Saturday, 31 July 2010

A Day In The Garden

A couple of picks from the overnight moth trap.
Pale Prominent, excellently freaky.
Lathronympha strigana a rather striking member of the Tortrix group of moths. Although a common southern species the first one I have caught.
10_07_31_longfield_098_ lathronympha_strigana

Noticed a large dragonfly patrolling the garden and finally caught it settled on a cotoneaster.
Migrant Hawker

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

More Moths….and a free cream tea!

Oncocera semirubella
Blood Vein
Early Thorn (2nd Generation)
Black Arches
10_07_27_longfield_146_black_arches 10_07_27_longfield_125_black_arches

Also went back to Cliffe this time looking for two species of rare Odonata and failed to see either but never mind as the day was rounded off with a free, yes free cream tea at Milbrooks Garden Centre. Before you go racing off, you do need a voucher from their calendar though.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Infantry vs Tanks

At first glance all seems quiet in the garden but on closer inspection, today heralded a major offensive….

The Battlefield
10_07_25_longfield_230_ox_eye_garden7-Spot Ladybird Laagar.
10_07_25_longfield_223_ladybird_laagarAnt front Line and the 7-spots are on the move.
Direct hit, one aphid down.
Counter attack but it’s a heavily armoured predator and the best the ants can hope for is to drive it away.
10_07_25_longfield_149_7_spot_ant_attackThe opposition are too many so withdraw, check damage and clean up.
10_07_25_longfield_194_7_spot_clean_up Rest and regroup, ready for the next attack.
A pleasing total of 12 7-spot ladybirds in one small area of the garden today along with several harlequins. At one point I was watching 7 ants defending and losing against 2 7-spots. The life of the infantry is tough, what chance do they stand against tanks?

Elsewhere in the garden…

Brimstone feeding amongst the sweat peas.
Scaeva pyrastri
10_07_24_longfield_125_Scaeva_pyrastri Hairy Eyes

Out amongst the hoverflies was this amazing beastie.

I’ve no idea what it is but it would ambush hoverflies, hold them in it’s long legs and appear to sting them and then let them go. I’m assuming it was laying an egg in or on the hoverfly. It also had some very fierce looking pincers and extremely large eyes which definitely helped it to track the hoverflies. The preferred prey species seemed to be Episyrphus balteatus but that may be because they are the ost numerous amongst the ox-eye daisies and valerian.

Ran the mv trap on Friday night but a full moon lit night affected the number of the species caught. A couple of nice waves though.

Dwarf Cream Wave
10_07_24_longfield_080_dwarf cream wave
Single-dotted Wave
10_07_24_longfield_067_single-dotted wave

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Local Specialities

A stupendous night for the moth trap, 53 species and I almost certainly missed quite a few others. Which is more than can be said for the local sparrows and blackbirds who seemed to have tuned into my trap and surrounding bushes, helping themselves to many a hapless moth. Not content with struggling to identify most of the macro species I’m now struggling even more in trying to identify the micro species, a not insignificant challenge but whilst they may be small they still look smart. 

Lozotaeniodes formosanus
10_07_20_moths_081_Lozotaeniodes_formosanusCrambus culmella
Epiblema foenella
Scalloped Oak
10_07_20_moths_057_scalloped_oak Festoon
Evergestis extimalis
10_07_20_moths_026_Evergestis extimalis
Around midday I visited Cliffe pools to try and see if I could find the Southern Emerald Damselflies that had been found there. Needless to say I didn’t see them but the marsh was alive with darters, emeralds and butterflies.

Ruddy Darter 10_07_20_cliffe_059_ruddy_darter Scarce Emerald

Monday, 19 July 2010

Watch Where You Step

The weekend started off well as I ran my moth trap over Friday night and was pleased to get a good number of different species when I checked the following morning. One nice find for the garden was a species called waved black which has a nationally scarce B status which means that it has been recorded from between 31-100 10Km squares in Great Britain since 1 Jan 1980. It has two main centres of distribution (Surrey and Worcestershire) with the moth increasing its range in recent decades into many southern counties including Kent.

Waved Black10_07_17_waved_black_001

Then on Sunday, having been avidly reading Greenies blog, I set off to try and see purple emperor at Dene Park near Tonbridge. It felt good to be going to a new location and also trying to see a new species of butterfly before especially one that I had wanted to see for many years. The first thing that struck me about the Forestry Commission site was the amount of dog mess littering the paths. Whilst potentially good for attracting the butterflies you certainly had to be very careful where you stepped and knelt when taking photos. I could start a rant here about irresponsible dog owners but I won’t as it has been done many times before. Leaving the muck aside, the site is superb for butterflies and without really trying I notched up 11 species and two species of Aeshna dragonflies in southern and brown hawkers. We managed to see 4 purple emperors including 2 males, with a fifth male being photographed on the ground by some other visiting folks.

Southern Hawker10_07_18_dene_park_039_southern_hawker

White Admiral

Purple Emperor10_07_18_dene_park_049_purple_emperor

Friday, 16 July 2010

A Stroke Of Luck

Having got back home after the cetacean survey on Tuesday evening I found out that the white-tailed plover had appeared at Dungeness on Sunday. On Wednesday evening I found out that it was still there and decided to try and see it after work on Thursday as I had never seen one, anywhere. I arrived at the north end of the ARC pit and parked up amongst the throng of all the 5 other cars. I quickly made it to the hide and fought my way past the 6 other people to finally sit down and see this great looking bird.

10_07_15_white_tailed_plover_036 10_07_15_white_tailed_plover_018
The amazingly few people watching such a rare bird was a surprise but I guess it had been around for a few days/weeks. A stroke of luck for me.

ORCA Biscay Survey

Earlier in the week I led a cetacean survey across the Bay of Biscay and English Channel aboard the Brittany Ferry Pont Avon which leaves from Plymouth goes to Santander and returns to Portsmouth. The survey was run for Organisation Cetacea . The weather should have been good from the look of the isobar distances on the BBC weather site but seemed to be contradicted from the info provided by the shipping forecast. So I plumped for not really knowing what to expect and would just see what happened, hoping that the sea state would be a good calm one to give the survey team the best chance of seeing whales, dolphins and porpoises. As it turned out the sea state was great for the majority of the trip.

And ended up just getting better.

10_07_12_biscay_003_sea_state1 However we had frustratingly long gaps in between our cetacean sightings and whilst we clocked up a commendable 6 species we didn’t really see that many animals. We managed to record, Common Dolphin, Striped Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise, Sperm Whale, Minke Whale and an unidentified Beaked Whale along with Basking Shark. And for the bird lovers a smattering of species, Balearic, Manx and Cory’s Shearwaters, Great and Arctic Skua a Black Kite a few Common Terns and Gannets.


This shot of one of the Sperm Whales show the distinctive low angled and sideways blow, the glint in the water to the right of the blow is the start of the dorsal ridge.

The survey trips are always good fun and it is certainly a privilege to be able to look from the bridge. Role on August 20th when I m back out there again.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Trouble in the trap

Had a good catch in the moth trap overnight but it would have been better if some enterprising wasps hadn’t also found it. On checking the trap at 06:00 this morning there were the signs that the efficient predators had been at work, moths wings on the ground. Whilst emptying the trap a couple of wasps made a visit and started to attack moths on the ground, no matter if they were even bigger than the wasps. In fact a set of wings I found belonged to an elephant hawk moth, which must have been some struggle and some feat of flying for the wasp to carry away the body. The wasp tactics were simply pounce and sting several times with the poor moth struggling to walk away, they didn’t seem to fly off. I then had to keep an eye on an inquisitive and bold female blackbird who was intent on getting under my feet and grabbing any moth she could. Still there were still some good moths in the trap to see, including fresh elephant hawk and privet hawk moths, buff ermines, swallowtail moths, smoky wainscott and others. The rarest of the night was a festoon, only the second I have caught and having a nationally scarce status.

Some photos below of recently caught goodies.

Scorched Wing

The Coronet
Blue-bordered Carpet

Small Yellow Wave
Privet Hawk Moth

Also in the garden today, small skipper, comma, small white and silver Y and a crossbill over.

Then this evening, a holly blue and a lovely fresh small tortoiseshell, cannot remember the last time I had one in the garden.


Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Walking home this evening, one of my neighbours had found a hedgehog by their garage door. Whilst the neighbour had put down some cat food the hedgehog wasn’t interested and was not really behaving normally, especially wandering around in the day. I managed to pick up the hedgehog wrapping it in an old towel and placing in a box. On calling the RSCPA we were advised to contact our local vets which we duly did. They took in the hedgehog which was having breathing difficulties and also losing blood from its nose. On contacting the vets later in the evening the poor hedgehog had been put to sleep as it had been diagnosed with pneumonia which according to the vets is a common illness in hedgehogs. Such a shame as I’m sure this hedgehog was the one I had seen in the garden on Monday and the first one I had seen in the garden this year.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Breakfast Birding and Brief Visits

Having breakfast on our patio is usually an infrequent treat but this summer it is becoming the norm. Between mouthfuls of cereal this morning though it was unexpected to see two small flocks of lapwings flying west over the garden totalling 22 birds and finally I caught up with the crossbills that I have been hearing for over a week and a half, seeing and hearing 21 birds, a welcome garden tick. I then had to go down to Hampshire and stopped on the way at Thursley Common but only for a very brief visit. Whilst many of the ditches and pools were drying up, I managed to see a couple of new species for me, namely black darter and emerald damselfly.

Black Darter, male.

Emerald Damselfly, female

Monday, 5 July 2010

New Forest, Dragons & Damsels

A short break for Lisa and me in the New Forest last weekend saw me eagerly trying to find sites for all the rare and local insects and plants but just nowhere near enough time to do the place any justice. However I did manage to spend a fantastic few hours at a site near Crockford Bridge specifically for southern damselfly but there was just so much else on the wing, it was fantastic. The weather couldn’t have been that much better either, lovely and hot.

The heath was alive with silver-studded blues and we caught this couple upto a bit of mischief.

In the heat the butterflies were extremely active and it was a job to get a shot of one at rest, but finally…


The dragon and damselflies were just amazing though, with the following highlights:

A new species for me was this small red damselfly with attached female.


Large red damselflies also occur at the site but are easy to tell apart from the smalls, at least in the males, with their black abdomen markings.


Another new species and a speciality of the site is southern damselfly and I managed to find this pair mating, with the male clasped onto the female.


The beautiful demoiselle was also present along the stream in good numbers, what a cracker.

Then a very nice chap asked me if I was interested in dragonflies and directed me to a pair of golden-ringed dragonflies that were in a mating wheel. Just superb.

We then went for a walk in a nearby piece of woodland and clocled up a few butterflies, namely silver-washed fritillary, large skipper, small skipper and marbled white.

Then tried a site called Latchmore Brook for scarce blue-tailed damselfly but couldn’t find any in the time remaining. All in all though a grand day out with my camera.