Saturday 28 June 2014

Blues and Reds

On Tuesday Dave Land kindly took me for a day out in Somerset to look for Large Blues. We went there in hope rather than anticipation because it has been a pretty poor year for the Large Blue in the Polden Hills this year. It turned out to be a case of quality over quantity as we visited two sites and only managed to see three individuals, two of them in flight only. However the one which we did see grounded was an egg-laying female. We saw her lay around twenty eggs each on a different tightly closed bud of a thyme flower. She was being very choosy visiting many flowers before stopping to lay each time. After laying she pitched up and rested for long periods as the heat was sweltering on the sheltered south facing site.

Large Blue - Maculinea arion

Egg Laying

Picking out an unopened flower

Egg in place on the thyme bud.

A closer view.

Time for a bit of much needed nectaring too.

A hard earned rest.

Cut-leaved Selfheal - prunella laciniata

Also available in lilac

 Common Restharrow - Ononis repens

Musk Thistle - Carduus nutans

On Wednesday I managed to get out onto the East Devon Commons for a couple of hours where I was hoping to see Silver-studded Blues at my usual site for them. There were lots of them with females seemingly outnumbering males so they have probably been emerging for quite a while. There were some interestingly coloured females with one looking just like the extinct subspecies masseyi.

 Male Silver-studded Blue - Plebejus argus

 Typical coloured female

Very blue female looking rather like the extinct subspecies masseyi

Egg laying on the underside of a bramble leaf. 

A new plant for me at this site too in the form of 
Common Dodder - Cuscuta epithymum
Then onto a well known bog site in search of Small Red Damselfly, I was a bit early in the season
for these these really but I did manage to see two nice new males amongst all the Large Red Damselflies.

Large Red Damselfly - Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Small Red Damselfly - Ceriagrion tenellum

Bog Asphodel -Narthecium ossifragum

Round-leaved Sundew -Drosera rotundifolia

Round-leaved Sundew Flower

 Southern Wood Ant - Formica rufa

Friday 27 June 2014

South Downs and Salisbury Plain

On to the rest of Sunday. First stop in the South Downs to the east of Winchester was at a well known site for Musk Orchids - Herminium monorchis an orchid I hadn't seen before. What a spectacular site it was too I've never seen so many orchids in one place.

This is just one tiny corner but photos don't really do it justice as a lot of the orchids don't show up very well.

It is quite a large site and the Musk Orchids actually took some finding as they are very small indeed just 4cm - 5cm high at most.

 Musk Orchid

They vary in colour from yellowish as seen here and....

To green

 This one has a caterpillar trying to hide on it.
I can't identify it, any ideas?


Common Spotted Orchid -Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Chalk Fragrant Orchid -Gymnadenia conopsea

Knapweed Broomrape - Orobanche elatior

 Fairy Flax - Linum catharticum

 Hairy St.John's Wort - Hypericum hirsutum

This lovely meadow was just outside the reserve

I could easily have spent all day at this lovely reserve but was on a bit of a tight schedule. I was soon on my way a few miles down the road to another superb reserve where I was hoping to see the bizarre flowers of Round-headed Rampion - Phyteuma orbiculare. Again I could easily have spent a whole day on this lovely site but the kilometre walk from the car park to the flowering site of the Round - headed Rampion meant that I was too pushed for time. Still, I saw the flower very easily once I'd arrived on the south facing slopes where it grows. 

The flower head is not a single flower but made up of many small flowers which when unopened look like podgy fingers or a sea anemone. It has the most gorgeous deep purple colour. Unfortunately it wasn't easy to get an aesthetically pleasing shot of it because it's just so attractive to flies!

See! Weevils too by the looks of it!

At least the fly on this one as rather attractive green eyes!

When the flowers are all fully open the plant looks a bit messy and not nearly as striking.

A nice fly-less example.

After visiting Martha I took a different route home to fit in a visit to the site on Salisbury Plain where I saw Pheasant's Eye - Adonis annua three years ago. It was still a nice site but the arable 'weeds' which grow there were not nearly as varied and numerous as they had been then. I didn't find any Pheasant's Eye at all, probably because it tends to grow in disturbed ground and when I saw it here before it was growing on the edge of tracks made by tanks and other vehicles. 

Pheasant's Eye growing alongside a compacted track in 2011.
This year there are no tracks through the area and the Pheasant's Eye may be being crowded out by more vigorous species. I could however have been a bit too early as it was July when I visited before. I may have chance to go back in the coming weeks, so could find it yet.

Same area as seen above but this year without the tank tracks unfortunately.
There were plenty of other fine plants to see and one new one for me too, which was Sainfoin - Onobrychis vicifolia

Sainfoin with inquisitive Black Ant

More Knapweed Broomrape....
... Greater Knapweed.
 Its host plant

Rough Poppy - Papaver hybridum
Definitely my favourite of all the poppies, such a lovely colour.

Field Pansy - Viola arvensis

 Meadow Cranesbill - Geranium pratense

 Field Scabious - Knautia arvensis

Square-stalked St.John's Wort - Hypericum tetrapterum

Common Toadflax - Linaria vulgaris

 Five-spot Burnet Moths

 Five-spot Burnet and Marbled White

Meadow Brown

 Marbled White signalling to this Burnet Moth that she's already mated thank you very much!
A very popular spike of Viper's Bugloss

It always amazes me that people are willing to pay £13.90 to walk around the outside of Stonehenge when you can get views like this from the car whilst stuck in the almost perpetual traffic jam on the A303 alongside it. 
Also, notice how the five people on the left are all not even looking at it but are on their phones.
EDIT: I have been informed in the comments that they may be listening to the audio tour (probably downloaded onto their phones) which I now understand is included in with ticket purchase ... in that case £13.90 what a bargain! ;-)
I wonder what species of bird that is, perched on top of the tallest stone?