Saturday, 28 November 2015

Magical Metamorphosis (part 1)

In late summer I noticed a Green-veined White (Pieris napi) laying her ova on a garlic mustard plant in my garden. I monitored the progress of the resulting larvae and on 18th October I located a larva preparing to pupate.

The larva has attached itself in an upright position by a silk girdle.

Two days later the larval skin splits open behind the head.

The skin is shed downwards as the pupa emerges.

The pupal wing cases are exposed.

The moult is completed in a few minutes....

....and the moulted skin is jettisoned.

 Three hours later the pupal membrane has hardened.

After two days the pupa has adopted its final colouring.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Ashdown Forest (part 2)

Ashdown Forest is a good place to see dragonfly and damselfly species that have a preference for breeding in the acid pools, bogs and streams that are found there.

The stunning Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) is a nationally rare dragonfly which has a curious distribution in the UK, only occurring in SE England and NW Scotland. The photographs show an immature female. As she matures, the amber tint in her wings will fade and her eyes will turn green.

Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) (immature female)

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) (male)

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) (mating)

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) (male)

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) (mating)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Ashdown Forest (part 1)

Another of my favourite haunts is Ashdown Forest. Its heathland landscape with acid bogs and pools is home to many creatures that thrive in this special habitat. The Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus) is one such heathland specialist that occurs in small populations here and I can spend many an hour looking for and watching this pretty butterfly.

Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus) (male)

Silver-studded Blue (P.argus) (female)

Silver-studded Blue (P.argus) (mating)

The Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus) is a close relative of the Fen Raft Spider (D.plantarius) but seems to prefer rather different habitat conditions (at least in East Sussex). It appears to thrive in some of the acid pools found on Ashdown Forest. This female (below) is on the hunt and using her submerged legs to feel for the vibrations of approaching prey.

The Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata) occurs sparsely on Ashdown Forest. The subspecies that occurs here (ssp.pulchella) is associated with sphagnum bogs.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Dragons and Damsels on Pevensey Levels

Outside, the rain looks set-in for the day and as autumn inevitably moves towards winter, it is nice to look back on some of my highlights of spring and summer. Coastal flats are a great habitat for dragonflies and damselflies and Pevensey Levels is a good place to watch them.

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) (male)

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) (mating)

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) (male)
Fish Fry
Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) (ovipositing female)
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (mating)

Dark Bush-cricket (Pholidoptera griseoaptera) (female)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Marsh Frog and Marsh Helleborine

At the western end of Romney Marsh lie the Rye levels and some interesting wildlife can be found in the ditches, pools and scrapes of the shingle flats. The Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda) is a non-native species which was introduced onto Romney Marsh in the 1930's. It is now common in the area and is one of my favourite amphibians; its raucous croaking sounding a bit like laughter from the underworld.

 Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda) (adult)

 Marsh Frog (R. ridibunda) (sub-adult)

The beautiful Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) is rare in East Sussex but can be found in some shingle scrapes