Sunday 28 April 2019

Grizzly Time.

Despite the wind remaining most of the time blowing from an Easterly direction, which is not the best direction for the local patch, I have managed several enjoyable sessions with quite a few interesting sightings.

There is still a worrying shortage of both Grizzled Skipper and Dingy Skipper but I have been lucky to have had 3 different roosting Grizzled Skipper. The first one was found by James in the late afternoon of Tuesday. I then found 2 more over the next 4 days in a similar area with the one I found yesterday even opening its wings wide open when the sun suddenly decided to come out.

I have always struggled to get shots I'm pleased with of Grizzled Skipper. Last year I did do much better, but this year I had decided to concentrate on this species in the early Spring while they are still pretty fresh.

Grizzled Skipper No. 1.

Grizzled Skipper No. 2.

Grizzled Skipper No. 3.

Grizzled Skipper opening up.

Grizzled Skipper warming up briefly.

Other delights this week were plenty of Green Hairstreak, this included one that was flashing his male sex brand on his partly exposed top-wing. Just visible on the brown top-side wing.

Male Green Hairstreak.

I also saw my first female Wall Brown of the year which was mating at the time.

Mating Wall Brown. (female on the right).

A beautiful teneral male Hairy Dragonfly was also a good find as it was taking its first tentative flights.

Teneral Male Hairy Dragonfly.

However, my favourite find of the week was a superb Oak Eggar larva. Not a rarity at all and I have found plenty over the years, but this one did perform well going into its defence mode when it sensed my presence. A couple of hours later it was in some Bramble munching away.

Oak Eggar in defence mode.

Oak Eggar feeding.

Wednesday 24 April 2019

The Successful Failure!!

A couple of days ago I had a very early start searching for roosting Grizzled and Dingy Skippers. As it was I failed to find any at all, probably not too surprising as it is still early in their flight season and there are still only small numbers on the wing. 

It still turned out to be a good morning however with a few highlights seen with probably the best of these being finding a Pyrausta ostrinalis roosting on the top of a grass blade. This species is generally only seen on the ground so it was good getting the opportunity to photograph it in this position. This species is also quite a rarity, unlike its very similar relatives Pryrausta purpuralis and Pyrausta aurata which are both common.

Pyrausta ostrinalis at roost.

Pyrausta ostrinalis starting to warm up.

Shortly after finding this gem I came across 2 male Wall Brown flying short distances as they too were trying to warm up in the early morning sunshine. The day before I had seen my first Wall Brown of the year. 

Male Wall Brown.

On the way back to the car I checked out an area where the Wall Brown regularly gather and I noticed a large triangular shape on the ground. Immediately I thought I had found a female Emperor Moth. I was only half right as it happens as looking closer it turned out to be a male Emperor. This is actually the first male Emperor that I had found without the aid of the pheromone, although I would have preferred it to have been an immaculate female.

Male Emperor Moth.

The previous day had also been very good with 4 Grizzled Skipper along with a couple of Dingy Skipper. I also had my first Small Copper of the year which was posing nicely on a little bit of regrowth from the scrub that I had cleared in the Winter. Whilst photographing the Small Copper I noticed something very small on the top of a grass blade. This turned out to be one of the dreaded Ticks that seem to be more numerous these days, and not something you want biting into you!!

The dreaded Tick.

Small Copper.

This year is proving to be one of the best Green Hairstreak seasons for several years on my local patch, and despite having many photos from previous years I am always tempted to get more. I was very lucky to get a reasonably fresh individual performing well for some time and several more photos were taken.

Male Green Hairstreak.

On the odonata front I saw my 2nd Hairy Dragonfly of the year and another Large Red Damselfly. The Damselfly had just caught his lunch and was busy chomping away at whatever it had caught.

Large Red Damselfly.

Monday 22 April 2019

The Pearl Survey.

On Saturday I started my Pearl-bordered Fritillary survey at a private wood. Pearls were re-introduced 2 years ago following a different re-introduction before that which was unsuccessful. As it happens I was one day early as I failed to find any Pearls, but the following day one was seen on the wing by my fellow surveyor.
It was still a good day however, with several butterflies seen in the very warm conditions.

Orange-tip nectaring on a Bluebell.


Pyrausta purpuralis.

Under-side of Pyrausta purpuralis.

On the way home I stopped off at Arlington where I got lucky with a posing Dingy Skipper, and a female Orange-tip that settled briefly on a Blackthorn bush right where I was standing.

Dingy Skipper.

Female Orange-tip.

Saturday 20 April 2019

The Green Greenie.

I owe a couple of favours to my good friend Paul, so it was a relief to pay back a little bit to him this week. He wanted to join me on a Green Hairstreak hunt as it has been a few years since he managed a decent shot of one, so yesterday, in great conditions we ventured onto the Downs with the sole purpose of finding a pristine individual that would also perform well for us.

In all we saw at least 6 individuals, although many of my usual bushes were still not occupied, so hopefully there are many more to come. Eventually Paul spotted one that was on ground level, all the others to that point had been sticking to the tops of the bush-line.

For the next 20-30 minutes this one performed for us, although I was a little disappointed with most of my results considering how well it did sit for us, albeit at times at angles that were difficult to get to.

I also managed a few shots on the previous day including a very smart punctata form, where the white streak goes through both the fore and hind-wings.

Nectaring on the blossom.

A punctata form.

Another punctata form from the day before.

In one of the dew ponds several Newts were showing, along with many tadpoles. 

Newt just below the surface of the water. 

Thursday 18 April 2019

Warmth at last.

With warm and calmer weather at last the day started off with opening the moth trap, as it was the first warm night after many very cold nights I shouldn't have expected much and it shouldn't have been a surprise to only get 5 macro moths. However, when I put the trap out the night before I was hoping to find a Mullein Moth the following day and that is exactly what happened. This is only my 2nd Mullein and the first for 5 years.

Mullein Moth.

The only other notable moth was my 2nd Brindled Beauty.

Brindled Beauty.

I then went for a stroll around the patch where the first butterfly seen was an early Small Heath shortly followed by a Dingy Skipper.

Probably the first Sussex Small Heath of 2019.

Dingy Skipper.

A search for Grizzled Skipper was unsuccessful but whilst looking for these I spotted a female Emperor Moth. This is only the 3rd female I have found in the field, and of those only one was in pristine condition. This one unfortunately wasn't, but it is always a special moth regardless to find. Hopefully she has laid many eggs in the vicinity for future generations.

Female Emperor Moth.

Only a single Green Hairstreak was seen and this one unfortunately stayed high in the bushes. Another new species for the year was a Holly Blue that flew along the bush line.
The session finished off with a quick look for Marbled White larva. One was found almost immediately and as occasionally happens this one sensed my presence and went into its defence position, trying to look large. Not easy when you are only just over 1 cm long!!

Marbled White larva.

There were also several Pyrausta ostrinalis micro moths flying, and for once I found one that was extremely fresh, showing off the superb colours on this tiny gem.

Pyrausta ostrinalis.

Finally a wonderful Toad put in an appearance to finish the day off in style.

Common Toad.

The only slight disappointment was the lack of Wall Brown. I was hoping to see at least one of these, but I'm sure they will be flying extremely soon!!

Monday 15 April 2019


There are certain sounds and sights that for the naturalist are a sure sign that Spring is here. Orange-tip butterflies are my favourite Spring sight, but for the sound it has to be the call of the Chiffchaff.

It has been a few weeks now since I heard my first Chiffchaff calling this year, but now the sound of them are everywhere.

Today I went for yet another walk over the local South Downs hoping to see a build up of Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak, but once again the cold wind kept all but a few butterflies in hiding. Just a few Brimstone, Peacock and Comma were seen, although I did see my first Large Red Damselfly of the year.

All along the valley I was listening to the Chiffchaff call and at the point where I planned to turn around to head for home I came across a particularly showy individual. It was a good excuse to try the new camera with the small 300mm lens. I have to admit I was mightily impressed with this combination, even with a converter fitted. It wasn't quite good enough to read the details on the leg ring that the bird was wearing though!!


A distant Oil Seed Rape field adds colour.

Chiffchaff  calling on Blackthorn.

Chiffchaff showing off the ring.

Friday 12 April 2019

Assorted Delights.

With the season continuing apace despite the very cold wind there have been a few highlights this week.

On Wednesday a walk with Nigel produced our first Swallows and House Martins with a pair of each flying together. A great view too of a stunning Stoat that unfortunately saw us before it was in camera range. Several Orange-tips seen along the way as well as Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma, Brimstone and Speckled Wood. A Chiffchaff also allowed a close approach.


Wood Anemone.

It was back on local turf the following day when I was lucky to find a single Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak. Good to get these favourites ticked off for the year, but hopefully some much better photos of each to come. A stunning male Common Redstart was also seen along the valley.

Grizzled Skipper.

Green Hairstreak on Gorse.

Another stroll today to see how the local Early Spider Orchids were coming along was a little disappointing with only 4 spikes found in a short hunt. 2 of them had a single flower on them. 4 more Swallows seen and a pair of Yellowhammer.

Early Spider Orchid.

Female Yellowhammer.

Herb Robert.