Friday 31 July 2020

Mrs Chalkhill Blue.

Having photographed the beautiful male Chalkhill Blue on several occasions I was aware that I didn't have too many shots of the female.

To many, the female of this species is a bit dull, but to me it does still have some subtle beauty. The female Chalkhill Blue is also often confused with the female Adonis Blue, but these days the Adonis generally has more blue mixed in the the overall brown colour.

With a really still morning forecast earlier in the week I decided that I would get up really early and try to get some better shots of these under-rated butterflies.

Males are generally much easier to find, but as the species is doing rather well this year it wasn't long before I found a few female Chalkhill Blues at roost on the tall grasses as well as one on a Knapweed bud.

Gradually they opened their wings as the sun came up and I was pleased to see that two of my chosen subjects were in very good condition. These same 2 also performed well for me allowing a few shots with both cameras. It was also a really good test for the new macro lens.

Female Chalkhill Blue on Knapweed.

Female Chalkhill Blue back to roost as the sun went behind a cloud.

Warming up again.

My favourite shot of a Female Chalkhill Blue.

Monday 27 July 2020

Lace Border.

A couple of weeks ago I headed onto the patch to see if I could find any Mecyna flavalis or Thyme Plume moths.  Both are notable moths and ones that I have seen regularly over the years on the patch, however, last year neither of them were seen so I was hoping to check that they were still around.

On entering the area I was pleased to see a couple of Chalk Carpet, another notable moth that I see most years in small numbers here.  I was trying to creep up on one of the Chalk Carpets when I saw a smallish white moth land nearby. I left the Chalk Carpet just to check on the white moth, and as I focused the camera on the moth I could see it was a species that I was not familiar with at all. I managed just the one shot of it before it flew away into a mass of bushes.

I didn't have a clue as to what the moth was until I got home, fortunately the markings were very distinctive and I quickly found it in the books and identified it as a Lace Border.  It was classed as a NA meaning it was quite a rarity. I then checked out the History of  Butterflies and Moths of Sussex and saw that there were very few records of the moth in the County of Sussex. This was it seems only the 3rd record since 1976, although the other 2 records were in the past 2 years. Several searches since has not produced another sighting for me, so I have to assume it was a migrant moth, although the foodplant for the species is present so more hunts are on the cards.

Lace Border.

Following this find I then went on to find 2 more Chalk Carpet as well as a few Mecyna flavalis and 4 Thyme Plume, so it was a very productive session.

Mecyna flavalis.

Thyme Plume.

Chalk Carpet.

The following day I did search for the Lace Carpet again and although I failed with the moth I did find a stunning Clouded Yellow female of the form helice.

Female Clouded Yellow form helice.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Wet, Wet, Wet. Wood Sandpiper.

Yesterday morning I had a text from Matt to tell me he had found a showy Wood Sandpiper down the Cuckmere.

I really should have gone for it then as it wasn't actually raining at the time. Unfortunately though I still had a few things that needed doing at home, including feeding Pen!!

The light however was not really that good anyway and the morning passed with me wondering if the bird was still around.

Then, at about 3.30 Matt called me to say he was going back down there as a Little Stint had also been found, and would I like to join him. Well, it's not so often we get a chance to go birding together so I thought I would go along as well.  However, by now it was starting to rain and the forecast was for much worse to come.

As we got to the Wood Sandpiper the rain eased off a little and I got a few shots before we went to look for the Little Stint. By now the rain had come back and was getting heavier all the time. After getting distant views of the Little Stint I went back to hope for better shots of the Sandpiper whilst Matt went to look for a Little Ringed Plover that had also been seen.

By hiding behind a bush I did get some slightly closer shots of the Sandpiper, but it was now almost torrential rain, and of course the photos were frankly, pretty poor.  However, they are still my best shots to date of a Wood Sandpiper, in fact they are my only shots of a Wood Sandpiper to date!!

A very wet Wood Sandpiper photographed by a very wet Bob.

In the really poor weather I didn't even photograph the Little Stint, but I do have a photo of one I prepared earlier, and in much better conditions. This one is from Autumn 2017 from the same area.

Little Stint from 2017.

Thursday 23 July 2020

The Chalk Hills are Blue.

Earlier in the year when the lockdown was happening I was hoping that by the time the Chalkhill Blues were flying we would be allowed back out as this is a species I love watching early in their season.

A few days after my first sighting there was a lovely clear still morning, so it was a mega early start hoping to find some roosting Chalkhill Blues waking up in the sunshine.

It didn't take too long finding some in good positions and then it was just a waiting game for them to wake up and expose their top-wings to warm up.

This species always roost head down and most of them when they wake up open up and stay head down, however, one of my subjects decided to walk around his chosen perch and ended up with his head up, which made a pleasant change from the normal shots that I already have many of.

A beautiful morning which actually finished just before 7am.

Chalkhill Blues in the early morning sunshine.

A few days later I headed back to the area where on a windy afternoon I found several mating pairs of Chalkhill Blues and nearby a beautiful Dusky Sallow moth on a Ragwort flower.

Mating Chalkhill Blues on Agrimony.

Dusky Sallow on Ragwort.

Friday 17 July 2020


Many years ago when I was still at school I gained the nickname Badgerbob as I was a mad keen Badger watcher, going out in all weathers and all times of the year.

I used to keep notes of every evening from that first ever sighting for myself, February 19th 1974 at 6pm at a set near Offham.  I've seen mating pairs twice over that time and lots of other activities and probably over 200 sightings.

Since then time has got much more difficult and it has been a long time since my last serious Badger watch, so when a good friend suggested calling over to watch the Badgers in his garden I jumped at the chance.

Many thanks to Dave for the opportunity and an evening I won't ever forget!!

Badger (Meles meles).

Monday 13 July 2020

Dark Green Fix.

Each year I try to get on the Downs early in the flight season of the Dark Green Fritillary to photograph them as they prepare to leave their roosting site.  Unfortunately this year with the travel restrictions and the weather not being favourable on the few days I could have done the short trip I decided that it would just have to wait for another year.

Fortunately, whilst I was searching for the local elusive White-letter Hairstreaks a male Dark Green Fritillary found me and took objection to me being in the middle of his territory.  A very entertaining half hour then followed with the butterfly continuously landing on the big Bramble bush as well as a few other vantage points as he protected his territory from other butterflies, with the most persistent being a Large Skipper.

At one point the Fritillary sat on the top of an Ox-eye Daisy that gave me a nice photo, despite the sunlight being in the wrong direction.

It certainly brightened the day and made me feel a bit better about having to miss one of my favourite mornings of the year.  I even managed a record shot of the Hairstreak too.

Dark Green Fritillary on the lookout.

Dark Green Fritillary sitting pretty.

Another lookout.

Male White-letter Hairstreak.

Male Large Skipper.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Silver and Gold.

One of the highlights of the Summer is walking through woodland seeing the golden flashes of Silver-washed Fritillaries.

These very large butterflies that fly strongly through the woods hunting out mates as well as Bramble flowers to nectar on is a great spectacle, with a side show of White Admirals, Comma, Peacock and the common brown butterflies. There are few places in the Summer that I would rather be.

Male Silver-washed Fritillary.

Female Silver-washed Fritillary.

Mating pairs are often seen of these butterflies but generally they mate higher up in the trees. However, I did come across a pair that were flying along the ride, stopping at various points as they carried on mating.  On the closed wings the 'silver' can be seen where the butterfly gets its name.

Mating Silver-washed Fritillary.

I also came across an ab. confluens that James had spotted the day before. It was a very impressive butterfly and certainly the highlight of the Silver-washed season.

Female Silver-washed Fritillary aberrant form confluens.

Monday 6 July 2020

Southern Migrant Hawker.

It was one of those days today in a very good way.

After a reasonably successful morning seeing lots of Purple Hairstreaks I was clearing out some rubbish to the dustbin when I saw a strange dragonfly patrolling over the garden.

What was strange was mainly the size and colour as all the dragonflies that would normally be seen in the garden were either larger or smaller. I was just hoping it would settle to allow a closer look but it didn't look as though it was going to do that.

Eventually though it stopped and settled on the ivy covered fence allowing a closer look. I was frankly none the wiser as it wasn't a dragonfly I recognised. Fortunately the camera was still to hand so I quickly got the camera from the kitchen and went back, unfortunately though I hadn't made enough of a mental note of the exact spot and the camouflage was so good it took me several moments to see where it was still sat.

After getting a few shots I could then check the books and it turned out to be a female Southern Migrant Hawker, also known as the Blue-eyed Hawker due to the bright blue eyes the male has. Although this species is expanding rapidly in the UK especially in Essex and Kent I certainly wasn't expecting to see one in the garden.

To think that Matt and myself went all the way to Canvey Island in Essex in 2017 to see this species and then one turns up in the garden!!

That day in 2017 I think we only saw males, apart from perhaps a few flight views of females.

Last year I did see a male at Pevensey Levels and the year before one at Rodmell.

Female Southern Migrant Hawker.

Saturday 4 July 2020

Eggar Explosion.

For those regular readers of this blog you may remember that I have had several posts concerning the Small Eggar.

Back in 2017 I found a larval web of this moth, which was a bit of a surprise as it is considered close to extinction in Sussex. Every year since I have found small numbers of these webs on my patch with a highest yearly total of 5.

When the webs started to appear this year I was once again pleased to find a small number in the regular area, but then a couple more were found nearby, and then James also found a small number.

I decided to spend an afternoon walking the area to see if I could reach a double figure count of webs, I certainly wasn't expecting to find the amount I did as at the end of the walk I had reached 27 webs. This was according to the Sussex Moth Recorder, Colin Pratt, the highest count in Sussex for many decades.

Although seeing this number was very exciting I decided there must be more as there was a large area of private land where access was not possible. I then contacted the landowner and gained permission to explore the area and after quite a thorough search I managed to more than double the count ending up with a grand total of 58 webs.

With each web holding many larvae the area has it seems become the main stronghold of this Nationally scarce moth in Sussex. 

Mass of Small Eggar larvae on larval webs. (larvae in top web more advanced).

Small Eggar larval web, note foliage surrounding web has been eaten.

Small Eggar larvae, top 2 one instar ahead of the other 3.

Near fully grown Small Eggar larva.