Wednesday 30 August 2017

Queen Visits Sussex.

On Monday I realised that there were 3 text messages on the phone that had come in during the early morning. The first was from Matt at some time just after 5am telling me that some Queen of Spain Fritillaries had been found near Piddinghoe, only around 7 miles away. The next 2 were both from James saying much the same and that he was going to be leaving soon. I decided then to wait and see, something I tend to do too often these days!! Anyway, after getting more messages from James on site that one was showing well and he was on his own, I then cursed, wishing I had gone straight away, and headed over anyway. Fortunately it was still not busy when I arrived and the male Queen of Spain was showing extremely well. After spending some time with this male another was seen briefly as we were leaving the site. A 3rd had been seen the previous day too. It was 2009 when I last saw this rare migrant butterfly in this Country when several were seen in the Autumn including a mating pair that I was lucky to witness. These were in Chichester where sightings had been made in the previous Autumn as well as one in the Summer and it was hoped a colony could get established. This hope grew with the sighting of the mating pair. Unfortunately the last sighting at this site was seeing the female fly up to roost in a high tree following the mating. I'm not sure how true the rumour is that the following day the butterfly was netted by a collector!!
Of course, with rare migrants it is always difficult to know the origin of them. With the foodplant being nearby in Piddinghoe, it is a good possibility that these currently being seen are the offspring of a female that flew over in the early Summer. That would be a similarity to the Chichester colony that were almost certainly the offspring of the Summer sighting. If this is the case there is a very good chance that a fresh female could suddenly make an appearance and another mating could yet happen. They could also have flown over from France in recent days and found a site that suits them just 2-3 miles inland from the coast. One hopes that it is one of these options anyway!!

Male Queen of Spain Fritillary.

Male Queen of Spain Fritillary surveying the Sussex scene.

The mating pair from Chichester 12th October 2009.

The previous day I was also woken by the phone. This time from Nigel telling me he had caught the spectacular Clifden Nonpareil moth. This moth has in the past been considered a rare migrant, but now has some established colonies in the East of Sussex. This is the 2nd of these moths that Nigel has caught although the one from last year flew before he was able to photograph it. More images of this monster beauty can be seen on his blog
Thanks to Nigel for making sure the insect stayed long enough for me to see and photograph. An insect I had never seen before.

Clifden Nonpareil.

I have also had another migrant moth in the garden in the last few weeks in the form of the Hummingbird Hawk-moth. I love seeing these in the summer feeding on various plants. On Monday one stayed around long enough for me to have a few attempts at photographing it as it nectared on Buddleia.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth on Buddleia.

Saturday 26 August 2017

A Good Failure.

The past two days I have spent searching for the Nationally rare Wart-biter Cricket and both days I've failed to see them!! However, all was not lost as both walks produced other interesting sightings. There are currently many birds migrating South with several Whinchat, Wheatear and Yellow Wagtails as well as a single Common Redstart seen. The wagtails as usual were feeding among the cattle, but as is often the case they were wary of me and my camera!!



The number of Adonis Blue were also impressive with many very fresh individuals seen as well as an impressive female aberrant form. 

Female Adonis Blue.

Female Adonis Blue.

Mating Adonis Blues. 

Female Adonis Blue aberrant form.
 (Compare the markings to the normal female under-wing above).

With the weather being quite warm there were large numbers of Green-veined White and Small White taking moisture and minerals from the odd muddy puddle.

Green-veined and Small Whites.

There were also many Autumn Ladies Tresses showing in the area including this particularly smart plant.

Autumn Ladies Tresses.

Thursday 24 August 2017

My Dream Lifer!!

 Just as I was about to prepare dinner this evening the phone started to ring. Answering the phone, Matt was on the line telling me to get down the Cuckmere quickly as he had just found a Hoopoe. This is a bird I have always wanted to see in the UK and he had just found it a matter of 4 miles from home. Dinner was put on hold as I raced down to where he was. After a very brisk walk, well we were told on the news today that us old gits need to do a brisk walk, I arrived where Matt was still looking at the bird. With the light fading we crept a little closer, although with a couple of Matt's birding friends still on the way we had to hold back in case of flushing it, although it certainly seemed relaxed feeding on the bank. I wonder if it will stick around for a day or two.
My thanks to Matt for contacting me straight away. It makes up for the few occasions where we have gone for these and failed before. Matt of course has managed a few of these spectacular birds when I haven't been with him.

Hoopoe in the Cuckmere valley.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

The Owl and The Adonis.

My non birding son Chris was quite keen to see the Little Owls at Phils following my visits to see them last winter. Phil was once again very happy for me to take Chris, it was just a case of getting a day when Chris could make it with his shift work. Sunday was the day, the only trouble was the weather went downhill with rain starting just as I started the drive to Phils. Just after getting in the hide though the first of 2 Little Owls flew in. Chris managed to get lots of photos with my camera and Phils flash set up. Once Chris had finished I had a few shots for myself of this great bird.

Male Little Owl.

Today I set off hoping to photograph female Adonis Blues. By the time I arrived on site though the wind had really picked up again and in dull conditions it wasn't easy to either find the butterflies or photograph them. In the end I managed just a few shots of the undersides and a single top-side shot. 

Female Adonis Blue on Wild Basil.

Roosting Female Adonis Blue.

Female Adonis Blue.

It is good to see numbers of Autumn Ladies Tresses on the local downland again. The only trouble is that it is another sign that the summer is already all but over. Hopefully the late summer and autumn will bring good numbers of late brood butterflies.

Autumn Ladies Tresses.

Saturday 19 August 2017

Golden Brown.

Texture like sun!! 

The Brown Hairstreak season already seems to be past its peak. This very elusive butterfly is one of those that we all want to see every year. This year the males were much more prolific than usual, see my earlier post, the females are generally seen as they descend from high to lay their eggs on Blackthorn. This year I had a trip out with Paul, intending to try a site he has seen them on a few occasions. However, as Paul had a bad foot and didn't want to walk too far we started off at another site where we could park very near to where the butterflies had been seen. After just 5 minutes a stunning, fresh female was spotted and although it soon flew off another butterfly was seen soon after nearby. With this early success we decided we may as well stay at this site. After a little wandering about the original Brown Hairstreak was spotted again and this time she stayed in the area low in the vegetation. Eventually a few shots were managed as she nectared low down on the Creeping Thistle. She was also seen on a ripe Blackberry feeding.

Brown Hairstreak resting.

Female Brown Hairstreak showing a little top wing.

Female Brown Hairstreak on Creeping Thistle.

Not long before leaving I spotted a Buff Tip larva. These lovely larva are often seen in groups but as this one was on its own it was probably close to pupating.

Buff Tip larva.

Tuesday 15 August 2017

In Search Of Adonis.

The Greek God of beauty!! When looking at the open wings of a fresh Adonis Blue it is clear where the name of this butterfly comes from. There are small numbers of Adonis Blue on my patch and the 2nd brood is now underway and looking really good. Despite the area being at the furthest point away from home and it always means a long walk to get there and back, I have spent several hours over the past 3 days watching, enjoying and photographing them. At the moment there are very few females, although those that are flying are in tip top conditions. During these visits I have also seen at least 23 different Wasp Spiders. These are having an amazing year at the back of Seaford.

The Amazing Adonis Blue.

Male Adonis preparing to roost.

This male was very near the Wasp Spiders.

Another Adonis Blue preparing to roost.

Male Adonis Blue catching the final rays of sunshine of the day.

A Wasp Spider female with a pack lunch.

Saturday 12 August 2017

Late Summer on the Forest.

It was good to get out with Pete yesterday for the first time for a long time. We decided to head out to Ashdown Forest to look for dragon and damselflies. As we arrived in the car park 3 Brimstone males were busy nectaring on the abundant Fleabane.

One of 3 Brimstone Males.

Around the acid ponds it was good to see the Raft Spiders with a couple of juveniles seen as well as an adult sitting out on the reeds around the pond.

Juvenile Raft Spider.

Adult Raft Spider.

We then had a bit of fun trying, and failing to photograph a male Southern Hawker in flight. In the corner of the pool he kept returning to hover within inches of the cameras.

Southern Hawker male.

Only one Black Darter was seen, a male, which was a little disappointing but several Small Red damselflies were active.

Male Small Red Damselfly.

Walking back along the top path Pete stopped to photograph a Heather bush. Whilst I was waiting for him I spotted a larva sitting on the top of the bush. I immediately recognised it as the larva of the Beautiful Yellow Underwing Moth. I have only seen one of these before and that was about 100 yards from where this one was. Whilst we were photographing this one with the backdrop of the Heather we spotted 2 more of these magnificent larva on the same bush.

Beautiful Yellow Underwing larva feeding on Heather.

Beautiful Yellow Underwing larva in defense posture.

On Wednesday a trip with Nigel to see the much rarer Fen Raft Spider, we saw several including some with nursery webs full of spiderlings. 

Fen Raft Spider keeping an eye or 8 on its babies!!

We also saw several Brown Hawkers with some still egg laying.

Brown Hawker egg laying.

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Wood White Saves The Day.

With several attempts recently at the Brown Hairstreak with mixed success it was a risk yesterday with poor weather forecast and it wasn't too much of a surprise that we only saw a single male. However, where the sunshine would have helped with that species, cloudy conditions are pretty good for the Wood White and with them being only 20-25 minutes further on it seemed a good idea to head that way. My only visit to see them this year was during the first brood in heavy rain!! It wasn't long before the first one was seen with the conditions meaning they were not taking flight too often. With the odd sunny spell that brought them out to fly and nectar around a dozen butterflies were seen. This species is regarded as one of the most endangered in the UK and is far rarer than the Brown Hairstreak that was the original target.

Wood White nectaring on Common Knapweed.

Wood White preparing to roost.

Last night I put the moth trap out again and with cloudier conditions this morning there were several moths of interest. A new one for the garden was a Plumed Fan-foot. This is a notable moth as it has always been regarded as a very rare vagrant, although this year there have been many reports so it seems that there are several breeding colonies in the vicinity. Similar in a way to the Jersey Tiger, which has also expanded its range and is becoming more numerous. Another of these was by the trap this morning. Gold Spot and both Early and Canary Shouldered Thorn were also counted.

Plumed Fan-foot.

Jersey Tiger.

Gold Spot.

Early Thorn.