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

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