Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Purple Hairstreak Bonanza

In my youth I was constantly tantalised by the sight of Purple Hairstreaks (Quercusia quercus) flying around in the oak canopy and seemingly never coming down to ground level. Ever since those days, it has been one of my favourite butterfly species and I have savoured every close encounter over the years.
 Nowadays, I know the habits of quercus very well. This year, it seems to be emerging in prolific numbers and over the last few days I have concentrated my efforts on early morning visits to the local woods to look for fresh emergents.

The Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) also seems to be having a good year in the wealden woods of East Sussex.
Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus) (male)
Purple Hairstreak (Q.quercus) (female)

Purple Hairstreak (Q.quercus) (female ab. flavimaculatus)

Purple Hairstreak (Q.quercus) (male)

Purple Hairstreak (Q.quercus) (male)

Purple Hairstreak (Q.quercus) (male)

Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) (male)

Silver-washed Fritillary (A.paphia) (male, underside)
Silver-washed Fritillary (A.paphia) (female)

Silver-washed Fritillary (A.paphia) (female, underside)

Saturday, 24 June 2017

A Flash of Silver

After a couple of very early starts this week to foray deep into West Sussex, I was in need of a relaxing stroll through one of my local Wealden woods yesterday. The season has arrived early for many species of butterfly this year and I was confident that I would see some freshly emerged Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus) and Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) on the wing.
 When I am looking for quercus, I tend to be in the woods by 0800hrs. At this time of day early in their flight season, you are just as likely to find them drying their wings low in the undergrowth as seeing them flying around the tops of oak trees. When they rapidly fly past you at low level, they give a silvery-grey appearance.
Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus) (female)

Although I have seen mating Silver-washed Fritillaries before, they are usually quite high up in tree foliage, or they are quick to take off from lower levels when approached. The first photograph was taken when I spotted this pair about 10 feet from the ground. Their silver-washed markings help them blend in well to a background of leaves. About 20 minutes later, I found them on low vegetation and with stealth I was able to get close to them.
Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) (mating)

By 1100hrs the weather was bright and hot and I headed home for lunch, intending to return for a late afternoon visit. I was back on station by 1530hrs and it wasn't long before I spotted that tell-tale flash of silver-grey fly past me and land on the lower branches of an oak tree. 
Purple Hairstreak (Q.quercus) (male) 

The final treat of the day was to watch a male Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) basking low down in oak foliage. This normally difficult-to-approach dragonfly was clearly enjoying the late afternoon sun and it was unphased by my close proximity.
Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) (male)


Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Inhabitants of Ashdown Forest

When the Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus) starts to emerge on Ashdown Forest, I become a much more regular visitor to this special landscape, which is home to a variety of creatures and plants that are acid heathland specialists. Plants like the Common Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) and Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) are easily found but the Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata) is a little harder to seek out.
Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus) (male)
Silver-studded Blue (P.argus) (female)

Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata) (ssp.pulchella)

Common Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) (an insectivorous plant)

Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum)

Last week, I was out walking the hedgerows when I watched a Hairy Dragonfly (Bachytron pratense) land on top of a hedge. I thought at first that it was under attack from a predatory insect but soon realised that it was lying on its back whilst devouring a Soldier Beetle sp. I had never seen this behaviour before.
Hairy Dragonfly (Bachytron pratense) (laid back female devouring prey)

Swallow-tailed Moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria) (attracted to the garden light trap)


Sunday, 4 June 2017

Walking on Water

I have been seeing Fen Raft Spiders (Dolomedes plantarius) regularly over the last couple of weeks on Pevensey Levels. This week, I caught sight of an adult male walking across the water surface towards me. It came to rest in the margin of the ditch where it was well camouflaged among the stem shadows.
Fen Raft Spider (Dolomedes plantarius) (male)
I also came upon a female Wall (Lasiommata megera) in the process of looking for egg laying sites. She was slowly fluttering along a track edge and amongst the young grass shoots to oviposit.
Wall (Lasiommata megera) (ovum on grass shoot) 

Calling in at Batemans one afternoon this week to check the ponds, there were several species of Odonata on the wing.
Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) (male)

Looking into the shallows of a wealden stream, a Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) watches the Beautiful Demoiselles (Calopteryx virgo) flying low across the water.
Brown Trout (Salmo trutta)
This beautiful moth made its first appearance of the year at the garden light trap this week. It is another member of the Prominent family and gets its name from its strange looking larva. 

Lobster Moth (Stauropus fagi)