Monday 30 June 2014

More Chalkhill Blue.

I was tempted again yesterday to head up to the Chalkhill Blue colony whilst they are so fresh. Both the Blues and the Gatekeeper numbers had increased with several seen across the area. The 2nd Chalkhill Blue that I found posed very nice for the camera.

The beautiful male Chalkhill Blue.

After spending a little more time with it I then moved to the bottom of the hill looking for Emerald Damselflies, however none were seen. Back onto the hill and I found my first Thyme Plume of the year, a tiny plume moth which is very scarce in Sussex.

Thyme Plume.

Although it is probably a little early I did look briefly for Wall Brown 2nd brood pupa in the area where I had the 1st brood pupa back in March. The pupa is by far the hardest of the life cycle to find and it was no surprise at all not to find one. However, a couple of minutes later a bright green pupa caught my eye from about 10 feet away and I was amazed to find it was a Meadow Brown pupa.

Meadow Brown pupa.

Heading back to the car I came across another Chalkhill Blue which was nectaring on a Pyramidal Orchids. Butterflies that nectar on orchids run the risk of getting pollen sacs stuck on their proboscis and when the butterfly settled on some grass I could see that this one was indeed suffering with this. It was stretching out its proboscis to try to get rid of the bits that were stuck there but they were not coming away!!

Orchid pollen sacs stuck to the proboscis.

Finally my first Essex Skipper of the year was seen near the car park, this was my 40th species of the year.

Sunday 29 June 2014

Chalkhill Blues.

Yesterday I called up to the Downs and immediately saw my first Gatekeeper of the year. This was a good sign for the rest of the walk. With the sun going in quite regularly, but the temperature quite high there were large numbers of butterflies about. 2 Gatekeepers were seen amongst the masses of Marbled White and Meadow Brown with quite a few Ringlet as well. With the lack of female Gatekeepers about a male Gatekeeper got very amorous with a Ringlet, although he ended up frustrated!!

Male Gatekeeper.


I then walked further down the hill and came across my first Chalkhill Blue of the year, always a fabulous sight when they are as fresh as this. On the way down 2 Chalkhill Blues were seen although a couple more were seen on the return.

Male Chalkhill Blue.

I also wanted to check on Burnt Orchids that grow here. I am lucky as the May flowering Burnt Orchids are quite local, but the late June flowering plants are only 1 mile away from home. Some were already past their best but there were many still looking good. Pyramidal Orchids were also everywhere including one odd one that appeared to have two heads on the one flower.

Burnt Orchids

Pyramidal Orchid.

Saturday 28 June 2014

Southwater Woods.

Last year I failed to see a Purple Emperor despite it being a really good year for them, so yesterday with a few hours to spare, I decided to head over to Southwater Woods to make sure I at least saw them this year. It was, as expected, too late in the day to see them on the ground so photographs were not expected. As soon as I arrived I saw 2 fighting in the tree tops, a little later 2 more were battling above some more tree tops. 
Silver-washed Fritllaries and White Admiral were also evident and I hoped that I might manage to at least get some photos of these.
A mating pair of Meadow Brown ended up being the best opportunity for photos and they sat out in the open, which was quite unusual. No grass in the way, even when they moved once they were still right out in the open.

I just missed an underside shot of a White Admiral although one did give me an opportunity as it nectared on bramble, and the only decent Silver-washed Fritillary was from below. A really good day though and I'm pleased I made the effort. I am hoping that I might manage another attempt at the Purple Emperor in the next few days.

White Admiral.

Male Silver-washed Fritillary.

Thursday 26 June 2014

Ringlets and more Marbled White.

Yesterday I was once again was doing a butterfly survey in private woodland, very difficult due to the extreme high numbers of Meadow Brown and Ringlet. Early on I spotted an ab. Ringlet which just refused to settle to allow a photo. Very frustrating as this is the first time I have seen one of these, but once it started to fight with numerous other Ringlet it was impossible to follow it.
I did find a mating pair of Ringlet as well as plenty of Silver-washed Fritillaries and White Admiral.

This morning I woke early to sort out the moth trap, there wasn't anything amazing in it so I tried again for the Marbled Whites. Being cooler this morning they were not at all active, however the poor light and steady breeze made it difficult to get decent images, another attempt may still be on the cards!!

There was a Buff Arches and Burnished Brass in the moth trap. Neither are rare, but they are good looking moths!

Buff Arches

Burnished Brass.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Marvellous Marbled White Morning.

Yesterday morning I managed to do what I've been meaning to do for several days, getting up early and trying to get some decent images of Marbled White. I arrived on the site at 6.15am to find a Red Admiral already flying!! It was indeed quite warm despite the time of day and with the sun on the downland already the fabulous sight of Marbled Whites with wings wide open greeted me.

Although there are large numbers of Marbled White flying at the moment they are, along with other members of the 'Brown butterfly' family, quite wary and hard to approach for photography so getting them before they are fully awake does make it slightly easier!!

Having managed to get a few topside shots it was the plan to try to get an underside photo. Eventually one posed very nicely for me, although this one was in pretty good condition it had already picked up some of the tiny red grass mites that Marbled White are prone to getting. 

After just an hour on site I returned home happy in time to wake Pen up with a cuppa!!

Sunday 22 June 2014

Ruddy Darter

It sounds as though I am cursing, but no!! A walk this morning to see if I could see any more White-letter Hairstreaks meant I walked along a few ditches. No Hairstreaks seen but there were quite a few Common Darter dragonflies taking their first flight. Walking slowly along I was hoping to get pictures of these very wary dragonflies. I eventually managed a couple of shots of these when I spotted what I thought was a more mature Common Darter. However, checking through the binoculars I could see that it had fully black legs which meant it was a Ruddy Darter. On closer inspection there were other features that confirmed the id. It settled in several positions and stayed still for me while I took some photographs.

Ruddy Darter.

Common Darter newly emerged.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Forest Dragonflies

A wonderful day yesterday on Ashdown Forest with a good variety of Dragonflies starting off with a very smart female Golden-ringed Dragonfly. I was walking down a narrow path when I put the dragonfly up, but fortunately it resettled behind me. I have struggled over the years getting pictures of this species but over the last couple of years I have now managed a few. Later in the day a male was seen near a stream although I didn't get any pictures of this one. The male picture below is from 2012.

Female Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

Male Golden-ringed Dragonfly (2012).

There were also quite a few Keeled Skimmers flying with mature male and females and some newly emerged individuals. No pictures of these from yesterday but once again I've included a picture from 2012 of a maturing male.

Maturing Male Keeled Skimmer (2012).

It was then onto a small acid pool where the lovely Small Red Damselfly was flying. I managed several pictures of these. A few Emperor were also seen as well as a Brilliant Emerald.

Small Red Damselflies.

Thursday 19 June 2014

It's a Ghost!!

The biggest catch of the year last night with the moth trap with getting on for 100 moths. No hawk moths but a very nice Ghost Moth, a first for the trap. Also my first Figure of Eighty. A nice looking moth with the markings that do look a little like '80'.

male Ghost Moth.

Figure of Eighty

A very fresh Coronet was also there along with over 40 Heart and Dart!!


A search along the river later did produce my first White-letter Hairstreak of the year. With only a few healthy Elms left it is going to get much harder to see these in the future and it remains to be seen if any descend from the trees to nectar which might allow the odd photograph. I'm really glad I managed to get some shots I'm happy with in past years.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

A Small One!!

Two visits out today inbetween my caring duties. A visit this morning to Park Corner resulted in 2 White Admirals and a very fresh Red Admiral. Also 3 Grass Snakes and 1 Adder. Ringlets were also showing well despite the very dull weather. This afternoon the weather hadn't really improved but I decided to call up to High and Over area to see the numerous Marbled Whites. Whilst there I found my first Small Skipper of the year, not as smart as its larger cousin but still good to find this one that was already roosting in the dull weather. Whilst there the sun came out and the butterfly woke up and flew briefly before opening its wings to gather some heat.

Male Small Skipper.

There were also several Cinnabar Moths seen including this one that was also roosting.

Cinnabar Moth.

Marbled White.

Monday 16 June 2014

A Large One.

With Matt telling me that the Short-toed Eagle had decided to hide for a while I went to the River Cuckmere again with the hope that he would advise me to get up there quickly if it reappeared. With heavy cloud I wasn't really expecting to see too much so I was really pleased to find a nice male Large Skipper that let me take quite a few pictures of it. Side,open wing and head-on.

Also showing were several Blue-tailed Damselflies and many Banded Demoiselles. All these were very active despite the overcast conditions.

Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Finally I couldn't resist some more shots of the fabulous Mayfly.

I then heard a purring Turtle Dove and as I returned to the car I had great views of it in a tall tree.