Saturday 23 January 2021

Looking Back.

 With very little happening locally, and that is all we can do at the moment, I have re-worked a few images from the distant past.

These 4 are all from a couple of trips away with Pen, with 2 damselfly shots from when we stayed at Lyndhurst in the New Forest. We had found that the Balmer Lawn Hotel looked after us quite well on a couple of occasions and as I was keen to have a further search for the Southern Damselfly we arranged for a couple of nights away during the flight season. This species is very rare and only found in a few locations, and my only search before had resulted in failure.

Leaving Pen to relax in the grounds I headed off to a site that I heard can be very good for the target species, and it wasn't to disappoint with good numbers seen. A mating pair gave me the best opportunities for photos, and a little bonus was another mating pair, this time a pair of Small Red Damselflies.

Southern Damselflies.

Small Red Damselflies.

The following year, for my birthday, Pen took me to the Isle of Wight to hunt out the Glanville Fritillary. This species I had only seen before at a site where they had been introduced, so I was keen to see them in their natural environment.

The problem was it was right at the start of their flight season, and there was a good chance we wouldn't see any. On the day we went there hadn't been any reports of them flying and I really thought we would be missing out. There were however, lots of larvae about, another bad sign as far as seeing the adults were concerned. 

The larvae were mostly fully grown and a few shots were taken. I now wish I had looked a little harder for any pupa as they are particularly attractive as pupa goes!! 

Glanville Fritillary larva.

On the 2nd morning I did get lucky by seeing a couple of adult butterflies, the only ones I did see. 
It certainly was a relief to find them on this special trip!!

Glanville Fritillary.

Saturday 2 January 2021

A Final Flutter for 2020.

 The final day of 2020 was pretty icy with the hardest frost so far of the Winter. However, the sun was shining brightly and with a gentle North wind I thought there was an outside chance of a final butterfly of the year, after all, the conditions were very similar to January 1st 2019 when I saw a Peacock in the same area I was going to now.

On the mile long walk the air was pretty bitter and the ground was frozen. On arrival on the South facing slope it was suddenly warm with the sun beaming down. A quick look produced a Wall Brown larva feeding in the sunshine. Moments later a large butterfly flew past me and settled 20 feet away. It was either a Red Admiral or a Peacock. I gradually moved to a position where I had a clear view and saw it was indeed a Peacock. The butterfly then flew again but landed in a much better position allowing a few photos.

A December 31st Peacock.

A little while later on a valley that was still sheltered from the sunshine the ground was still white, as it was in the garden for the rest of the day.

Frosty leaves.

A lovely Brown Hare was also seen from a distance bringing a rewarding final walk of 2020 to a close.

Friday 1 January 2021

Part 2 2020 Highlights.

 With travelling distances still being restricted as we moved into the Summer I was still having to stay within walking distance from home most of the time. This threw up more surprises and some quite rare finds.

In the early Summer I surveyed the valley for Small Eggar signs, having first finding a larval web of this species back in 2017. This is a rare moth in Sussex and was a very big surprise finding them local to me. Each year since I have found a few webs with a maximum count of 5. However, in 2020 there seems to have been a bit of a population explosion as I found 58 webs in total with probably several more being out of sight. The fully grown larva is particularly attractive.

Small Eggar larva.

My most popular find was another Large Tortoiseshell. This one, apart from some wing damage on one side, was much fresher than the Spring one. I also managed to get several friends onto the butterfly during its short stay along the valley.

Large Tortoiseshell.

James found a really nice Silver-washed Fritillary ab. confluens in Abbotts Wood that I managed to catch up with the following day. A really smart butterfly!!

Silver-washed Fritillary ab. confluens.

On the subject of aberrant forms, I was really pleased to find a Small Copper ab. shmidtii which is a form I have always wanted to see. To have found it myself made it even more special. Unfortunately it was a really hot day and the butterfly was very active so I didn't manage to get any good photos. 3 record shots remind me of this special butterfly though. As far as I am aware nobody else saw this particular butterfly.

Small Copper ab. schmidtii.

Probably the rarest moth I found was a Lace Border. With this being the 4th sighting in Sussex since the mid 1970s it was a very good find on my local patch. It probably had migrated over from the continent although the foodplant for the species is found in the vicinity. A thorough search later in 2021 is in order to see if a colony can become established. Once again only a poor record shot was achieved unfortunately before it flew into a bush and vanished.

Lace Border.

I had several days over the Summer searching for Clearwing moths. My favourite photos were of a Yellow-legged Clearwing in a woodland near Ringmer, and a Raspberry Clearwing that I was very surprised to catch in my own garden.

Yellow-legged Clearwing.

Raspberry Clearwing.

Dave invited me over to watch his garden Badgers one evening. Despite seeing Badgers on many occasions over the years it was excellent seeing one so close.


My final highlight of the year was to find several local colonies of Willow Emerald damselflies. This species has been spreading all over the South East and it was only a matter of time before they appeared on the River Cuckmere. 

Male Willow Emerald.