Sunday, 11 August 2013

Beckley Wood Butterfly Event

Well the day threatened to be overcast as we assembled at our meeting point in Beckley Woods, near Rye, in East Sussex. We got off to a good start with beautiful fresh Peacocks (Aglais io)  and majestic Silver-washed Fritillaries (Argynnis paphianectaring on the hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) adjacent to our assembly point. It was not long until the first Large White (Pieris brassicae) and Small White (Pieris rapae butterflies were seen too.
Peacock Butterfly
Beckley Wood is not conducive to walking a circuit so we walked out along the rides from our central base and back again. However the location mattered little as there were butterflies in abundance. We soon had Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) , Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) and Painted Lady (Vanessia cardui) to add to our observed species list.
Painted lady
Meadow Browns (Maniola jurtina), Ringlets (Aphantopus hyperantus) and a Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) were then observed followed by a Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus). I missed the Clouded Yellow on the first occasion as I had remained back by the cars in case of late arrivals.
Clouded Yellow
As with most other woodland this week the numbers of Peacocks were very high. Easily over fifty were seen, and almost ubiquitously where nectar sources were available. What pleased me greatly was the same could almost be said for the Silver-washed Fritillaries. A male Silver-washed Fritillary with a damaged wing followed me down the ride like a pet dog.
Silver-washed Fritillary
On the second leg out from base camp I finally got to see the Clouded Yellow, my first this year. A Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) was then spotted by Richard. Along a section of ride-way that was cleared by Steve Wheatley and his volunteer party four years ago we saw another good crop of Peacocks and a veritable host of Green-veined Whites (Pieris napi).
Green-veined White
 However the zenith of the walk was a White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) sunning itself on a plant stem. It was totally unperturbed by our presence and posed for many pictures. Stuart managed to get a picture with his phone, and this was tweeted with in seconds to his butterfly fan base in Massachusetts in the United States of America; technology hey.
White Admiral
I was particularly pleased to see so many butterflies in Beckley Wood as this marks the fruition of the monumental conservation effort by Butterfly Conservation in this woodland four years ago.
Small Skipper
Another cheerful aspect to this walk was the large number of Bumblebees seen and migrant Hawker Dragonflies (Aeshna mixta) are having a bumper year too.
Migrant Hawker
So many thanks to Stuart Cooper for leading the walk, the Forestry Commission for allowing us parking access and to Georgina, Richard, Ed, Rod, Heather and Doug who participated in this walk. A special thanks also to Doug Neve who took the photographs for our use and who remained behind after the walk was over to record some of the species we did not see earlier, namely Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Comma (Polygonia c-album) and Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria).

All photographs courtesy of Doug Neve 11/08/2013

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Moth Trapping in Brede High Wood 12th July 2013

 An Event Report by Heather Martin

Our moth trapping event in Brede High Wood on Friday 12th July was a very enjoyable and successful one. The ground was dry and the weather fine, warm and calm. Moths were on the wing in numbers that could only be dreamt about a month earlier and in spite of bats patrolling the rides taking what they could, we still attracted over 100 different species of moths into our traps.
Of note were several Waved Carpet (Hydrelia sylvata), Orange Moth (Angerona prunaria) and a Great Oak Beauty(Hypomecis roboraria). I did have the presence of mind to photograph the latter but when you are busily involved in an activity the camera often gets forgotten about and it's only after the event you wish you'd taken a few more pictures! It is also quite difficult to get a true representation of the colours in the glare of the mercury vapour lamps.

Great Oak Beauty
 The Pine Hawk-moth (Hyloicus pinastri) and Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi ) are distinctive due to their large size.
Pine Hawk Moth

Poplar Hawk Moth
 I find the patterning on the Scorched Wing Moth (Plagodis dolabraria) beautiful and unusual.

Scorched Wing Moth
To really appreciate Beautiful Golden Y (Autographa pulchrina) you do need to see it in the flesh as wing scales reflect flashes of metallic gold and grey-green on a background of purplish brown marbled with dusky pink.
Beautiful Golden Y
The pink and brown petal-like markings on the wings of the Peach Blossom moth (Thyatira batis ) make it impossible to confuse with anything else.
Peach Blossom
 The micro moths were mainly represented by members of the Tortricidae  family. This Aleimma loeflingiana  has a fairly memorable wing pattern - it's just the pronunciation and spelling of its name I have a problem with!

Aleimma loeflingiana
All busy! This is a photo of some of our group inspecting the surrounding grass and sheet for moths before the trap is opened. Any overhanging tree branches, trunks and nearby vegetation are also worth looking at because some moths prefer to just settle nearby.

Moth trappers at Work
As we were packing our equipment into the car in the early hours of the morning we could hear the strange continuous 'croaking' call of a Nightjar in the distance.
A lovely end to our time spent in a truly beautiful landscape.

All photographs by Heather Martin 14/07/2013

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Common - but a welcome sight!

An Article by Heather Martin

It's always exciting to find uncommon species but after such a long, cold winter and a slow start to Spring it's reassuring to see some familiar common species re-emerging on the occasional warm and sunny May day.

The 18th was one such day. Speckled Yellow moths (Pseudopanthera macularia) fluttered along the main track through our wood, often pausing to rest on foliage at the edges. Their distinctive patterning of brown blotches on a yellow background makes it impossible to confuse them with any other species. They are a common sight in open woodland especially in the south of England from mid-May to late June. The larvae can be found feeding predominantly on Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia) between June and August, then the pupa spends the winter either underground or in plant debris.

A much smaller moth with metallic wings and very long antennae - a female Adela reaumurella, was also spotted sitting on a leaf in the sun. This is another common Spring species often seen dancing in small swarms around the outer branches of Hazel and Oak trees. The male has even longer antennae.

A male micro moth with equally impressive but pectinate or comb-like antennae is Incurvaria masculella. Commonly found in woodland and gardens throughout the country, its larva mines the leaves of Hawthorn.

We watched a pair of Green-veined White butterflies (Pieris napi) dance in a clearing then settle on Bugle flowers (Ajuga reptans) - common maybe but their presence certainly added to our enjoyment of the morning.

What makes these common species precious is the very fact that they can be seen in numbers on warm days, giving us a sense that life is thriving all around us and contributing to our feeling of general well-being.

All pictures by Heather Martin; 21/05/2013

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Moth Trapping BHW May 2013

On Friday (11th May 2013) evening we officially started our moth trapping season with our first visit to Brede High Wood.
I left home in bright sunshine but upon arrival to Brede High Wood it was getting just a little chilly and the sky was becoming progressively more overcast as dusk approached. 

We set up six moth traps in total, some in the open and others under the trees.  

It was not the most productive of nights as it was still rather cold, however we got nineteen species in total.

The Drinker Euthrix potatoria
Flame Shoulder  Ochropleura plecta
Nut-tree Tussock  Colocasia coryli
Common Quaker Orthosia cerasi
Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica
Lunar Marbled Brown Drymonia ruficornis
Nut-tree Tussock  Colocasia coryli
Lobster Moth Stauropus fagi
Purple Thorn Selenia tetralunaria
Brindled Pug Eupithecia abbreviata
Pebble Prominent Notodonta ziczac
Great Prominent Peridea anceps
Scarce Prominent Odontosia carmelita
Water Carpet Lampropteryx suffumata
Scalloped Hook-tip Falcaria lacertinaria
Coxcomb Prominent Ptilodon capucina
V Pug Chloroclystis v-ata
Small Phoenix Ecliptopera silaceata
Engrailed Ectropis bistortata

Some of these species are included in the photographs below;
Coxcomb Prominent: picture by Heather Martin
Scarce Prominent: Picture by Heather Martin
Lunar Marbled Brown: Picture by Heather Martin

Small Phoenix: Picture by Heather Martin
Water Carpet: Picture by Heather Martin
V-pug: Picture by Heather Martin

 As always, our thanks to David Bonsall and the Woodland Trust for permission to moth trap in Brede High Wood.

Bonus Butterfly Section
I saw my first Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) butterfly of the season today (Sunday 12th May), however it was in Kent, near Pembury Hospital on the RSPB reserve.

"Kentish Dingy Skipper" or is it "Dingy Skipper of Kent"?

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Set Theory

Springtime Skippers Event Report 4th May 2013

Update 7th May 2013
Law of Cussedness:- I saw my first Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae) of the year in Barnes Wood today.
Origianl photograph
Enlarged and cropped

There is a mathematical construct known as the ‘empty set’. It is exemplified by the set of ‘no apples’, which unsurprisingly, is equal to the set of ‘no oranges’. For completeness, the empty set is a subset of every other set. So yesterday at my Sussex Butterfly Conservation, Springtime Skippers Event at Barnes Wood in East Sussex, I experienced the set of ‘no butterflies’; yet another fine example of the empty set.

The spring has been delayed by about a month this year and the Skippers are yet to emerge.

Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae); Currently only appearing in my dreams! Photograph by Peter Eeles; UK Butterflies
Fortunately our group contained people who are top notch on birdsong. So my heartfelt thanks to Linda, Lyn and Anna who saved the day with instructive identifications of Chiffchaff (Fringilla coelebs), Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), the scuttlebutt among birdwatchers is that scientific name for the Wren is derived from the belief that they inhabited caves(?), Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), Coal Tit (Periparus ater), Great Tit (Parus major), Black Cap (Sylvia atricapilla),Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), Greater Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major observed) and Robin (Erithacus rubecula). My contribution was Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), which I now realise I may have called wrong. The gulls are harder to identify by their sound than I originally presumed.

Sadly no slugs this year (beautiful or otherwise), so the invertebrate interest was confined to a Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris), a White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), a Common Carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) and a Glow Worm larva (Lampyris noctiluca) kindly photographed for me by Nigel Symington.
Glow worm larvae Photo by Nigel Symington

Green Tiger Beetle: Photo by Heather Martin
 The (non empty) set of patient and good humoured event attendees were {Dave, Martyn, Nigel, Anna, Peter, Don, Clare, Linda, Lyn, Heather, Rodney, Lindsay, Scott and two year old Maria}.  
The Beech Woods in Vinehall Forest
Jim Barrett

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Bumblebees 2013

Despite it still being rather chilly the bumblebees are out in numbers in the mid- spring sunshine this evening. I counted six buff-tailed bumblebee queens, (Bombus terrestris) on this Berberis shrub in our garden.

This buff tailed bumblebee hung onto the plant stalk while she washed her face and had a bit of a tidy up. (I believe they brush the pollen off themselves). It is so good to see them. I was getting quite concerned this year.

Guess who has learnt how to enlarge and crop a photo?
I also saw my first Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrena argiolus) of the year in my garden too.

Update: This morning I found this little fellow crawling across my desk. It is a weevil (Family Curculionidae), possibly a vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) or similar species. I bribed it with some dock (Rumex) leaves and it stayed still long enough for me to get this photo. This graceful herbivore is considered as something of a garden pest. I rather admire it. After eating a sizeable portion of vegetation it hid under the leaves and had a good long rest. A weevil after my own heart.

This is the Common Carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) viewed from above.

This is possibly the solitary Tawny Mining-bee (Andrena fulva). If so, she was picking up the pollen that had dropped from the Berberis flowers above. A bit like the small birds do after the finches have been at the bird feeder.

The violets seem to be doing very well this year. This is the Common dog-violet (Viola riviniana).
Photograph by Katie Walker

Sunday, 21 April 2013

A New Beetles Page

Female Longhorn Beetle; Photo by Dave Monk
Last year Dave Monk sent me some excellent Beetle Photos and I promised to publish them on this blog.

So today I searched the web for some accompanying text and have posted a new article on its own page as I hope to update it with more beetles in the future.

It can be found here. The Beetles Page

Stenocorus meridianus: Photo by Jim Barrett
Also an ecology article I have written here. So why Butterflies?