Thursday, 22 June 2017

Woodland Wonders.

Over the past few days I've spent a bit of time in woodland in both East and West Sussex as this is the time of year when they come alive with wildlife. With these extremely hot days it also gives shade that some other sites do not give. The Silver-washed Fritillaries arrived earlier this year than expected and have graced the woodland in pretty good numbers as well as the White Admirals gliding through the trees. Some surprises have been a couple of Common Toads in the slightly damper parts of the woods as well as some Beautiful Demoiselles. A great time of year to be out in the woods.



Male Silver-washed Fritillary.



Male Silver-washed Fritillary.



Male Beautiful Demoiselle.



Male Ringlet.



Peacock larva.



Purple Hairstreak.



Common Toad.



Common Toad.



Saturday, 17 June 2017

Not So 'Common' Club-tail.

On Thursday Matt rang me to invite me to join him in a search for the Common Club-tail dragonfly. This is a species that we have both tried for several times but had both failed to see. With our good friends Simon and John having success during the week we were slightly more confident than we had been before. With myself being on a Gatwick drop off we met on the River Rother before the real heat of the day got going and it was only around 10 minutes into the search before we had both seen our first Common Club-tail. This is certainly a species where 'common' shouldn't be in the name as it is a seriously endangered species in the UK with only a few slow flowing rivers where it is found. That first dragonfly soon vanished, but around another bend in the river and we were in an area with several territories and several dragonflies were seen. Here we stayed for the next couple of hours with some dragonflies showing really well. All the dragonflies we photographed were males, and probably all seen were too. Masses of Banded Demoiselle were also along the river, as was a single Golden-ringed Dragonfly.



Male Common Club-tail. Note the eyes being seperated.















Male Common Club-tail.




One of the many Male Banded Demoiselle.


Yesterday, I was hunting for Silver-washed Fritillaries when I came across this very smart Broad-bodied Chaser male that was gaining its maturing colours. This is my favourite stage of these beautiful dragonflies. It was also posing brilliantly along the woodland ride.




Maturing Male Broad-bodied Chaser.


Friday, 16 June 2017

Marbellous Morning.

With the Marbled White season up and running, I was keen to try and find some early morning butterflies at the back of Seaford. With the butterflies only being a couple of days old, at worse, they were also going to be pretty fresh. Of course, this early in the season there are not many flying yet so there was no guarantee I was going to find any. Especially as I had cased the joint the evening before and hadn't found any roosting Marbled White. I had seen a few rather nice Red Admiral though basking in the late evening sun.
The early start however did pay off as it was only a few minutes before I had found a very fresh, newly emerged Marbled White on Agrimony. I managed a few shots from both sides of him, with the ones looking towards the sun giving a different shot, almost all Black and white except the Agrimony. As the sun soon strengthened he soon opened his wings and flew away. By 6.30 a few more Marbled Whites were already on the wing in the gentle breeze. I also enjoyed watching a family of Fox cubs and vixen playing.






Early morning at Seaford.






Male Marbled White on Agrimony.



Male Marbled White.



In the afternoon I was busy with a butterfly survey with several great butterflies seen including White Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillaries and Purple Hairstreak. One of the hairstreaks was found on the ground where it had emerged. Unfortunately, the wings were de-formed, and despite hoping the wings would strengthen and straighten, unfortunately they stayed that way. A very nice Beautiful Demoiselle male was also seen along with around 250 Meadow Brown!!




A deformed Male Purple Hairstreak.



Male Beautiful Demoiselle.



Red Admiral.


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Black Hairstreak.

When I was a lad and getting interested in butterflies there was one butterfly that I would look at in the books and assume that as it was so rare and so far away from home that there would never be any chance of ever seeing them. I have now made the trip to the area around Huntingdon 5 times, having seen them each time, but as yet, not managing a photo that I am pleased with. This time I was to be going to a different wood, having met Phil and Rosalyn when I was at Strumpshaw, watching the Swallowtails. They very kindly offered to show me around Monks Wood, probably the most famous Black Hairstreak wood in the Country. In the Black Hairstreak season Phil and Rosalyn are in the wood just about every day, so they know the wood like the back of their hands. Unfortunately, due to the weather the previous week I had to wait longer than I wanted. This butterfly has an extremely short flight season and they soon get wing damage. As we entered the wood on Sunday it wasn't long before we were watching good numbers of male Black Hairstreaks, but all of them were visibly marked, as well as keeping a bit too high in the bushes. Eventually a better quality female appeared and was seen feeding on Honeydew high up on Aspen leaves. With the telephoto I managed a few shots, but these were not as good as I was hoping for. Fortunately Phil spotted another female at chest height resting on the Blackthorn and she stayed in a good position long enough for us all to get a few shots of her before she flew into the bush and proceeded to look for egg laying areas. After so many hours spent over several visits in previous years it was a relief to actually have a couple of shots that I can be pleased with.

Many, many thanks to Phil and Rosalyn for their kindness and patience in helping me to get these shots. A day I will never forget.




Female Black Hairstreak on Aspen.



Female Black Hairstreak resting.




Female Black Hairstreak.



Last night on Springwatch I was pleased to see that for the 2nd time this series they used one of my photos. This time it was the Brown Argus that I took earlier this year on my local patch.




Brown Argus appearing on Springwatch yesterday.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Odds and Ends.

Over the last couple of weeks I've managed to get out and about despite the cloudy and windy conditions with various sightings. Some of these have been common, but a few rarities have also been seen including my first ever sighting of the Nationally rare Spiked Rampion, a plant that is only found in around 9 sites in the UK, all of which are in Sussex.
Images from some of my recent trips and rambles.




Male Beautiful Demoiselle.



Cucumber Spider on grass.



Spiked Rampion.



Red-headed Cardinal Beetle.



Meadow Brown.



Six-spot Burnet Larva preparing to pupate.



Mullein Moth larva.



Thrift.



Lizard Orchid.


Thursday, 8 June 2017

Silver-studded Blue.

I had planned a possible trip to see the Black Hairstreak on Monday, but as the weather was looking pretty poor I reluctantly decided it was just to far to travel just to look at clouds and rain!!
Instead I set the alarm and headed over to West Sussex to hopefully see the beautiful Silver-studded Blue. It was similar to a trip I did last year, mixing it with a hunt on the Downs for orchids. I arrived at the site for the Blues at around 7.20 and was immediately disappointed to feel that the wind was much stronger than forecast. However, within 5 minutes of arriving I was looking at the first of several butterflies seen. With mainly heavy cloud and the wind it was never going to be easy getting some shots, but a few were just about worth keeping. It was certainly chilly in the strong wind and every time the butterfly was in focus an extra strong gust seemed to come along!!
Unfortunately, it was never going to be warm enough to see some emerging butterflies with their attendant ants, something that I witnessed for the first time last year. It was good however, to see butterflies spread out over quite a large area.



Male Silver-studded Blue on Heather.



Male Silver-studded Blue.



Female Silver-studded Blue.

By 8.30 I decided to head for the Downs to check out some Orchids, as the wind had by now increased further and photographing the Blues was now all but impossible. Fortunately the slopes of the Downs gave me some shelter from the worst of the wind and I was pleased to find a smart Fly Orchid and several Musk Orchids.







Fly Orchid.



Musk Orchid.


Arriving back home by lunchtime after a successful morning, and knowing the rest of the week was not looking too good weather-wise I headed out again in the afternoon for a walk on the patch. It has taken a long time this year to see the Small Blue here, so it was really rewarding to see at least 7 of these tiny butterflies. 



Small Blue.

A very long, but satisfying day, even though the Black Hairstreak would have been even better!!



Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Friendly Stonechat.

Hunting for Adders among the Gorse Bushes I came across a male Stonechat that was more than happy to hunt for flying insects even though I was very close. In fact it was so relaxed he was standing there most of the time on just one leg. Every now and then he would take off to catch an insect, but he often came back to the same perches.




Male Stonechat calling.



Stonechat looking out for flying insects.

I was also lucky to stumble across a female Common Blue, just before she went to roost. Once roosted she kept curling and uncurling its proboscis which was quite interesting. This she was doing for over 20 minutes, in fact when I left her she was still doing it.




Female Common Blue.



Female Common Blue preparing to go to roost.



Female Common Blue at roost.



Sunday, 4 June 2017

Norfolk Bits.

Whilst in Norfolk I headed over to Strumpshaw Fen hoping to improve on my previous efforts with the Swallowtail. With around 6 of these magnificent butterflies seen and some being seen for long periods it was quite disappointing not to get any decent images. The butterflies were only interested in nectaring on Ground Ivy so there was always grasses in the way. However, it was great to have some wonderful views of them.




Swallowtail on Ground Ivy.


Also around the paths there were many Damselflies seen as well as some Banded Demoiselles.




Male Banded Demoiselle.



The weather was particularly hot so on the Thursday we headed for the beach to get some fresher air. It was there that I had some good encounters with some Common Seals.







Common Seals at Brancaster.