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Sunday, 31 May 2020

Blue.

My third early morning trying to get Adonis Blues waking up was once again hampered by the fact that Adonis Blue were a little thin on the ground, and once again I had to be content with some lovely Common Blues.

On arrival I was met with a gorgeous scene, and although I rarely photograph landscapes I couldn't resist taking a shot of the beginning of the day.




Morning has broken.


After finding a few fresh looking butterflies at roost it was a short wait for them to start opening up.  This time a couple of male Common Blue were just behind a male Adonis Blue, unfortunately the Adonis was not a fresh individual although the Common Blues were both pretty good.
Unlike the females the male of this species are pretty uniform in their appearance.



Male Adonis Blue.





Two different male Common Blue.

It was then the turn of the 2 females I had found to open. One of them was pretty standard for the modern female Common Blue, but the 2nd one was a particularly bright individual.



Female Common Blue.



A very bright female Common Blue.


All the time I was watching and waiting for the Blues to open up I was once again enjoying watching the family of Foxes playing some distance away. At one time I had the four cubs and both parents together. Once the adults had vanished I was amazed when a fifth cub joined the four already out.  I had seen four on so many occasions that I had assumed that was how many there were in the litter. After the butterflies had flown I did manage to get just about close enough to the cubs for a few photos.






Fox Cubs.




Wednesday, 27 May 2020

The Blue Reveal.

When I was a lad and first getting into watching wildlife (a very long time ago), the female Common Blue butterfly was generally a dullish brown butterfly, a little larger but less impressive than the Brown Argus that many people confused it with.  However, in more recent years the female Common Blue has become a much more impressive species with varying amounts of blue on the top wings.  Why this has happened has never really been discovered as far as I know, perhaps it is the warming climate that affects the development of the earlier stages.  Whatever has caused it though has produced an extra bit of colour to the downland. The original 'brownish' Common Blue is now quite a rare sight and is probably becoming more sought after!!

I have had 3 early morning visits to hopefully get some waking up Adonis Blue but with my local colony being quite small I have struggled to find them roosting, despite trying to find them the evening before, so I have been concentrating on those Common Blue instead. 

Of course when found at roost it is not possible to know how bright and blue the top wings will be until the butterfly opens the wings to warm up and the anticipation can be very rewarding.

These photos are from the first two of the three sessions, with another post to come in the next few days.  Whilst waiting for the butterflies to wake up I have also enjoyed watching the family of Foxes as they play nearby.




Female Common Blue found in the evening.



The same Common Blue the following morning revealing her beauty.



Another Common Blue female.



Just about to fly away.



Adonis Blue female.






The Fox Cubs at play.




Thursday, 21 May 2020

The Call of the River.

With a slight easing of the lockdown I felt I could drive the 4 miles to my favourite site for Demoiselles last Friday.

With a calm morning forecast I was confident of finding some Banded Demoiselles and a few Damselflies of various types.

I hadn't however taken the temperature into account as there was actual ice formed on some of the grass, and that meant that my target species had all descended deep into the undergrowth to escape the freezing conditions.

After a bit of walking about the sun came up and the temperature rocketed, and the Demoiselles appeared. Unfortunately for me they warmed up so quickly they became very active. I was very lucky just to find a male Banded and Beautiful that did sit still long enough to get a couple of shots off.

A very cold Azure Damselfly also gave me the chance to photograph a very wet insect as it was covered in a heavy dew as it started to warm up.



Dew Covered Azure Damselfly.



The same insect with the sun starting to appear.



Male Banded Demoiselle.



Male Beautiful Demoiselle.


It was like a breath of fresh air being somewhere other than the patch and with good views of a Cuckoo and several Warblers the couple of hours spent was very worthwhile.



Sunday, 17 May 2020

Copper to Green.

Another early morning start found me again walking the mile to my patch hoping to have another attempt at the Common Whitethroat and perhaps the Fox cubs.

As it was the Fox cubs saw me before I could get close, and the Whitethroat didn't sing from the same bush as last week, and then I saw its partner close in the bush so I quickly retreated in case there was a nest nearby.

I was then thinking I was going to have one of those mornings when suddenly things improved enormously.

First, a male Stonechat sat up for me on a nearby bush looking pretty smart.







Male Stonechat.

I then started to hunt out roosting Skippers, as it was a pretty chilly morning and the sun was still not on this part of the patch. After around 30 minutes and nothing found the temperature rose just enough to get things moving and a very nice Small Copper was suddenly flying around me.  As it was trying to warm up further it was perching higher up the bushes and several shots were taken of this lovely individual.



Small Copper.

I then moved further along the valley heading towards my favourite Green Hairstreak bush, but before I got there a Four-spotted Chaser was seen that was also trying to warm up enough to fly. Although it flew short distances it posed very nice briefly showing the intricate wings. 



Four-spotted Chaser.

On arrival at the Green Hairstreak bush I saw a couple of battling Hairstreaks as well as a Lackey larva and a Box Bug, a possible new species for me. The Lackey caterpillar is one of our most colourful and is the species I photographed and posted on the blog recently when I found a larval web full of them. This one had now left the web as it had matured further.



Lackey Larva.



Box Bug,

I now concentrated on the two Green Hairstreak that were still trying to knock each other out. One of them was very fresh whilst the other was showing minor battle scars. Following one of their skirmishes the sun suddenly went in and the temperature immediately dropped. The fresher butterfly then took several very short flights landing on low vegetation instead of the bush and showing extremely well.






Green Hairstreak.






Friday, 15 May 2020

Downland taras.

It has been quite pleasing this year to see reasonable numbers of Grizzled Skippers on my local downland patch, especially as a lot of my Winter conservation work has been aimed at helping these great little butterflies, they have also expanded into areas where they haven't been seen for a couple of years.

In all the years I've been searching butterflies on the patch I have never seen the taras form of the Grizzled Skipper there despite seeing them reasonably regularly in some of the woodland sites I visit. In fact the taras form is quite a rare beast on downland sites and I have only seen one once before way back in 2011 at Offham.



Grizzled Skipper taras form  (Offham 2011).


Last week I was strolling around on the patch when suddenly a Grizzled Skipper taras flew up in front of me. I managed to get a few record shots of the butterfly before it flew behind me and I lost it. 

About 10 minutes later and around 300 metres further along the valley a very fresh Grizzled Skipper flew past me down the slope and as I approached where it had landed I was amazed to see it was a 2nd taras form. This one was even better marked.






Grizzled Skipper taras form.

The 2nd butterfly.





2nd Grizzled Skipper taras form.


Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Completing The Cycle.

A few posts back some of you may remember the photos of the Wall Brown larva changing into a pupa.

On Friday last week the cycle was completed as the female Wall Brown emerged.

Although I missed the actual emergence by just a few minutes, my target of being able to see the formed wing in the pupa was achieved and the sex of the butterfly could be seen just by that!!


I have included here one or two pictures from earlier to show the complete change from when the larva had just started to change to the pupa stage.



The change starts 3/4/2020.




The pupa 03/05/2020.



Wing Pattern starting to develop 06/05/2020.



Pupa darkening as butterfly develops further 07/05/2020.



The top-wing showing through the pupa case. 08/05/2020 at 8.57am.



Female Wall Brown drying wings. 08/05/2020 at 9.55am.


For those observant ones amongst you the pupa actually fell off the perch on the 4th of May and was glued back on!!  That is why the position changed slightly.



Sunday, 10 May 2020

Whitethroat and Fox Cubs.

On Thursday another early start with the mile walk up to my patch but this time I travelled slightly heavier with the telephoto lens, very much a last minute decision!!

On arrival I soon found a mating pair of Cinnabar Moths and whilst I was photographing these a Common Whitethroat was calling almost continuously from an area of Hawthorn nearby. After leaving the moths the bird was still there so I decided I may as well try and get near the bird as I had the longer lens with me.

After tucking in as close as I could to the scrub the bird continued to call from several favoured perches and a few shots were taken, however, I noticed that the end bush was its most favoured so I moved closer to this perch and was really pleased that the bird continued to use the perch not taking any notice of me at all.



Common Whitethroat.












That lovely scratchy song that signals Summer is here.



At this point I saw a really knackered looking Fox walking up the slope opposite and thought it had to have some cubs with it looking so worn out.



A Very Tired Fox.

After finishing with the Whitethroat I looked up the hill and saw the Fox looking at me, I then noticed some little bundles of fluff in front of her and there were 4 Fox Cubs playing. After the adult moved back into the bushes I managed to get just about close enough to get a few record shots of the cubs playing, although there was lots of scrub between us. They then came much closer to me but they were all the time behind thick bush so I couldn't get any more pictures. It was a wonderful experience though seeing them play and explore.






Fox Cubs playing.

I then left this area and walked along the valley where A female Stonechat sat up nicely on some bushes.



Female Stonechat.



Giving me a dirty look!!



A Male Yellowhammer finding it all a bit funny. 

An immature male Broad-bodied Chaser was along the bush line.



Immature Male Broad-bodied Chaser.

However, the star of the morning was certainly the Common Whitethroat and this was the final shot of him before I decided I had taken a few too many photos of him.



Common Whitethroat.

Was I glad I took the telephoto lens!!


Monday, 4 May 2020

Caught In The Rain.

With the weather being quite dull yesterday I risked a walk from home hoping that most people would not be on the Downs.

As it happened I hardly saw anyone which was good. My aim was to hopefully find some roosting Dingy Skippers on a bank around 2 miles from home.

The nearer I got to the site the duller it became and then, just as I arrived a steady drizzle started. I was still hoping though to at least find some roosting butterflies, maybe my first Small Copper or Brown Argus of the year as well as those intended Dingy Skippers.

The first insect of interest came in the form of a splendid male Common Heath moth that was so surprised to see a stupid homo sapien out in the rain that it actually sat up in the grass giving a rare opportunity for a photo. Despite the light by now being absolutely dreadful the photo was actually not bad!!



Male Common Heath.

I then found the first of 2 Dingy Skippers at roost. This species generally roost on old seed-heads and then wrap their wings around the seed-head where their camouflage makes them quite hard for a predator to see them. Of course, when it rains the butterfly gets wet, just like the bloke that is taking their photo. I was quite lucky that in the background there was a good clump of Horseshoe Vetch that gave the photo a bit of colour in the dreadful conditions. Meanwhile the butterfly was covered in water droplets.



Roosting Dingy Skipper.

A little further up the hill I came across the 2nd Dingy Skipper. This one was getting even wetter than the first one on its chosen seed-head. The backdrop for this one was the opposite side of the valley which being lighter showed the droplets up even more. There was presumably a droplet on the eye which gives the impression that its eye was very large.



Roosting Dingy Skipper.

By this time I was soaked through, a bit similar to the Skippers, and I was glad that the camera is meant to be waterproof. 
I then saw a larval web with lots of tiny caterpillars in it. As this is the main area where I found a colony of the Small Eggar 5 years ago, a very rare moth in Sussex, I was hopeful that I had come across some more. On closer inspection, that meant getting even wetter, it was clear that these were the Small Eggar, and another web nearby was even better news. 



Small Eggar larval web. (the larvae hiding from the rain under the web).




Small Eggar larvae photographed from underneath.

In the end a very successful afternoon in weather that really warranted staying at home and listening to Pink Floyd!!

A couple of other photos from the past few days included my first Common Blue of the year, late in the day on May 1st.



Male Common Blue.

Also a female Holly Blue from the garden.



Female Holly Blue in the garden.