Wednesday 18 December 2019

Highlights of 2018: August

Not quite so much to post from August, as for most of the time we were out looking for fungi. It was a great year for fungi, Boletes in particular and we saw some really good stuff. I'll do a separate post about them later. We had a couple of butterflies yet to see for the year list and the first of these was Brown Hairstreak.

August 1st: Alners Gorse, Dorset.

Brown Hairstreak (No. 58) 

Clouded Yellow

August 4th: Castle Hill, West Sussex and Holt Heath, Dorset

Castle Hill is a superb reserve and there's always plenty to see. We were especially hoping to see the Helice form of Clouded Yellow which is regular 
here, we were out of luck on this visit though. We were very fortunate to find a couple of Wart-biters. The best way to locate them is to listen for their distinctive stridulation but on this occasion there was a combined harvester working in the valley bottom and the noise from this was particularly overbearing. Still luck was on our side.

Wart-biter - Decticus verrucivorus

Best butterfly was this lovely Small Copper with unusual diffuse colours/markings. 

Hairy Shieldbug nymph - Dolycoris baccarum

Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug - Aelia acuminata

Bordered Orb-weaver - Neoscona adianta

Wasp SpiderArgiope bruennichi 
On the very edge of this females web sat this..

A male Wasp Spider, the first one we'd ever seen. 
 I believe that he is waiting for her to complete her final moult so that he can approach to mate while her fangs are soft.
He's intently watching her, waiting for his chance... look closely and you can see his fixed gaze in her direction.

Biding his time, because his life depends on it!

On the way home we stopped off at Holt Heath In Dorset and in an Oak Tree next to where we parked the car we saw..

Buff Tip Moth caterpillars and the very punky...

Sycamore Moth Caterpillar

August 7th: Smardale Gill, Cumbria. 

Off to Smardale for Scotch Argus to complete our butterfly year-list, only problem was the weather wasn't looking too good. The forecast had said that the sun would break through in the late morning, so first thing we drove up to Knock Fell to have a look for the rare and beautiful Marsh Saxifrage.

Marsh Saxifrage - Saxifraga hirculus

The sun never did come out though and Smardale looked like this.. 

Fortunately it was warm, despite the cloud and we did see plenty of Scotch Argus. And lots more too!

Scotch Argus (No.59) 

This thistle head held four Scotch Argus, two Antler Moths and a Pyrausta purpuralis

Scotch Argus, Antler Moth and Pyrausta purpuralis 
 sharing a thistle flower

Hitching a ride on an Antler Moth - Cerapteryx graminis

One of the Ear Moths

A lovely Peacock

Yellow-barred Peat Hoverfly - Sericomyia silentis

Female Pale-saddled Leucozona - Leucozona glaucia

 Male Pale-saddled Leucozona - Leucozona glaucia

Furry Dronefly - Eristalis intricarius 

Humming Bird Hawk-moth - Macroglossum stellatarum

Wood CranesbillGeranium sylvaticum

August 16th: Eype, Dorset.

The cliffs at Eypes mouth in Dorset are one of only a handful of sites that are home to the Cliff Tiger Beetle. It was surprisingly easy to find but very difficult to photograph as it moves at lighting speed. Perseverance paid off though.

Cliff Tiger Beetle - Cylindera germanica

August 25th: Old Winchester Hill, Hampshire and Spur Bog, Purbeck Dorset

Off to Old Winchester Hill, near Warnford, Hampshire, to see what it was like for butterflies as neither of us had ever visited it for that reason before. We saw good numbers of Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue, and Silver-spotted Skippers but  they are down a very steep slope which I didn't like at all!

 Adonis Blue

 Chalkhill Blue 

Silver-spotted Skipper 

On the way home we stopped off at Spur Bog,Studland to have a look at the Marsh Gentians because I never get tired of seeing them. So many different shades of blue and white too!

Marsh Gentian - Gentiana pneumonanthe

Finally, a few photos from Ballard Down at the end of September, where we saw a few Clouded Yellows and a late Wall.

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.

An early morning start on Portland hoping to see the Large Tortoiseshell found the previous afternoon. Thought I was going to be out of luck but eventually it was spotted resting on the ground warming up in the first of the morning sunshine.

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 to see High Brown and Dark Green Fritillary. 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..

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

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 we 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 


July 17th: Wareham Common,Dorset.

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

The lovely River Piddle a 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."