Thursday 29 June 2017

Purple Empress Impresses!!

My 2nd trip looking for Purple Emperors was one of those days that will be remembered for an awfully long time. I once again met up with Mark Colvin and we were also this time joined by Nigel Kemp. With 3 of us we spread ourselves out a little so we could check a larger area. I was enjoying watching some White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries when Mark called to say he had watched an Emperor land in a Hazel tree. With the binoculars I thought I had seen a hint of Purple, but I must have imagined it as this was a stunning, newly emerged female. She performed beautifully in the tree, albeit a little high, although I could get some nice images with the telephoto lens.

Female Purple Emperor in Hazel.

After a few minutes she took off and we thought that was the end of watching her. However, we followed her along the track and couldn't believe it when she landed on the ground. This was our 2nd grounded female in 2 visits which is almost unheard of. Here we could see she was in even better condition than the one we had on the previous trip.

Female Purple Emperor.

All 3 of us managed several shots before she took off again and this time she landed in a Hazel tree at more or less head height. After we all once again got some quick shots Mark pulled the branch down in the hope she would stay there and the angle would improve. Amazingly, she did stay put. I then took over from Mark and pulled it down yet further when the angle became perfect. Fortunately I was still able to take one handed photos with both Mark and Nigel firing away just above my head. One of the best butterfly experiences we have all ever had. Eventually she did take off and was lost to view. What a fabulous looking girl she was!!

Female Purple Emperor in Hazel.

This was still early in the day so we carried on walking the tracks in the hope of seeing more. We did see several grounded males feeding again on horse droppings as well as plenty of White Admirals and Fritillaries. We then saw another large Purple Emperor fly past and this too landed low in a bush, although the lighting wasn't brilliant. After taking flight again, we had seen that this too was a female, she dropped down to the edge of a very narrow stream where she picked up moisture. This meant 3 different female Emperors had grounded for us, and all were in great condition. A totally amazing 2 days spent in great company and with a lot of luck. Thanks again to Mark for the help in getting these shots.

Female Purple Emperor taking on moisture.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Purple Emperor Magic.

Most years I make a single visit to Surrey for the spectacular Purple Emperor, a very special butterfly that every enthusiast wants to see. This year I was keen to get an early fresh butterfly to photograph, and hopefully catch the moment when the light catches it right to make the wings become blue. I was very lucky this year to have an invite from Mark Colvin, and to be able to take advantage of his local knowledge of the area, including phoning me as soon as they had started to emerge. In the end I made the trip 3 times to try to get what I was after. Unfortunately I failed to get the complete blue male, but instead, succeeded in getting a much rarer sight and several photographs of the females. A few years ago Mark had taken the best photo I had seen of the female so it was quite strange that he was there to help me get such a prize for myself. 
Starting at just after 7am to avoid the 34 degrees heatwave it wasn't that long before we started to get some action with the first butterfly on the ground being the first superb female of the 3 days.

Female Purple Emperor.

After seeing this beauty fly up into a Birch we watched her for several minutes before she vanished. A little further along the track a male Purple Emperor was seen getting nutrients from some Horse dung. During the first 2 days we saw  males in this spot several times. After feeding they would occasionally rest up low in the foliage.

Male Purple Emperor.

Male Purple Emperor low in the trees.

Another male feeding.

Female Purple Emperor.

By lunchtime the heat of the day was too much for both of us and the butterflies, but a couple of days later the excitement increased!!!

Sunday 25 June 2017

A Downland Breeze.

With Pen out for the day I had the chance of getting out without feeling guilty. The only problem was the weather, with cloud and a steady breeze which made me wonder if I should just chill out at home. However, with the weather looking poor for most of the coming week I decided to walk the local patch and see if I could find anything of interest. As it turned out it was quite a good walk after all with my first Dark Green Fritillaries of the year as well as my first Gatekeeper as well just before arriving back home bringing my years tally to 40. I also found a newly emerged Marbled White amongst many of these delightful butterflies, which gave me a bit of camera action. 

Dark Green Fritillary.

2 Dark Green Fritillaries keeping warm.

Newly emerged Marbled White.

Male Marbled White.

Male Marbled White.

Pyramidal Orchid.

Immature Black-tailed Skimmer.
(Deformed back wing).

Thursday 22 June 2017

Woodland Wonders.

Over the past few days I've spent a bit of time in woodland in both East and West Sussex as this is the time of year when they come alive with wildlife. With these extremely hot days it also gives shade that some other sites do not give. The Silver-washed Fritillaries arrived earlier this year than expected and have graced the woodland in pretty good numbers as well as the White Admirals gliding through the trees. Some surprises have been a couple of Common Toads in the slightly damper parts of the woods as well as some Beautiful Demoiselles. A great time of year to be out in the woods.

Male Silver-washed Fritillary.

Male Silver-washed Fritillary.

Male Beautiful Demoiselle.

Male Ringlet.

Peacock larva.

Purple Hairstreak.

Common Toad.

Common Toad.

Saturday 17 June 2017

Not So 'Common' Club-tail.

On Thursday Matt rang me to invite me to join him in a search for the Common Club-tail dragonfly. This is a species that we have both tried for several times but had both failed to see. With our good friends Simon and John having success during the week we were slightly more confident than we had been before. With myself being on a Gatwick drop off we met on the River Rother before the real heat of the day got going and it was only around 10 minutes into the search before we had both seen our first Common Club-tail. This is certainly a species where 'common' shouldn't be in the name as it is a seriously endangered species in the UK with only a few slow flowing rivers where it is found. That first dragonfly soon vanished, but around another bend in the river and we were in an area with several territories and several dragonflies were seen. Here we stayed for the next couple of hours with some dragonflies showing really well. All the dragonflies we photographed were males, and probably all seen were too. Masses of Banded Demoiselle were also along the river, as was a single Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

Male Common Club-tail. Note the eyes being seperated.

Male Common Club-tail.

One of the many Male Banded Demoiselle.

Yesterday, I was hunting for Silver-washed Fritillaries when I came across this very smart Broad-bodied Chaser male that was gaining its maturing colours. This is my favourite stage of these beautiful dragonflies. It was also posing brilliantly along the woodland ride.

Maturing Male Broad-bodied Chaser.

Friday 16 June 2017

Marbellous Morning.

With the Marbled White season up and running, I was keen to try and find some early morning butterflies at the back of Seaford. With the butterflies only being a couple of days old, at worse, they were also going to be pretty fresh. Of course, this early in the season there are not many flying yet so there was no guarantee I was going to find any. Especially as I had cased the joint the evening before and hadn't found any roosting Marbled White. I had seen a few rather nice Red Admiral though basking in the late evening sun.
The early start however did pay off as it was only a few minutes before I had found a very fresh, newly emerged Marbled White on Agrimony. I managed a few shots from both sides of him, with the ones looking towards the sun giving a different shot, almost all Black and white except the Agrimony. As the sun soon strengthened he soon opened his wings and flew away. By 6.30 a few more Marbled Whites were already on the wing in the gentle breeze. I also enjoyed watching a family of Fox cubs and vixen playing.

Early morning at Seaford.

Male Marbled White on Agrimony.

Male Marbled White.

In the afternoon I was busy with a butterfly survey with several great butterflies seen including White Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillaries and Purple Hairstreak. One of the hairstreaks was found on the ground where it had emerged. Unfortunately, the wings were de-formed, and despite hoping the wings would strengthen and straighten, unfortunately they stayed that way. A very nice Beautiful Demoiselle male was also seen along with around 250 Meadow Brown!!

A deformed Male Purple Hairstreak.

Male Beautiful Demoiselle.

Red Admiral.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

The Black Hairstreak.

When I was a lad and getting interested in butterflies there was one butterfly that I would look at in the books and assume that as it was so rare and so far away from home that there would never be any chance of ever seeing them. I have now made the trip to the area around Huntingdon 5 times, having seen them each time, but as yet, not managing a photo that I am pleased with. This time I was to be going to a different wood, having met Phil and Rosalyn when I was at Strumpshaw, watching the Swallowtails. They very kindly offered to show me around Monks Wood, probably the most famous Black Hairstreak wood in the Country. In the Black Hairstreak season Phil and Rosalyn are in the wood just about every day, so they know the wood like the back of their hands. Unfortunately, due to the weather the previous week I had to wait longer than I wanted. This butterfly has an extremely short flight season and they soon get wing damage. As we entered the wood on Sunday it wasn't long before we were watching good numbers of male Black Hairstreaks, but all of them were visibly marked, as well as keeping a bit too high in the bushes. Eventually a better quality female appeared and was seen feeding on Honeydew high up on Aspen leaves. With the telephoto I managed a few shots, but these were not as good as I was hoping for. Fortunately Phil spotted another female at chest height resting on the Blackthorn and she stayed in a good position long enough for us all to get a few shots of her before she flew into the bush and proceeded to look for egg laying areas. After so many hours spent over several visits in previous years it was a relief to actually have a couple of shots that I can be pleased with.

Many, many thanks to Phil and Rosalyn for their kindness and patience in helping me to get these shots. A day I will never forget.

Female Black Hairstreak on Aspen.

Female Black Hairstreak resting.

Female Black Hairstreak.

Last night on Springwatch I was pleased to see that for the 2nd time this series they used one of my photos. This time it was the Brown Argus that I took earlier this year on my local patch.

Brown Argus appearing on Springwatch yesterday.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Odds and Ends.

Over the last couple of weeks I've managed to get out and about despite the cloudy and windy conditions with various sightings. Some of these have been common, but a few rarities have also been seen including my first ever sighting of the Nationally rare Spiked Rampion, a plant that is only found in around 9 sites in the UK, all of which are in Sussex.
Images from some of my recent trips and rambles.

Male Beautiful Demoiselle.

Cucumber Spider on grass.

Spiked Rampion.

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle.

Meadow Brown.

Six-spot Burnet Larva preparing to pupate.

Mullein Moth larva.


Lizard Orchid.