Friday 29 May 2015

Old Red-Eyes is Back.

A couple of trips this week to the local waterways has produced some interesting sightings as well as species that I've never managed to get decent pictures of before.
First it was back to the Demoiselles and Mayflies, as one can never have too much of these gorgeous creatures!! The weather was, as it seems to be at the moment, pretty poor!! However, with a few sunnier bits a few insects came out to show themselves, this included a mating pair of Red and Black Froghoppers. Once again Mayflies were very numerous. The Demoiselles were not so numerous with only a couple of male Banded and a female of each species showing. The highlight however was a pair of Hobby that were continually flying along the river and over adjoining fields for around 20 minutes giving multiple close views. With only a macro lens, as well as the poor light I can only keep the memory in my head!! There have been very poor numbers of Orange-tip butterflies this year. A male suddenly appeared in front of me and I managed my only decent shot this year of one as he nectared there.

Female Beautiful Demoiselle.


Mating Red and Black Froghoppers.

Male Orange-tip.

Later in the week it was back to the waterways to look for Variable Damselflies and Red-eyed Damselfly. On arrival the day started off well with another really good view of a Hobby flying amongst the hirundines. Straight after this the Variable Damselflies started to show well with 3 mating pairs and many single males flying. Along the riverbank the Red-eyed Damselflies were very evident, although they were very difficult to approach. Eventually I managed a shot of both a teneral and adult female and then the shot I was really after, a male in a normal pose of sitting on a pad on the water. A bit of care needed here to avoid an early swim. Whilst watching the damselflies on the water I spotted a baby Pike that was hunting water insects. The speed when he pounced was amazing to see. He was only about 3 inches long but already a real hunter!! Another hunter found was a young Raft Spider that was sitting on a pad near the damselflies.

Variable Damselfly.

Female Red-eyed Damselfly.

Teneral Female Red-eyed Damselfly.

Male Red-eyed Damselfly.

Baby Pike.

Young Raft Spider.

Thursday 28 May 2015

Grizzled Skipper ab. intermedia

Whilst doing my butterfly survey on private land this week I was lucky to come across a smart Grizzled Skipper ab.intermedia. I've found ab.taras several times but I can't remember coming across this before. These are not as striking as the taras but are still nice to see.

Grizzled Skipper ab. intermedia.

Also seen during the survey was a teneral Emperor Dragonfly that actually settled and allowed a picture to be taken. A mating pair of Speckled Yellow moths were also nice to see.

Teneral Emperor Dragonfly.

Mating Speckled Yellow.

On Sunday in pretty poor conditions I saw my first Small Blue of the year at a small site in Newhaven. Just as a sea mist was rolling in Pete spotted a nice Green Hairstreak fly past that was looking for a roosting place.

Small Blue.

Green Hairstreak.

Monday 25 May 2015

An Emperor Near Miss.

For some time I've had a plan to try to get a dragonfly emerging. Of course it's one thing having a plan and totally another thing getting it. Last year Nigel and I had several Black-tailed Skimmer and Broad-bodied Chasers emerging but we had missed most of the action, so I was hoping with a really early start I might just get the whole event. 
Well before 6am I was walking around a dew pond when I noticed a large dragonfly larva walking away from the pond. Going by its size I was sure it was an Emperor, and this is what indeed it was. The larva climbed an old nettle and I really thought I was going to get something really good. Unfortunately, after an hour it climbed back down and went back in the dew pond. It then moved along the edge of the pond for about 10 metres and then came back out until it hid under some leaves. At this point I decided to leave it in peace as I believed it may well have decided not to emerge as it had realised I was there.

Sunrise. I don't see this too often!!!!

Emperor Dragonfly larva leaving pond.

Emperor Dragonfly larva on old nettle.

Back in the pond.

Later in the day I came across a group of one of my favourite orchids, the Burnt Orchid. It was still a really good day, although it could have been an absolutely amazing day.

Burnt Orchids.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Kent Dukes and Orchids.

On Wednesday Nigel and I decided to head over to Kent for the Duke of Burgundy and some of  the Kent orchids. Although I had already seen the Dukes this year in West Sussex it is always good to see  some more and with the bonus of Lady, Man, Monkey and Fly Orchids it had to be a great day.

On arrival the weather was quite cool and dull but it was not long before a Duke was spotted among the many Lady Orchids. Following this plenty of Dukes were seen and the Lady Orchids were very numerous. Most of the Dukes were still in pretty good condition and the Lady Orchids were at their best.

Duke of Burgundy sitting on Primrose leaf, one of its foodplants.

Male Duke of Burgundy.

Lady Orchids.

Probably the star of the day was the White-spotted Sable. This is a tiny micro moth that is generally difficult to photograph as they are very active and being so small are not easy to follow in flight. They also often land under leaves making it even harder to refind them. I was very lucky to have one land on a grass stem and actually stay there. Although it had its wings folded back another moth a few minutes later settled in sight and with the wings spread.

The beautiful White-spotted Sable.

Unfortunately the Monkey Orchids were still not in flower yet but the Fly and Man were just showing enough for a few pictures. All these are probably 2 weeks behind where they were at last year, we did think that they would all be fully out by now. Having said that it was a great day and well worth the trip.

Fly Orchid.

Man Orchid.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Adonis Blue.

So far this year there has been a shortage of Common Blue, however, on a couple of ridges the Adonis Blue population seems to be slightly better than in recent years. Brown Argus also seem to be doing quite well. Today I did my regular Wall Brown count on a circuit at the back of Seaford. Numbers were quite disappointing with only 18 seen. This may partly be due to a bit of cloud cover coming over and the wind picking up a bit halfway through the walk. It was good to see 2 female Orange-tips as well as a male. I also had my first Hummingbird Hawk Moth for the year and my first ever Small Yellow Underwing in the Seaford area. 

Male Adonis Blue.

Germander Speedwell. 

On a sad note I was walking along The Comp a couple of days ago when I came across a pair of Wall Brown that had presumably been hit by a cyclist while they were mating in the middle of the path. Of course it could possibly have been a runner that literally hit 'the wall'!!!!

PTA (Path Traffic Accident) 

Tuesday 19 May 2015

There Is Nothing Like a Demoiselle.

Following on from the magnificent session with the Pearl-bordered Fritillary it was then on to the River North of Alfriston hoping for some Banded Demoiselles. Both these and the Beautiful Demoiselle are very special insects and I love the challenge of getting a few reasonable images. The weather was still pretty poor which meant the insects were not too flighty for once and a male Banded Demoiselle was spotted quite quickly.

Male Banded Demoiselle.

He was then followed to other perches, all made attractive by the shape of the insect.

Yet another Drinker larva, this time a fully grown one, was interesting in the fact that it took up a defensive pose when it was approached.

Drinker moth larva in defensive pose.

A very nice Large Red Damselfly also posed very well on some grass. Plenty of Mayfly were about as well as Red and Black Froghoppers.

Large Red Damselfly.

Red and Black Froghopper.

Sunday 17 May 2015

A Pearl of a Day.

On Friday I had decided to venture out for both Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and also to try the River Cuckmere north of Alfriston for Banded Demoiselles. The sun was shining until mid morning and as Pete couldn't get here early the cloud built up on the way there. It was then down to massive luck as my eye was caught by a superb female roosting Pearl-bordered Fritillary. This was the only butterfly we saw in the wood!! With one or two slightly brighter patches we managed some open winged shots as well as various roosting shots.

The beautiful Fritillary with a string of pearls around the hind-wing.

With the blue haze of Bluebells in the background and Nightingales singing around us it was a magical morning!!

The day then continued on a positive note with some excellent Demoiselles which will be on my next post.

Saturday 16 May 2015

Dragons and Damsels.

It has been quite a week with many interesting insects. During the week I've seen my first Common Blue and Adonis Blue of the year. On Frog Firle a mating pair of Wall Brown as well as a mating pair of Wasp Beetles.

Mating Wall Brown.

Mating Wasp Beetles.

On Wednesday another survey at the private wood for Butterfly Conservation resulted in a good count of butterflies including at least 7 Painted Lady and a Clouded Yellow. Silver Y moths are also another migrant insect with numbers building up. It is looking good for a migrant butterfly year!! During the survey there were also several Dragonflies and Damselflies showing with Broad-bodied Chasers and Hairy Dragonflies. 

Teneral Male Broad-bodied Chaser.

Male Hairy Dragonfly.

I also noticed several male Large Red Damselflies holding territory around a small pond. They kept landing on some leaves in the pond showing their silhouette through the leaves. I managed to get one interesting shot of one, despite having to kneel in the mud. I was very lucky to get the silhouette with an eye showing over the leaf.

Large Red Damselfly Eye.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Mayfly Magic.

As well as seeing and having enormous enjoyment photographing those gorgeous Demoiselles there was a large hatch of Mayflies happening. I find these insects really fascinating and very photogenic. 


I also found this Drinker larva which had just finished shedding its skin. I have never seen this behaviour before except with a tiny Orange-tip larva that I had in the garden once.

Drinker moth larva with shed skin.

After this is was back to the Mayflies. I had seen one earlier that had just emerged from its excuvia and flown away. A little later I found another one in the same situation. I decided to try and get an image of both the excuvia and the adult. This was far from easy as it was pretty breezy and not only was the grass they were on very flimsy, so was both the excuvia and the Mayfly. They were all flapping around like mad. After taking some 20 shots I was very pleased and quite frankly, amazed at getting a shot with them all reasonably in focus, all being blown in the same direction as the wind!!

Mayfly with excuvia.