Saturday, 27 May 2017

Here, There and Everywhere

At this time of year, especially when the weather is warm and settled, activity in the natural world moves on at some speed and there are new things to be seen on a daily basis. During the last two weeks, I have been here, there and everywhere trying to keep pace with emerging wildlife. 
On a favourite downland walk, the first broods of Adonis, Common and Small Blues were on the wing. On this occasion, there had also been a recent mass emergence of Emperor Dragonflies at one of the dew ponds and in some places around the pond edge, every available stem had exuviae in a ghostly clasp.
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (male)
Common Blue (P.icarus) (mating)

Small Blue (Cupido minimus) (male)

Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) (exuviae)

Burnt-tip Orchid (Neotinea ustulata) (var.ustulata)

At this time of year, Pevensey Levels seem to be bathed in a yellow wash, with fields covered in buttercups and yellow flag iris lining many of the ditches. Several species of dragonfly and damselfly are now emerging in profusion.
Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) (male)

Great Silver Diving Beetle (Hydrophilus piceus) (our second largest beetle basking on a reed stem)

Out in the woods, the larvae of the White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) are nearing maturity and the hunt will soon be on to try to find a pupa in the wild, a pursuit in which I have yet to succeed.
White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) (final instar larva on honeysuckle)

The stunning Elephant Hawkmoth has made its first appearance of the year in the garden light trap.
Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Wall Street

Yesterday, I went to Pevensey Levels in search of the Wall (Lasiommata megera). There is a particular track where I know that I will see plenty of megera activity and where earlier this week I saw four males holding territories over a relatively short distance. On this visit, the Wall was joined on the street by two freshly emerged Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) males. These closely related species both hold territories in similar ways and they can often be seen battling together along this track.
Wall (Lasiommata megera) (male)

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) (male)

After an hour of walking slowly back and forth along the track, I saw my main quarry of the day. A freshly emerged female Wall was flying towards me. It was inevitable that she would soon fly into the territory of one of the males. 
Wall (L.megera) (female) 

Courtship in this species can be a brief affair and from first meeting to coupling took less than 15 seconds. After taking a few photographs I encouraged them to move off the track and left them in peace to ensure the next generation.
Wall (L.megera) (courtship and mating)

30 minutes later, I encountered the female again. She was easily recognisable due to a slight deformity in the hind corner of her left forewing, probably caused by expanding her wings against a grass blade. I watched her regularly resting on the track and nectaring at buttercup, common vetch and hawthorn flowers.
Wall (L.megera) (female nectaring at buttercup)

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) (teneral male)


Friday, 12 May 2017

Green-winged Orchid

The once widespread Green-winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio) is now a rare plant. A drastic decline in the number of natural wild flower meadows in southern England during the last century has rather marginalised this species and it often only occurs in any numbers in places like private gardens, churchyards and roadside verges where sympathetic mowing regimes suit this orchid.
Bob told me of a well established colony in a Sussex churchyard.
Green-winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio) (normal form)

Green-winged Orchid (A.morio) (pink form)

Later the same day, Carol and I visited Scotney Castle in Kent. This is a National Trust property and a colony of morio can be found growing on the lawns which are managed for wildflowers.
Green-winged Orchid (A.morio) (mauve & white form) 

A view of Scotney Castle

On a dull and cool day earlier this week, whilst walking along the clifftops of the South Downs, I came across this beautiful female Adder (Vipera berus) curled up in a warm spot out of the wind. Luckily for me she was in no rush to slip away into the undergrowth and she allowed me to lie down beside her with the camera.
Adder (Vipera berus) (female)

This week has also seen the emergence of the Wall (Lasiommata megera) on Pevensey Levels. They generally emerge here about a week or ten days later than nearby downland colonies.
Wall (Lasiommata megera) (male)

Friday, 5 May 2017

It's in the Post

As I was walking through a gateway on Rye Levels earlier this week I heard the sound of nestlings close by. I stopped by the gate post to peer into the adjacent hedge and when they started calling again I realised that the sound was coming from right under my nose. Looking down into the tubular metal post, about a metre from the top, I could see a nest of well developed Great Tit nestlings.
Great Tit (Parus major) (nestlings)

Carol had yet to see the Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria euphrosyne) on the wing this year. By lunchtime today, the grey cloud was starting to show signs of breaking up and so we set off to see what we could find. We were fortunate to find a few males on the wing before the cloud returned for the rest of the afternoon.
Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria euphrosyne) (males)