Tuesday 28 June 2016

Dark Green Fritillaries, Warts and all!!

I had a double purpose yesterday, with the beautiful Dark Green Fritillaries now on the wing I went to one of their strongholds to see if I could add it to my year list as well as seeing if I could spot my very first Wart-biter Cricket. This cricket is extremely rare with only 5 natural sites left in the UK, although a series of re-introductions are currently underway. The UKs biggest stronghold is in the area I was visiting so the chances were pretty good although it may be slightly early for them. It didn't take long to see the first Dark Green Fritillary, although I did add Ringlet to the list before this. Essex Skipper was also added before the day was over bringing the year tally to 32. With the Fritillary numbers being pretty good it was then a search for the Cricket. Several Roesel's and Great Green Bush Crickets were seen during the hunt but eventually my first Wart-biter was found although it was particularly lively and a poor shot was all I managed.

Male Ringlet.

Male Meadow Brown.

Great Green Bush Cricket.

Wart-biter Cricket.

Today I woke really early again so following seeing the Fritillaries yesterday I headed off to a site nearer to home where I had success last year with this species, hoping to find some roosting individuals. At a little after 6am I was on the site looking in the grasses hoping to find some. Several Marbled Whites were roosting, I was only interested in these if I could see a female though. Eventually I spotted my target with 5 of these spectacular butterflies found. However, the light was very poor being so early and the breeze was picking up making it a bit tricky. However, I did manage a few pleasing shots as well as a very fresh female Marbled White. There were also many Six-spot Burnett Moth larva and pupa. Whilst searching one area I heard an animal barking, which I realised was a Deer. Looking round I saw 2 Roe Deer on the other side of the valley that were watching me and wondering what the strange creature opposite was doing!!

Male Dark Green Fritillary.

Male Dark Green Fritillary.

Female Marbled White.

Two Roe Deer.

Six-spot Burnett larva.

Saturday 25 June 2016

More Marvellous Marbled Morning Magic.

After waking up at 5.15 this morning and seeing that there was no wind and only little cloud cover I thought it might be worth making the effort of another attempt at the beautiful Marbled Whites. Although I've already posted several pictures this year of these they are I hope worthy of a few more. They were all covered with a little dew when I arrived on site and with the sun already shining I spent the next 2 hours photographing and admiring these stunning insects. With them posing nicely at the tops of the grasses where they roosted I was able to shoot into the sun and away from the sun giving different effects.

Male Marbled White.

Marbled White males making friends.

Male Marbled White.

As I was leaving the area I saw the only female of the morning and I was really pleased to get a nice open wing shot of her which shows some of the differences between the sexes.

Female Marbled White. Note the shorter, broader abdomen and the hint of brown along the front of the fore-wing.

In the afternoon I headed back onto the patch where I photographed an Orange-tip larva that I have been monitoring on a Garlic Mustard plant. I first spotted it just after it hatched and was only a few millimetres long. It is now around an inch long. Following this I checked on the Burnt Orchids that have just come into flower. In this area we get both the early and late form of this delightful plant. 26 flowers were found, although some are only just starting to push up through the soil so I'm sure a few more will appear yet.

Orange-tip larva.

Burnt Orchid. (Late form).

Thursday 23 June 2016

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do!!

Today I had 4 hours or so on Pevensey Levels looking for some dragonfly action. The first thing that was obvious was that there had been a Small Tortoiseshell emergence with well over 20 fresh individuals seen. 
It was however, around the ditches where a few interesting observations were seen. Every now and then a really strange sighting is made, and today was one of the strangest of all. I was walking along a ditch when I saw a mating pair of Blue-tailed Damselflies. There was something odd about them though and when I looked harder it was clear that the female had for some reason lost half her body!! She had broken in two with half of her still attached to the male. A real mystery as to what had happened and certainly a new experience to me, and obviously her!!

Blue-tailed Damselfly male with part of female.

Whilst taking these pictures I noticed a female Fen Raft Spider complete with egg case was in the reeds just by me. She didn't seem too concerned by my presence and a couple of pictures were taken. The Fen Raft Spider is one of the rarest spiders in the UK and its biggest stronghold is in the Pevensey Levels.

Fen Raft Spider with egg case.

I also came across a large group of Peacock larvae, between 30 and 40 larvae were feeding on nettles and walking between them.

Peacock larva.

With the weather being generally hot and humid but cloudy the other main interest was with more dragonflies. I was surprised to see 2 Brown Hawkers flying around the ditches, my first of the year. Variable Damselflies were also evident as well as Red-eyed Damselflies and Four-spotted Chasers.

Male Variable Damselfly.

Male Red-eyed Damselfly.

Four-spotted Chaser.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Small Heath.

One of our most common butterflies, as well as one of the hardest to photograph is the Small Heath. It is also one of the few butterflies that appears to be having a reasonable year with high numbers being seen in various sites. Many see it as a particularly dull butterfly as it often settles with the fore-wings down behind the hind-wings. It also never settles with open wings and generally takes flight with any movement nearby. This evening I was lucky to find an individual that had recently emerged, and due to this is was less flighty than usual allowing me a few rare shots of this common butterfly as it sat at the top of grass stems.

Small Heath.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

In The Forest.

I decided today to have a little visit to Ashdown Forest checking out the Dragonflies and Orchids. First stop was a quick look to see if the Silver-studded Blue butterflies had emerged here yet. With this site being quite a bit higher than where I saw them last week they are always later here. The colony here is also a lot smaller and almost as expected there were none to see.
On the way to a good Dragonfly spot I saw a single Early Marsh Orchid. Normally I see several here so it was quite a surprise to only see the one.

Early Marsh Orchid.

My hope for Golden-ringed Dragonfly also went unrewarded but I did see a few early Small Red Damselflies. On one acid pool several Four-spotted Chasers were seen and one kept landing on the same reed over the pool which allowed me a few shots. Broad-bodied Chaser, Emperor Dragonfly and 2 Keeled Skimmers were also seen.

Small Red Damselfly.

Four-spotted Chaser.

Whilst moving to another pool I disturbed a Clouded Buff moth. As usual with this species it kept settling low down in the foliage. I kept following it and eventually I got lucky as it settled very briefly in the open, and it even showed its under-wing.

Clouded Buff.

Finally I drove to an area of Beech where Birds-nest Orchids can be found. I immediately spotted a very large orchid that was around 12 inches tall. Being in a very dark area I had to use the built in flash on the camera.

Birds-nest Orchid.

Sunday 19 June 2016

Early Morning Pays Off.

After finding a few fresh Marbled Whites yesterday I decided that an early morning session was in order, especially as the weather was pretty good with very light winds and a nice bit of sunshine. The weather was also not going to keep that way for very long (no surprise there then). Anyway, it wasn't long before I had come across a few more Marbled Whites, it was now hoping to find a perfect specimen that wasn't too flighty. It was the 4th one that I saw that was a right little poser and he performed well for me allowing both top-side and under-side shots. This one also had the benefit of having both antennae attached.

Male Marbled White.

Male Marbled White.

A further search of the area also brought me my first Small Skipper of the year.

Male Small Skipper.

It wasn't long after arriving home that the wind increased dramatically that would have made these shots impossible to get!!

Saturday 18 June 2016

Marbled White!! Summer Must Be Here.

Yesterday was possibly the wettest June day I have ever seen with torrential rain for what seemed ages and the garden became a little flooded!! Today, with plenty of cloud cover still but being warm I just had to get out for a while so a quick visit to the local area. The first butterfly I saw was a splendid Marbled White. The first one of these each year is very special as it really does signify Summer!! When fresh they also look stunning as they fly through the long grasses. The first one landed and posed flat out on a bit of bramble. I then wandered further and saw another 5 or 6 including one that had almost certainly emerged this morning. It looked as though it may have had a little trouble getting out of the pupa as it was missing part of its antennae which was a shame for it as well as for me as I thought I had some reasonable photos of the perfect specimen!!

Male Marbled White on Bramble.

Marbled White on Thistle.

Marbled White peeking at me through the grass.

Marbled White with damaged Antannae.

With the Marbled White now on the wing all we need is lots of sunshine!!

Wednesday 15 June 2016

A Silver Stud of a Day.

With both myself and the weather being very much 'under the weather' this week I was determined to get out today. As I was still coughing like mad I just wanted to be on my own so as not to annoy anyone else!! As the coughing had woken me up very early I set off for a West Sussex heath to hunt out the Silver-studded Blue. It is several years since I last saw these gorgeous butterflies in this area as I have only seen them recently in Ashdown Forest, where their numbers are more limited. Arriving at 7.30 I was quite surprised to see a butterfly as soon as I got to the area where I last saw them 6 years ago. It was clear that there were many fresh individuals and with early sunshine they were soon pretty active. In all I saw 30-40 individuals, all were males. What I was really hoping to see for the first time was an emerging butterfly with attending Ants. As it happened I saw this 3 times this morning with the first 2 being in deep grass, however, the 3rd I saw was more in the open so I managed a few shots. 

Male Silver-studded Blue on Heather.

Emerging Male Silver-studded Blue with attending Ants.

Following this I headed off to a site where I had heard held Musk Orchids. Its many years since I saw Musk Orchids in Sussex. Our local site basically went in 1976 during the drought and although I saw a single plant there around 10 years ago I have only seen them in Kent since. I was really pleased to find between 20-30 plants. These orchids are really tiny and actually smell of honey rather than musk. An added bonus was a Greater Butterfly Orchid and a Fly Orchid.

Greater Butterfly Orchid.

Musk Orchid.

Fly Orchid.

A brilliant day with sunshine, heavy showers and more breeze than was forecast but it was well worth the trip over.

Friday 10 June 2016

Moth Trap is Scorching Hot.

I decided last night to dust off the moth trap and see what I could catch. With many Diamond-back Moths, a migrant species, being seen locally, as well as the Painted Lady influx, I was hoping for a rare migrant to appear. This didn't happen unfortunately but it was still a successful night for the trap with my first ever Scorched Wing. This is a really nice moth and one that I didn't think I would get around here. It is so called as the wings look as if they have been 'scorched'.

Scorched Wing.

Scorched Wing. (Showing he's a male)!!

It is the beauty of the moth trap that you just never know what will turn up. Apart from the really common moths I also had my first ever Shoulder-striped Wainscot. Singles in Campion, Sycamore, Diamond-back Moth and pairs of both Common Marbled Carpet and Privet Hawk Moths made up the tally.

Common Marbled Carpet.

Shoulder-striped Wainscot.

Privet Hawk Moth.

2 Privet Hawk Moths.

Privet Hawk Moth.