Saturday, 26 September 2015

This blog is now closed.

For sightings and more comprehensive information on Butterflies in Sussex please visit;

Sussex BC Sightings Page

Thank you

Friday, 20 February 2015

Spring is Coming

A New Season on the Way.

It has been a while since I last posted on this blog.

More stuff will be coming soon; in the meantime, a couple of recent Woodland photographs and one of Camber Castle.

Barnes Wood in Winter Sunshine

Along the ride

Camber Castle viewed from the East


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Moth Trapping 2014

With an improvement in the night time temperatures I decided to take the moth traps out for the first session of the year.

So I met up with Heather Martin and Rod Taylor in Barnes Wood and we managed to identify over forty species of moths on a relatively chilly May night.

The largest moth of the evening was the Pine Hawk-Moth (Hyloicus pinastri)

Pine Hawk Moth

Next, one of my favorites, the Peppered Moth  (Biston betularia)

Peppered Moth
For attractive moths, in my humble opinion,  the Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) was the pick of the evening;
Green Carpet

The the Birch Mocha (Cyclophora albipunctata) takes its name from the port in Yemen (where the Coffee and the soft leather made from sheepskin originate too).

Birch Mocha
Now for a moth with a nice descriptive name, Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata). This is one of the easier ones to remember.

Clouded Border on Rod Taylor's finger
 In general the 'Pugs' are a difficult group of moths to identify, especially if they are faded or worn. However the Lime-speck Pug (Eupithecia centaureata ) is the exception as it is quite distinctive.

Lime-spec Pug
Finally we come to the micro moths, these are not at all easy, so I am extremely grateful to Heather Martin for taking the time to identify them (and to get the IDs confirmed by the County Recorder, Colin Pratt).

The Black-speckled Groundling (Carpatolechia proximella)
Black Speckled Groundling
The Common Twist (Capua vulgaria)
Common Twist
And finally, the star of the evening, Black Piercer (Pammene germmana). This is a locally scarce and declining species.

All photographs by Heather Martin 28/05/2014

Sunday, 4 May 2014

A Nice Walk in the Woods: A Sussex BC Event

The Springtime Skipper walk is one of the first Sussex Butterfly Conservation events of the year. In choosing the first Bank Holiday Weekend in May it was always hoped that enough butterflies, especially Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) and Grizzled Skippers (Pyrgus malves) would have emerged to give a reasonable chance of seeing these butterflies.
Grizzled Skipper : Photo John East
Last year was a disaster with no butterflies of any kind being seen during our event, thankfully this year we saw two Grizzled Skippers and three Dingy Skippers, but even so the numbers seen are rather concerning. The count is well down on the excellent year of 2011. The cold spring of 2013 seems to have hit the springtime skippers hard in East Sussex.
Dingy Skipper : Photo John East
We were fortunate enough to see some other butterflies too. The numbers of Green-veined Whites (Pieris napi) seen in woodland are relative high this year. As happens at the start of every season it takes a while to get my eye in as all the white butterflies look very similar especially when at a distance or on the move. This year, when stationary, we were also able to identify a couple of female Orange Tips (Anthocharis cardamines) and a Small White butterfly (Pieris rapae).

Green-veined White: Photo John East
There were a few moths about too. Dave Monk identified a Green Longhorn Moth (Adela reaumurella) and a Marsh Marigold Moth (Micropterix calthella). We saw many Speckled Yellow moths (Pseudopanthera macullaria), a Small White Wave (Asthena abulata) and a Small Purple and Gold moth (Pyrausta aurata). I believe I may have seen a Burnet Companion moth (Euclidia glyphica) but it was gone before I could be really confident of an ID.
Marsh Marigold Moths: Photo Dave Monk
Green Longhorn Moth : Photo Dave Monk

However the highlight of the other species (non-butterflies) of this event was when Dave Monk spotted a female “White Death Crab Spider” (Misumena vatia). The name alone is enough to conjure nightmares.  
White Death Crab Spider: Photo Douglas Neve
On a less sinister note, Robin Harris very kindly made a list of all the birds and bird song we encountered on our walk. The exceptional encounter this year was a Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), very visible at the top of a tree singing in the bright sunshine. For me nothing quite exceeds seeing the first Grizzled Skipper of the year, but the Willow Warbler in song sure came close.

To conclude then some Dock Leaf  Bugs (Coreus marginatus), also known as Shield Bugs, clearly enjoying each others company. More little Shield Bugs on the way!
Dock leaf Shield Bugs:- Photo John East

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Bryology at Rye Harbour

Since being inspired by Butterfly Conservation’s Rother Woods Project into taking an interest in conservation, especially invertebrates and plants, I have been surprised where this interest has taken me. Not only emotionally and intellectually, but sometimes geographically too, so when Tom Ottley, the county  recorder for Bryophytes (Mosses and Liverworts) for Sussex  asked me to be the minder for a British Bryological Society (BBS) Field Meeting at Rye Harbour and Camber Castle, I was more than happy to help.

North-Easterly Weather at Rye Harbour
I have always been rather impressed by how the Sussex Botanists can distinguish between very similar looking species of plants by utilizing a deep knowledge of plant morphology, habitats and seasonal distribution. The Bryologists are cast from the same mould, only perhaps more so, as the plants they study are often tiny. They are also very good botanists too, so any hope that I had of giving it the big one with my botanical knowledge was comprehensively crushed like Vlad the Impaler’s enemies.

Bryologists at Work
So this was an opportunity to learn rather than to pontificate; so two new plants for me, Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis) and Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritime).

Field Madder


A trip with the Botanists to Camber Castle a couple of years ago got me to the outer walls (the bastion), this trip with the bryologists got me to the keep.

The keep at Camber Castle
Many thanks to Barry Yates, Chris Bentley and the Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT ) for permission to survey and for their excellent help and advice. 
Bryologists in Hard Hats
 The view of Rye from Camber Castle.

Rye: East Sussex
Finally, compare and contrast some different forms of energy generation.

Wind Turbines on Romney Marsh
Dungeness Nuclear power station (on the horizon, centre right)

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Comma 2014

The Comma; (Polygonia c-album)

My wildlife photographs are rarely top draw, however I do seem to be very fortunate with Comma Butterflies;

Barnes Wood Comma
This most excellent of butterflies, and the only UK species with the ragged or deep cut wing can been seem at almost any time of the year if the conditions are favourable.

The Comma butterfly is a great icon for conservation hope (or species resilience in the face of adversity) as
this butterfly almost disappeared from the UK at the turn of the twentieth century. It would appear that this butterfly increased its larval food-plant range from Hop (Humulus lupulus) and Elm (Ulmus spp), to include Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) too.  So from a low population period in about 1910 it has made a spectacular comeback and it is now well distributed in East Sussex as well as the rest of the southern UK.

Comma  Distribution Map (Mapmate)
It can now be found almost everywhere from woodlands to gardens and its appearance punctuates the start and the finish of the butterfly season.

Sussex Comma Population; weekly record counts
2012 appears to be the best of the recent years for Comma sightings, with a week 31 peek (late July, early August) but for actual yearly overall totals, like a lot of species, 2011 was the best. Another nice feature of this butterfly is that it is able to exploit the autumnal  nectar sources that are found in gardens long after the woodland flowers are finished.

Reference: Phillip's Guide to Butterflies of Britain and Ireland. J.A.Thomas

Other News: Butterfly Conservation launches new Smartphone App:
Butterfly Recording gets Smart

Sussex Butterfly Report :- Figures and Errata for Dingy and Grizzled Skipper Species Champion Reports in the 2013 Sussex Butterfly Report.
Figures & Errata

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Large Tortoiseshell Butterfly In Rother

I have often bemoaned the fact that all the prestigious butterfly flagship species, Purple Emperors, (Apatura iris), Duke of Burgandy (Hamearis lucina) and Silver-spotted Skippers (Hesperia comma) are all located in the west of Sussex.

Though Purple Emperors are making their way north-eastwards (now being recorded in Wadhurst), they have yet to reach the Rother district, though one was recorded in Peasmarsh in 1980.

Purple Emperor Distribution Map (MapMate)

So it came as a great surprise when Stuart Cooper found a Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) butterfly in Beckley Woods on 12th March 2014.  Butterflies and Moths in the Brede Valley

Large Tortoiseshell Butterfly (c)Neil Hulme 2007
 Prior to Stuart’s sighting the previous records for Large Tortoiseshell butterflies in East Sussex were in 2011 when they were recorded in Falmer. Inspection of the distribution map below shows that this is a rare sighting indeed.

Large Tortoiseshell Distribution Map (MapMate)
Large Tortoiseshell butterflies were once generally distributed in England and Wales but are now thought to be extinct as permanent residents. However they are still recorded as migrants from the continent and may become temporarily resident in some areas such as the Isle of Wight.

This butterfly has the added bonus that it is often observed in early spring, so check those early Tortoiseshell sightings, you never know.

So, well done Stuart. Rother now has a flagship species as we patiently wait for the Purple Emperors to make their way south-eastwards.