Friday, 19 August 2016

Clouded Yellow Arrival

With large patches of fleabane in full flower at the moment, I set off for Pevensey Levels yesterday to see what butterflies might be on the wing to take advantage of this rich nectar source. I was expecting to see a few fresh Painted Ladies about but I was disappointed to only see one tatty individual. However my heart leapt when I saw my first Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) of the year. This species is a regular migrant to our shores, arriving from the european mainland in varying numbers during most years. Although small numbers arrive in April or May, the best time to see them is during August when any progeny from the spring arrivals emerge and are bolstered by further immigration from the near continent. In good years, a further emergence occurs in October.
Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) (female)

Several male Walls were holding territories and constantly battling each other and a fresh looking female Speckled Wood rested amongst the reeds and nectared on the tiny flowerheads of grass.

Wall (Lasiommata megera) (male)

                    Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) (female)

Long-winged Conehead (Conocephalus discolor) (male)

The usual sight of a hunting Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is when they are seen quartering fields and levels but I watched this one working its way along a trackside hedge and occasionally going into the scrub to watch for potential prey on the ground below. 

Many of our smaller moths are worthy of close inspection. The markings of the aptly named Maiden's Blush (Cyclophora punctaria) are both subtle and delicate. This fresh example was attracted to the moth-trap at home earlier in the week.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Gravel Scrapes and Acid Pool Margins

At the start of the week, Carol and I set off for Rye Levels to check on life in the gravel scrapes and ditches. I knew that we were probably a little late to see Marsh Helleborines at their best and so it proved to be the case with only one plant still sporting a few fading flowers. Star species of the day was the Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda) several of which were basking amongst the weed in the ditches.
Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda)     

On Wednesday, I met up with Bob on Ashdown Forest to search some of the acid pool margins that are hidden away in the heathland, to see what might be emerging. These pools rarely disappoint.

Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus).
 This seven-legged individual is displaying what I consider to be fairly typical fimbriatus markings (in comparison to D. plantarius) with a pronounced orange cardiac mark down the centre of the abdomen and with broad, well defined white bands along the abdomen sides. However, you can get quite similarly marked individuals of plantarius and less well marked specimens of fimbriatus which can be very confusing!

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) (male)

Black Darter (S.danae) (teneral female)

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) (freshly emerged female) 

Brown China-mark (Elophila nymphaeata)

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Start of the Cricket Season

I have been finding cricket nymphs in the field for a few weeks now but July is usually the time when adult crickets start to appear. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been enjoying some early evening walks across Pevensey Levels. At this time of day, butterflies and dragonflies are more inclined to bask in the weakening sunshine and they can be more easily approached with a camera.
A species of cricket that I have been seeking out for a few years, having never seen it before, is the Long-winged Conehead (Conocephalus discolor). I have seen its close relative, the Short-winged Conehead (C.dorsalis) a few times on the levels but at the weekend I was thrilled to come across an adult female discolor slowly moving about amongst the fleabane flower heads.
Long-winged Conehead (Conocephalus discolor) (female)

I have always found the Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) to be a very wary dragonfly and it rarely allows close approach but occasionally you get lucky. Whilst I was standing in the shadows of a hedgerow watching one hawking for prey, it landed opposite me on the other side of the track and seemed oblivious to my presence.
Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) (female)

A few weeks ago I saw several Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) fluttering low amongst the many thistle patches that grow on the levels. They were clearly looking to lay eggs and I made a mental note to return and search for larvae when they were reaching maturity. The larva constructs a silk tent in which to feed and they are easy to find.
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) (mature larva within its silk tent)
cardui larva (dark form)
cardui larva (grey form feeding on thistle sp.)

The summer generation of Wall (Lasiommata megera) is well underway on the levels. Two males were regularly flying into each other's airspace and battling. I managed to get a photograph of each of them and subtle differences in their markings can be seen, particularly in the hindwing spotting.

Wall (Lasiommata megera) (males)

Whilst walking along Bexhill seafront with Carol and my father last week, I came across a very fresh looking Magpie Moth (Abraxas grossulariata) resting on the tarmac pavement. In my youth, this moth was known to me as the Currant Moth. In those days I would regularly find it in our Brighton garden and on the Downs but nowadays I rarely come across it further inland.

Magpie or Currant Moth (Abraxas grossulariata)