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Monday, 30 July 2012

Marsh Tits, Moths and more..28th &29th July

As I was contemplating my weekend manoeuvres Saturday morning, I received a distress call from old JK who had had his weekend plans scuppered by a way of his motor playing up. Faced with the prospect of being confined to barracks, he called on the off chance of blagging a ride.. of course, I was happy to swing by and collect him,and  we headed to Monkwood for a few hours larking about.

I was keen to connect with Purple Hairstreak, and Jase wanted to get a nice male Ruddy Darter image. It was a most enjoyable few hours, and whilst I struck out on connecting with a Purple Hairstreak there were 3 particular highlights. Firstly, spotting a new moth, that with some vegetative management by myself and nifty camera work by JK, a record shot was secured for identification later.It turned out to be a Brown China mark moth. This is actually a night flying moth that lives near water, and it's larvae are actually aquatic.
The second highlight for me was spending a little time trying to capture an image of the copulating Emerald Damselflies, whilst JK chased Ruddy Darters.

Mating Wheel..Emerald Damselflies

The third and most pleasing highlight was seeing an Adult and juvenile Marsh Tit, not just because it was an overdue year first, but also because it showed successful breeding by a species that seems to be going backwards in the County.

On Sunday I fancied a walk, and for some reason fancied a river walk. The only target I had pencilled in was trying to see and photograph White-legged damselfly, having seen plenty of tenerals a few weeks earlier, I was worried I would be to late to enjoy the adult form. I headed to Blackstone for 10.30.
It wasn't a promising start, breezy and cloudy. There were plenty of gatekeepers about, and well a decent numbers of Essex and small Skipper. I decided to spend some time enjoying the photography.
Essex Skipper Blackstone

 Just as it Started to rain, I came across the one and only White-legged Damselfly I was to encounter during the 3 hours I was there. Thankfully, after much faffing, I got a record shot. After the rain cleared, I enjoyed a few more skippers, including a single large. The lack of Common  Blue Butterflies was a worry.
White-legged Damselfly

Bird wise both Greater Spot and Green Woodpecker were active. As I doubled back I spotted some eggs on a leaf. I was unsure what had laid them, and searched my butterfly book when I got home. Unable to pair them off, I remembered a caterpillar I had seen near the site a few weeks ago, and after a bit of research found they seemed a good match for Drinker Moth eggs.
Drinker Moth Eggs..I need to see the adult moth now !!

On returning to the car, I stopped to enjoy a view of the river. I notice a diving bird in the distance, which turned and gradually swam down river towards me. It was a Goosander, a nice way to end my Sunday walk.

Goosander . Adult male eclipse

Further images available on my Flickr page

Friday, 27 July 2012

Essex Skipper, patch lifer !

I undertook a walk on my local patch on Monday. There were no great surprises, the most notable and pleasing thing being plenty of Yellowhammer activity. However , I did notice a a Skipper species butterfly, which was not a Large Skipper..only 1, and it skedaddled before I could confirm what it was.
So, on Thursday evening, from 6-7pm , I returned to do a bit of mooching . Whitethroat and Yellowhammer noted, Large and mall Whites finally in some numbers, Gatekeeper and a Comma. Plenty of micromoth activity.
Spotting a non-Large Skipper sp I started the 'butterfly dance' well known to those that try to stalk these creatures. To my surprise , from a small area , around 10 took to the wing ! Over the course of the next 40 minutes I managed to locate and study 2 separate individuals as well as photograph them.
On returning home, the images on my screen confirmed my hopes , Essex Skipper !! This is a patch lifer and very encouraging news about the further spread of this species into the area. I had a beer to celebrate.
Essex Skipper

In other news I have been trapping moths and trying to catch up with a  Whinchat down at JK's patch in Shenstone. I will save the moth news for a round up, but at the second attempt I bagged the Chat on a windy Friday evening.


A bit of after work therapy

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Summertime Safari 21st-22nd July

With the advent of the British Summer this weekend, there was no end of goodies eager to come out and play in the warmth and sunshine.
I started my weekend at Monkwood, hoping to catch up with some new species for the year,and fill in the odd gap. DEET was applied liberally, and in I went .....
It was nice to see the White butterflies appearing again, and a Green veined White showed well. Settling on a tree not far away, the first of my wish list magically appeared, a Southern Hawker.

Southern Hawker
 I had presumed I had seen one of these in my garden a few days earlier, but it had not settled so I could not rule out Migrant Hawker. A good start. White Admirals were in decent numbers, along with Comma's, Ringlets, and Skippers. I was hoping for a bit of Purple Hairstreak action, but that was not a butterfly I was going to add to my year list this weekend.
At the pools, it was Odonata heaven.One of my other targets for the day, Ruddy Darter, took about 3 seconds to show, and they were present in good numbers.

Ruddy Darter

 Brown Hawker hawked, and Broad Bodied Chaser..well he sort of just flitted about, as he appeared to have no one to chase. One thing I  had missed on my previous visit, was a female Emerald Damselfly..they are so stunning, it was worth a special look. Today there were several males, but it took a while for a single female to show, but thankfully she did, and I managed a quick snap.

Female Emerald Damselfly

 Before braving the quagmire back to the wooded ride, I had a bonus. A female Emperor was ovipositing fairly close. Whilst the light was less than ideal , this was still a sight to relish and I watched for 10 minutes or so, even taking a few seconds of video.

Emperor Ovipositing..If you've seen the movie, here's the picture

On my way back to the car, I spotted a young fox on the path ahead, looking back at me.

Next stop was Grimley. Here a bit of decent  birding action ! A Hobby hawked over the Pools, showing really well at times, enjoying the Odonata like myself, but in a different way. I got my first Common Darter Pics of the year, as well as some male Black-tailed Skimmer shots. Finally, the visit paid it's final surprise, when I noticed my first Little Egret of the year lurking on the far side. Blimey a birding year tick !

Little Egret..Year tick !

Common Darter

Sunday I popped down the lane to Chaddesley Woods, hoping to see my first Silver-washed Fritillary. As it happened seeing them was fairly easily. Getting a record shot was another matter ! For two and half  hours I stalked, lurked and chased these powerful and fast moving butterflies, the breezy conditions aiding their swift glides. I noted around a dozen White Admirals, the first I had seen on this site, and finally, one of the SWF's settled on some Hawthorne I had decided to stake out, allowing a very brief photo opportunity..GOTCHA !!

Silver-washed Fritillary...phew !
Time for the golf........

Friday, 13 July 2012

Dragonfly Day, Doorstepshire..12th July

Today I was on a mission. I had kept up my good run of seeing all the local species of Dragonfly, and getting some form of record shot but getting a picture of Emperor was work in progress.
I set off in Sunshine around 9.30 and headed for Hartlebury, where I had seen my first Emperor of the year a couple of weeks ago. It was good to see the Scarce Chasers in good numbers , but mainly males. I took the opportunity to photograph a few, whilst listening to both overhead Raven a local Green Woodpecker, and Buzzard call. As it warmed further, I flushed a couple of Emperors and a male glided up and down the pool, but never settled. As I watched and waited, I came across a pair of Scarce Chasers Copulating.
Scarce Chasers mating
If you are not familiar with how they mate, it all looks a bit confusing. The female is at the rear, with the end of the males tail (abdomen) on top of her head. She has her abdomen bent right around and under the males abdomen, so the tip of her abdomen is in contact with the underside of the males third abdominal segment. Her legs are clasped up and over the top of his abdomen, which gives breeding males the 'mating scars' on their powdery blue tails. Suggest you don't try that one at home !!

Anyway, after two hours of chasing the Emperor up and down the pond, I decided to move to another venue where I knew they were present, and hope for better luck.
Within a few minutes of arriving at the head quarters of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, I had spotted 2 Males. At the adjacent pool, there were two females ovipositing ( egg laying ) Bingo ! The light was tricky, and only once did one come within a reasonable range, but I got what I wanted.
Emperor Ovipositing
By now it was 1.30, so I decided to celebrate with a bit of lunch and a pint over at my next site for the day, Grimley. Unfortunately the afternoon session was hard graft as the wind was picking up quite a bit. I wanted to get a shot of the plentiful Common Darters but conditions had other idea's. I did have one perch on my hand for a while though , which was nice. I noted again a single Red Veined Darter. Also of interest was a fence post plastered in exuviae, but on asking around it turned out to belong to a Mayfly , rather than Damselfly. I was also on the lookout for the violacea variant of Blue-tailed Damselfly, but only found the rufescens form. Still nice though

Mayfly exuviae

Blue-tailed damselfy rufescens

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Emerald Damselfly... a gem of a day !

You know how when you work all week, you look forward to getting out on a weekend. Saturday morning however I was losing my mojo. Friday had seen a month's rainfall ( second deluge in 10 days ) and It was dull and breezy. I had dreamt of seeing 3 species in particular all week. Scarlet Tiger Moth, Marbled White Butterfly and Emerald Damselfly. I even had a little route planned out. In the end I chucked my stuff in the car and headed out around 10.30
My first stop was to try and catch up with a colony of Scarlet Tiger Moths at Hartlebury. They had been seen earlier in the week, but that was before the previous days drenching.
Arriving there, initially there was no sign, but after a few minutes of weak sun I picked one out, then 2, and ultimately 4. Absolutely stunning ! Although not especially active, when one did move I was treated to that flash of Scarlet. Good start !

Scarlet Tiger Moth

However, before long it started to rain quite heavily. I decided to move to my next location, to check for Emerald Damselfly, down at Smite Farm. I was hoping also to put a few miles between myself and the rain.However for the next 90 minutes it was pretty much non stop, and I was confined to the car, popping out to check the pools during a brief cessation before returning to eat some lunch.
I was considering packing it in for the day but as Monkwood was only 15 minutes away, I decided to head there and play it by ear.
As I pulled up at the Green, something odd happened, the Sun came out !! I shone for the next 2 1/2 hours, and it all kicked off !!
Firstly the Green. Burnet moths and Silver y. Plenty of Ringlets and Meadow Browns and then, Marbled Whites !  Lepidoptera heaven

Silver y Moth

Six-spot Burnet moth

Marbled White Butterfly

Having chased all the species I could find and photograph for an hour or so, I headed to the Nature Reserve up the lane, to check the pools. I was just applying the DEET, when I had a text from JK ' Just had Emerald Damselfly, Monkwood'...He had apparently had the same thoughts as me ! I replied I was a 10 minutes scout march away

At the Pool, JK and his good lady were there, along with Loyd, another fellow nature lover it was nice to meet. I was ushered straight to the single but utterly beautiful Emerald Damselfly, resting on a reed. What a stroke of luck ! Mrs JK had apparently spotted it, great find !

Emerald Damselfly..what a gem !
JK and Bev moved on, and I enjoyed 30 minutes at the pool, watching the Damselfly, along with the Broad Bodied Chasers and White Admirals that were frequenting the area. What a great day it turned out to be in the end .

Nice to see the Under wing, White Admiral