Tuesday 30 January 2018

Hawfinches at East Budleigh and a Surprise Find

Just a quickie. Yes, you read that right a blog post about birds! I've been out looking at Hawfinches a few times over that last few weeks. They're not a bird I seem to have much luck with. I only got brief views at Shute a couple of times, dipped at Musbury a couple of times and last week at Colyton I spent ages staring at a tree with three in it without seeing them once. Only view I got there was when they flew in and flew out! Oh yes, and once in a distant tree. It was good to see them on the old patch though. This morning I tried for the ones that have been seen at East Budleigh church recently, the local patch of Chris from Cream Tea Birding, who it was a pleasure to meet for the first time today. Not long after I arrived four were showing well in trees surrounding the church, but as usual rather distant and I really wanted to get a decent photo of one. It didn't help that I'd forgotten my binoculars. I assumed they were in my bag but I'd taken them out at home to look out of the window and forgot to put them back. It was very frustrating relying on naked eye views as they flew into the yew trees and vanished! The weather was perfect, sunny and still but they just weren't going to cooperate. When one did show itself it was always on the wrong side of the tree with the sun behind or in complete shade. Still... 'I took what I could get'.

A typical view! 
Still it's nice to get a flight shot even a distant one.

Another typical view.

Less typically, it's quite close here and out in the open,
 but on the 'wrong side of the tree'.
I'm quite pleased with the photo all things considered.

On the way home I stopped in another churchyard that I was passing close to as I knew it had yew trees. I didn't see any Hawfinches but one of the yew trees was very substantial and looked a likely candidate for earthstars. I wandered over for a look underneath it, not expecting to find any. I usually don't. Not this time though, I spotted one straight away and after a brief search found at least twenty-five! They were all Geastrum fornicatum, the Arched or Acrobatic Earthstar. Which was nice!

Friday 26 January 2018

East Anglia: Wildflowers and Insects

Here's a selection of wildflowers and insects from spring and summer visits to East Anglia, one in the last few days of April and the other in mid June.


The last weekend of April was cutting it a bit fine to see the rare Oxlip in Cambridgeshire but having heard from a Twitter contact that there were still a few decent flowers hanging on, we risked a visit to Hayley Wood. We did find a few in some of the shadier spots but it was quite obvious their season was all but over.

 Oxlip - Primula elatior

Next stop was the Brecks where we were in fact too late to see the very rare (and very tiny) Spring Speedwell in flower. It was great to see it nonetheless. Hopefully we'll see it in flower another year if it survives that long, as there is only one tiny patch at the site. We did see Spring Vetch nicely in flower though.

 Spring Speedwell - Veronica verna
Spring Vetch Vicia lathyroides

Then it was on to North Norfolk to see Yellow Figwort, a neophyte but long established and quite uncommon in the wild. Seen here growing with a much more common neophyte Green Alkanet.
Yellow Figwort - Scrophularia vernalis

Lastly a visit to Honeypot Wood where I was keen to see the Hybrid Geum, Wood Avens x Water Avens seen there a previous year. We found it quite readily in the company of Water Avens but not Wood Avens, although I can't say we particularly looked for the latter.
Water Avens - Geum rivale

Hybrid Geum - Geum × intermedium 
The hybrid of Wood Avens (Geum urbanum) with Water Avens (Geum rivale)

Herb Paris - Paris quadrifolia
Quite a rebellious one at that!


In mid June (13th and 14th) we visited Norfolk mainly to see Swallowtails, ( see my Butterfly yearlist part 2 post for photos of these) but there is so much more to see both botanical and entomological. We visited two areas, The Broads obviously and also the North Coast at Holme, Titchwell and Wells-next -the -Sea.

The Norfolk Broads

It was fantastic to see Fen Orchid, one I thought I might not see when I first read about it some years ago. Nice Marsh Fern in the background too.

Fen Orchid - Liparis loeselii

Although I'd seen Norfolk Hawker many times I'd never managed to get a photo of one. My luck certainly changed this time as there were just so many of them at the various sites we visited, it was only a matter of time until one stopped for long enough.
 Those eyes!
And look closely. It's got tiny flies resting on its wings. At least they're out of reach of its jaws!

Norfolk Hawker - Aeshna isoceles

The Drinker Euthrix potatoria
While we were looking at Swallowtails, We spotted some small wasps nesting right in the middle of the path. On closer inspection we could see that they were building small chimneys at the entrances to their nest-holes. I took some photos and later identified them as the rare Fen Mason Wasp. One we hadn't expected to see. A nice bonus find!

Fen Mason Wasp - Odynerus simillimus

North Norfolk Coast

 The absolutely awesome Dune Tiger Beetle on Titchwell beach. Best beetle I've ever seen I reckon. It took a long time for it to stay still long enough for photos.We followed it for ages, but it was well worth the effort!

Dune Tiger Beetle - Cicindela maritima

Some of the splendid display of orchids at Holme Dunes

Early Marsh Orchid subsp. coccinea
Beautiful rhubarb and custard
coloured orchids

Early Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. coccinea 
 Southern Marsh Orchid - Dactylorhiza praetermissa var. alba
The rare white form of southern Marsh Orchid one I especially wanted to see.
The very inconspicuous flowers of Shrubby Sea-blite.

Shrubby Seablite - Suaeda vera

 Matted Sea-lavender - Limonium bellidifolium
A North Norfolk coast speciality. It grows nowhere else in the UK. 

A lovely specimen of Hoary Mullein  - Verbascum pulverulentum on the sea wall at Wells-next -the-Sea amongst a swathe of Viper's Bugloss

Viper's Bugloss - Echium vulgare.
The first time I've seen this very pretty pink form. 

The main reason we were here at Wells was to hopefully see the Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth that we saw here last summer (not the same one obviously!) We arrived just in time to see the blue sky move offshore as a bank of cloud rolled in from the south. It wasn't looking good. It became quite cool. I wasn't very hopeful but luck was on my side so it seems! They're such a brilliant moth. I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing them.

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth - Hemaris fuciformis,

Tuesday 23 January 2018


Yes, I'm still here! It's been quite a long time since my last post but in the next couple of weeks I'm going to get all of my backlog from last year on here. I am really! Well perhaps not the fungi. I still have fungi photos I want to share from 2015 and 2016! I've had a bit of a poorly computer recently but my son has fixed and upgraded it for me ...... eventually! (He kept putting it off, so I kept putting off blogging). 2017 really was an excellent year not only for butterflies but lots of other interesting invertebrates and lots of top botany too obviously! So plenty to come. Firstly a short post about the Clearwing Moths that we've seen this year. Before this year I hadn't seen a single species of these elusive day flying moths, which isn't surprising because without a great deal of luck the only way to see most of them is by using a pheromone lure. We didn't get chance to try for all of the species this year but were successful with most of those we did. Five species were seen using the lures and one without. The one seen without the use of a lure was Lunar Hornet Moth. There were lots seen in June at Portland Bird Observatory after one was originally spotted on a mist net early one morning. Read about them HERE. I only managed to see one individual on the morning of June 27th. It was quite late in the morning and I was only just in time to get a photo as it soon flew off. It was already warming up its wings when I arrived and so my photos aren't the best. Brilliant moth to see and much bigger than I'd expected too! Hopefully there will be more this year.

Lunar Hornet Moth - Sesia bembeciformis

I'll list the others in the order that they were seen. Firstly whilst looking at Swallowtails in Norfolk on June 14th we tried for White-barred Clearwing. We didn't have much time and conditions weren't ideal but we did get a very brief visit and I managed a single shot of it.

White-barred Clearwing - Synanthedon spheciformis

On June 17th we were at The Lizard in Cornwall looking for wildflowers and what better place to try for Thrift Clearwing. We stopped in a likely looking area at Caerthillian Cove and before we could even get a lure set up one had arrived. Just opening the lid of the storage box was enough! Once the lure was in place it attracted good numbers for a couple of minutes. After a while the hopeful males get wise to the fact that there isn't actually a female present and they fly off and seemingly disappear. We tried several different spots along the coast path and got similar results. So many clearwings were coming in I decided to try and get a flight shot of one. They are pretty small and I had to stand a long way off with my 400mmm lens but I quite like the end results.

 Thrift Clearwing - Synansphecia muscaeformis

We got excellent results with Six-belted Clearwing too. On two occasions once on a very hot June 18th on limestone grassland in Somerset and again on 5th July on Portland.

Amorous male Six-belted Clearwings coming to a pheromone lure. 
They try and mate with the net and even each other!
They are a very variable clearwing with some tiny and some quite large, they also vary in the intensity of the colouring.

Six-belted Clearwing - Bembecia ichneumoniformis
These were coming to this seed head and attempting to mate with it because the lure had been here previously.

The only one which stopped to pose for a photo was quite a dull colour and
frankly a bit of a tiddler!

Also on the 5th July we saw Red-tipped Clearwing on Stoborough Heath in Dorset. I managed to get an in flight shot of this as well. 

Red-tipped ClearwingSynanthedon formicaeformis

Finally, on July 10th we had visited Rannoch Moor a remote location in Perthshire and were driving along the shore of Loch Rannoch near Finnart. We were commenting on how good the ancient birch trees looked looked for Welsh Clearwing and pulled over to the side of the road to take a closer look. We decided to drive a bit further to find a more suitable spot to put a lure but as we pulled away from the verge it became apparent we had a puncture. Whilst trying to change the wheel the jack collapsed and so we had to call for assistance. It was going to take the breakdown driver a long time to get to us at this remote location so 'just in case' we just tied up the lure at the side of the road by the car while we waited. It was windy and cool (typical July weather!) and a large black cloud loomed in the distance. The sun did put in an appearance every so often and amazingly, in one such sunny interval, in it came. A Welsh Clearwing! After cursing our bad luck at getting the puncture we could now marvel at our good fortune in seeing this amazing large clearwing. Even better the approaching black cloud duly arrived, the temperature plummeted and the moth became quite inactive and posed beautifully on a tree trunk for us. Best breakdown ever!

Welsh Clearwing - Synanthedon scoliaeformis