Wednesday 20 November 2019

Highlights of 2018: June Part 2

"Stay tuned part 2 coming soon" I said. Guess I lied, as that was back in April! I didn't mean too. My health hasn't been too good ( a progressive neuromuscular disorder of some sort is their best guess). At the moment I'm off work long term. So a good opportunity to get on with this. It would be a shame not to complete it.

June 12th: Green Down, Somerset and East Sussex.

An early morning visit to Green Down where we saw Large Blue (No.41), Ringlet (No. 42) and Marbled White (No. 43).

Large Blue

Egg of Large Blue on Thyme 

First Ringlet of the Year 

Doomed Vapourer Moth Caterpillar with egg of parasite attached.

The early start at Green Down was necessary because afterwards we were going to East Sussex in search of a rare plant. We had seen it at this locality before but it wasn't in flower, so a return trip was necessary. 
We didn't arrive there until early evening and just after a storm had passed through. So nice soggy flower photos!

Spiked Rampion  - Phyteuma spicatum

June 13th: Sussex.

A busy day in Sussex, first stop was at the River Rother in Lower Fittlesworth looking for Club-tailed Dragonfly, which would be a new species for both of us. We eventually found one which was patrolling a section of riverbank. It only ever stopped to rest quite a distance from us though, making getting a photo somewhat tricky. I only managed one with my 400mm lens.  

Club-tailed Dragonfly - Gomphus vulgatissimus

Then onto Shoreham-by-Sea where we revisited the charming Childing Pink and went looking for Starry Clover near the fort.

Childing Pink - Petrorhagia nanteuilii

Starry Clover in seed,
 which is the best way to see it and how it got it's common name. 

Starry Clover - Trifolium stellatum

Next stop was Anchor Bottom, Beeding Hill where we were hoping to see the rare and beautiful Meadow Clary. We had already seen this plant at Ranscombe Farm in Kent but it wasn't in flower, hopefully it would be here. It didn't look too hopeful when the search area was found to be covered in a large herd of cows but we managed to find a single spike nicely in flower too!

Meadow Clary - Salvia pratensis

Final stop of the day was Ditchling Common, sight of a recently discovered colony of Black Hairstreak Butterflies.

Black Hairstreak (No. 44)

June15th and 16th: Norfolk

Off to Norfolk mainly for the Swallowtails but lots more to see of course!
First stop, Weaver's Way, Hickling Broad

Swallowtail (No. 45) 

Swallowtail egg on Milk Parsley

Fen Mason Wasps 
Constructing their chimneys along the path 

 An unexpected bird bonus in the form of three Great White Egrets on the Rush Hill Scrape.

Next off to Wells-next-the-Sea for what has become my annual pilgrimage to see the amazing Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth.

Caught this one taking a leak!

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth

Next stop Kelling Heath where we tried to lure Large Red-Belted Clearwing. A single specimen came to the lure but by the time we realised it was one it was too late. It was gone! No more obliged, but I took a few photos of other inverts. 

Wasp Beetle - Clytus arietis
  Apparently common but this was the first one I'd seen .

Labyrinth Spider - Agelena labyrinthica

The following morning was spent at the lovely Cockshoot Broad where I took a few photos of this and that..

Amphibious Bistort - Persicaria amphibia

Common Reed Beetle - Donacia vulgaris

A Bumblebee mimic Hoverfly - Eristalis intricarius

Mullein Moth Caterpillar tucking into a Figwort

Red-eyed Damselfly

Water Chickweed - Myosoton aquaticum

June 22nd: Rye Harbour, Sussex. Romney Marsh, Kent and Farthing Down, Croydon, London.

This was to be the start of an 18 day butterfly and botanising holiday starting on the south coast and gradually traveling up to Scotland to get a few more rare plants we missed out on on previous visits. It ended up being 4 days!

First stop Rye Harbour where I saw my fist ever flowering Sea Heath.

Sea Heath - Frankenia laevis

And the very aptly named Stinking Hawksbeard, which only grows here (introduced) and at Dungeness. It really stinks too! Reminded me of TCP. The seed heads are very distinctive too, looking like brilliant white little paintbrushes.

Stinking Hawsbeard - Crepis foetida

On to Romney Marsh where warden, Owen Leyshon had kindly given us directions to see Greater Water Parsnip and Rootless Duckweed, the smallest flowering plant in the world.

It was great to see this Greater Water Parsnip because we had previously spent an entire day looking for it closer to home on the Somerset Levels. (I'm sure it must still be there somewhere)

Greater Water Parsnip - Sium latifolium 

Frogbit - Hydrocharis morsus-ranae

Rootless Duckweed - Wolffia arrhiza

There are several duckweed species in this photo. Wolffia is the tiny bright green one,with the equally bright green Marsh Frog for scale.

Then a late afternoon visit to Farthing Down in Croydon to see Greater Yellow Rattle, rare in the UK but locally common in this area.

There are great swathes of it at this site, as can be seen here. It must look spectacular when in full flower. We were quite late in the season and most of the flowers had gone over.

Greater Yellow Rattle - Rhinanthus angustifolius

June 23rd: Benfleet, Essex and Blow's Down, Dunstable, Bedfordshire.

The next morning we made our way to Benfleet Downs the well known site for the rare plant Hartwort. We also hoped to see some new dragonflies and damselflies on the marshes below. We had a couple of unexpected butterfly year-ticks too!

Hartwort - Tordylium maximum

Hartwort flowers showing characteristic large outer petals and a Thick-legged Flower Beetle - Oedemera nobilis

While on Benfleet down looking at the Hartwort we had a surprise sighting of White-letter Hairstreak (No.46) and also our first ever views of Southern Migrant Hawker, with several tenerals on the wing. We moved on to the grazing marshes below the down where we were hoping to see more Southern Migrant Hawkers and also our first ever Scarce Emerald Damselflies.

Teneral male Southern Migrant Hawker - Aeshna affinis

Scarce Emerald Damselfly - Lestes dryas

Essex Skipper (No.47) 

The rather splendid looking soldier fly
 Stratiomys singularior - Flecked General.
Whilst trying to get a close photo of this my leg gave way and I fell in the ditch with it. I'd had a painful knee since I woke up and was finding it increasingly difficult to get about. Unfortunately it turned out to be 'the beginning of the end' as far as this holiday was concerned.

We needed to be in Bedfordshire the following day, so on the way to our overnight stop we popped into Dunstable to visit Blow's Down Nature Reserve. Here we were looking for the not so great, Great Pignut. We'd failed to find this on two previous occasions at Ivinghoe Beacon. Here we were luckier and found plenty. It is only subtly different from Pignut and stature doesn't come into it, despite the great in its name. I've seen lots of taller plants of Pignut.

Greater Pignut flowers and fruits.
The fruits have most useful id feature 

The strongly reflexed styles seen here.

Great Pignut - Bunium bulbocastanum

June 24th:  Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

Another very busy day with an early start at Knocking Hoe in Bedfordshire.We were here not to visit the reserve itself but to look for arable plants in nearby fields. One we were particularly keen to see was Few-flowered Fumitory, the only species of Fumitory in the UK we hadn't yet seen. We found some almost straight away on the edge of a pea field.

 Just a cultivated pea but this flamboyant hot pink individual stood out in the sea of white flowers.

Few-flowered Fumitory
Just after taking this photo I fell over again. I don't even know how, one moment I was standing up next I was lying in the pea field. I badly bruised my hip this time, but soldiered on. There were arable plants to see after all! They were worth seeing too!

 If only set asides like this were a more common sight in the UK

All of the fumitories in this photo are either Common Fumitory or Few-flowered Fumitory, about equal amounts of each. The Few-flowered are the smaller paler ones. There were other arable "weeds" too. Including some of my favourites.

One of the distinguishing features of Few-flowered Fumitory are the minute sepals 

Few-flowered Fumitory - Fumaria vaillantii

Few-flowered Fumitory growing with the charming Wild Candytuft

Wild Candytuft - Iberis amara

Small Toadflax - Chaenorhinum minus

Venus's looking-glass - Legousia hybrida

It was hard to drag ourselves away from this superb site but we needed to move on to Cambridgeshire to see our next plant before midday. Why? Because we had seen it at the same site a few weeks earlier, and because it was in the afternoon, the flowers were closed up.

 We got it right this time and it was well in flower. 
Definitely worth going back for!

Grass Poly - Lythrum hyssopifolia

Next stop another plant we had seen before, but not in flower. This time it didn't disappoint.

 Fen Ragwort. 

This one clump is the only truly wild Fen Ragwort plant in the country. There are a few others transplanted at a couple of fenland nature reserves. So in rarity value it's on a par with Lady's Slipper Orchid but isn't protected by 'armed guards' like the orchid. In fact a few years ago it was almost killed off when spayed by the farmer. Good to see a nice broad headland in place now.

 Fen Ragwort - Senecio paludosus  

We still had a bit of time to kill before setting off for our overnight stop in Northamptonshire so we popped over to The Brecks for a mosey around.

 Proliferous Pink - Petrorhagia prolifera
with  Sphaerophoria sp.

Common Spotted Orchid - Dactylorhiza fuchsii

June 25th: Fermyn Woods, Northamptionshire.
We were pretty shocked when we arrived at Fermyn Wood, with large scale clearance work having been carried out in one of the best spots to see Purple Emperor. We had to walk on to Lady Wood but did manage to see Purple Emperor (No.48), Purple Hairstreak (No.49), Silver-washed Fritillary (No.50) and White Admiral (No.51). I didn't get many photos as I was feeling very unwell by this time, when we left the woods I could hardly walk. We made the sad decision to call it a day and head home. 

White Admiral on the track impersonating a Purple Emperor
June 29th: Aish Tor, Dartmoor, Devon.
After a few days rest I decided to try and get a couple more butterflies for the year-list, hopefully with very little physical effort. I knew just the place. It had been very hot, so I set off early and got to Aish Tor at around 7am. The butterflies were already active but fortunately not quite at full speed yet. I parked the car right alongside a bramble thicket and saw Dark Green Fritillary (No.52) and High Brown Fritillary (No.53) without even leaving the car!

Dark Green Fritillay 

High Brown Fritillary 

June 30th: The Fleet, Dorset and the New Forest.

A trip out botanising in the New Forest mainly looking for Slender Marsh- bedstraw and a walk along the Fleet to see Tuberous Pea.

Slender Marsh-bedstraw - Galium constrictum

Marsh Speedwell - Veronica scutellata

Tuberous Pea naturalized on a small cliff along The Fleet being visited by a very worn Large Skipper

 Tuberous Pea - Lathyrus tuberosus
And that's about it, and a very busy month it was too! I overdid it a bit but I don't regret it. In fact it's a good job that we packed so much in last year as the way my health is deteriorating it looks like I wouldn't have got to see some of these things if we hadn't. You won't have to wait as long for July. I promise!