Friday, 19 August 2011

Return of the Speckled Wood Butterflies

I made my weekly visit to Barnes Wood today. There is definitely an end of season atmosphere to the woodlands now.

As evidenced by this rather faded Meadow Brown on the fleabane.

The Knapweed is very abundant and conspicuous.

My favourite woodland hoverfly, Myanthropia florae, its my favourite as it is the only one that stays around long enough for me to photograph it!

Guelder-rose; the bright red berries stand out a mile. Curiously, despite its name, it is a member of the honeysuckle family.

A Small Tortoiseshell; haven’t seen one of these in a while.

Good old Comma, can always be relied upon to pose for the camera. This was a particularly good specimen, fresh and colourful.

The Speckled Wood butterflies are out in numbers again, I recorded eight in BW today. As I recall they had a bit of a late season flourish last year.It is there! My photographs are authentic if nothing else!

To conclude, a nice spear thistle.

Okay, bonus picture for getting this far; Adonis'Ladybird recorded in Peasmarsh by Gordon Jarvis.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Botany for all Seasons

After a not too promising start, today was rather sunny and warm. In fact, it rather reminded me of August.

So I attended another field trip with the Sussex Botanical Recording Society in the hope of acquiring some knowledge by association; osmosis even. Alas, were it that easy!

However I do try to pick up a little knowledge on each occasion; so here follows an account of what I learnt today on a visit to Pett (Guestling Wood) and Rye.

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)

This rather attractive and unassuming little plant was surrounded by Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) plants.

Golden Rod (Solidago virgaurea)

A late flowering plant (July-September) and an important larval foodplant for a variety of moths and other invertebrates.

Some mighty oak trees standing in Guestling Wood.

Some proper botany now; two plants that look similar but are in fact two different species;

Lesser Burdock(Arctium minus)

Greater Burdock(Arctium lappa)

These two plants were growing not too far from each other which certainly helped when making the comparison.

Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

This poppy was growing on the road verge adjacent to the woods, a very noticeable, colourful and an iconic plant for this time of year.

Wall Rue Fern (Asplenium ruta-muraria)

This plant was growing on a wall near Pett Village, and for me at least, it is one of the easier ferns to identify.

Finally a nice late summer picture, harvest home. The view is of Winchelsea from Cadborough Cliff.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Scintelating Spiders

Spider News Update 11th August:-

click here for a BBC Nature Item

I recently attended the Sussex Wildlife Trust spider course held at Lewis Railway lands.

The course was presented by Ray Hale and he did a first class job in promoting these extremely interesting invertebrates, who, lets face it, have a bit of a PR problem.

Spiders have exploited nearly every terrestrial environment and many aquatic ones too, and having been around for approximately 385 million years I feel they at least deserve a mention on our blog.

I am extremely grateful to Gordon Jarvis who sent me these excellent spider pictures, all of which were recorded locally.

First up, Araneus quadratus or the Four-spot orb weaver.

Next, Lariniodes cornutus, the abdomen of this spider looks as if it were sculpted from marble.

Note spiders have two major body regions, a cephalothorax (head and thorax fused, also known as a prosoma) and an abdomen.

Here is a nice link to some spider anatomy:
Spider anatomy

Evarcha falcate; a jumping spider. Most spiders have poor eye-sight but the jumping spiders are the exceptions.

Marpissa muscosa; another jumping spider. This one is delightful, look at its little face.

Steatoda nobilis or (False Widow Spider) One of a group of spiders know as ‘False Widows’ because of their resemblance to the notorious Black Widow Spider. Still, best not to mess with it though!

Misumeninae xysticus bifasciatus A member of the crab spider family.

Finally I must mention Tegenaria saeva or Tegenaria gigantea (difficult to tell apart). These are the familiar spiders that run across the living room floor when you are watching the television at night. Unfortunately one of my photos.

If despite reading this, you still cannot bring yourself to love spiders, then please remember that they are a very important food source for many other animals including insects, reptiles and birds.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

High Summer in Vinehall Forest

So it is for glorious days like these we patiently wait though the cold winter months.

Today it sizzled in Barnes Wood. The hot midday sun beat down upon the rides as oppressively as a medieval despot, and the baked and parched stones radiated heat back as if they themselves would ferment into insurrection.

But some like it hot, and many of them are invertebrates.

I recorded my first Brimstone butterfly for a long while. I saw this one nectaring on some thistle. {Double click to enlarge image.}
Bees and hoverflies were busy among the ragwort and fleabane. I believe the hoverfly is Myathropa florae, or a similar species. These hoverflies are woodland specialists.

I couldn’t identify the little bumblebee here, but her pollen baskets were filled to capacity with bright orange pollen.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with bramble, but one has to admire its resilience. Come torrents or drought it thrives and flourishes, talk about give it an inch!
Here a gatekeeper sits upon a bramble leaf, lord of all it surveys.

Here is another plant I like, Wild Angelica, its purple stems and distinctive leaves make it an easy ID among the umbellifers.

Now, I am the first to admit I am not the world’s best photographer, but every now and then, by sheer good fortune, I get lucky. So this is probably my best butterfly photo, like, ever!
I’m going to dine out on this one for a while. {Please click to enlarge my ego!}

Look at those patterns and colours!

Right, back to the world as it should be, one of my usual standard snaps of a Silver-washed Fritillary. Shame really, as this photograph does not do justice to what is a truly magnificent insect.
At least the "silver wash" can be seen.

Love it or loath it, Rosebay Willowherb has become an iconic plant of our local woodland rides. I love watching the battalions of seeds drift across the rides on a hot summer’s day.

It is good to see woodland utilized and productive.

Finally, a Speckled Wood butterfly basking in the sun; their numbers have increased lately. I have seen so few this year compared to other years.

With heartfelt thanks to Peter Coyston who helped us with the Moth Traps last night and who reminded me it was high time to update this blog!