Tuesday 26 June 2018

Waking Up To Two Females!!

Well, that title should get me some extra views!!

Yesterday morning, with light winds forecast I decided it could be a perfect morning to hunt out roosting Dark Green Fritillaries on the local downland. I know a couple of sites where the fritillary can roost in numbers, although as they roost deep down in large grass tussocks, they can be extremely difficult to find.

Waking up at 4.30am I headed straight out and after a 10 minute drive proceeded to climb the steep downland. 20 minutes later I was on my knees trying to find a Dark Green Fritillary, 40 minutes later I was still trying. 

One had to be found before the sun had got high enough to hit the area as the butterflies become active almost as soon as the sun gets to them.
Just in the nick of time I was moving some grass when a stunning female flashed her wings open at me. She was in perfect condition too and I would guess had emerged late the day before or even overnight. Several shots were taken in the heavy shade as she climbed out of the grasses getting ready for the sun to hit her.

Dark Green Fritillary female.

She then moved to another small perch just a few moments before the sun crept over the hill.

Then as the sun reached the area she very gradually started to open her wings, at first the fore-wings were back over the hind-wings, but gradually she opened further until suddenly she took flight and flew away. All before 6.20am.

Wings slowly opening.

Dark Green Fritillary female shortly before flight.

With the sun now hitting the area several males were then observed crawling out of the long grasses to warm up. All of them were already though too active to get close too.

My other female though was a Marbled White that was found while looking for the Fritillaries. Perched on the top of grass while she roosted she made a nice, almost monochrome picture in the early morning light. Especially noticeable this year as the grass is now far from green in this really dry spell we are having.

Female Marbled White.

Sunday 24 June 2018

The Hills Are Alive.

It's that time of the Summer when life seems to be everywhere, with several more species due soon too it is a great time to be out and about.
My time has still been a little limited but I have had a few good sessions. 

I was admiring the very handsome Small Eggar larva during the week when a movement along the path caught my eye and I was suddenly looking at a very small Fox cub. I haven't managed to see these close up for some time, unfortunately I only had the macro lens with me and although I did creep a few more paces towards the cub the photo still is a large crop. Wonderful to see though at such close quarters.

Fox Cub.

I then went back to looking at the Small Eggar larva that had by now reached their final instar before pupation. Amazingly, this species can pupate for up to 3 years before becoming a moth, and the moth  isn't able to feed!! They certainly are a handsome larva at this stage.

Small Eggar larva.

Some of our most common butterflies are now flying with Meadow Brown being seen all the time. This is of course the most common of British butterflies, but one of the most difficult to get photographs of as they are always active and are very sensitive to movement.

Female Meadow Brown.

Male Meadow Brown.

Small Skippers are also increasing in numbers on the local downland. The very similar Essex Skipper will soon be flying alongside giving the usual indentification headache.

Male Small Skipper.

I was very pleased during the week to see a female White-letter Hairstreak just around the corner from home. The local Elms have suffered enormously in the past few years and this species of butterfly has also suffered as the Elm is its only food plant. I was checking out a large Bramble bush where I had seen the butterfly in years gone by when the distinctive hairstreak flight was spotted and the butterfly landed just above my head. A very poor photograph was taken, but it was a great moment spotting my favourite species again near to home.

Female White-letter Hairstreak.

I also managed to fit in another very early morning session with the beautiful Marbled White. Some of the pictures were a little disappointing with the shots into the light flaring more than I was expecting. Later in the day I noticed the lens was particularly dirty so that explains why!! I will take more care in the future, well maybe anyway!!

Two Male Marbled White on Pyramidal Orchid.

Male Marbled White on Agrimony.

Marbled Whites warming up in the early morning sun. (5.55 am).

Monday 18 June 2018

Black Beauties of Ditchling.

A couple of weeks ago I received a text from my butterfly friend Phil Bromley to inform me that his local Black Hairstreaks had started to show in Cambridgeshire. I had already told him that I would do my utmost to make the long trip again. However, unfortunately I was unable to make the trip this year due to problems at home which was extremely disappointing.

Move forward a week and I had another text, this time from Dave Cook inviting me to Ditchling. He didn't inform me what I was going to see, so it was a massive surprise to find that he had discovered a large colony of Black Hairstreaks amongst the Blackthorn bushes on the Common there. It would seem that the butterflies were introduced by a local enthusiast many years ago and have only come to light following a very strong emergence this year. Dave had actually found 3 butterflies there last year but at that time it was assumed someone had reared them at home and released them then. With the colony this year being spread over a large area of the Common though this would not be possible, especially with this species that spreads very slowly.

Anyway, after meeting Dave in the car park we moved into the area where most of the Hairstreaks had been seen and we saw one almost immediately. We also bumped into Neil Hulme and his father and a couple of others. Neil was at the time photographing a very fresh female Black Hairstreak which stayed there for all of us to have a go. Wandering around the site many more were seen with most of the males appearing to be past their best, but the females were still in excellent condition.

Female Black Hairstreak.

As it happened I had already arranged to see Neil Hulme the following day to show him my local Burnt Orchids. Before we departed he had persuaded me to meet him back at Ditchling the following day to have another go at the Black Hairstreak before moving on to the orchids. After seeing my images from the day I was glad he did as I thought I should have done better.

The following day the weather was much cooler and cloudier and it was a couple of hours before any type of butterfly was seen. The first sighting was a rather tired male, but then we saw 4 other really nice fresh females and they posed much better in the cooler conditions.

Black Hairstreak.

After a very successful morning it was then onto the Burnt Orchids where the orchids had just about reached their peak. As I had photographed them over the past week I wasn't too worried myself about more photographs but then I spotted a very fresh Large Skipper.

Large Skipper.

I did still get a shot of both the Burnt Orchids and the Bee Orchid which is having a very strong season this year locally.

Bee Orchid.

Burnt Orchid (late form).

Neil then spotted a very fresh Dark Green Fritillary that wasn't moving far in the very cool, breezy and dull conditions. We stayed with the butterfly for some time hoping the sun would come out to encourage the butterfly to open its wings. Eventually it did warm up just enough and long enough to encourage the butterfly to open up.

Dark Green Fritillary on Pyramid Orchid.

Dark Green Fritillary.

Dark Green Fritillary nectaring.

A very memorable 2 days and my thanks goes to Phil Bromley for the first message and then of course to Dave Cook for the invite that gave me the chance for watching these beautiful butterflies before it got much busier!! It also saved me a lot in mileage and fuel.

Saturday 16 June 2018

A Marbled Morning.

Yesterday morning there was a total lack of wind, very unusual these days in Seaford. I took advantage by heading up on the hill to see the local Marbled Whites waking up. Every year I try to do this at least once, and it is often one of the highlights of my butterfly year.
The previous evening I had spotted 9 Marbled Whites roosting so I knew that there would be some to photograph. I was on the hill just before 5am and the sun was already coming up. It wasn't long before the dew covered Marbled Whites started to wake up and a few shots were taken.

Male Marbled White.

Dew covered Marbled Whites on Viper's Bugloss.

Marbled White warming up.

At around 7am the Marbled Whites had taken to the wing so I decided I had taken enough pictures and I started to leave. Several Small Heath had started flying as the warmth of the sun increased and one landed near the top of a grass blade. It stayed there long enough to get a few shots, very unusual to get one of these very common butterflies posing so well.

Small Heath.

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Local Delights.

For the past couple of weeks I have made several trips to the local area but haven't managed to catch up with the blog, so here is a bit of a snapshot of what I have seen.

One of 2 Lackey Moth larva found recently.

Male Emperor Dragonfly in Phil's garden.

A Skylark from Phil's Land Rover.

Speckled Wood.

The rare Small Eggar larva.

Male Beautiful Demoiselle.

Fragrant Orchid.

Burnt-tip Orchid. (late form).

Bee Orchid.

From a recent Moth trapping evening.

Buff Tip.

Privet Hawk Moths.

Privet Hawk Moth.

Buff Ermine.

Elephant Hawk Moth.

Sunday 10 June 2018

Peacock Adventures.

Back on the 4th May I spotted a Peacock egg laying on a large clump of Stinging Nettles in an area on the patch. After taking a few images I left her to it, but on the walk back it was impressive the amount of eggs she had laid there.

Peacock egg laying. 4th May.

The eggs under the Nettle. 4th May.

On the 13th May I stopped to see how the eggs were getting on and I saw what I assumed was a parasitic wasp there. As it was this was not the case as it was an Auchenorrhyncha nymph that feeds on sap, I assume it was finding some moisture around the eggs that it found to its liking. Fortunately it certainly didn't affect the eggs. My thanks to Mark Colvin for the id and spelling of the tiny beast!!

Peacock Eggs with Auchenorrhyncha nymph. 13th May.

On 25th May I saw that the eggs had recently hatched with many tiny larva in the area where the eggs had been.

Newly hatched Peacock larva. 25th May.

It wasn't until 7th June before my next visit and I was amazed at how many larva there were. The following photo is a small section of the gathering.

Young Peacock larva. 7th June.

The following day was even more impressive.

Peacock larva. 8th June.

There could be an explosion of butterflies in a few weeks time!!