Saturday, 23 July 2016

23rd July - I Remember T-Shirt Weather

Following on from the good moth catch yesterday, with clear blue sky, and warm sunshine today I decided to give the butterflies in Old Down another try.  I pulled up at the pond with two Southern Hawkers circling the lily pads.  One threatened to settle on the Iris leaves, but as I raised the camera it was off again.

There were still several Azure Damselflies about, and I caught a pair mating on the periwinkle bank.

Walking into the wood I checked the bottom end of the field by going through a gap in the hedge.  A male Brimstone was flying along the edge of the field, and then resting underneath the leaves out of the direct sunshine.

I was hoping for some blue butterflies here, but there was no sign.  The Common Blue has been impossible to find this year.  There was though Meadow Browns and a Small Skipper.

I made my way into the wood, there were white and brown butterflies about in the grass, and on the thistles Goldfinches.  I stopped by the Beech tree and waited.  Another Skipper appeared, this time Essex.

Then to complete the set a Large Skipper sunbathing on the bramble leaves.

Once again it was mostly Ringlets and Meadow Browns, but every so often there would be a bit more orange and a Gatekeeper would appear.

A s I walked along the ride, a large orange butterfly came at me, I knew immediately that it was a Silver-washed Fritillary, but of course it just kept going.

I turned towards the West End, Chiffchaffs were calling all around me as I walked past the Beech Trees.  There was plenty of butterflies about but they just would not settle.  It wasn't until I reached the West End that I managed to finally capture some that had decided to feed.

This Small White on the thistle, difficult to expose with the dark background.

A Ringlet with wings up.

Looking back along the path, the Hogweed and Thistles were standing tall.

A Red Admiral appeared and on the Hogweed it gives a abstract feel to the colours.

Back to the thistles a Large White this time.

I walked back with the mews of young Buzzards coming from within the wood.  These would be punctuated by the angry rattle of a Wren from somewhere in the Bramble.  Another Red Admiral could be seen sunbathing on the leaves.

Another Silver-washed passed me by, and as I reached the turn for the Kitwood path, another was flying in a sunny patch, but again headed away from me.  It was then joined by another, and they spiralled upwards into the canopy of the beech trees.

A Green Woodpecker called, and then appeared on the branch of a Larch Tree in front of me.

I hear them quite frequently in Old Down, but very rarely get to see them.

I headed back to the main path, and as I reached the turn I finally found a Silver-washed sitting and nectaring on a patch of bramble.

Always nice to photograph, I had seen about four here today, around the usual number for Old Down.  There was no sign of any White Admirals though, it seems that they have not survived here this year.

I walked back down the main ride, and paused to watch the Goldfinches feeding on the thistle seeds.

As I walked out of the wood at the cottage gate, the male Brimstone appeared again, this time happy to nectar on the brambles.

I walked the other side of the hedge by the road in the hope of finding Common Blue.  Once again in proved unsuccessful, but I did manage to find a Peacock, and this Small Tortoiseshell.

It allowed quite a close approach.

Before I headed home I wanted one more chance at finding a Blue.  I drove to Charlwood and parked by the style to the Plain Farm footpath.  I walked around to the field and I was pleased to see that the flowers were still allowed to grow.  I waded through the grass, but didn't feel that lucky about finding a blue, once again there was a lack of Trefoil, one of the main feeding plants.  I didn't find one, but I did manage to find three female Marbled Whites.

The female has more brown markings than the male, they look good against a green background, and a buffy brown background.

And so the quest goes on.  I have now given up on White Admiral this year, but I still hope there is time for a Common Blue, Small Copper and even a Brown Argus.  I can but hope.

Friday, 22 July 2016

22nd July - When a T-Shirt Feels Right

The middle of July delivered summer finally, temperatures well into the thirties, headlines in the papers that it is hotter than anywhere in the world, and everybody complaining that it is well too hot, and I can't sleep.  By the end of the week it had cooled down a little, and on Thursday night I decided once more to try the moth trap.  The Hummingbird Hawk-moth on Sunday was a good sign, and I was hopeful of at last a good return, the conditions were still and quite warm, it did seem to be perfect, but then again I had said that on several occasions this year.

When I reached the trap in the morning I was pleased to see it was quite busy.  Unfortunately I lost a lovely Swallowtail moth, it had settled on the outside of the box, and despite my best efforts it flew off never to return.  First up was a Peppered Moth, a delightful combination of black and white, that appears to be dusted over the insect.

I don't normally bother with some of the very small micro moths, but this micro moth caught my eye, the attraction being the reticulated patterns on the wings and body.

This is Acleris forsskaleana, or the Maple Leaftier Moth.  Relatively common in certain parts of Britain, the main foodplants are field maple and sycamore.  Size wise it ihas a wingspan of between 12 - 15 mm, so small.

Next was what I was hoping for, the first Elephant Hawk-moth of the year.

It looks a little faded.

Next was a Phoenix, a lovely pattern on the upperwing.

It turns the abdomen up when at rest.

Then another hawk-moth, this time the cuddly Poplar.

One of my favourites.

Another common night flying moth at this time of year, the Coronet.

The second Elephant Hawk-moth was hidden under the egg boxes, this time in much better condition.

Showing the pink hind wings.

And the third hawk-moth, non all year then three species come along at once, the larger Privet Hawk-moth.

Again showing the lovely pink and black markings in the wings.

Next was a Scalloped Oak.

The hair quite thick around the neck and head.

Last in the moth trap was this Dark Arches.

But to finish off there was a Nut-tree Tussock sitting on the wall close by to the trap.

So at last some moths of quality to match the perfect conditions, I was beginning to worry that they were going to pass me by this year, but the perseverance played off in the end.  I love hot nights.

Monday, 18 July 2016

17th July - The Type Of Sound That Floats Around

The forecast had said that Sunday was to be the best day of the weekend, but early morning it was overcast once again, but quite humid and warm.  Gradually though there were signs the sun would break through, and when it did the temperature soared.  As a result we decided on a walk around the woods.  I was hoping that there would be a few butterflies about in the same manner as yesterday (details of which can be seen here). 

We set off late in the morning with the sun out.  As we turned into Brislands I noticed movement at the top of a privet hedge, and was really pleased to find a Hummingbird Hawkmoth moving around the flowers that were in the hedge.

As always it was busy around the flowers, and would move away only to quickly return.  This is the first hawkmoth I have seen this year, the moth trap failing to turn any up at all.  maybe with the warm weather this will change.

As we watched the moth Helen picked up something in the hedge.  It was too high to reach, so I photographed it.  At first I thought it was a dead leaf, but on closer inspection it looks like a chrysalis.  I have tried to find images that may look like it but can't so it will remain a mystery.

 A little further on a Gatekeeper was flying around the hedge close to the cemetery.  It is a similar butterfly, if not a little smaller to the Meadow Brown when in flight.  It's alternative name is the Hedge Brown due to the fact that it prefers the margins of the fields and in hedges where there would also be field gates, hence the name Gatekeeper.

The gatekeeper is more orange than the Meadow Brown, and has double pupils on the eyespots.

We continued along Brislands and as we approached the path into Old Down could hear a yellowhammer singing from the large Oak tree.  I eventually found it sitting on one of the dead branches.

As we entered the wood the sun went in and the darker clouds rolled over.  The main path has become a lot more overgrown, and is now looking like it did back in 2013 before all the forestry work.  Walking along there were Ringlets and Small Whites about on either side of us.  

We took the diagonal path which was very overgrown, bramble and bracken have almost closed the path.  This area was quite open but has now become very overtaken by the bramble.  There was no sign of any butterflies at all.

Coming off the path we made our way along one of the newer tracks created by the machinery.  In areas this was muddy, but passable.  We flushed a Buzzard from a tree close by, but for once it didn't go far away, and alighted on a Larch Tree in front of us.

The fact that it didn't go too far made me consider it was one of this year's fledged birds.  We were able to get closer, and by some of the more downy feathers on the legs I feel that it may very well be a young bird waiting for the adult.  It watched me as the camera shutter went off.

The path reached the west end of the wood, and looking out across the field it was clear that nothing had been done about returning the footpaths.  The field itself was full of people with metal detectors.  Our own episode of "The Detectorists"!  I can only imagine that they pay for the privilege, I can't see this farmer letting them on the land otherwise. 

We went back into the wood, and headed up the main path.  The Cow parsley has grown very high this year, probably due to the fact that the bramble has been quite evasive.  This stem was broken, but has still managed to flower, with the stem turning and growing up wards withe flower headed in the same position as a normal stem.  It is difficult to see here, but the stem has bent in a "U" shape.  The power of geotropism, where only a part of the plant stem grows in response to the effect of gravity.

A little further along the path the Cow parsley and thistles line the sides of the track.

It was hot and steamy, and in a slight way it was like our experiences when walking through the rainforests of Ecuador, Costa Rica and Borneo.  Very much like those walks there would be butterflies but all of the same species.  Then from the trees a large orange butterfly past us and kept going.  A Silver-washed Fritillary.  I chased after it but it was gone into the thicker part of the brambles.  We waited but it did not appear which was a shame, but at least I had found one at last.

We turned right at the cross roads and headed towards Old Down Cottage.  On the bramble was another orange butterfly, this time though a Comma.

Then just past the big Beech Tree in the grassy area we found some Skippers.  The only ones to settle were the large Skippers, but there were several Small Skippers about as well.

There were also some very small blue coloured flies in the grass.  I watched one land and managed to get a picture, from which I was able to identify it at home.

Its Latin, scientific name is Cicadella viridis, they are known as Leafhoppers.  This one is a female, which is much larger than the darker coloured males.  By large I am being relative as this bug was about a centimetre long.

We left the wood being serenaded by Chiffchaffs, at least three birds were singing, it could have been four.  As we walked towards the pond a Red Admiral flew along in front of us.

At the pond two Southern Hawkers circled the water, flying low over the lily pads where there were several Azure Damselflies sitting on the pads.

The water in the pond is quite murky, and as would be expected after all the rain the level is high.  The lily pads seem to have exploded on the surface of the water, their yellow flowers changing the look.

We walked towards Kitwood and stopped to check the Violet Helliborines that grow in the verge.  Unfortunately it would appear that someone has either picked or cut one that is close to the road, the grass has been cut, but there is at least one that is almost about to flower.  In this phase it still retains the purple look that gives it the name.

We were going to head back into the wood, passing through the small meadow that in previous years has been a wonderful place to watch butterflies.  It was a much different story today though.  For some reason this year the owner is cutting the grass almost every week, and all is left is a green desert, devoid of flowers apart from a few Trefoil that have dared to flower, and a single Meadow Brown.  After the wonderful sight of a field full of butterflies over the last few years it really is a sad, sad sight now.

We crossed the field, walking through the ripening Rye, doing our impersonation of Maximus Decimus Meridius from the film Gladiator both hands trailing in the tops of the crop as we walked.

We entered the wood climbing the style.

thereafter there was little else to mention.  As we walked home the skies darkened even more, and at one time it started to drizzle, but held off until we reached home when it came down much harder.

Coming into the garden the birds started to line up on the fence.  They have learnt that we mean an easy meal, and they wait for the mealworm tray to be filled.

I decided to wait and watch.  The Nuthatch appeared though before I retrieved the camera and I missed it, but I did manage to get some of the regular visitors.

This Coal Tit has just started to come to the feeders and bird bath.

Now showing little fear, the Blackbird will move away, but is back very quickly.  You can see how bad the feathers are now, with skin visible on the legs.

The flight feathers seem to be fine, it is mostly those associated with the body.

He is the reason we are feeding the Mealworms, as diet can help with these conditions.  Unfortunately the only information I can find relates to pet birds, and is associated in many cases to the boredom of captivity.  This bird can't be bored it has just reared at least two broods this year.

The Blue Tits continue to come to the bath, sometimes there can be up to three of them standing there as if testing the water temperature.

Another identifiable visitor is the partially leucistic House Sparrow, today he was caught between taking worms away for the young, or eating them himself.

Then of course the Robin, one just appears, while this one always takes the same route, from the fence to the log by the bird bath, and then from there to the basket, pick up two or three, and then back into the conifer hedge next door.

Siskins have been visiting all summer, and there have been at least three young birds at one time, evidence that they must have nested nearby, The male has been very regular in his visits. This young bird visited the bird bath at the same time as a Greenfinch, giving the opportunity to compare the sizes of what can be seen as similar birds.  The Siskin is much smaller than the Greenfinch, with a much finer bill.

Once the mealworms are gone the activity starts to wind down.  The rain had stopped and it was time to cut the lawn.  Not the walk I had hoped for, but at least I managed to find one fritillary, and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth is always special.