Sunday 30 August 2015

A Bit Like a Bus!! Aberrant Special!!

With the forecast being overcast with sunny intervals I met up with James to have a session with the Adonis Blue. I arrived on site, at the back of Seaford first and soon saw a couple of female Adonis. It was really the females that I was hoping to get photos of. One was in the middle of a bit of courtship with the male flapping around her and trying to attach himself to her. After a couple of minutes and several attempts he managed to attach himself and they stayed together for some time after in the long grass. After James arrived he was looking at the mating pair, my eye was drawn towards another male nearby. Straight away I could see this one was a bit different and on closer examination I could see it was an impressive aberrant with very few spots on the under-side. We both managed to get several poor record shots as it flew from perch to perch, we could also see it had a damaged left wing.

Female Adonis Blue.

Male Aberrant Adonis Blue.

Male Aberrant Adonis Blue, showing the damaged left wing.

Eventually we lost sight of him and we then wandered around other parts of the hillside. I had just commented that we hadn't seen any Adonis on the lower slopes when I spotted a basking male just ahead of us. I had a quick check to see if it was the missing aberrant, and we were amazed to see it was. As it flew it did seem a bit different again and we saw it was an even more impressive aberrant male, this one strangely also had a damaged left wing, it actually had a hole in the wing!! This one also had much darker under-wings and even less spotting. It also behaved better allowing us to get several photos each. To think, I can't remember ever seeing an Adonis aberrant before and then I see 2 in one session!!

Male Aberrant Adonis Blue with damaged wing.

Male Aberrant Adonis Blue.

Male Aberrant Adonis Blue.

I was also very pleased to see an Autumn Ladies Tresses in an area that I hadn't seen them before as well as two Angle Shades and a very fresh Clouded Yellow.

Angle Shades.

An amazing session and I decided I made the right decision not to go looking for the Brown Hairstreaks again!!

Friday 28 August 2015

Fresh Females Makes My Day!!

Unfortunately not as exciting as it sounds!! However, after yet another torrential downpour this morning the sun actually made an appearance today and a walk over the back produced 2 newly emerged female Silver-spotted Skippers that both posed very nicely for me. With all this bad weather over the last couple of weeks the emergence of many butterflies will have been held back. A few Adonis and Chalkhill Blues were seen as well as 3 Wall Brown. One of which was extremely tatty. I couldn't find any Autumn Ladies Tresses on the patch although maybe they are still to show here. I did see some 2 days ago at Bishopstone and I was to see some later today.

Female Silver-spotted Skipper.

In the afternoon with Pen once again in Eastbourne I headed to Birling Gap. Here it was evident that Autumn is here with both the Clustered Bellflower and the Autumn Ladies Tresses being quite numerous, although the breeze kept the butterflies in cover. That is apart from a few Chalkhill Blues, Small Heath and Meadow Brown. My thanks to Peter Whitcomb for correcting me on my identification of the Clustered Bellflower!!

Clustered Bellflower.

Autumn Ladies Tresses.

Female Chalkhill Blue.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Adonis Blue Brightens a Dull Day.

Last Thursday was one of those frustrating days when the temperature was quite warm but there were heavy clouds and a breeze all day. After feeling I needed a walk I decided to go to my local Adonis Blue site to see if I could find some roosting individuals. On arrival I saw a fresh butterfly flying on the bank as the clouds had briefly opened a little. The butterfly soon settled though as the cloud came back and I was able to get a few shots off. I then hit lucky as the clouds thinned again and the butterfly opened its wings showing the fabulous iridescent blue, very hard to get the colour right in photography of this beautiful species as the blue colour varies as the light hits the wings.

Male Adonis Blue.

Following this I found another couple of roosting butterflies and after taking a few more shots I waited hoping for the clouds to thin again. This time I wasn't so lucky as I waited for at least 90 minutes in vain as the clouds built up even more. I did have one small flash of colour but it was very quick. On the way home it then started to rain. It was however, a very good session and it was good to see several Wall Brown throughout the walk.

Roosting Male Adonis Blue.

Friday 21 August 2015

Part 2 of Dragons and Spiders.

On Wednesday it was down to the Levels hoping for the Brown Hawker and the much rarer Raft Spider, the Fen Raft Spider. A lot of luck and patience is needed for both these species and as usual the Brown Hawker was only seen flying away or egg laying. With the weather being once again, a bit cloudy, I suppose I was lucky to get pictures of anything. Fortunately a male Migrant Hawker was quite keen to rest up a few times near me giving me some photo opportunities. A male Ruddy Darter was also seen defending its territory along the bank.

Male Migrant Hawker.

Male Migrant Hawker.

Male Ruddy Darter.

All the time I was on the lookout for the spider. Nigel has managed several really good shots this year of this rarity. I've totally flopped until now so it was quite a relief to spot one of these enormous creatures in the reeds over the other side of the ditch. There it stayed long enough for a few pictures before it casually walked back into the reeds and out of view. This species is only found at 3 localities in Britain naturally, although it has been introduced to a couple more apparently, so it is extremely rare.

Fen Raft Spider.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Dragons and Spiders Part 1.

It was day in the Heathlands to hunt out some of the Dragonflies that specialise in this terrain. I must confess that I really do like the tiny Black Darter and I was hoping to improve on previous images of these. The day started well with a few Raft Spiders, one of which had different marking to the usual with spots on its back, it was also the largest spider of the day.

Raft Spider.

It was then onto the Black Darters where I was pleased to get a reasonable image of both the male and female. By now however, the clouds had rolled in again and the light was not too good for the image of the female. The sun did re-appear though for the male image.

Female Black Darter.

Male Black Darter.

Also in poor light a very smart Green Huntsman Spider sitting on to of a grass stem was a terrific find. A male Southern Hawker showed some interest in me and as it hovered close by I managed a quick grab shot. As the light deteriorated further a female teneral Emerald Damselfly appeared and remained long enough for a photo.

Green Huntsman Spider.

Southern Hawker.

Teneral Female Emerald Damselfly.

A really enjoyable and interesting day.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Brilliant Blues and Red-backed Shrike.

What a day. It started off at 6am when I was hoping to find an Adonis Blue to photograph as it woke up. Unfortunately, the Adonis are not common near here so it was a long shot. I did however find yet another very fresh Chalkhill Blue although I was lucky to get a shot. I also found a Clouded Yellow which allowed a few images. Wall Brown were also showing quite well with several females looking for egg laying areas.

Male Chalkhill Blue.

Clouded Yellow.

Female Wall Brown.

Once home Matt rang me to tell me about an adult male Red-backed Shrike that had been found in the Cuckmere. This is a real rarity, especially an adult so it was straight back in the car to see if I could get an image of this beauty. It was flying amongst the bushes and often posed near the top of the bushes. A real classy bird and only the 2nd adult I've seen. Although several dog walkers got quite close it didn't seem too concerned, however, with many birders on their way to see it we didn't get as close as we possibly could have in case we made it go into hiding, or worse!!

Male Red-backed Shrike.

It was then a late breakfast followed by a long walk of over 4 miles doing my Wall Brown survey. Numbers of this butterfly are lower this year and I only saw 32 on the walk. 2 years ago I saw over 100. This is not totally unexpected though as the butterfly has had 8 years of growth on my patch and most butterflies would have a decline due to parasitic predation over this period. I did however see a superb male Southern Hawker, 5 more Clouded Yellow and several Adonis Blue including 2 mating pairs.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth.

Male Southern Hawker.

Male Southern Hawker.

Adonis Blue pair mating.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Red Veins and Red Eyes.

Last Wednesday I had another attempt at tracking down the Red-veined Darter that had been reported for the 2nd year running at West Rise Marsh near Eastbourne. Without the distraction this time of the Ruff that I found last time I was soon onto this rare dragonfly. It was keeping out in the lake most of the time, but every few minutes it would come and sit on a stone by the shore. It turned out to be a good test for the 300mm lens, not my favoured lens for insects, but it was impossible to get close enough to the dragonfly with my macro equipment.

Red-veined Darter in flight.

Male Red-veined Darter.

I was nearby again on Friday so I planned another attempt to see if I could tempt it onto a nicer perch. This was not to be though as Eastbourne had monsoon type weather on the Thursday which resulted in the area where I wanted to be being under 18 inches of water!! 
All was not lost though as I spotted a pair of Red-eyed Damselflies in tandem in the nearby stream. Just after seeing them the female began to lay her eggs by going underwater and placing the eggs in the water plants. The male was still attached to her and as she wanted to go deeper, at one point they were both underwater. After about 5 minutes, where they were too deep to see, they both came shooting back to the surface where they sat in tandem resting for a few minutes before starting the process again.

Red-eyed Damselflies in tandem.

Red-eyed Damselflies egg laying.

Red-eyed Damselfly egg laying. Female right underwater. (Don't try this at home)!!

Thursday 13 August 2015

Filming Wall Brown.

Last Saturday I met up with Dr. Dan Danahar to do a short film about the Wall Brown in the Brighton Biosphere. Dan has been doing a series of these films about several of the butterflies in the Brighton area. It had to be one of the hottest days of the year and it was really hard work finding any Wall Brown as they were probably sheltering from the heat, but if you watch the film you will see that in the end we did have some success.
David Attenborough and I have a couple of things in common in as much as we are both interested in Natural History and we both share the same birthday. However, there is certainly no need for him to quake in his boots as far as me taking over from him. If you would like to see this 12 minute film the link is

Although I did take the camera with me photography was not what we were there for, however, Dan did find a large Broom Moth larva on Plantain which was good to see.

Broom Moth Larva on Plantain.

Saturday 8 August 2015

Blue Morning, Dusky Middle and Ruff Afternoon.

A really busy day yesterday with an early start where I was hoping to get some images of the female Chalkhill Blue. The first of the females I found was an aberrant form postobsoleta. Strangely, in all the time I've been looking at Chalkhill Blues at the back of Seaford this is the first aberrant form that I've found here, although I've seen plenty in other areas. I had only mentioned to Nigel on Wednesday that I hadn't seen one here before!! Although the ab. was very nice it wasn't as fresh as I was hoping for so it was great to spot a perfect specimen shortly after. Another Wall Brown warming up also gave itself up for a photo.

Chalkhill Blue ab. postobsoleta

Female Chalkhill Blue.

Female Chalkhill Blue.

Male Wall Brown.

Late morning I did my Butterfly Survey around Friston Forest where a few more Wall Brown were seen as well as a Clouded Yellow. I take very few photos during surveys so it was only after finishing that I came across a Dusky Sallow moth sitting on an unopened Knapweed that I got the camera out for.

Dusky Sallow.

Following this I had to drop Pen over to Eastbourne for an appointment. I then had 2 hours to myself so I headed over to West Rise Marsh to see if I could see any Red-veined Darters. On arrival all I saw was a splendid Ruff feeding on the pool in front of me. I was watching this for so long as it kept coming a bit closer, I was nearly late back to collect Pen. As I was leaving a Red-veined Darter landed briefly in front of me but by now I didn't have the time to watch it!!

Juvenile Ruff.

I was then pleased to get home for a well earned rest.