Friday 29 August 2014

Walking on Water!!

On Wednesday, along with Nigel it was a trip to a part of Ashdown Forest that was new to me. Once again there were some new ponds to look at and several Black Darters were flying.
At one pond Nigel spotted a spider sitting on the pond and suspicions were that it was a Raft Spider. He went to take some photos of it and I was wondering what he was doing as the spider I was looking at was not where he was. It then became obvious that there was 2 different spiders. Looking through the binoculars more appeared with more than a dozen seen with a variety of sizes. 
It was amazing seeing them being able to walk on the water.

Some also had some of their legs under the water where apparently they feel for the vibration of small fish or water insects.

This one below seems to have a bubble on its leg. This may be so if it has to submerge it still has a small air supply?

This one below was the largest so we assume was a female.

Raft Spiders.

Black Darters were very active but this one did land on some dried grass over the water where I was able to get a few pictures. 

Male Black Darter.

Just one Emerald Damselfly was seen as it is now getting quite late in their flight season.

Male Emerald Damselfly.

It really was a great day with the Raft Spiders being the stars of the day. I have only knowingly seen them once before which was over 25 years ago, even though they are not particularly rare. We now want to see the much rarer Fen Raft Spider.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Dunlin Day.

Despite the poor weather today it was quite a good birding day. It started with me spotting a Firecrest in the garden this morning. It was looking very wet and bedraggled although very active chasing and catching some small insects on a small fir tree. It reappeared a little later when Matt heard it calling. A Hummingbird Hawk Moth was also seen nectaring in the garden late morning during a rain shower.
Mid afternoon the rain went and it looked as though it was going to brighten up. Matt suggested a walk down the Cuckmere so I looked out the long lens and off we went. I haven't done much birding during the summer so it made a nice change. It was actually quite warm as we walked along the river and we wished we had left the rain coats behind. Lots of Dunlin feeding along the riverbank and they were quite approachable which enabled me to get a few bird photos.


A bit further on and a Sedge Warbler showed quite well as well as 2 Wheatear. Near the sea a flock of Yellow Wagtails were feeding and then the highlight of a Hobby catching 3 high up Dragonflies. During this the clouds were building back up and halfway back we had torrential rain again. We were then of course glad we did have the raincoats on!! Although we didn't see anything rare it was great to get out and practice with the long lens before the winter arrives.

Sedge Warbler.


Sunday 24 August 2014

Adonis Blue Morning.

It was another early start this morning hoping for a chance to get an Adonis Blue showing off the brilliant blue of its wings as the sun warms up. The first challenge was finding one, but, apart from lots of worn Common Blues and one Brown Argus it was not until I was about to give up when I found a freshly emerged male. The colour of this butterfly was everything I was hoping for and it posed very well on the grasses as it began to warm up for the day. The only problem was that only one side of the butterfly had formed properly as it had emerged. This could possibly be due to the fact that it had emerged on such a cold morning? It was though quite disappointing to have spent so much time and effort into finding my target and then seeing it pose exactly as I had wanted it to only to find it was not such a perfect specimen after all.

Male Adonis Blue.

Just after leaving this beauty I came across a fresh female Adonis Blue flying strongly. I also found an Autumn Ladies Tresses orchid in an area where I had not seen them before.

Friday 22 August 2014

Brown Hairstreak Hunt.

My first effort to see the Brown Hairstreak this year was on the 4th August over in West Sussex. It is generally an annual event for me to go over and try to see this little gem of a butterfly. Most years it is also the last species to get on the year list, as it will probably be this year unless something unexpected appears again. On the 4th I saw 2 individuals, one was probably a male flying around the top of an Ash, and the second was a female that I managed a couple of poor photos. Being near the beginning of the flight season it was very fresh and that was what I was after. Unfortunately though it did not pose well for me. However, it did become my 45th species of the year.

Female Brown Hairstreak 4th August.

With very few decent weather days in August to have another go it was having to wait until today for another attempt. Of course it is now a bit late in the season and most of the butterflies are now showing a little bit of damage to their wings. Five Hairstreaks were seen today with photos of 2 of them. The last one did pose very nicely on some bramble leaves and apart from a small nick out of its hindwing it was still in pretty good condition. I will have to wait another year to try to get a picture I am really pleased with though!!

Female Brown Hairstreak 22nd August

Tuesday 19 August 2014

The Very Lucky Brown Hawker!!

Yesterday I decided to head back to the Pevensey Levels in the slim hope of getting a photo of the Brown Hawker. Possibly the most difficult of the common dragonfly species to get pictures of. On arrival the sun was actually shining and I walked the half mile or so to the area where only a week ago I saw several Brown Hawkers flying. On the way I came across a mating pair of Common Darter which were in the long grass by the path.

Mating Common Darters.

By the time I reached the area where I was hopeful of seeing the Hawkers I hadn't seen any and the sun was now hiding on and off behind some dark clouds. A large Buzzard and a pair of  Sparrowhawks flying over me gave a little interest but on the dragonfly front I was only seeing a few more Common Darter and Migrant Hawkers. After an hour I was beginning to think I may as well go home and do some gardening, but I decided to just have one more look along a track which has bushes both sides of it and is often an area that hunting dragonflies like. Here I was watching a Migrant Hawker and hoping it would settle when it was joined by a very smart female Southern Hawker. This settled near me just as a very large dark cloud went over the sun. It was then a long wait for the light to improve and hoping that the dragonfly wouldn't move off as soon as that happened. Fortunately it didn't and it gave me some of the best opportunities I've had to date for photographing dragonflies.

Female Southern Hawker.

Following this I thought my luck couldn't get any better until further along the path I suddenly saw my main target, the Brown Hawker. It was patrolling a 10 metre length of the path and I was just hoping it would settle where I could get to it. It was about 10 feet away from me hovering near the top of the line of bushes when a Hobby shot over the bush line and made a grab at the dragonfly. I'm not sure of who was most surprised but perhaps it was the Hobby seeing me that put it off as it missed the dragonfly, only knocking it sideways, but that dragonfly somehow escaped certain death. The dragonfly took off over the bushes and I thought that was it. However, a few seconds later  it reappeared and after a short while it settled in a bramble bush where I was able to creep up on it and through moving some reeds I was able to get lots of pictures. I like to think that the Hawker was rewarding me for saving it from the Hobby.

Female Brown Hawker.

In the end it was quite a day and I was glad the gardening had to wait!!

Sunday 17 August 2014

Black Darter Day.

Having only seen the one Black Darter this year, which was a teneral female, I was keen to see more of this fabulous tiny dragonfly species. On Friday I went back to Ashdown Forest where there are pockets of this species around some of the acid ponds. The weather was not really favourable with heavy cloud and a little drizzle and then warm sunshine for brief periods. It was therefore trying to take advantage with these few windows of brighter weather.
As soon as the weather warmed a little the Darters came out with both males and females showing including one pair in tandem. Unfortunately with this pair the weather had deteriated again but I managed an acceptable picture of them showing the poor female left hanging from the male's grip around the neck.

Female Black Darter.

Black Darters in Tandem.

Male Black Darter.

Another female posed very nicely on the grasses around the pond area and then as the really strong sunlight returned some males sat on grasses over the pond, which with care not to fall in, a few photos were taken.

Female Black Darter.

Male Black Darter.

Also in the area were several Roesel's Bush Cricket, a species that seems to be increasing its range across the area. Emerald Damselfly, Keeled Skimmer, Emperor Dragonfly, Small Red Damselfly and on the bird front, several Common Redstart were also seen.

Roesel's Bush Cricket.

Thursday 14 August 2014

A Day at Rye Harbour.

Yesterday I met Nigel at Rye Harbour to look for dragonflies. Unfortunately I was very late as after dropping Pen off at the hospice I had to fight my way through Bexhill and Hastings. Eventually I made it 45 minutes late to find Nigel having a cuppa and wondering where I was.
We soon headed out though and found many Migrant Hawkers flying and I was lucky to have one land in front of me. 

Male Migrant Hawker.

Along a ditch I managed a very poor in flight shot. This might have been better if the weather had held on, but it was not long before the cloud built up and conditions deteriorated with the wind blowing as well. 

Male Migrant Hawker.

I saw an Emperor Dragonfly come down egg-laying and as soon as it had come down a large Frog launched itself at it. The dragonfly managed to fly off just in the nick of time. We also saw a large Grass Snake crossing the path and my first female Wasp Spider of the year. Unfortunately the spider sitting on its web was blowing around and was very difficult to focus on. In its web it had caught a Common Blue Damselfly.

One of the many 'foreign' Frogs.

Underside of Female Wasp Spider with Common Blue Damselfly.

Tuesday 12 August 2014


With the summer seeming to come to an abrupt end I thought I would go through some of the odd insect shots from earlier in the year. The Robberfly was from the Downland nearby where this one had caught a fly and stayed long enough for a few shots. For smaller insects Robberflies must be an awful predator to avoid at all costs.

Robberfly with prey.

Up on Ashdown Forest, after seeing Silver-studded Blues I was having a cuppa from the flask when a Snakefly landed on the boot of the car. I managed to coax it on some foliage where I could get a couple of shots. This insect is very bizarre looking and one that I've only managed a poor record shot before.


The Mayfly is a favourite insect of mine and I have taken many images this year. When getting in close they once again look pretty bizarre. This one was from the River Cuckmere from near Arlington.


Hopefully summer will return soon and normal service will resume!!

Friday 8 August 2014

The Small Red-eyed Damselfly.

I have never seen the Small Red-eyed Damselfly before so on hearing that they had been showing on a site near the River Cuckmere I decided to go and have a look, this despite the overcast conditions. On arrival I was soon seeing some of these little gems, and it became obvious straight away that a lot of patience was needed to get any pictures of them.
The first picture I managed was of a teneral female just after it took its first flight.

Teneral Small Red-eyed Damselfly.

After this it was a case of watching and waiting for one to perch in a spot that was easy to get to and one where a slow crouched approach didn't spook the damselfly. In the end I managed a few reasonable shots although I would have liked better lighting and less of a breeze blowing which made it very tricky!!

Male Small Red-eyed Damselflies.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Hunting Brown Hawkers!!

Another day hoping to get a picture of that Brown Hawker once again ends in failure!! Last week on the levels I only managed a poor shot of a female egg-laying and as I haven't managed any better today, here it is.

Brown Hawker egg-laying.

Back on the Levels today and lots of Brown Hawkers were seen but all spotted me first and took off. The Hobby that was flying around probably had more luck. Southern Hawkers however were a little kinder with one in particular posing a couple of times for me.

Southern Hawker.

Once again migrant butterflies were very evident on the fleabane with a very smart Painted Lady and at least 3 Clouded Yellow. A male Clouded Yellow tried to pair up with a female but was rejected. This did give the rare opportunity though of seeing the top wings as the female told him where to go!!  The male soon got the message and moved on.

Painted Lady.

Clouded Yellow.

Female Clouded Yellow rejecting male advances.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

The Dainty Wood White.

I normally head over to the Sussex/Surrey border to see the Wood White during their first brood, mixing it in with the Duke of Burgundy, but this year it was not to be. I had decided that I would probably miss this species this year. However, with a day free on Friday I headed over to the Chiddingfold area where this lovely little butterfly has a good 2nd brood most years. This species is one of the most endangered butterflies in Britain with very few sites where it can be found. Probably around 30 Wood Whites were seen throughout the day with plenty of their strange face to face courtship seen. The weather was sunny followed by heavy cloud so every now and then the butterflies would slow down a little. 

Wood White.

There were lots of other butterflies on show although most were looking a little worn and tired. Plenty of fresh Brimstone were on the wing and they do give better opportunities at this time of the year for photography as they are busy feeding up for hibernation. A flypast Clouded Yellow and a smart Painted Lady nectaring on the fleabane were both welcome bonuses.

Male Brimstone.

Painted Lady.

Wood White.