Monday, 2 December 2019

Highlights of 2018: July

Onto July again quite busy but not as much as May and June as I had to pace myself a bit better.

July 2nd: Portland and Stobourgh Heath, Dorset.

On Saturday July 1st I was at home when I got an excited phone call form Andy. He had just found a Large Tortoishell at Bottomcombe on Portland. I decided not to go as he hadn't seen it for a while. He rang back several times when it reappeared and I was very tempted to drive over there, but not tempted enough. I wanted to see it but couldn't face driving all that way to dip. We were planning on going out to Stoborough Heath the next day so I'd be driving over to Portland to meet him then anyway. So I decided to risk it and hope it was there in the morning.

After being at Bottomcombe for a good while I was just starting to give up hope when Andy spotted the butterfly sitting on the ground, wings closed. It was really well camouflaged, I'd never have seen it!  After a while it began nectaring on the Red Valarian along the side of the old railway cutting giving some great photo opportunities.





Large Tortoiseshell (No.54)
I also saw my first Gatekeeper (No.55) of the year.

On to Stoborough Heath where we were going to look for a couple of species of Clearwing using pheromone lures. 


Pheromone lure attracting a couple of Sallow Clearwings


Sallow Clearwing - Synanthedon flaviventris



Red-tipped Clearwing - Synanthedon formicaeformis



Des Etangs' St John's-wort - H. x desetangsii
(Hypericum perforatum x maculatum)


July 3rd: Dartmoor and Dunsdon Reserve, Devon.


The day started with another visit to Aish Tor for Andy to see High Brown and Dark Green Fritillary for his year-list. I was pleased to be able to get a nice underside shot of HBF.


High Brown Fritillary

Then onto Dunsdon Reserve to look for Whorled Caraway.


 
Superb Culm Grassland on the Dunsdon Reserve.
The white flowers here are the plant we were looking for...


..Whorled Caraway. 
The leaves of this plant are very distinctive, very fine and feathery and quite difficult to photograph. The flower heads were popular...


A beautiful big Garden Orb Weaver - Araneus diadematus


 Common Red Soldier Beetle - Rhagonycha fulva


Whorled Caraway - Carum verticillatum 

Then a drive back over Dartmoor stopping off at the stream in Merrivale to see..


Musk
Which doesn't actually smell. It was obviously originally named for its smell but at some stage mysteriously lost it.
A naturalised alien from North America. Much smaller flowered than its close relative Monkeyflower.


Musk Mimulus moschatus


July 5th: Sidmouth

Sitting at home on the sofa, camera with 400mm lens in hand, I took these not so good (but hey, they were from the sofa!) photos of Purple Hairstreak. I could see at least eight individuals, mostly males having aerial battles, around the top of a large oak tree.


  
Purple Hairstreak.
A very nice window tick!

July 6th,7th & 8th: Surrey, Kent, Essex, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire


Another busy three day trip which started badly when Andy's car 'blew up' on the A3. It was terminal. It had done a lot of miles though. Eventually we secured a hire car and continued on our journey. That was where our bad luck ended as we saw everything we were hoping to see on the trip and more!

First Stop Inholme Claypits, Surrey, where we saw the introduced population of the very aptly named Starfruit.



Starfruit - Damasonium alisma

Then it was on to Romney Marshes again, and again this was due to Owen Leyshon telling us of the location of a plant we wanted to see. This was Fine-leaved Water-dropwort. After searching for and failing to find this plant at a few sites I spotted photos of it on Owen's Twitter feed. I asked him where it was and  he gave me directions to that and a few other interesting plants in the area.


Fine-leaved Water-dropwort - Oenanthe aquatica

There was quite a spectacular stand of it in this small pond on some sheep pasture. Hence the nosy sheep!


Here's some more in a nicely vegetated drainage ditch along with some beautiful Flowering Rush



Flowering Rush -  Butomus umbellatus 


The following morning we visited an arable field in Borstal, hoping to see Bean Broomrape. I had directions but was worried we would be too late as I'd seen pictures of it in flower a couple of weeks earlier.


We very nearly were! 




Bean Broomrape - Orobanche crenata 


Next stop Benfleet again because we wanted to see the Southern Migrant Hawkers again now that they would be in there full breeding colour. 



I spent ages trying to get a flight shot but without a plain backdrop it was infuriatingly difficult. This is the only one I got. Look closely. He has a crushed eye. Looks nasty! 


We found this pair in tandem ovipositing, in a totally dried out ditch.



Southern Migrant Hawker - Aeshna affinis




Ruddy Darter - Sympetrum sanguineum
Next stop Bernwood Meadows, Buckinghamshire. The highlight here was getting some great views of Purple Hairsteak, which seemed to be taking minerals or moisture perhaps (it was very hot) from lichens on the branches of a hawthorn tree. Whatever they were doing there was plenty of competition for the best spot, because we saw two males appearing to fight over one of them.



Purple Hairstreak
As you can see he is probing beneath the lichen, and whatever it was he didn't want to share. 


I wish I'd videoed this it was quite comical. 
They were each trying to push the other, never seen anything like it before.

The following morning we moved up the road a bit to Bernwood Forest for a quick look around before moving on to Aston Rowant in Oxfordshire where we saw our first Chalkhill Blues of the year.


 Brown Hawker - Aeshna grandis



Purple Emperor  
White Admiral


Chalkhill Blue (No.56)

 This freshly emerged female Burnet Moth 
was found by a male whilst still on her pupa case


 Large Skipper egg.


Large White

Whilst on our way back to the car Andy spotted what looked like some small bees congregating on the compacted path. On closer inspection they turned out to be the Downland Villa, a type of Bee-fly. These were rare a few years ago, and only found on sites such as this in the Chilterns, but are one of those species which seem to be increasing their range.





Downland Villa - Villa cingulata

July 10th: Alners Gorse, Dorset.
Off to Alners Gorse to look for Valezina form of Silver-washed Fritillary.


  Female Silver-washed Fritillary




Female Silver-washed Fritillary form valezina



A female valezina with three males in tow.


July11th: Godlingston Heath, Dorset.

Off to Godlingston Heath looking for inverts, such as Purbeck Mason Wasp, Heath Tiger Beetle and Mottled Bee-fly. 


                                         
The habitat looked good but we weren't having a lot of luck, we did have a brief view of Mottled Bee-fly but I didn't manage to get a photo.
What we did see was totally unexpected. Casually sauntering across the track right at our feet was this beast...




Large Velvet Ant - Mutilla europaea
Not an ant but a wasp. This is the flightless female. It is quite a rare find in the UK 


July 13th: Hartland Moor, Dorset.

Two days later we were back in Purbeck, looking for the same targets but this time trying our luck at Hartland Moor. We did really well here, finding all three and a few bonuses too!


Heath Tiger Beetle - Cicindela sylvatica



Mottled Bee-fly - Thyridanthrax fenestratus



Purbeck Mason Wasp - Pseudepipona herrichii



This male fly wasn't going to have much luck.
 Look closely.


Crab Spider - Thomisus onustus


Beewolf - Philanthus triangulum.
Carrying Honeybee - Apis mellifera 

 
Graylings

July 17th: Wareham Common,Dorset.

Off to the River Piddle at Wareham Common to look for River Water-dropwort


The lovely River Piddle at botanists delight.
 If only more rivers looked like this. The white flowers are the ones we were looking for ...



River-water Dropwort - Oenanthe fluviatilis



Underwater shot of what I think are Minnows in the River Piddle

July 18th: Portland and The Fleet, Dorset.

A visit to Portland to look at the Chalkhill Blues.


 Newly emerged male on a Carline Thistle


Male aberration (ab. suavis) 
with orange spots at the base of the hind wings.


Lulworth Skipper

Then on to The Fleet to see the scarce plant Longleaf, not native but naturalized in this locality.  


Unfortunately it looks like a large portion of the plant as fallen down the small cliff and is in danger of being washed away. It has such fine delicate flower-heads that it is very difficult to photograph.


Longleaf - Falcaria vulgaris


 A Tachinid Fly - Eriothrix rufomaculata
on Sea Aster - Aster tripolium

July 24th: Broughton Down, Hampshire.

A visit to one of my favourite sites to look for butterfly number fifty-seven on the year list .... 



Silver-spotted Skipper (No.57) 


Wild BasilClinopodium vulgare
A white, or if you like very, very, very light pink form

July 31st: Ballard Down, Dorset.

Finally on the last day of the month a look around at Ballard Down, where the highlight was seeing and also getting a photo of Western Bee-fly. I'd seen some here the previous year but they were too quick to get a photo. This one was definitely not looking his best...


Western Bee-fly - Bombylius canescens
Having a bit of a "bad hair day."