Monday, 28 August 2017

Electra Glide in Blue

I don't quite know why the name of this 1970's film popped into my head when I first saw the magnificent Blue Underwing (Catocala fraxini). It was sitting on the house wall next to the light trap yesterday morning.
 Following last year's near miss, when one took off from under under my nose before I had a chance to photograph it, I was pleased to catch sight of this one before it saw me.
 With those lightening like zigzag markings across its silvery-grey forewings and with a blue flash waiting to surprise you when it uncovers its hind wings, then "Electra Glide in Blue" seemed an apt description. 
Also known as the Clifden Nonpareil, this large moth was formerly regarded mainly as a rare migrant to UK shores but it has almost certainly been breeding in south-east England in recent years.
Blue Underwing (Catocala fraxini)


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Watching Dragonflies

Although there have been plenty of warm sunny spells during the last couple of weeks, weather conditions have also been blighted by persistent strong breezes which tend to hamper insect photography.
One of my favourite downland dew-ponds is reasonably sheltered from such winds and on Pevensey Levels, you can usually find a few ditches in the lee of a reed bed or willow scrub where dragonfly activity continues in relative calm. 
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) (ovipositing female at a downland dew-pond)


Wall (Lasiommata megera) (male sheltering in the lee of a chalk bank)

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) (female sheltering in a maize crop on Pevensey Levels)

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (female basking in the early morning sunshine)

Several individuals of this striking moth have been attracted to the garden light trap in the last couple of weeks.
 Just look at those fantastic antennae!
Black Arches (Lymantria monacha) (male)


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Club-tailed Dragonfly

The Club-tailed Dragonfly (Gomphus vulgatissimus) is a scarce and localised species, with very specific habitat requirements along slow moving river systems. In Sussex, its main stronghold is in the Arun basin in the west of the county.
It is an early season species that tends to undergo a synchronised emergence during late May or early June after which the adults move away from the water for a week or two before returning to breed.
(Reference; "Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland"
 by Steve Brooks)
Back in June, on a very hot and sunny day, I was keen to watch the behaviour of mature males returning to the breeding river.
Club-tailed Dragonfly (Gomphus vulgatissimus) (males)

Club-tailed Dragonfly (G.vulgatissimus) (freshly emerged female taken in 2013)

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male)


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Mothers Meeting

Whilst checking the ditches on Pevensey Levels this week, I came across a hotbed of egg laying activity by several Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) females. They had taken to resting on a discarded fence post that was floating amongst the water weed. They were not only ovipositing into the weed but also into the sodden crevices of the wood. At one time, there were five females on the log but too far apart to get into a single photograph.
Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) (ovipositing females) 

Later on the same walk, I spotted an aberrant Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) flying along the trackside. Most of the submarginal copper band on the hindwing was absent. As far as naming this aberration is concerned, it is somewhere between radiata and obsoleta and probably best described as a transitional form of obsoleta.
Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) (female) (transitional form of ab.obsoleta)

This morning, I decided to take advantage of a small window of warm and dry weather, before rain was due to set in by lunchtime. I saw several nursery webs of the Fen Raft Spider (Dolomedes plantarius). Although it was warm and dry, the weather was also dull and breezy and this kept the nursing females out of sight and probably just below the top layer of leaves.
Fen Raft Spider (Dolomedes plantarius) (mass of spiderlings within the nursery web)