Monday 29 June 2015

Marbled White

It was nice to go out in what felt like summer weather, though it doesn't take much of a rise in temperature before we are complaining "It's too hot". Martin had come up with a plan that took in birds, butterflies and dragonflies and we more or less stuck to it. First up was Church Norton, though we did have a peek at Ferry Pool where a splendid summer plumage Spotshank was in residence, just too far away for a decent shot. On the spit at Church Norton the harbour looked a bit devoid of birds and I suspect that the Hudbrel was some way up the creek.

Our next venue was the meadow adjacent to Whiteways café on the road out of Arundel. Lots of Marbled Whites on the wing and one or two just emerging, providing some superb opportunities for photography. I did my annual check of the roundabout, risking life and limb in the traffic, to count the Bee Orchids, just 7 this year and going over already. The Pyramidal Orchids go from strength to strength and it was nice to find a good stand in the field itself.

The female has a distinct yellow/brown rear underwing....

....and a similar colour on the leading edge of the forewing

Next venue was Lords Piece, plenty of hyperactive dragonflies, we found Emperor, Broad Bodied Chasers, Four Spot Chasers and a Common Darter. A full supporting cast of Damsel Flies and the odd Meadow Brown, Small Skipper and the ubiquitous Marbled White.

If an interloper comes near the wings go vertical


Very showy caterpillar of the Vapourer - should have recognised this one straight away - the four "shaving brushes" are very characteristic.

Noon Fly, Mesembrina meridian - thanks to Jim Langiewicz for the ID

Having visited RSPB Pulborough Brooks for Martin to resupply with bird feed we eschewed the long walk to Black Pool for more dragons and left for Woods Mill. At the entrance to the Mill, just beneath the bridge we found a juvenile Water Rail, apparently photographed by everybody and his dog - I guess we happened to be the last. A Turtle Dove was purring away merrily, deep within the leaf cover of one of the taller trees, shame that it didn't venture up on to its usual perch on the dead tree overlooking the lake.

A great day out, lots of varied material in the viewfinder and plenty of pictures for the blog - what more can you want?

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Holly Blue

After a week of gallivanting up hill, over moor and heath and through forest it was pleasant to just sit in the garden during warm and sunny weather. However it wasn't long before one or two interesting specimens hove into sight. First up, a Holly Blue, a female I think, apparently looking for some suitable egg laying sites.


 The pond has its usual quota of  Damsel Flies and an Azure Blue posed obligingly.

Other finds were a Soldier Fly ....

... a shield bug, Coreus marginatus decided that the fresh laundry was a reasonable place to take in the sun...

...finally a Speckled Bush Cricket, of which our garden has many, also posed in the warm sunshine.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Black Hairstreak

At the turn of the year, when I decided that I would try to complete the list of UK butterflies, I thought that the Black Hairstreak would be the hardest to get. Of course I didn't factor in the miserable weather we had whilst we were in Scotland making the Chequered Skipper a dip. So when we set off for Oxford yesterday morning I wasn't optimistic that the day would be successful. As we travelled round the M25 the skies were leaden and it was raining hard, not really June weather at all and certainly not conducive to a butterfly hunt. As we passed through Stokenchurch cutting on the M40 the clouds lifted and there were patches of blue, by the time we reached Bernwood Forest things had brightened considerably.

Sitting in the car park we realised we had a bit of a problem, Bernwood Forest is huge,  where exactly do we find these elusive butterflies? We had expected to gain info on the site but the only people present were dog walkers - a bit of a dilemma. A phone call to Leigh Prevost and we had an exact location and we were on our way. Thanks Leigh.

Finally, just after mid-day, Martin located our first specimen, halfway up a tall privet bush, not really accessible and difficult to photograph, just as we were getting sorted a bee took exception the to the butterfly and saw it off. Never mind - a result  and the wait began for another.

During the afternoon we saw at least six specimens, none of which came close, save for one tatty specimen and that didn't hang around long. So we obtained what I would call record shots - not those captured where everything is in clear focus and the background is clear - still beggars can't be choosers and the list now stands at 53. Looks like the next journey will be northwards.

My first Black Hairstreak

The only one to come down to our level and it is well worn!

So in the last week I have been lucky enough to add three lifer butterflies and the Terek Sandpiper - am I happy? Not really - this morning I missed the 10  Bee Eaters in East Sussex!

Sunday 21 June 2015

Terek Sandpiper

Just after 1100 this morning I noticed a Tweet from David Buckingham posting a sighting of a Terek Sandpiper at Church Norton, Pagham. I sent an email to Martin followed by a text but sadly no reply, I knew that he would be busy as it was Father's Day so I let it slide, birding on a Sunday is not my bag - all those crowds. Anyway, late afternoon I received a call from Martin, paternal duties now discharged, should we give it a go?

The result was that we found ourselves at Church Norton amidst the throng. First birder we met was David himself who, flushed with the success of the Terek, was now chasing the Hudsonian Whimbrel. The sandpiper had disappeared with the rising tide and a line of birders was stretched out on the spit waiting patiently.

Really nice to meet Jan and Barbara from the RSPB who were dispensing tea and biscuits, thanks very much, it was much appreciated. Also to have a meaningful discussion about the RSPB and its reserves, something I can be quite opinionated on.

Finally a keen eyed birder spotted the bird, albeit at a fair distance, thus affording only record shots. Even so, nice to have another lifer in the bag.


As promised Jan

Thursday 18 June 2015

High Brown Fritillary

During Tuesday's Large Blue outing I struck up a conversation with a fellow enthusiast and mentioned that I would probably be visiting Heddon's Mouth to find a High Brown Fritillary. The information he provided, chapter and verse complete with maps, brought about a change of plan and early today Martin and I were on our way to Aish Tor near Ashburton on the edge of Dartmoor.

My confidence that the HBF would be in the bag before lunch and that we could make a dash for Collard Hill to have another session on the Large Blue started to wane as we approached Honiton. Gathering gloomy clouds were not what we expected - the BBC said wall to wall sunshine. No worries - as we approached Aish Tor the weather turned to that forecast - brilliant sunshine and light winds - perfect for butterflies. Armed with local knowledge it wasn't long before we encountered our first fritillaries, fresh specimens ghosting through the bracken at ground level, probably in search of a mate. Unfortunately in this mode they just weren't going to sit and pose to allow us to get a positive ID between the High Brown and the Dark Green Fritillary.

Later in the morning as the sun became stronger some specimens started to nectar on the brambles that were just coming into bloom. Finally a positive ID with all the key features ticked but the underwing shot was the clincher for me. The activity was frenetic and although there were many butterflies on the wing, few deigned to settle. So we took a break and had lunch and a brew to refresh ourselves and resumed in the early afternoon. By now there was a steady stream of visits to "our" bramble patches and the ratio of HBF to DGF increased notably.

High Brown Fritillary

Sex brands on the 2nd and 3rd veins up from the base of the wing are more obvious.

The High Brown Fritillary has a row of "ocelli" just inside the outer margin. Also the High Brown Fritillary has a brown hue to the underside, whereas the Dark Green Fritillary is obviously green.

The third dot from the apex of the forewing is indented toward the body.




Dark Green Fritillary


Lots of other butterflies on the wing in what were now perfect conditions and I recorded the more notable specimens of Green Hairstreak and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. The SPbF looking somewhat worn but still a welcome sight as we haven't actively chased them this year.

Finally we had had enough so back to the car for a late afternoon brew, setting off for home after the evening rush hour traffic. A cracking day out at a superb butterfly venue, if you need HBF then this is the place to go.