Sunday 29 April 2018

Green-veined White.

It now seems that the heatwave we had just over a week ago never happened with the past week being full of clouds and cool breezes. 
On Tuesday, I could quite easily have just stayed at home moaning about the weather and wondering what to do. However, during several walks on the patch in recent days I had seen good quantities of Green-veined White butterflies. In warm conditions this species is extremely difficult to get close to, so on Tuesday I decided to go and see if I could find some roosting. 
As soon as I arrived in the area I found both a Green-veined White and Large White roosting and in a short time I had found several more. The biggest problem I had was a strong breeze blowing along the bottom of the valley where I was. In the end I was extremely pleased with the results I managed despite those dull and breezy conditions.
It certainly was better than doing the housework!!!!

Green-veined White on Cowslip.

Green-veined White on Bluebell.

Large White roosting.

Pair of Green-veined White.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Green Hairstreak Heaven.

Every Spring I look forward to my first sightings of both the Orange-tip and the Green Hairstreak, as both these species to me really herald the butterfly season has started in earnest.
Exactly a week after my first Orange-tip of the year, I came across my first Green Hairstreak. It was along the valley on my patch, and strangely, on the same bush that has produced my first Green Hairstreak of the year before, back in 2010. It had almost certainly emerged that day, as I had checked that bush for the past 3 days without luck.

On Saturday I was very limited for time as I had already arranged to meet Phil in the early afternoon and all I managed was a couple of quick grab shots of the butterfly before I lost it to sight. However, on Sunday I returned to the bush in the morning. I have noticed before with this particular bush that the Green Hairstreaks show well on a sunny morning, generally keeping in the lower portion of the bush and staying in a smallish area. This was the case again on Sunday as for nearly an hour I spent watching and photographing him. He soon seemed to accept me too which meant I had time to concentrate on getting the best angles. It turned into one of the best sessions I have had with this species.

Green Hairstreak.

With both Wall Brown and Grizzled Skipper, seen on Sunday, and today a Small Heath my year total has now hit 15

Sunday 22 April 2018

An Emperor Day.

On Thursday I was really pleased to find my first ever male Emperor Moth without the help of a pheromone lure or a virgin female Emperor. I was walking up a slope at the far end of my local patch when I saw it on the bank drying its wings. I managed 3 quick shots before it flew off at pace. A really beautiful sight, and as ever with this species, one wonders why more at not seen as they are quite spectacular, not rare and quite large!!

Male Emperor Moth newly emerged.

On the walk before this point I had seen my first confirmed Large White of the year as well as several Green-veined Whites including a mating pair.

Mating Green-veined Whites.

Speckled Wood numbers have also suddenly increased with several seen throughout the walk.

Male Speckled Wood.

Once home my first Holly Blue of the year flew through the garden. It seemed that many butterflies had suddenly appeared with the mini heatwave going on.

With finding the Emperor Moth I thought I would try my 3 year old pheromone lure to see if it would still work. It wasn't long before I found out as at least 6 male Emperors were soon coming in to investigate. It is always a pleasure seeing these spectacular moths at close range.

Two different male Emperor Moths.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

It's A Shark.

For the first time this year I decided the weather was good enough to put the moth trap out. In the morning a few moths had been attracted with the highlights being a couple of Early Thorn, these are attractive but quite common. The most interesting moth though was a Chamomile Shark, a moth that is not often found in Sussex. I almost missed it too as it was resting on the fence.

Chamomile Shark.

Early Thorn.

Sunday 15 April 2018

Friday The 13th.

To many the date Friday 13th is bad news. I don't know why, but I've always seemed to have good luck on that date. I even started dating a girl once on Friday 13th!!

With cool cloudy conditions on Friday I decided to walk the whole patch, hoping that just maybe the sun would come out and entice a butterfly out. Of course, this didn't happen. However, just as Phil sent me a text asking if I had seen anything good and I had replied saying no, with a few extra words included, that I would not put on here, I suddenly spotted 2 Brown Hares, shortly followed by a gorgeous Lesser Whitethroat that I had several good views of, I decided things were looking up and the walk was perhaps not a waste of time after all. Things improved even more when I reached the area that I've been monitoring the Wall Brown larva when I spotted a larva that was turning into a pupa. This is a stage where the larva is at its most vulnerable with it not being able to move any more, but the skin is still soft which makes it a target for the many Ants on the site. Back in 2013 I found a larva in this situation being taken apart and eaten by Ants.

Wall Brown larva changing into a pupa.

Yesterday morning I saw my first Orange-tip of the year in Ringmer on the way back to Phil's after we had a photographic session in his hide. Although we failed to get the Buzzards again, we did manage a nice Fox that was hunting in front of us. Unfortunately the Fox appeared to be blind in one eye.


In the afternoon I headed back to the Wall area where the larva was still in the same situation. A few feet away though I found another in the same stage. As I have never managed to follow a pupa all the way through to butterfly, as all have been parasitised that I have found in the years gone by, with finding another I was a little more confident that I may be luckier this year. However, when I called back up there again this morning I was devastated to find that this one was covered in Ants. There was hardly any sign of the larva left. Such a shame after feeding up for around 6 months and surviving the Winter weather to get eaten at this vulnerable stage. There was at least better news with the original larva though as it had just turned into a pupa where it will hopefully harden up which may help it against the Ants.

Wall Brown pupa.

Another unexpected find in the area was a male Toad. I hope this chap doesn't find any of the larva and have a feast!!

Common Toad.

Friday 13 April 2018


A late decision on Tuesday, following the weather being better than forecast, resulted in a quick dash to West Sussex hoping for performing Great-crested Grebes. 
At least 5 Grebes were seen as well as two nests. One nest had an adult sitting all the time we were there, so presumably eggs were present. The other nest was being finished off by a pair of Grebes, these two also mated twice while we were there.

Unfortunately, we didn't see the famous weed dance that these Grebes do during their courtship. however, whenever one grebe saw another, they lay flat along the water which most of the time seemed to be a greeting.

Great-crested Grebe.

Having a shake.

Mating Great-crested Grebes.

The low approach.

Monday 9 April 2018

Waking Up??

With the weather continuing to be poor the local patch is at least producing some immature stages to keep a little interest going. I, along with most, just wish the weather would warm up so a few more species of insect would be flying. By this time last year Orange-tips were really into their season and Green Hairstreaks were active on some sites. Still, when it does happen I'm quite hopeful that some species could have a pretty good year. 

With the sun shining yesterday I did have a bit of a search for a Wall Brown pupa. This is the hardest stage to find by a long way, but having found so many larva this year I am slightly more hopeful than usual that I might just find one or two. As it is the larva have become harder to find which could be because some have pupated, although it could be because some of them have become nocturnal to help evade predation. A night-time search may provide the answer!!
I was pleased to hear a Common Whitethroat singing in the bushes, it seems a few flew across the Channel today going by the reports.

The Speckled Wood larva is still showing and yesterday I found it covered in water droplets following the morning rain.

Speckled Wood larva with rain droplets.

Near fully grown Wall Brown larva feeding.

It was also good to see several of the early season micro moths flying which included the tiny Ancylis comptana, a moth which is only 5mm long. When it flies it is very hard to spot where it lands for my aging eyes!!

Ancylis comptana.

Today it was back to really dull dreary weather. As I couldn't decide what to do I once again headed for a stroll around the patch. In the breeze it was a bit chilly, however, several more of the tiny micro  moths were flying. A few different Wall Brown larva were also seen. I did get the camera out to photograph an Oak Eggar larva. This one was quite a bit more advanced than the one I photographed a few weeks ago, it had also grown a lot more hair. Very nice to see, and it made the stroll just about worth doing.

Oak Eggar larva. Approx half grown.

Saturday 7 April 2018

Warming Up, But Still Not Summer!!

The past 3 days have been quite eventful, even if not totally successful.

On Thursday David and I was hoping to photograph a Peregrine, and although I did get a record type of shot of one, it certainly wasn't what we were hoping for. Having said that, it was still a really good day as the Peregrines were putting on quite a show for us, flying at amazing speeds as they displayed to each other, and also having the odd scrap with the local Ravens. In fact, photographically, it was the Ravens that ended up saving the day as they flew past quite close a few times.




The other highlights for the day were 3 Swallows coming in off the sea, my first Swallows of the year, and a possible sign that Summer is nearby. As it was the wind was very cold at times. My first Small White butterfly of the year was also seen.

On Friday it was back to my local patch in slightly warmer conditions, although the breeze still kept the insects at bay. In the more sheltered spots however, the butterflies were actually out in force with probably between 20 and 30 butterflies seen, the most numerous of which was the Peacock. 4 species in total seen with several Brimstone, Comma and 2 Small Tortoiseshell.  I also enjoyed photographing and watching the numerous Bee-fly. Both the Dark-edged and Dotted Bee-fly were seen but I only managed a shot of the scarcer Dotted.

Dotted Bee-fly.


Today it was back to seeing how the Wall Brown larva were doing. I have been expecting them to get harder to find as they are probably becoming more nocturnal and probably some have started to pupate. I did still see around 15 as well as a Speckled Wood larva. Once again the breeze put pay to many butterflies flying with just a Peacock seen.

Speckled Wood larva.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

More Signs of Spring.

With Spring very slow to get going this year, I once again headed for the woods for a stroll around with Nigel. With sunshine on and off, it was only the strong breeze that meant it was still a little cool for butterflies. Eventually we did see a Peacock in the late morning, but apart from that the only real interest was in the form of a very smart Adder. It seemed very content to lay in the sun amongst the dead Bracken, which gave it some great camouflage. With the intermittent sunshine the Adder was constantly moving very slowly trying to find the warmest spot. We visited the site several times during our visit, and after Nigel had to leave I went back myself a few times, when it eventually moved to a position where it was possible to photograph it without too much foliage over it. After Nigel had left I also spotted a much smaller male Adder around 50 yards away from the larger adult. with more sunshine now as well a Brimstone flew past hunting females in the Bramble bushes.
A carpet of Wood Anemone was also growing, soon to cover the floor of the woodland.

Adder hiding in the old Bracken.

Adder still hiding.

Adder at last more visible.

Wood Anemone.

The Speckled Wood that I spotted on the 31st March actually matched my first sighting last year, being also 31st March, as well as being in the same location.