Sunday 30 May 2021


 Most years Nigel and I try to have an 'Old Boys Outing' to Kent, primarily to see the Duke of Burgundy in a lovely woodland setting. However, it is not just the Duke that we go for as the site and surrounding area is also excellent for many of the special Kent Orchids as well as many other insects that inhabit this ancient woodland.

The weather forecast was unsurprisingly not good, the story of 2021 so far!! However, despite the weather sounding as though it may improve the following week we decided to risk it, as the forecast would probably change for the worse next week anyway.

We arrived in what felt like freezing conditions, certainly a cool breeze was blowing down the woodland ride. The good thing about going on bad weather days is that you don't see too many other people, of course the problem is that you don't see too many butterflies either!

Anyway, we wandered around the site for a couple of hours enjoying the Orchids as well as the odd sighting of my favourite micro moth, Anania funebris (White-spotted Sable). These beautiful moths unfortunately rarely settle in a good spot and when they do its never long enough for a couple of old blokes to get close enough for a photo. Fortunately I do have a few decent shots from previous visits to here as well as a Sussex site where they used to be.

Anania funebris from 2015.

During the time we were at the wood the temperature did increase a little, but not enough to get any Dukes flying, so it was a case of hoping to find one roosting on the bushes. Whilst hunting for them we did find many Orchids, mainly Lady Orchid but also several Fly Orchid. The Lady Orchids came in a variety of colours.

Lady Orchid.

Pale form of Lady Orhid.

Fly Orchid.

Also several different insects of interest.

Green Cabbage Bug.

Small Purple-barred.

Big-headed Mining Bee.

2 years ago when we were last here I photographed a micro moth that turned out to be quite a rarity and a moth that has never been recorded in Sussex. Therefore, I was on the lookout for it again as it seems that this woodland is a real stronghold for the moth. The Eucosma aspidiscana actually uses the same foodplant as the Anania funebris, Golden Rod. After seeing a couple of these moths I found one that landed on a grass blade that gave a clear sighting of the moth. These are really tiny and generally they land under leaves or amongst the foliage so to get one in this position was excellent.

Eucosma aspidiscana.

Nigel spotted me photographing the moth and fortunately the moth stayed there as we swopped position. It was whilst Nigel was photographing the moth that my eye was suddenly drawn to a male Duke of Burgundy that had probably just emerged and had climbed a small bush to expand its wings. I was so lucky to have seen this little beauty and it was even sitting in a great position for its photo to be taken. After both of us taking many photographs we left it in peace to carry on with its life.

Male Duke of Burgundy.

We had actually given up any hope by then of seeing a Duke so it turned out to be a massive bonus, and at that point we decided to move on to a nearby site that we saw a rare form of green Fly Orchid 2 years ago. I had heard that there was a plant that had just come into flower so we were hopeful that despite the gloom we would at least see it again. As it was the plant only had one flower on it, but with possibly 2 other plants nearby that looked as though they would also be the green form anybody going a few days later would do better. It was still great to see this little green beauty though despite it being in the darkest part of the wood, and this finished off a cold, miserable but fantastic day.

Fly Orchid var. ochroleuca.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Not A Dingy Stroll.

 On Monday I was feeling pretty low after a rather depressing weekend and the weather continuing to be extremely miserable.

I thought the only way to improve the mood was to wrap up and go for a walk in the cool wind. To be honest I was still feeling down and a bit sorry for myself but at least I was out in the open air and after seeing a few Wall Brown and 3 Grizzled Skipper the mood had improved a little.

I also came across another Small Eggar larval web, these are like so many things this year, well behind where you would expect them to be as far as growth goes. Last year the webs were very visible and the larvae much larger than the ones I've seen so far this year.

I then spotted another larval web but realised straight away that it was a web of Lackey moth larvae. This larva is particularly colourful and is always a great find. I started to photograph the larvae when I spotted a fly that was obviously bothering the larvae as they were very agitated every time the fly got too near. I was pretty sure that the fly was a parasitic fly trying to lay eggs in the larvae so having got a few photos of both the fly and the larvae I was hoping that the pictures would prove useful in identifying a possible parasitic fly to the Lackey.

Lackey Larval Web with interloper.

I contacted the Sussex Moth Recorder to see if he knew if the Lackey had a fly that was a parasite to them and he wasn't sure, but he knew a man that did. Chris Rapier is probably the top authority on parasitic flies and he identified the fly straight away as a Goniocera versicolor which is a known parasitic fly that targets the Lackey. It is quite a rare fly and is only known from Wales and the South West of England and as it happens this is the very first Sussex record of the fly. Of course, it is pretty easy to overlook, but it is pretty good getting a Sussex first on a walk I wasn't really expecting to see anything much!!

Lackey Larvae and the Goniocera versicolor eyeing them up.

A little bit further into the walk a large black and white bee settled just by me. It was another strange insect and I managed just a quick grab shot before it went off on its way. This one wasn't a rarity, but was a Grey Mining Bee. Still nice to see and another creature I can't remember seeing settled before.

Grey Mining Bee.

By now the clouds were really building up and I was thinking I should head for home, but a really fresh Dingy Skipper landed just by me and after getting a couple of shots of it with its wings wide open it proceeded to go to roost. Just a little further along the valley it looked as though it was raining very heavily, but where I was I escaped all but a little drizzle and it wasn't long before the sun came back out, and the Dingy Skipper once again opened fully for me.

Dingy Skipper looking smart.

Dingy Skipper preparing to roost with a backdrop of Germander Speedwell.

Dingy Skipper warming back up again.

Although my mood at the start of the walk was very Dingy, the Dingy Skipper really helped me to feel a lot better, then of course the news that I had found a County first lifted it yet further!!

Saturday 22 May 2021

All By Myself.

 Don't worry, I am not about to burst out in song with an Eric Carmen impression!!

Lately I have been doing a few Naturetrek walks, helping like minded people find some interesting insects and creatures, on these walks I generally don't take photographs as the priority is to help the others to get some memorable images.

It was really nice therefore to manage a walk on my own last Monday when I could take some photographs of my own, and I got lucky very early into the walk when I found a confiding female Orange-tip. This is a species that is not particularly numerous around these parts, probably due to the mowing regime of the local council, where they mow the Cuckoo-flower and Garlic Mustard before the larvae has fully grown and left the plant to pupate. This situation has started to improve over the past couple of years so fingers crossed that the Orange-tip numbers will grow locally.

There was also a male Holly Blue that kept settling within range, nectaring near the car park.

Despite the coolish breeze that never seems to go away several other gems were found with the star being a very fresh Grizzled Skipper. With the cool weather it kept landing in positions where it could roost if the rain started, but then opening up fully when the dappled sunlight came through.

With other sightings of Green Hairstreak, Brown Argus and many Dingy Skipper it really was a very pleasant session.

Female Orange-tip on Herb Robert.

Female Orange-tip on Dandelion seed-head.

Male Holly Blue.

Male Brown Argus.

Grizzled Skipper.

Grizzled Skipper on Salad Burnet.

Small Eggar larvae steadily growing.

Monday 17 May 2021

Summer Purple Sandpipers.

 Despite it now being mid May the over-wintering Purple Sandpipers are still hanging around the local area instead of heading North to breed. It maybe has something to do with the weather still feeling far from Summer!!

I was lucky last week when I paid them a visit as the rain had almost stopped when I left the car and by the time I had reached the site the sun had come out.

I saw  at least 12 Purple Sandpipers as well as a handful of Turnstone, with most of the Sandpipers staying on the lower part of the pier. After a short while though two of the Sandpipers came to the top of the pier allowing a chance to photograph these lovely little waders in their Summer outfits.

Quite strange that the colour of their bills and legs change as well as their general plumage going darker. I daresay the birds will move North very soon now, so perhaps I got there just in time.

Purple Sandpiper.


Friday 14 May 2021

Local Walks.

 Most of my spare time recently has been taken on a few local walks. Certainly butterflies are at last appearing in larger numbers, despite the weather staying particularly poor. My year count is now up to 22 species, over halfway towards my 2020 grand total!!

The most recent additions have been Common Blue and Brown Argus.

I have also been spotting the odd orchid and micro moth, one of which was a new record for my local patch, Rhopobota stagnana. The first Small Eggar larval web of the year has also been found. Hopefully the first of many.

Meanwhile in the woods several Pearl-bordered Fritillary have been seen, even though the numbers are still quite low there should still be some to emerge. So much later this year after the very cold April. A couple of interesting Beetles have also been seen.

Male Pearl-bordered Fritillary (in a howling wind)!!

Female Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

Female Adela Reaumurella.

Small Eggar larval web.

Male Wall Brown.

Burnt Orchid.

Rhagium mordax.

Minataur Beetle collecting dung.

Monday 3 May 2021

Red Sword-grass.

 During last week I put the moth trap out just the once. With the weather being persistent in being very cold at night and often slightly too breezy near the coast it just hasn't warranted putting it out any more than that. Having said that, being woken up at first light by some Magpies on the lawn I quickly got downstairs before the birds could eat all the rare moths that I hoped for, but far from expected.

With bleary eyes I opened the trap up and turned over each egg box in hope only to find nothing. I really was fearing that there was going to be a totally empty trap, when at last, an egg box with a moth on it. It was also a more interesting moth as I thought it was a Mullein Moth, a moth I had caught a couple of times before over the years. I potted it up and went back to bed.

It was whilst I was laying there that I began to wonder if it was a Mullein Moth. I had only looked at it very briefly through my bleary eyes and something bugged me that maybe it was a bit more interesting.

When eventually I got up I took the moth book downstairs and had another quick look at the moth and realised it was my first ever Red Sword-grass. A much more unusual moth to catch, especially in Sussex, as not too many are caught in the County.

A little while later I did find a 2nd moth on the fence that had been attracted in by the moth trap. This one was a very common one although it was my first Shuttle-shaped Dart of the year.

Red Sword-grass.