Thursday, 14 June 2018

Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly

We have just returned from a few days away with friends on the Suffolk coast. Soon after our arrival, I was out on the marshes looking for wildlife in general and the rare Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) in particular. This dragonfly has traditionally been restricted to the Norfolk Broads but in recent years it has been appearing along the Suffolk coastal marshes and also in North Kent.
Whether the species has expanded its range out of Norfolk or whether populations have been established by migrants from Europe is unclear. I suspect the latter but either way it is good to see this lovely species of dragonfly expanding its range in England.
Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) (males)

Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle (Agapanthia villosoviridescens)

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) (female)

Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa)

The Saxon burial grounds at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk have long been on my 'must visit' list. This is a significant historical site where, in 1939, a local archaeologist, Basil Brown, discovered a Saxon ship burial. In fact, two ship burials were uncovered on the site. These and only one other, at nearby Snape, have ever been discovered in Britain.

The famous 'Mound 1' where the intact ship burial containing the Sutton Hoo helmet was discovered.


Tuesday, 5 June 2018

More Dragonfly Encounters

Back on Pevensey Levels, the number of dragonflies on the wing has been increasing. The Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytrons pratense) is probably reaching peak numbers now and there has been a noticeable increase in the emergence of Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata), including several examples of the variant form praenubila.
Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) (mating pair)
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (female, form praenubila)
Four-spotted Chaser (L.quadrimaculata) (male, form praenubila)
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) (female)

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Bathed in a Yellow Wash

At this time of year, the pasture meadows on Pevensey Levels are covered in buttercups and the ditches are lined with yellow flag iris. It is as if the landscape has been bathed in a yellow wash.

 The Wall (Lasiommata megera) has not reached the numbers of last spring and I have only seen them one or two at a time. The butterfly of the moment seems to be the Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) whose numbers are steadily increasing daily and the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) is also doing well.
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

The Small Heath only ever settles with its wings closed but this one is showing a glimpse of upper forewing.

A mating pair.

Wall (Lasiommata megera) (female)

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (mating)

Water Stick-insect (Ranatra linearis)
Having only seen my first ever linearis a few weeks ago, I spotted another one as I was checking the ditches this week. 

Fen Raft Spider (Dolomedes plantarius) (female)
This female is heavily pregnant and it wont be long before she will construct a silken sac in which to lay her eggs.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Dragonfly Encounters

Whilst working in the wood last weekend, Carol and I stopped regularly for tea breaks and to watch three or four Downy Emerald Dragonflies (Cordulia aenea) hawking the woodland edge. This lovely species looks black in flight and it holds its abdomen in an upward tilt making it easy to identify. Frustratingly, it spends much of its time hawking well above head height but occasionally it will descend to rest on lower branches or bracken fronds and only then can you see that it is actually an iridescent dark green colour with bronze highlights.
Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) (male)
Back on Pevensey Levels this week, I spotted a Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) in the act of emerging from the nymph. This process never ceases to take my breath away.
Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) (emerging from nymph)

...and from the moth-trap this week...
Peppered Moth (Biston betularia) (male)


Friday, 18 May 2018

A Wealden Woodland Glade

The display of bluebells spread out across the woodland floor has pretty much been at its peak this week and it has been a real joy to stand in a scented glade and watch male Pearl-bordered Fritillarys (Boloria euphrosyne) patrolling back and forth in search of females. Dragonflies hawk along the woodland edge in search of prey and occasionally take a rest in the late afternoon sunshine.
Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria euphrosyne) (female)

Pearl-bordered Fritillary (B.euphrosyne) (males)

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) (female)

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) (male)

Dark-edged Beefly (Bombylius major)

My first Hawkmoth of the season was attracted to the garden light-trap earlier this week.
Lime Hawkmoth (Mimas tiliae) (male)


Saturday, 12 May 2018

Emerging Dragons and Giant Spiders

At this time of year, I find that I am drawn back to Pevensey Levels more and more. The water channels are erupting with new life and new species are appearing almost daily. During the last week, I have seen five species of Damselfly on the wing and the emergence of good numbers of Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) has been evident by the number of exuviae I have seen along the ditch margins.
Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) (newly emerged female)

The Fen Raft Spider (Dolomedes plantarius) is now beginning to venture out from the margins as the males start to look for a mate. This rare spider is one of our largest species but can sometimes be difficult to spot amongst the waterside shadows. 
Fen Raft Spider (Dolomedes plantarius) (male)

Fen Raft Spider (D.plantarius) (females)