Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Old Crick-in-the-Neck

Rod Taylor very kindly sent me these pictures of a female Purple Hairstreak that he saw in Long Wood.

Windy weather, or even a low growing oak tree can mean that these butterflies will descend from the tree tops.

The female in the picture above is laying her eggs right at the base of the oak leaf.

(Pictures Rod Taylor: 03/08/2012)

Well it is that time of the year again. The evening sunshine kisses the tree tops and the world is embraced in golden light. The out doors beckons, and irresistibly drawn, I am as a moth, and Barnes Wood is 125 Watt Mercury Vapour bulb.

A walk in the late evening will hopefully yield a special butterfly, the Purple Hairstreak (Favonius quercus).

Purple Hairstreak:- Butterfly Conservation

As their scientific name would suggest, the key to finding Purple Hairstreaks are oak trees. There is a spot in Barnes Wood where I always see them, on south west facing oaks that catch a good amount of evening sun.

This evening I wasn’t disappointed, though I was out a little later than the ideal time of about 18:30.

Spotting them requires a little patience as it can take a while to see the first one or two. However once you do observe them, they are worth the wait. Often you will get a burst of four or five butterflies, a gaggle of males chasing a female as she flits out of the oak tree, then returns back in again.

They are very much an arboreal species, so it takes quite a bit of looking up until you find them.

From ground level they appear silvery as they catch the sun. The ones in Barnes Wood seem to favour four or five trees in a group and a burst from one tree can be quickly followed by a burst from another.

They spend most of the day resting and feeding on honeydew, but become very active in the evening when they mate.

Like the Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) these butterflies are probably under recorded as they will often be found anywhere that oak trees are established.

Finally a crescent moon reveals the sun in the west.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Moth-trapping in Brede High Wood

An Article by Heather Martin

It wasn't raining, it wasn't too windy and it wasn't too cold so David, Keith, Mike, Jim, Stuart, Martyn, Dave, Mike, Tracy, Rodney and I met up in the car park at Brede High Wood on Friday (13th July) evening to spend a few hours moth-trapping. Despite the recent very wet weather the main track was firm and we were able to drive our equipment down into the wood to set up our traps in a range of habitats - the result of extensive work that has been carried out in the woods over the last few years. We hoped that by doing this we would attract a wide variety of moth species.

As darkness fell they slowly began to flutter in - all shapes and sizes, from a large Pine Hawkmoth (Hyloicus pinastri) to the rather distinctively marked micro, Lozotaeniodes formosana. The latter, which is found amongst pine trees, was first recorded in Surrey in 1945 and has since been expanding its range across Southern Britain.
(Pine Hawk-moth)

(Lozotaeniodes formosana)

The Lobster Moth (Stauropus fagi) is so called because in both shape and colour it's larva looks rather like a lobster. It is mainly found in areas of mature woodland and has a habit of resting with the hindwings slightly protruding. This specimen is a male on account of its feathery brown antennae.

 UK Moths: Lobster moth larvae

The sight of a Spectacle Moth (Abrostola tripartita) never fails to make me smile as I look head on at the 'spectacles' on the front of its thorax topped off with a furry 'turret'. The caterpillars feed on Common Nettles (Urtica dioica).

This Purple Clay (Diarsia brunnea) moth (photo Mike Pepler) has a beautiful subtle mix of colours on its wings with contrasting pale straw kidney-marks.

We all walked round together and inspected the contents of each trap, hoping that as the night wore on more and possibly rarer species might make an appearance.

The last trap on our round belonged to Keith and as we gazed at a pair of Ghost Moths (Hapialus humuli humuli) settled on the ground sheet, someone uttered the dreaded words, "Did I just feel rain falling on me?".

Unfortunately, yes! The initial drizzle rapidly developed into something far more unpleasant forcing us to make the decision to pack up our equipment. It was so disappointing but in the couple of dry hours we had, we recorded a total of 72 different moth species.

Night scene and Purple Clay photos from Mike Pepler

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Summer Butterflies in Beckley Woods

White Admiral
The Sun came out. Only for a day or so, but it came out and lo, it was warm. So, into Beckley Woods I went, in search of two of our most beautiful woodland butterflies.

One particular ride has colonies of both of these aerobatic creatures, so I went straight there and within minutes I saw my first White Admiral of the year. This delightful butterfly has, in my opinion, the most graceful flight of all the English species. Occasional flaps of the wings are followed by long, straight glides. At this time of year it is quite difficult to photograph as the males don't rest for long. The picture here is one I took on a visit another year.

We are very lucky to have this species on our doorstep; it is resident in many (if not all) of the Oak woodlands in Sussex, but much more scarce elsewhere in the country.

Silver-washed Fritillary (male)
The second species I encountered is the only large fritillary of woodland, the Silver-washed Fritillary. This creature is a strong flyer and patrols the ride for some distance in each direction.The underside of the wings are 'washed' with silver, hence the name which is not obvious when you first see it float past.

On this visit I saw four individuals, which these days is quite a treat. It is particularly striking when you look back to reports from the end of the 19th Century when they were abundant, no more so than in the New Forest where "as soon as the Sun appeared, their numbers resembled a shower of falling autumn leaves" as they descended from the trees.

Sadly, the summer monsoons have returned but if the the weather warms up again, you have a good chance of seeing either of these gorgeous butterflies on a trip to Beckley Woods.