me to see it was a female Clouded Buff. Whilst looking at this moth a white moth flew past which turned out to be the extremely rare Black-veined Moth, a moth that is only found on downland in Kent. This is a moth that I never thought I would ever see, a real beauty.

Bee Orchid.

Black-veined Moth.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Azure Enters The World.

With the sun once again not showing itself today I thought I was totally wasting my time looking for insect life. Certainly the butterflies have been keeping their heads down with only 2 Speckled Wood seen in the woods. Anyway, I was out at Laughton and strolling past the lake when I noticed a damselfly exuvia that looked a bit paler than others I've seen. Checking it out through the binoculars I was surprised to see it was a damselfly just starting to emerge, better still it was in a position where I could get to it without damaging any reeds or getting the feet wet!! Having seen Marc Heaths' fabulous sequence I was keen to photograph the action as it happened. The light was very poor but hopefully the images are not too bad. This is a small selection of the images taken which shows the story.

Squeezing out of the exuvia.

Once out pumping up the body.

Then the wings start to grow.

Wings nearly the length now of the body 30 minutes after emerging.

A couple of hours later the damselfly was resting and hiding near the bottom of the reeds where the markings showed it to be an Azure Damselfly.

It certainly was a fantastic experience watching this damselfly entering the World and one that I will not forget for sometime!!

There were also several White-legged Damselflies showing today and it was good to get a few pictures of these, especially as there was not a lot else flying today.

White-legged Damselfly.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Banded Demoiselles.

With the weather being particularly bad over the last couple of days it has been a case of just getting out there to see if anything is about. Yesterday, trying to avoid a case of cabin fever I headed over to the Downs around Eastbourne to see if the Frog Orchids had started to show. In fact 9 of these little orchids were just about in flower. There didn't appear to be any sign of the hybrid from last year yet. Time will tell if it will reappear later.
The weather was slightly better today, in as much as it wasn't torrential rain. It was just overcast with a bit of drizzle here and there. I had nothing to lose so I went back to the River Cuckmere looking for damselflies and dragonflies. No dragons at all were seen but eventually a few Banded Demoiselles were found, both male and female, and as it was quite cool they were not as flighty as usual.

female Banded Demoiselle

male Banded Demoiselle

Frog Orchid.

Sunday 25 May 2014

The Tiny Small Blue

With a couple of hours spare today I wanted to see if I could see my first Small Blue of the year. On my usual patch this butterfly is a bit later appearing here than other Sussex sites with the slope being North facing. This butterfly is also quite scarce on this site with small numbers recorded each year. I think I saw around 6 in total today in 2 different areas of the patch. One was quite worn but the others were all pretty fresh. As always with the Small Blue it is difficult keeping an eye on them as they fly as they are so tiny.

male Small Blue.

This is a species that I have always struggled to get any decent pictures of over the years so it was pleasing to get a male posing nicely for me. With the sun coming in and out whilst it was sitting there and the wind blowing I was lucky it sat there long enough for a few attempts.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Military Orchid.

It was a bit of a risk yesterday heading West where the weather was going to be pretty poor compared to home. However, with little chance of long trips at the moment it was now or waiting till next year!! The nearer we got to our destination the clouds started building and the odd drop of rain fell. There are many rare orchids in Buckinghamshire and Matt had wetted my appetite last year when he saw the Military Orchid. I have been interested in orchids since I was a lad and this particular orchid was, and still is one of the rarest orchids in Britain where it is only found in 3 sites. It is an orchid that I never thought I would ever see. In the clearing in the wood there were at least 80 of these spectacular flowers with their flower heads showing little soldiers. The light improved just enough to get some record photographs before the heavens opened. Other orchids at the site included Fly, Greater Butterfly and White Helleborine. But the star was without doubt the Military Orchid.

Military Orchid.

It was then a 10 mile drive to see the even rarer Monkey Orchid/Lady Orchid hybrid. A flower that is unique in Britain to this site overlooking the upper Thames near Goring. Once again the weather made it very difficult to get decent pictures with the wind blowing hard as well as the poor light. There were a few Monkey Orchids also present, these were smaller and paler than the ones I know from Kent. Once again we left the site in heavy rain.

Lady/Monkey Orchid Hybrid.

We thought then we just had enough time to get to Hampshire for the Sword-leaved Helleborine. Unfortunately torrential rain had produced some accidents and the traffic on the A34 was horrific with a tail back for several miles!! However, we arrived at the Hampshire destination just as the clouds cleared a little. There were several hundred Sword-leaved Helleborines present, many more than we saw last year. Bird's-nest Orchids were also there in the darkest parts of the wood as well as Fly and White Helleborines.  As we left the site it once again started to rain!!!! Then heading home the sun came out, and yes, it had been out all day at home.

Sword-leaved Helleborine.

Bird's nest Orchid.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Enter The Dragonfly.

With the weather being a bit cloudy today Nigel and I went to the Downs around Lewes looking for Burnt Orchids and anything else we could find. Early on we found an orchid but it wasn't until walking back that we came across the main colony with good numbers showing.

Burnt Orchid.

However, it was whilst approaching a dew pond where the day brightened enormously for us as we came across a freshly emerged Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly.

Immature Black-tailed Skimmer.

After taking several pictures of this one we walked to the pond and kept on finding more dragonflies in various states of emergence, both Black-tailed Skimmer and Broad-bodied Chasers. In all we had around 12 Skimmers and 5 Chasers. There were also lots of exuvia cases of these and from Emperor Dragonflies that had emerged over the last few days.

Wings expanding, Black-tailed Skimmer.

Broad-bodied Chaser on exuvia.

Black-tailed Skimmer on exuvia.

Saturday 17 May 2014

The Blues at Bedtime.

This morning I started off in cloudy conditions, heading off from High and Over down to the River Cuckmere hoping for some dragonfly action. Near High and Over I came across my first Adonis Blue of the year and a very smart female Common Blue before I headed down the hill to the river. Around the ponds and along the river it was strangely quiet with just Blue-tailed and Azure damselflies showing. Then I was looking at a Whitethroat in a bush when a pair of Hairy Dragonflies caught my eye. They were in tandem when I first spotted them but their mating was just coming to an end and the female flew off leaving just the male behind.  Strangely the end of his abdomen remained bent where he had been attached to her.

Female Common Blue.

Male Hairy Dragonfly.

Then, in the late afternoon I called back up to the Downs to see the numerous Common Blues go to roost. Unlike the other day I was in time to see them with their wings wide open as they tried to get the last heat from the day.

Male Common Blue.

Friday 16 May 2014

Downy Emerald and Broad-bodied Chaser.

The day started off with a Wall Brown count at Bo Peep Bostal. In some parts the butterflies were very numerous. The slope is North facing so the butterfly emerges on this site around 2 weeks later than my usual site. On the circular walk there I counted 69, which is a very significant number!! Especially as this is the 1st brood which is always smaller than the 2nd brood in mid July.

Following this we went to Rowland Wood looking for dragonflies. For many years I have watched the Downy Emerald at this site flying strongly over the lake. On the very rare occasion that they land it is always well out of reach. Today however, one did settle several times on some leaves, it was still mostly out of reach but I did on the one occasion manage to pull the leaf it was on towards me. Unfortunately not quite far enough to get a really good picture, but much better than anything I have ever got before.

Downy Emerald.

We then met Nigel who had found another White Admiral larva. For some reason I just can't seem to find one of these myself, so once again thanks to him for finding this one. Now much bigger than the ones we had at his wood a few weeks ago.

White Admiral larva.

Then, just before leaving we found a newly emerged female Broad-bodied Chaser that allowed a few pictures to be taken. The bodies of this species are superbly coloured and this made a fitting end to a great day.

Broad-bodied Chaser.

Thursday 15 May 2014

2nd Chance.

One of my targets this year was to get a decent picture of the White-spotted Sable. I thought I had got it last Friday at Denge, only to find it was not that sharp. Yesterday, I was at the only other place that I had seen it before, in private woodland where I was doing a butterfly survey for Butterfly Conservation. This time I got lucky as this rare elusive moth started to nectar on a Bluebell giving me the chance I needed.

White-spotted Sable.

Today I couldn't resist another trip to the River Cuckmere to see the Demoiselles. I did manage a shot this time of the male Banded Demoiselle but once again the female Beautiful gave the best opportunities.

Male Banded Demoiselle.

Later in the day I went onto the Downs to see the Common Blues going to roost. I was slightly late but several were sitting together on the grasses.

Female Common Blue.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Beautiful Demoiselle and Mayflies.

Yesterday I had a fabulous session on the River Cuckmere, I was hoping to see some Scarce Chasers but that was not to be. However, there was a massive hatch of Mayflies, a superb looking insect and fascinating to watch, and also both of the Demoiselles, particularly the Beautiful Demoiselle. Both male and female of this species was showing well and they also posed better than usual in the cool, and sometimes damp weather. There was a couple of male Banded Demoiselle that had also very recently hatched.


Beautiful Demoiselles.

An unexpected bonus was from a very fresh Brown Argus.

Male Brown Argus.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

More From Kent.

Whilst we were at Denge Nigel spotted a Duke of Burgundy that was a little different. This one had one pale forewing. It is always interesting to get one of these oddities, we were also fortunate that it was a female. The Duke of Burgundy is the only British butterfly where the male has 4 working legs and the female 6. I managed to get an underside picture which shows the butterfly using the 6 legs.

We were very surprised by the number of White-spotted Sable moths. This is a micro moth that is classified as Nationally scarce A. Although I have had very brief glimpses of this moth before I have never had a clear sighting of one. When settled they generally hid underneath leaves, however, the one I managed to get a photo of I saw land. I then carefully turned the leaf over with one hand whilst taking the picture with the other. Unfortunately, I only had one attempt at it before it flew off and the picture I got was not 100% sharp.

White-spotted Sable.

The other micro moth that I managed to get is classified as Nationally scarce B. Therefore not quite as rare but still very notable. It is also one of the most colourful of the micros. I only saw the one but it sat long enough for 2 attempts at it. This one is Olethreutes Arcuella.

Olethreutes Arcuella.

We also found 2 long horned beetles which were different and attractive. This was a Rhagium Mordax.

Rhagium Mordax.