Friday, 31 July 2015

Friday Flutters.

With the prospect of a little more sunshine and much reduced winds I decided to carry out my weekly transect recording session on Ashtead Common late this morning but by the time I arrived on site the clouds had already started to drift over and the temperature dropped dramatically.

Since the rides were mowed just over two weeks ago the number of recorded sightings of any Skipper species has dropped dramatically. Today I logged just one, probably a female Small Skipper, hanging on to a swaying stem of dried grass.

The sun made an occasional reappearance enabling me to snap this nectaring Ringlet (above) while overhead a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (below) made a noisy appearance before promptly flying away.

During an hour and a half I recorded 10 species and a total of 44 individual butterflies including Small Skipper (1), Brimstone (5), Large White (4), Small White (1), Holly Blue (1), Red Admiral (1), Speckled Wood (5), Gatekeeper (13), Meadow Brown (7) and Ringlet (6).

One of the most conspicuous species today was the Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) with several sulphur-yellow males feeding on thistles, their favourite nectar source.

Linking to: 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Walking the Chalk.

With a definite lack of warmth and sunshine to undertake my local butterfly transect this morning I decided to drive over to a favourite spot on the North Downs and slowly descended the chalk hillside in search of a particular silvery-blue butterfly.

It didn't take long for me to find a male Chalkhill Blue (Lysandra coridon) perched on the abundant wild thyme but typically with its wings closed as the sun had disappeared. However it wasn't too long before I was allowed a glimpse of its characteristic colourful upper wings. 

When the sun eventually poked through the heavy cloud layer there were Chalkhill Blues fluttering everywhere and occasionally one would sun itself on the pathway in front of my feet.


So with mission accomplished and more cloud drifting overhead it was time to gather some strength and ascend that slope. 

Linking to Good Fences hosted by TexWisGirl.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


Another very windy day so I took a short stroll around Heron Pond in Bushy Park and spent a while watching the youngsters on the water with their mothers. First up was Mrs Mallard and her two ducklings.

Then my attention was drawn towards the two very young Tufted ducklings tagging on behind their mother.

This one decided to play peek-a-boo behind mum while its sibling (below) was slightly more adventurous.

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae).

Above is a snapshot of a few of the varied dragonflies and damselflies that I saw during a wander along the boardwalk at Thursley Common last week but for this post I am concentrating on the one species that I had hoped to find, the Black Darter (Sympetrum danae).

This small darter's preferred habitat on the common is the shallow acidic pools surrounded by abundant emergent vegetation. Its flight pattern is erratic and often of short duration with frequent perching among the vegetation.
In the very gusty windy conditions it took me some time to locate one male (above) who decided to perch briefly before promptly disappearing from view. I then spotted another male on the opposite side of the boardwalk and decided to settle down and monitor its activity. 

Over the ensuing half hour or so it used two different perches in between its continual forays to discourage both its own and any other species that entered its chosen space enabling me to get a few images of this distinctive species. 

I would have preferred an uninterrupted backdrop and calmer conditions, hence the use of a high ISO setting, but sometimes you just have to accept  what is on offer and go with it!

Unfortunately I failed to find a female so for comparison purposes I have included an image (below) taken during a visit I made at around the same time last year in much calmer weather.

Images of some of the other species seen during this session will appear in forthcoming posts. FAB.

Linking to:
Camera Critters hosted by Misty
Saturday's Critters hosted by Eileen
Nature Notes hosted by Michelle

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Black-tailed Skimmer.

After all the recent posts about butterflies I thought it was time for a change of emphasis. So from a visit to Bushy Park in mid June a few shots of the Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum).

A fast, low flying species that it highly active but males holding a territory often return to the same perch in order to watch out for other interloping males and for any female returning to an oviposition site.

The females spend most of their time away from water so the males have to act very fast and copulation often only lasts 20-30 seconds, sometimes without even alighting within the male's territory. I watched this pair [female is on the left] flying together for at least 5 minutes before landing well away from the water to continue the mating process.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Butterfly Foray on Ashtead Common.

On Thursday morning I paid a brief visit to the ponds on Epsom Common where this fresh Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) was flitting and briefly resting on the waterside vegetation. Not a great deal of avian activity but I did log Mallard (1), Moorhen (1), Grey Heron (2), Canada Geese (21) plus one Greylag Goose with a few Swallows and Swifts in the air.

An hour later after trudging right across Ashtead Common I joined a Butterfly Conservation walk under a very cloudy sky and with very little to catch our attention as we crossed the main meadow until someone spotted this Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) hiding deep in the grass.

A slow walk ascending one of the main open rides towards the wooded ridge produced good numbers of Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Large and Small Skippers and eventually a few high flying Purple Hairstreak plus our first sightings of Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and Purple Emperor.

After our lunch stop another Painted Lady (above) was spotted and nearby I grabbed a shot (below) of one of many freshly emerged male Gatekeepers (Pyronia tithonus).

A totally unexpected find (below) was this Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata), a moth that is commonly found in woodland but is a night time flyer.

Other butterflies logged during this walk included Comma, Marbled White, Speckled Wood. Holly Blue, Red Admiral and (below) a Green-veined White (Pieris napi).
I was asked to navigate part of the walk along the ridge which took us through several sections of my regular transect and this ultimately provided us all with very close views (below) of a male Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) down on the ground. This was totally unexpected as it was 3 p.m. when you would normally expect to only see this species flying high above a favoured Oak tree. [You can just make out the purple sheen on the left hand wing that clearly distinguishes it from a female]

All in all an interesting walk and with more sunshine promised for later today I'll be hoping for a another decent list when I carry out this week's recording session.  FAB.

Linking to Saturday's Critters hosted by Eileen.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Butterfly Forays.

It is rare for me to walk anywhere locally where I don't have to negotiate a fence or gate and there is always the anticipation of what may be found on the other side.

The semi-shaded track (above) is one route that takes me steadily upwards onto the chalk slopes of the North Downs where I recently spent a few hours in the company of hundreds of delightful black and white butterflies, the Marbled White (Melanargia galathea).

With Common Knapweed everywhere it wasn't too difficult, even with a gusty wind, to find a few obliging subjects and a seat conveniently placed to rest the weary legs and admire the wild Orchids.

Earlier this week on a dull, muggy day I decided to wander around the tracks and pathways within Horton Country Park. There are lots of fences here bordering the horse paddocks where the polo ponies and other breeds spend their time chilling out in between being ridden by their owners.

On the far side of one of the paddocks I again found the resident Little Owl (below), just discernible with the naked eye, perched on top of a fence post. [N.B. Original image heavily cropped].

The main purpose of my visit was to see what might be flying or perched in a meadow just beyond another gate and I wasn't to be disappointed. Despite the lack of sunshine there were good numbers of the expected grassland butterfly species with a few others perched on the field boundary vegetation.

Clockwise from bottom left: Small Skipper, Speckled Wood, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Comma.

Good numbers of the aptly named Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) were spotted dancing unhurriedly around the field margins and gateways often jostling with each other to find a sunny perch on the bramble leaves.

While back at home the first of the lilies, Lilium 'Lady Alice' are starting to open up and the resident Robin watches from his preferred fence perch.

I'll be wandering the tracks around Ashtead Common today in the hope of catching up with some other species that might come in range of the lens. FAB.

Linking to Good Fences hosted by Theresa.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Grey Heron.

For this week's edition of Wild Bird Wednesday a few images from a previous session with of one of my favourite subjects, the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea).

Sometimes they can be very vocal but most of the time they just watch whoever and whatever is happening around them.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Large Skipper.

On the wing from late May to mid August it is rare for me not to encounter the robust and our brightest 'orange' skipper, the Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) during my local walks. Whilst this is the most widespread skipper species, here in Surrey it is generally less numerous than the Small Skipper. 

The distinctive wing coloured patches plus the strong dark sex brand on the male's upper forewings make it relatively easy to identify.

Unlike other skippers the male Large Skipper adopts a perching strategy to await a passing female and even after disappearing to defend its territory it will often return to exactly the same location thus providing easier opportunities for the 'watcher' to get these images.

I'll find some comparison shots of a Small Skipper for a forthcoming post.  FAB.

Linking to:
Macro Monday 2
Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) @ image-in-ing 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Friday Flutters

My week started on Monday with a wander around the chalk hillside above Juniper Bottom in fairly windy conditions where hundreds of Marble Whites (Melanargia galathea) were flitting hither and thither.

On Tuesday I attended a Butterfly Conservation field trip to Sheepleas; comprising a mosaic of ancient and recent woodland, scrub and open grassland; lying on the chalk slopes of the North Downs. 

A nettle rich field produced good views of many species including Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae). It was interesting to note that many individuals looked a lot smaller than normal.

A sunny glade in the woodland produced our best sightings of Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) with several males perched on umbillifers ...

... followed by a slightly more distant view of a mating pair, with the much darker coloured female above the male.
During this walk I logged 13 species including, after a long wait due to very gusty winds and intermittent showers, a high tree top view of a Purple Emperor.

On Thursday morning I made a brief check of the wildlife around the ponds on my local birding patch at Epsom Common and managed to get my first record shot of a Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) perched in the shaded vegetation above the water.

On my way back to the car park to join another Butterfly Conservation walk I recorded my first sighting of a Purple Emperor at this site (see my previous post "A Purple Day"), initially perched with its wings closed on a post before moving onto the ground to seek out some nutrients.

Purple Emperor (Apatura iris).

After everyone spent time enjoying the close views of the Purple Emperor we had a very pleasant two hour stroll around Epsom Common led by Alison Gilry, another transect recorder, enabling me to add Marbled White and Purple Hairstreak to my patch list sightings for this year.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)

Purple Hairstreak
After a lunch break three other butterfly enthusiasts joined me on my weekly transect walk on nearby Ashtead Common. 

Having those extra pairs of eyes and experience certainly helped with identification including an unexpected further sighting of two male Purple Emperor and a Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus) both too far away for the lens so I have inserted a shot of the latter species taken last year.

Once again the transect produced sightings of eleven species; Small Skipper (4), Small/Essex Skipper (3), Large Skipper (3), Large White (1), Purple Hairstreak (2), White Admiral (3), Purple Emperor (2), Comma (2), Silver-washed Fritillary (1), Speckled Wood (2), Marbled White (1), Gatekeeper (5), Meadow Brown (41) and the most numerous was Ringlet (53).  FAB.

Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus).

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters hosted by Eileen and  
Nature Notes hosted by Michelle.


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