Tuesday 30 June 2015

A Dark Green Morning.

A couple of days ago I went for a walk over the local Downland hoping to see a good quantity of Dark Green Fritillaries. With light cloud and a bit of a breeze conditions were not perfect but it wasn't long before good numbers were seen. Males were flying low over the tall grass looking for females and although I found a weak flying newly emerged butterfly the wind didn't help to get any decent photos.

Dark Green Fritillary in the breeze.

Sheltering in the undergrowth.

Following this I decided to head out very early yesterday to see if I could find any roosting Fritillaries, as I haven't to date managed any under-side photos of this species that I happy with. I went to the area where I had seen several the day before but I couldn't see any at all!! I continued to wander about as the temperature started to pick up and eventually I spotted a few Marbled Whites and a Dark Green Fritillary. Unfortunately the butterfly had already warmed up too much and promptly flew away. Just a couple of minutes later though I found a lovely specimen with wings wide open as it warmed up in the early morning sunshine. I was lucky to get a few shots before it flew off at break-neck speed. Very pleasing to get a nice image before 6.20am!!  Following this good numbers were seen once again as the butterflies woke up and climbed up out of the long grass. I am still waiting for that under-side shot!!
Massive numbers were also seen of Small Heath and on arrival and departure of the site a Hummingbird Hawk Moth was flying at the entrance.

Roosting Small Heath.

A gorgeous Dark Green Fritillary at 6.19am.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Mullein Larva.

After an unsuccessful search for the Frog Orchids on the local Downland it was then a search in Friston Forest for anything else. I had seen the fabulously marked Mullein larvae in the forest a few years ago and as I had seen some pictures recently on Flickr I knew that there was a chance. Looking on the Mullein there was no sign, but then my eye was caught by one on Figwort. In the end 8 were seen, all on Figwort except one single larva on its names foodplant, Mullein.

Mullein Moth larva feeding on Figwort.

After this success several other insects of note were seen including my first Scarlet Tiger of the year and my first 2015 Ringlet. A lovely Fox cub was curled up on the path which just looked up and watched us. A few Dark Green Fritillaries and Large Skippers but very few Marbled Whites. A very fresh male Small Skipper did allow some photographs to be taken.

Male Small Skipper.

Friday 26 June 2015

Marvellous Marbled of Seaford.

It was an early start with the promise for once of light winds and early sunshine as well as plenty of  Marbled Whites on the wing. Very soon I found a fresh Marbled White and I got some pleasing shots of it as the sun came up. 

Marbled White at Sunrise.

It wasn't long before the butterflies started to get a bit more active as the day quickly warmed up and many were seen on the local Downland with wings wide apart as the butterflies absorbed the heat. A fabulous session with the butterfly that just means 'Summer'.

Marbled White Warming up.

Male Marbled White underside.

Male Marbled White.

Mating Pair of Marbled White.

All this and I was home in plenty of time for breakfast!!

Tuesday 23 June 2015

2 Sons, 13 Badgers and 10 Bee-eaters.

I probably don't spend as much time as I should with my 2 sons. Chris has been on at me recently to take him Badger watching. With us both being free on Friday night we set off to one of the sets I have watched on and off for around 43 years!! It seemed a perfect evening for it and on the way there I saw 2 Dark Green Fritillaries, my first of the year, several Corn Bunting and a single Forester Moth. We settled near the set and waited. On the opposite side of the valley I pointed out a Brown Hare to Chris. Unfortunately at this point a group of 4 people who were evidently having a boozy hike appeared. The boozy party decided to stop and drink nearby which didn't help at all but even though they were quite noisy I spotted a Badger further along the valley. The party eventually moved on and 3 more Badgers were spotted in the same area as the first one. I then saw the Brown Hare was still in the same field as us and it started moving towards us. In fact it kept on coming our way until it was filling the binoculars. Chris managed to get the picture below of it. At 8.50 4 Badgers came out of the set we were watching and they foraged nearby until the wind changed direction and 3 of them picked up our scent. The 4th one was still out until a jogger came along and asked us in a loud voice if we had seen anything interesting!!!!!!
On the way back to the car we passed some more sets where we had some really close views of these wonderful animals.

Brown Hare. (Photo by Chris Eade).

Around 3 am this morning Matt arrived home from a late shift to tell me that a large group of Bee-eaters had gone to roost near Firle and that at first light he would be going over there to see them. Would I like to go with him? Well, this is a bird that I've never seen despite several near misses, so, yes I would go as well. At around 4.50am we arrived at the site and we are able to see these magnificent birds waking up and preening. Soon the odd one takes flight and returns with a bumble-bee. Some were keeping hidden in the tree so it was difficult to see how many were there but 7 were visible at times. As the day warmed up they became more active and started sitting out on the telegraph wires, again taking flight and catching bees every now and then. At one point 9 were together on the wires with another nearby. Just after this they all took flight and gained height before all vanishing in an Easterly direction. An amazing start to the day!! I waited 57 years to see a Bee-eater and then 10 came along at the same time!! 

The group of 9 Bee-eaters. 
The 4th from the left has a Bee!!

Monday 22 June 2015

Emperor Larvae.

It's always worth going out!! How many times have we heard that one. Over the last week or so it was a last minute decision to head on out and each time something pretty good has been seen. A trip to the Forest resulted in my first Silver-studded Blue. Although I didn't get any photos of it worth keeping it was really good to see him. Also seen were several Keeled Skimmer, Early Marsh Orchids and the beautiful Clouded Buff moths.

Clouded Buff.

Early Marsh Orchid.

The following day I had a quick trip to my local patch, I decided to look for Emperor Moth larvae. Bearing in mind I have never found one before I wasn't too hopeful. I decided to start near where I found the egg cluster in April. Before I got the glasses out and I got on my knees I spotted something light green in the grass. Looking closer I was amazed to find it was an Emperor larva which had just moulted. The old skin was attached to the grass it was on. What luck!! I have looked for it a few times since and haven't found it again.

Emperor Moth larva complete with shed skin.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Heath Fritillary Magic.

I haven't managed to see the Heath Fritillary since May 2011 despite trying for them last year. With a window of opportunity though I made the trip to Kent earlier this week. On arrival the weather was overcast and the butterflies were keeping well hidden. It was not long though before warmer weather arrived and the butterflies appeared as if by magic. From then on there were butterflies all around including many courting pairs. Superb to see this species again and despite already having some photos that I was pleased with from the past I managed some more worth keeping. Whilst in the wood I also found a Rhagium Mordax, a long-horned beetle that always seems to have a bit of character.

The beautiful underside of the Heath Fritillary.

A different perspective.

Female Heath Fritillary.

Courting pair of Heath Fritillaries.

Mating Heath Fritillaries.

Rhagium Mordax.

Following this success it was then heading to the North Downs in Kent looking for orchids. Although some of the plants were past their best it was still good to see some fine Butterfly Orchids and Late Spider Orchids. I also found some Musk Orchids, a species that used to be common in the Lewes area until the drought in 1976.

Butterfly Orchid being pollinated.

Musk Orchid.

Late Spider Orchid.

Friday 19 June 2015

The Frog Orchid Hybrid Returns.

Since finding the only ever record for a Frog Orchid hybrid a couple of years ago, I have checked last year and now this year to see if it is going to re-appear. As far as I am aware there were no sightings by anybody last year and I thought that maybe that would be the end of it. Pete and I decided to go and check out the Downland site for this orchid and also normal Frog Orchids. At first it looked as though we were totally out of luck as there only seemed to be Common-spotted and some Fragrant Orchids. In the spot where the hybrid was I checked each plant a bit closer and I was very surprised to find that what looked like a tiny damaged Common-spotted Orchid was actually the hybrid. It was nothing like its former glory, but at least it is still alive.

Frog/Common Spotted Orchid Hybrid.
In its former glory on the day it was found 18/6/2013.

Frog/Common Spotted Orchid Hybrid.
As it is this year 2015!!

Following this we went to see the nearby Bee Orchid pale form Var. flavescens.

Bee Orchid. Var. flavescens)

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Back to Sussex.

Following on from the brilliant Scotland trip it was back to earth with a bump. Not helped by a bit of fatigue from the drive home the enthusiasm had slumped a bit but it was only a few days before the things got going again.
Several colonies of White-legged Damselflies have been showing well and I managed reasonable shots of both male and female. I've also tried a few different angles on a couple of subjects which may have worked? On some Buckthorn 3 Brimstone larvae were found. This is a larva that I hadn't seen before and I was surprised how easy they were to find.

Female White-legged Damselfly.

Male White-legged Damselfly.

Green Shield Bug.


Brimstone Larva.

On the local front I saw my first Marbled White at the weekend, the sight of a really fresh Marbled White makes it really feel like summer is here!! Small Tortoiseshell have also started to emerge with a real beauty posing well for me. At the weekend I also found a Small Elephant Hawk Moth. Although I often had them in the moth trap this is only the 2nd one that I have found out in the wild.

Small Tortoiseshell.

Small Elephant Hawk Moth.

Monday 15 June 2015

Lady's Slipper Orchids!!

All week the plan had been to head over to St. Abbs Head for the Northern Brown Argus on the way home. However, the weather on the Saturday morning was not just bad, it was awful, with torrential rain and gale force winds. We still wanted to see something special on the way south so we decided to head for Gaits Barrow in the Lake District where the extremely rare Lady's Slipper Orchid has been introduced to help reduce the threat of extinction. Fortunately by the time we reached the reserve the weather had improved a little, and it continued to improve whilst we were there. This is one of those special plants that I never even dreamed of ever seeing so to find it here was an amazing experience and was a fitting end to an incredible week of wildlife hunting.

The Lady's Slipper Orchid.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Golden-ringed and Emperor Bonus!!

With the weather continuing to be somewhat disappointing, to say the least, the final 2 days of the Scottish trip was staying local to Fort William. Fortunately we did venture out though as both days turned out brilliant finds.
On the Thursday we walked along the Caledonian Canal for a couple of miles, to return on the opposite bank after crossing through one of the tunnels underneath. After going through the tunnel we rejoined the Canal by a gate which had a large dragonfly excuvia on it. We were discussing which dragonfly it could be when, after 100 metres or so, Nigel spotted a female Golden-ringed Dragonfly sitting next to its excuvia in the long grass. A fabulous spot by him!! After carefully moving some of the grass we both managed to get some pleasing shots of this spectacular dragonfly. This also answered the question concerning the excuvia on the gate!!

Female Golden-ringed Dragonfly with excuvia.

The Friday was almost a write off with heavy rain and wind all morning. The forecast was for it to brighten up in the afternoon so after lunch we headed back to Glen Loy in the hope that the Chequered Skippers had now started to emerge here. It was around 3pm before the sky really brightened up but there was still only a few Green-veined Whites flying. I decided to walk further up the valley and check out a few meadows there. It was whilst I was walking across one of these that I spotted an immaculate female Emperor Moth just sitting there. This is only the 2nd Emperor Moth that I've found and this one was by far the best of them. A totally unexpected find and a great finish to our Scottish week. Also unexpected was meeting Steve and Maggie East, our friends from the Sussex branch of Butterfly Conservation. We were able to show them the Emperor Moth before heading back to the lodge.

Female Emperor Moth.

Female Green-veined White. (Scottish form).

There was one final big bonus on the way home from Scotland when we stopped off in the Lake District!!