Sunday 28 August 2016

Two Views.

Last year I failed to find any Autumn Ladies Tresses on my local patch despite having a couple of colonies most years there. It was therefore pleasing to find a few there yesterday, and although small in numbers compared with some other local sites, there were several good robust looking flowers. With the sun beginning to get low in the sky I tried shooting one plant from both sides to see the different effects. During the walk I also saw a Common Redstart, which was a bit of a surprise, as well as a pair of Spotted Flycatchers that were successfully catching moths. One caught a very large moth that looked like an Oak Eggar. That should have filled the bird up!!

Autumn Ladies Tresses into the light.

The same Autumn Ladies Tresses away from the light.

The previous day, whilst walking along the local River Cuckmere I had a really fresh Comma land next to me on some Himalayan Balsam and that gave me 2 views as well. Once with wings closed and then with wings wide apart.

Comma with the 'comma' mark clearly showing.

Comma on Himalayan Balsam.

Thursday 25 August 2016

Another Jersey Tiger.

With such a gorgeous evening I once again put the moth trap out hoping to get a rare migrant. During the night though the wind got up and I was wondering if I had made a mistake. Plenty of moths were in the trap this morning with my 2nd Jersey Tiger of the summer, strangely both have been the form lutescens, which have yellow hind-wings rather than the orange that is more normal.

Jersey Tiger, form lutescens.

Jersey Tiger under-side.

A Dark Sword-grass was a migrant moth in the trap, this is my first of the year. A lovely Burnished Brass was nice too as was a Blood-vein and a Lime-speck Pug. Just after the sun came up a very smart Small Tortoiseshell warmed up on the wall of the house.

Dark Sword-grass.

Burnished Brass, form aurea


Lime-speck Pug.

Small Tortoiseshell.

Monday 22 August 2016

The Adonis and the Spider.

Despite the breeze today I wanted to see how the 2nd brood Adonis Blues were doing on my local patch. With the cloud lifting during the morning, and quite warm conditions, what was first surprising was the amount of Speckled Woods seen. Along the main path, about a mile in length I estimated that I saw at least 40 and quite possibly 50 plus individuals. This is the most I've seen along here for several years. Several Wall Brown were also seen, although most of these were now well past their best. On the Adonis site around 15 males were seen including one extremely fresh individual. Strangely no female Adonis were seen, hopefully they were hiding in the long grass. The Brown Argus were also out in big numbers with at least 40 seen on site. A single Clouded Yellow and Small Copper were also seen.

Male Adonis Blue.

Whilst going down a steep hill I was surprised to spot a magnificent Wasp Spider. Although these spiders are far from rare I have never seen any on the patch before. On approach she fell to the grass cover but she very soon returned to her web. Here she sat until a small fly was caught in the top of the web and she climbed up there. In this position she was much better for photography as the background became much less in focus. A picture of the underside also was nice with a corn field as the background some distance away. After leaving her another 2 Wasp Spiders were found quite quickly.

Female Wasp Spider.

Wasp Spider at top of web.

Wasp Spider under-side.

Thursday 18 August 2016

A Very Yellow Day.

With a fabulous evening promising warm and still conditions with a light cloudy morning I put the moth trap out last night. It was generally poor this morning though, lots of moths but no rare migrants, which is what I was hoping for!! The only moth worth photographing was a lovely Canary-shouldered Thorn. With the lovely yellow fur around the head and the strange looking mouth parts it posed very well for me.

Male Canary-shouldered Thorn.

Following this I headed for the coastal area looking for the influx of Clouded Yellow. In the last few days many of these great migrant butterflies have flown over from the continent and this will probably be my last new species for the year. This brings my UK year total to 43, a little less than most years. In total I probably saw double figure numbers and this included a fabulous helice form. Some egg laying was also observed which could produce some very fresh butterflies in late October and November if the weather holds!!

Clouded Yellow.

Clouded Yellow helice form.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

An Alternative Brown.

Yet another trip out yesterday hunting Brown Hairstreak. This time it was a site new to me with Paul who has seen several of these elusive butterflies at this site. Unfortunately the butterflies lived up to their elusive reputation by not appearing at all possibly due to the lack of nectaring plants. There were however many Brown Hawkers that kept us busy as we had one that was flying near for some time, even settling briefly.

Brown Hawker in flight.

Male Brown Hawker.

Following this we headed to a reserve where some Kingfishers have been performing well recently. Unfortunately these too were elusive with none seen. Despite sitting in the hide for a couple of hours and having a few noisy kids disturbing everything all we had was a juvenile Heron and a couple of Common Tern.

Juvenile Heron.

Common Tern.

Sunday 14 August 2016

Tiger Trapped.

At long last I got around to putting the moth trap out again on Thursday night. With quite a warm night forecast and light cloud forecast the following morning, which helps with any photography, it looked a promising night. The following morning it was clear quite a few moths were there including a superb Jersey Tiger. 2 years ago I got the first Seaford record for this spectacular moth, with another caught 2 weeks later, which was the 3rd Seaford record as another had been caught locally by another trapper. With this latest moth I would guess there is a colony in the vicinity. Among the other moths I had my first Dusky Thorn, a super Magpie Moth and a Herald.

Jersey Tiger.

Dusky Thorn.

Magpie Moth.


Yesterday Pete and I had another search for Brown Hairstreak. However, once the cloud cover built up it was evident that any sensible Hairstreak would have gone to cover. As we were well over halfway to Chiddingfold it was decided to head there, as Wood Whites are better to photograph in cloudier conditions. Once there the clouds were still thick and it was a hunt for roosting Wood Whites. Pete found the first one on Fleabane and it was just after this that I spotted a mating pair. Although I've seen the courtship display of these several times I can't remember seeing a mating before. After watching these for a while, with the sun becoming more evident all the time making the butterflies more active we strolled slowly back. On the way we saw 2 females egg laying on Birds-foot Trefoil.

Mating Wood White. Male on left.

Mating Wood White.

Female Wood White resting after egg laying.

Wood White egg on Birds-foot Trefoil.

Thursday 11 August 2016

Southern Emergence.

After several pleasing butterfly sessions recently it was really good to have a bit of a change with a trip with Nigel (East Sussex Wanderer) to Ashdown Forest looking for some odonata and Raft Spiders. In some of the acid pools these spiders can be found, nothing like as rare as the Fen Raft Spider, but still really good to see. The first spider was away from the pools and Nigel thought it was probably an immature female. Working through a few pools we spotted another nice spider near the edge of the pool. It was actually missing one of its legs but sat still while both of us managed a few shots.

Raft Spider.

There were plenty of teneral Black Darters also seen around the pools but none of these sat in good positions. Nigel then spotted a mature male Black Darter and we both managed a few shots of him. 

Male Black Darter.

There were quite a few excuvia around the pools and as I was looking through the binoculars I spotted one had the emerging Southern Hawker dragonfly next to it. Unfortunately it was the other side of lots of water and I decided it was impossible to get to. A bit later it was still there and Nigel, who had wellies on, decided to see if he could get there. As he succeeded I also had a go and despite getting a little wet some very pleasing shots were achieved. We also saw a very nice Emerald Damselfly and a few Small Red Damselflies, but as the sun decided to go behind the clouds things slowed down quite a bit so we called it a day early.

Emerging Southern Hawker with excuvia.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Brown Hairstreak.

Following on from my previous post, today it was yet another attempt at the very elusive Brown Hairstreak. On arrival at the site James and I walked into a small area of Blackthorn and immediately a female Brown Hairstreak, that had almost certainly just emerged, flew up in front of James and landed quite deep in a small bush. After a couple of movements it eventually landed on a leaf which allowed a couple of shots before moving to another leaf. On this one it stayed for several minutes, occasionally partially opening the wings. It also walked about a little showing the way the sun hitting the under-wings changed the colours of the butterfly. An amazing experience with this stunning insect. The rest of the day went by without any further sightings, but what a start to the day!!

Female Brown Hairstreak.

I'm sure in the next few days I will be out there hunting for more of these beautiful butterflies.

Sunday 7 August 2016

Watching the Blackthorn.

After the success of last weekend the following 7 days have been a bit more frustrating with many hours spent looking at Blackthorn bushes hoping for a Brown Hairstreak to perform for me. In all the years I've spent looking for these elusive butterflies I've not really managed a shot I'm happy with. It is at the moment early in their season but to get a pristine butterfly that is what one does. The problem is that the butterflies only regularly descend once their eggs are ripened so this makes it even more elusive until that happens!! On Thursday I did see at ground level a pristine male followed an hour later by a pristine female. Unfortunately they were only at ground level for a few moments each. Lovely to see but a little frustrating!!
Also this week I did a Wall Brown count on a North facing slope on the Downs. The butterflies here are generally a couple of weeks behind my usual patch. The grass here is much more dense and many of the butterflies would have been in areas I couldn't get to. A count of 22 was however not too bad especially as it was extremely windy, although the slopes did shelter much of it from the wind. Along the bottom slopes I did find a newly emerged male that sat in the grass just long enough for a quick shot, but a fresh female flew as the shutter went off!!

Male Wall Brown.

On another stroll I came across a friendly Common Lizard, several Great Green Bush Crickets and a Skylark nest complete with 3 eggs. The bird took off just in front of me and the nest was where it took off from. A very quick look at this before covering it up and leaving it alone for the bird to come back to.

Common Lizard.

Great Green Bush Cricket.

Skylark Nest.

Monday 1 August 2016

Wood White Wonderland.

On Saturday I had an early morning drive over to the Chiddingfold Forest complex to hunt out the dainty little Wood White. This is one of our most endangered butterflies, and one that I try to get over to every year. I did try earlier in the year at the end of their first brood but I was just a little too late. The 2nd brood is smaller than the 1st brood in both numbers and the physical size of the butterfly and as I was hoping to find them at roost this was a bit of a problem. Fortunately a little while after arrival I was contacted by my good friend Mark Colvin who lives in the area. He came into the wood where we now had 2 pairs of eyes hunting for them. I was really pleased to find the 1st 2 and then Mark found a 3rd which despite knowing where the butterfly was I kept losing!! Of those 1st 2 we had a male and a female although the male was not so easy to photograph as it turned out to be more active. All the time we were there the weather stayed very overcast, although towards the end it did warm up enough for the butterflies to start getting active. The biggest problem was the very light breeze that kept moving the flimsy flowers and butterfly making it difficult to keep the focusing correct. It was a fabulous morning spent with this great little insect. After leaving Mark I did see a 4th individual flying down the woodland track as well as a female Gatekeeper that sat for a short while. 

Female Wood White.

Female Wood White. This grass was moving a lot in the slight breeze!!

Male Wood White.

Female Wood White on Tufted Vetch.

Female Wood White.

Female Gatekeeper.

On Sunday I attempted to do my 2nd brood Wall Brown count. I started off in sunshine and things were going really well until I reached the main hotspot, The Comp path, when the sun went in. It did come back out later but numbers along the Comp were low. However, numbers in other areas were well up and I managed a count of 53 which was very pleasing of which all but one were males.