Friday 25 June 2010

Unusual Bee Orchids

I'd heard that there were some Bee Orchids just down the road at Branscombe so I popped over there today to have a quick look at them. They didn't have the typical Bee Orchid markings, nor did they resemble any of the variants that I have seen in my books or on the web. Anyone seen this variant before?
Each of the flowers were slightly different
 but all lacked the purple speculum seen in the typical form.

Yesterday  I went to look for Dragonflies at Lower Bruckland Ponds and saw most of the usual suspects seen at this time of year and photographed a few.
Four-spotted Chaser
Black-tailed Skimmers.
Scarce Chaser, I just love the blue eyes on these.

I actually managed to get a flight shot of a Beautiful Demoiselle
Well, sort of.
Martha found this ickle Toad (toadlet?)
Moth trap has been back out at Bun's for a couple of nights, two new moths for the garden have been Clouded Brindle, (didn't warrant a photo, I'm getting picky )and this nice
  Sharp-angled Peacock

Monday 21 June 2010

Large Blue Big Brother

After visiting North Somerset this morning to not see an interesting and rare orchid ( it's that rare it's non-existent) I popped in at Collard Hill to have a look at the Large Blues, which I thoroughly enjoyed seeing  here on the same day last year. As usual there were far more people there than Large Blues! Because it is an open access site the butterflies here are watched intently, photographed and filmed in the minutest of detail every day of their short lives, which got me thinking that it was a bit like a butterfly version of  Big Brother. Not long after I'd arrived today I saw a group of men gathered around a recently emerged female and they were discussing whether or not she'd mated yet. I heard one of them say " I think she's already mated, you can tell by looking at the shape of her abdomen"  Is nothing sacred?!!
Here's a Large Blue getting some close attention.
 I joined in of course...
...and took this photo of the recently emerged female...
...though I'm not making any judgements on the shape of her abdomen!!
It was too hot today to get photos with the wings open; even when nectaring they had their wings closed.
Here we see a cameraman filming an interview with a female Large Blue for this Friday's edition of  The One Show. When  he asked  "Could you tell us if you've recently mated or is your abdomen always that shape?" She was heard to reply
  " **** off paparazzo!!"

Seriously though Collard Hill is a great site, the open access policy is a good thing too because it introduces new people to the delightful Large Blue, which in the past had been allowed to become extinct in the UK It's a great site for Marbled White too. Well worth a visit. I've pencilled it in for next year already!:-)

Sunday 20 June 2010

Small Blue Discovery

I received an exciting e-mail yesterday ( well I found it exciting). A visiting 'butterfly enthusiast' had discovered not one but two Small Blue sites on our local patch! Small Blue is a very scarce species in Devon with only two other known sites. I've never seen a Small Blue so was very keen to get out there and find them straight away! Unfortunately though it was cloudy and rather cool for most of yesterday so I had to wait until late this morning. My first port of call was the undercliff between Beer and Branscombe. I had been given directions to the exact spot where three were seen on Friday, I arrived a little bit early though, (too keen you see) and it was still a bit  too cool, I had to wait for about fifteen minutes before I spotted any. There were three again today, two males and a female ( I think), although all three were pretty worn. Tiny little things they are, very delicate yet somehow 'robust' too, in their own kind of way. They posed beautifully for photos too!

After lunch I ventured the 400metres or so from my house to the other site, along the landslips below Haven Cliff. I'm surprised any butterflies were on the wing at all along here because this afternoon it was a very popular venue for beach  barbecues with their noxious firelighter, then burnt sausage fumes wafting over the vegetation. Butterflies could be located though by  carefully listening for their distinctive coughs! Just a single male Small Blue was located here, it was being constantly harassed by a couple of Common Blues. Bullies! 

Female has completely brown uppersides.
Undersides of both sexes are silvery grey giving a blue appearance in flight.
With my finger and thumb for size comparison.
Gratuitous 'artistic' shot.
The Haven Cliff one was in a patch of the larval food plant Kidney Vetch.
The very slight dusting of blue scales on this one make it a male.

Here's a 'small' selection of bits and bobs I've been photographing over the last couple of days and haven't had time to put on here. If they prove too boring for you, feel free to scroll down through them to another bit of exciting news at the end of this post (which may or may not actually be exciting).
First  Painted Lady of the year for me.
Burnet Companion (day flying moth)
Common Lizard
Common Spotted Orchids
The 'rather uncommon' pure white albiflora variety of Common Spotted Orchid
Quaking Grass.
As a one time student of palaeontology I can't help thinking of Trilobites when I see the flowers in close up. 
The Longhorn Beetle Leptura lividia

Okay, okay, that's enough of that. What about the exciting news? Well for the last week Bun's been away in some far flung land, where no doubt he's having to endure endless tedious views of  uninspiring dross such as Red flanked BluetailSiberian Rubythroat and Azure Tit in breeding plumage!! (Jealous? Moi?) This means that I get to use the moth trap in my 'garden' and what a success it's been! My highest catch was six moths (whoopy do!) including this beauty.

Eyed Hawkmoth. 
We've caught several of these over at Bun's but I've never managed a decent photo of one before.
Amazing colour! 
This female was very docile allowing me to take some real close up shots.
I think she was pretty worn out from egg laying. She left me a little something to remember her by...
I'm going to try and keep these until they become adult moths.
A decision I may well live to regret when I'm having to find fresh willow leaves for the voracious' little' caterpillars! Wish me luck!  (though that's not an order).

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Wouldn't It Be Nice...

To see this more often.
Poppies in at field of organically grown wheat a few miles to the south-west of Exeter.
Stunning! :-)

Monday 14 June 2010

A Needle in a Haystack...

That's what looking for the diminutive orchid, Lesser Twayblade is like, in this case the 'haystack' was a fairly large area on Exmoor. I went up there this Sunday armed with a ten figure grid reference which pinpointed the exact location of a flowering spike seen last year. The only problem with this seemingly foolproof plan was that I don't own a hand-held GPS navigator! I hoped  that I might meet someone on site who did have one (rather optimistically) and what do you know, I did! :o) Unfortunately there wasn't any sign of the orchid at the 'magic spot'  but we were in the right general area so preceded to search amongst the heather on what was a  very steep slope in places, quite tiring it was too. Four of us searched for nearly an hour before one was eventually seen. I was amazed just how small the plant was, I knew it was going to be small, but not that small! It was barely 4cm tall and the stem was only about a millimetre thick, like a piece of string it was. The flowers were minute, only a couple of millimetres across and undistinguishable to the naked eye. Still, great to see such a rare (well south of Scotland) orchid. I think the difficulty in finding it adds to the pleasure (if you do find it that is). One of the men on site yesterday was in his eighty eighth year and had been looking for Lesser Twayblade for 50 of them (not continually obviously!) Goes to show how difficult it is to spot even if your in the right place.
The 'haystack'.
A crouching figure (right in the centre) marks the spot where the orchid is growing.

The diminutive, nay, microscopic orchid, Lesser Twayblade.
Close up the flowers show the typical orchid form resembling tiny and exquisite elfin figures

Here Bun is looking suitably overjoyed at seeing such a rare and beautiful plant. 
I mean, who wouldn't be?

To finish, a few more new moths.

Small Angle Shades
Green Silver Lines
Figure of Eighty: Easy to see how it got the name.

Sunday 13 June 2010

Moth of the Year?

Yesterday morning there were two of these gorgeous brutes in the trap Says that they are common in the books but it's taken me over 40 years to see one!
Privet Hawkmoth
Left my hand in this shot to show how huge it is.
What a Moth! :-)

Thursday 10 June 2010

Garden Gnome Fablon

Strange blog post title I know,  it's another search term someone used to find there way to my blog. I've no idea what 'garden gnome Fablon' is but you wont find any here. I've got some moths though, seven new species for the garden trapped last night. These are the first new moths we've had for a while because we took the trap out and about for the first time last week, but had a little mishap connecting it to the generator and erm... sort of... 'blew it up'... a little bit, well more like melted it!!

Scorched Wing
Pale Bordered Brindle
Lobster Moth
Ingrailed Clay (I think)
Clouded Silver
Chinese Character
Beautiful Golden Y
I don't know what this is, though I guess it's very worn.

 A  Male Cockchafer
Before agricultural intensification these beetles were especially problematic, so much so that adults were caught and killed to break the life cycle, in 1911,more than 20 million individuals were collected in 18 km² of forest. A less conventional approach was taken during 1320, when the cockchafers (as a species) were taken to court in Avignon, France where they were ordered to leave town and relocate to a specially designated area, or be outlawed. All cockchafers who failed to comply were collected and killed. ( uk)