Tuesday, 28 June 2016

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes).

A recent and most unexpected find during one of my butterfly transect walks through the ancient woodland pasture on Ashtead Common was the White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes).

This medium sized damselfly is described as favouring unshaded, muddy, slow-flowing waters with abundant emergent and floating vegetation but only rarely in lakes and ponds although evidence suggests it is increasingly being recorded at standing waters.

Whilst I have walked this area for many years this is only my second year of recording the wildlife, specifically butterflies, throughout this northern section of Ashtead Common to assist the City of London who own and manage the common.

I don't believe I have been any less observant in the past but my first sighting of the White-legged Damselfly was on 11 June this year.

All my sightings since then have all been within 100 yards of the clay-coloured standing waters of Flag Pond, with no inlet or outlet streams, which was probably a former clay pit associated with the nearby site of the Roman villa, bath house and tile works.

The distinctive field characteristics are the thorax markings and that they differ from all other blue damselflies in having expanded white edges to the tibiae plus pale chestnut wing-spots.

My first record shot (left) on a cloudy morning was either a teneral or an immature female resting quite some distance from any water.

The immature female develops from the creamy-white 'lactea' phase, as seen above, into pale yellow-green mature individuals (see below).

The immature male (see above) also goes through a colour change as it matures with black markings on blue, often pale and sometimes green on the thorax. I will be on the lookout for some fully mature males in the next few weeks.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Ashtead Common Transect.

After the torrential storms on Thursday which flooded our rear garden I anticipated that even beneath a partially sunny sky late on Friday morning the underfoot conditions for my planned butterfly transect walk at Ashtead Common would require waterproof footwear. All the ditches were brimming full of water that was still seeping off the hillside and the main rides were very boggy so the Muck Boots were definitely the right choice.

The dominant species recorded was Meadow Brown (17) plus Speckled Wood (2), Large Skipper (5) and a single Red Admiral. As expected, due to the weather conditions, the overall numbers for the last 13 weeks of the survey period are down by at least 15% compared to last year.

Fortunately during my walk there were a few other interesting encounters mainly centered around the very muddy Flag Pond including more sightings of several male White-legged Damselflies, an Emperor dragonfly ovipositing, two male and one female Broad-bodied Chaser plus Blue and Large Red Damselflies.

 A female Large Red Damselfly (Phrrhosoma nymphula).

The largest open woodland pasture now has a few clumps of foxgloves but is quickly being dominated by the overbearing bracken but the time I spent here produced a few day flying moth species.

Brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata).

One of the varied number of micro Grass Moths (Crambidae family).

I also disturbed at least half a dozen Silver Y (Autographa gamma) but getting a clear focus deep within their grassy hideaway was a real challenge!

The most unexpected find was this immature Black-tailed Skimmer (above) probably displaced by the windy weather. Below is just one of the five Large Skipper recorded throughout the transect.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A Skipper at long last.

My first Skipper sighting for this year was recorded last Sunday some 100 yards before the start of my Ashtead Common transect. I watched two male Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) nectaring on a patch of bramble flowers constantly being disturbed by a couple of Meadow Brown.

With much better weather forecast for this coming weekend I will be hoping to record Skippers during my planned transect walk.

I did record two Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) on the transect last Sunday under a cloudy sky and again I am anticipating that larger numbers will be on the wing this coming weekend together with Ringlet and a few other emerging species.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Grey Heron.

The current inclement weather has meant few new wildlife opportunities so I delved into the early spring archives for these shots of a confiding Grey Heron looking for lunch at a local lake.

Linking to:
Wild Bird Wednesday

Friday, 17 June 2016

Black-tailed Skimmer.

One dragonfly species that characteristically perches horizontally on exposed locations close to its territory is the  Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum).

All these images were taken during a walk around the ponds in Bushy Park and shot 'hand-held' with the 70-300mm lens plus 1.4x converter and then cropped.

Below is the only image I managed to grab of a teneral / immature (possibly a female) with its soft reflective wings.

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters
Macro Monday 2
Nature Notes

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Broad-bodied Chaser.

Like many other dragonfly species the male Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) often uses the same perch to rest in-between its territorial forays so this provides a good position to wait and grab some images.

These shots were all taken hand-held with the 70-300mm lens plus 1.4x converter at a pond in Horton Country Park.

Very occasionally this male used a different perch.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Local Patch Wildlife.

It has been another week of some sunshine and plenty of showers and the pattern is set to continue well into this week. Certainly not a pleasant situation for much of our wildlife.

Once again my woodland butterfly transect walk on Saturday produced very few sightings despite the warm, humid temperature. Just a few Speckled Wood (see above) plus Green-veined White and Brimstone. I'm guessing it might be a couple of weeks before any new species such as the Skippers, Meadow Brown and Ringlet start to emerge due to all the wet weather.

A few moths and flies were on the wing but only this Scorpion Fly perched for a photo-call.

One species that definitely caught my attention was an immature female White-legged Damselfly hiding amongst the grasses close to a small pond in the woodland. From memory this is the first season that I have recorded them in this spot so I'll need to keep an eye open for any male activity over the next few weeks.

Returning through the woodland close to the car park I heard the very distinctive incessant begging calls of young Great Spotted Woodpecker (below) and fairly easily located the nest hole in a Birch. I had to wait for quite some time to see the adults returning with food but my view was hampered by the increased greenery of other trees so only managed one shot of a youngster peeking out. 

Nesting Update (14/6):
I checked the above nest site again this morning and all was very quiet indicating that the youngsters have now fledged.

Whilst I have recorded the tiny Lesser Spotted  in the same area some years ago the other common resident species is the Green Woodpecker (above) but I haven't yet found evidence of any breeding activity.

One species that only occasionally turns up, usually in the winter months, is the Greylag Goose but this individual was actually paired up with a Canada Goose (see below) just over a week ago but I don't think they have stayed around to breed another hybrid!

Linking to:

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Red Hind.

Thank goodness for some warm weather at long last. After a lack of photo opportunities during the last few weeks I seem to have amassed over 500 images in the last two days to sort through so here is just a taster of  one of today's wildlife encounters.

f/9: 1/500: ISO 400 using 70-300 lens and cropped.
 An inquisitive Red Hind keeping an eye on the 'watcher'.

f/10: 1/400: ISO 400 using 70-300 lens and cropped.
For a taste of some of the other wildlife seen please check out the Demoiselle, Damsel and Dragon post on FABirding.

Wherever you are have a glorious wildlife watching weekend.  FAB. 

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters
Through My Lens

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Fence, Flutters and Flowers.

A recent wander below the slopes at Denbies Hillside provided another opportunity to grab some shots for this week's edition of  'Good Fences' of the original iron Estate fence with its ornate fittings.

Wild flowers abound alongside the track including Oxeye Daisy, Bird's-foot-trefoil (with attendant female Five-spot Burnet), Honeysuckle, Buttercup and Crane's-bill.

A male Common Blue on Bird's-foot-trefoil, one of the caterpillar's food plants.

A well camouflaged Green Hairstreak deep within the grassy sword.

While back at home the trellis fencing supports two roses; 'Mme Alfred Carrière' and 'Compassion' with 'Mum in a Million' in a pot nearby; all currently producing an abundance of fragrant blooms.

Elsewhere in the garden the recent rain and sunshine has helped the central border to flourish with a varied collection of hardy Geraniums, the first flower on Clematis 'Scartho Gem' planted last year, the dainty red spray of a Heuchera, the ever spreading Aquilegia 'William Guiness' plus the drooping fragrant bunches of Lilac flowers.

Linking to:
Good Fences
Today's Flowers
Floral Friday Photos


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