Sunday, 14 October 2018

Late Summer Butterflies

In general, it has been a good year for butterflies and the hot summer weather has particularly benefited the multiple brooded species. At this time of year the butterfly season is moving towards its inevitable close. I don't allow a single warm day to pass without getting out for a walk somewhere in the Weald or on Pevensey Levels, to see what is on the wing.
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) (2nd brood female)
Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) (3rd brood male)

Large White (Pieris brassicae) (2nd brood mating pair)

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (roosting male)

Wall (Lasiommata megera) (3rd brood male)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (mating pair)

Spiked Shieldbugs (Picromerus bidens) predating the larva of a Knot Grass moth (Acronicta rumicis

By contrast, my moth trapping season has been disappointing, with consistently small catches compared to previous years. Here are three of my favourites, caught in the garden during August.
Yellow-barred Brindle (Acasis viretata)

Flame Carpet (Xanthorhoe designata)

Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) (aberration)


Monday, 8 October 2018

Basking Marsh Frogs

I am a regular visitor to Rye Levels during the summer months where I am always on the look-out for any insects that may have arrived from across the channel. Nothing of interest to report for this year but another foreigner has been resident on Romney Marsh since the 1930's and is a particular favourite of mine. The Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda) is abundant on Rye Levels and they can often be seen basking on the banks of ditches or amongst the water foliage on the water surface. They are very quick to dive into the water as you approach and in order to get close, the trick is to see them before they see you. 
Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda)
The first two images are of two different adults and the third image is of a sub-adult.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Snakes, Damselflies & Spiders.....Pevensey Levels in September

The name Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) is somewhat of a misnomer for this water loving reptile. Although it is often encountered basking in sunny spots on grassy banks, it is very much at home in water where it can be found in pond margins and in open water, hunting for frogs and other amphibians.
Yesterday, I watched this Grass Snake in hunting and stalking mode.
Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

My search for more colonies of the Willow Emerald Damselfly on Pevensey Levels continues.
Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) (male)

I usually see adult Fen Raft Spiders well into October but I haven't seen any in recent weeks. Perhaps the hot summer months allowed plantarius to have two or even three quick successive broods and now the females are spent. I have however been seeing plenty of juveniles and sub-adult plantarius in the water margins. The photograph below looks to be of a sub-adult male.
Fen Raft Spider (Dolomedes plantarius) (sub-adult)


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Willow Emerald Damselfly on Pevensey Levels

The Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) has been establishing itself as a breeding species in south-east England since the turn of the 21st century. Over the last few years, I have been on the lookout for it on Pevensey Levels. Rather than travel to where it is known to occur, I have been keen to find it closer to home and on Friday 7th September my patience was rewarded when I spotted a single male holding territory. Two days later, whilst watching the same male, I saw a second individual holding a neighbouring territory.
Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) (male)
Also seen on the levels during the past week.....
Blood-vein (Timandra comae)

European Corn Borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) (female)

The ghost-like shed skin of a Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)


Sunday, 19 August 2018

Southern Emerald Damselfly

Observers of Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies) have been experiencing some interesting events in southern England in recent years. A number of species have been moving northwards from the Mediterranean zone over recent decades and have now reached the shores of the English Channel.
With regard to Damselflies, two species made the leap across the channel around the turn of the 21st century. The Willow Emerald Damselfly (Lestes (Chalcolestes) viridis) and Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) are now well established as breeding species in south-east England. The Southern Emerald Damselfly (Lestes barbarus) has been turning up in south-east England almost annually in recent years and it is now likely that barbarus will be the next species to establish itself . The Common Winter Damselfly (Sympecma fusca) is another species that may not be far behind. 
On 4th August, an observer came across a male barbarus at a dewpond on the East Sussex downs. The next day, my friend Bob Eade went to the site and saw it. I didn't manage to get to the site until ten days later but managed to find and photograph a male. Bob and I are still undecided as to whether our photographs actually depict two different males. I think that images from different cameras and in different light conditions may have confused the issue not to mention a lack of familiarity with this species and how its markings might change as it ages.
Southern Emerald Damselfly (Lestes barbarus) (male)  

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) (males)


Sunday, 5 August 2018

Emperor Dragonfly

Earlier this week, whilst walking on Pevensey Levels, I watched a male Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) hawking up and down the edge of a maize field looking for prey. It intercepted a bee and then settled on a maize stem to devour its catch.
In the world of insects, the name emperor is usually reserved for those impressive species that turn our heads and grab our attention. Like the Purple Emperor Butterfly (Apatura iris) and the Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia), the Emperor Dragonfly is aptly named. It is the largest dragonfly species in Britain and the bright blue abdomen of the male makes it instantly recognisable.
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) (male devouring prey) 

Emperor Dragonfly (A.imperator) (ovipositing female)

Fen Raft Spider (Dolomedes plantarius) (female guarding her nursery web)

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Damselfly Encounters

With little shelter from the hot sunshine beating down, I have not ventured onto Pevensey Levels in the last week or so but have sought the shade and coolness of some favourite riverbanks and Wealden ponds in search of damselflies. 
The White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) is a localised species in Sussex but often abundant in favoured habitats. Whilst walking along an East Sussex riverbank this week, I disturbed dozens of this attractive and distinctive species.
White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male)
White-legged Damselfly (P.pennipes) (female)

White-legged Damselfly (P.pennipes) (pair in tandem)

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) (male)
This recent colonist from Europe is now a widespread species in south-east England.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (E.viridulum) (mating)
During Autumn 2017, I found dozens of empty egg sacs of the Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi) in a Wealden woodland clearing. I returned to the site last week to look for adult females on their webs. These striking spiders make a distinctive web with zig-zag 'sutures' within the structure.
Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi) (female)

A couple of favourites from the moth-trap this week.
Iron Prominent (Notodonta dromedarius)
This open winged view shows the tufts on the trailing edge of the forewings that give the Prominent family their name.

Scalloped Oak (Crocallis elinguaria)