Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Silver-spotted Skipper

Dave had just got back from his latest butterflying holiday but with nothing interesting to look at on the local birding front, it was butterflies for him again today. We went to see if the Silver-spotted Skippers were out yet on Newtimber Hill.

I can't see that Dave could have been too exited by the idea. He had just logged 120+ butterflies in a week including close on 50 life ticks and probably had thousands of photographs to sort through. A few more shots of the Silver-spotted Skipper would seem like a very low priority.

To make matters worse they were not easy to find. Cloud cover and a cool wind when we arrived meant that there was not much flying beyond the usual Meadow Browns. However, as it warmed up a few began to appear, although we were probably a week early and they were not in the numbers we had seen in previous years.

They tend to stay low down in the grass so can be difficult to photograph but at least they do show the underside of their wings, the bit you want in your photograph, a lot more than the other small skippers.

By the time we left the hill it was very hot and humid. An early warning of the huge lightning storms to come that night. There were a few more butterflies around but still not in the numbers that I would expect.

No Chalkhill Blues about but there were a few Common Blues flying.

Common Blue

We called in at Pulborough Brooks for a quick look at the Dragonflies in the afternoon. There were plenty flying but nothing unusual.

Azure Blue Damselfly

Black Darter

Emerald Damselfly

Roll on the cool winter days and the return of the waders.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Butterflies and Dragons

Actually, the day was all about getting a picture of a Brown Hawker Dragonfly. I saw a lot of them at Houghton Wood and spent a long time chasing them down, but I couldn't find one grounded and I just couldn't pull focus fast enough to get one in flight. Still it was a good day for "the others", the Butterflies and Dragonflies that don't tend to get mentioned when everything works out and get your main target.

I staked out a nice fresh dog turd on one of the rides, hoping to get a Purple Emperor or White Admiral. The plan worked but unfortunately the butterfly that came along was only a Comma.


Further down the track and another fresh pile from an obliging horse rider, Commas, Red Admirals and a Holly Blue but no Emperor. To be clear, that is a fresh pile from the horse not the rider.

Holly Blue

There were plenty of Silver-washed Fritillaries flying but it was a bit early in the day to find them nectering. It was only the older and slightly worn specimens that were favouring feeding instead of flirting.

Silver-washed Fritillary

But it was nice to see a fresh Brimstone stopping to nectar even if only briefly.


Next stop was Pulborough Brooks for the Dragonflies. Loads of Emerald Damselflies on the wing but unfortunately no Scarce Emeralds amongst them.

Emerald Damselfly

Plenty of Blue Damselflies


Azure Blue

Azure Blue

The usual Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers and a few fresh Darters.

Four-spotted Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Black Darter

Ruddy Darter

Ruddy Dater

Looks like a female Common Darter

Female Emperor oviposting

and one last butterfly

Common Blue

I didn't manage to see anything unusual but it was actually a great day out with lots to photograph.

Sussex seems to be going through it usual summer doldrums. Good birds are being reported all around the country but they all seem to avoid coming our way.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Thursley Dragons

Tuesday was a trip out to Thursley Common to top up the Dragonfly list for the year. It was hot and sunny as we left the south coast but by the time we got to Thursley it had clouded over and there was a cool breeze getting up.

We did make a quick stop over on the way to try and get Dave a Sussex Common Clubtail but we could not find any. Having first seen them just two weeks ago this suggests that the mating period when they are to be found by the river is only a couple of weeks long.

Thursley may have been cooler than we had expected but there were still a lot of Dragons and Damsels to be seen. In particular the wooden boardwalk had warmed up early and a lot of the Dragonflies were using it as a place to  bask and absorb the heat.

The pond was a bit of a disappointment though, with nothing flying around the edges. So no sign of the Downy and Brilliant Emeralds that we had been hoping to see.

First target was the Black Darter. There were a lot of newly emerged specimens to be found in the grass and reeds and a few more mature examples out on the board walk.

Black Darter - freshly emerged male

Black Darter

Black Darter

Black-tailed Skimmer

Black-tailed Skimmer

Common Blue Damselfly

Emerald Damselfly

Emerald Damselfly

Probably an immature Emerald Damselfly

Rather tatty Emperor

Female Emperor oviposting

Keeled Skimmer

Keeled Skimmer

Small Red Damselfly

And a couple of Butterflies. Nice to find a Painted Lady in good condition.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

Small Tortoiseshell 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Purple Emperor

I paid a visit to the Knepp estate today. I am not sure if I am a fan of the wilding project or not. To start with it is not really wild. It has more footpaths, tracks  and signposts than any area of countryside that I know and I cannot help feeling that it is a manufactured environment to attract wildlife. Still, that is not necessarily a bad thing and they do need to generate an income to support the project they are working on.

In the end I went because it is now the premier site in the country for Purple Emperors. Counts of 140+ and 130 + have been reported there over the past couple of weeks. I had tried a few of my traditional sites for the Emperors but my only sightings were high in the trees with nothing coming down to the ground, so I decided to give Knepp a go.

I didn't see 140 but my count did get into double figures, just, I saw ten. Most were in the tops of the trees with only one coming down and then only for a few seconds.

Purple Emperor

Perhaps more impressive were the numbers of Purple Hairstreaks. Record shots like the one below were easy to come by but what I really wanted was an open wing shot of a male Purple Hairstreak. It has been close to the top of my butterfly wish list for a long time. I didn't get one, despite hours of waiting for them to come down out of the trees, but my thanks to the guy that showed me his perfect picture. I really appreciated that. It even convinced me to waste another hour standing in the hot sun waiting for my chance to come along.

Plenty of other butterflies about particularly if you like Meadow Browns.

White Admiral

Large Skipper

Marbled White

Small Skipper

There were also a number of Silver-washed Fritillary about but they weren't stopping to have their pictures taken.

The free roaming animals often come as a surprise. This piglet following me down the path before disappearing into the undergrowth.

There were also some interesting Dragonflies. My first Southern Hawker of the year. I could have done with a cleaner background but still worth recording.

Southern Hawker

There were also White-legged Damselflies, again my first of the year. I was surprised to see them so far from a river where they are usually seen. However, checking it does appear that they move away from the rivers during the maturation period.

White-legged Damselfly - immature female lactea phase

White-legged Damselfly - male

another immature female

I did have one heart stopping moment. White Stork in the distance but then I realised there were a pair of them in a very well protected compound.

I couldn't find any reference to them on the web. I assume this is part of a re-introduction program but it would be nice to know if it is purely a Knepp initiative or is part of a national program.  If they breed there is a good chance that the chicks will return to nest in the same area once they mature. Look out for nesting platforms going up over the next few years.