Friday, 19 August 2016

A Look at the Dark Side !

I have decided to add another string to my bow, and check out the "Mothing world", at the same time try to improve my photography macro technique, which is very hit and miss at the moment.

  It appears that  Moths are more content to sit and pose, unlike their Butterfly cousins, making photographing them slightly easier. I find myself being drawn to the front head shot and the mysterious eyes of these fascinating creatures.

Like  all new projects, I started off with  good intentions to construct my own 'Moth Trap' but by the time I had looked around for suitable materials, finding nothing suitable, I checked out the price of readymade trap, deducted the cost of materials and electrical fitting and found that the cost  was reasonable. That's me trying to clear my conscious and justify the purchase.

My Moth identification skills are pretty poor, many of the Moths are very similar looking, apart from the spectacular looking Hawkmoths which I am hoping will find there way to my trap.

So the first night of a new venture, the garden was lit up like a floodlit football match, I was half expecting a knock on the door with a complaint, but no complaints as yet.

The Moth Trap was set on a timer to switch off at Sunrise, I made my way down to the trap at a reasonably early hour to check the contents of the trap.
I was half expecting the trap to be full of Moths, disappointedly I couldn't see any obvious moths at first, but as I dismantled the egg boxes placed in the trap used for a safe haven for the Moths, they started to appear, with only one largish moth making a break for it.

In all, I probably had about ten moth species, these are a few that I have managed to identify, the Macro photography still hit and miss, I can't seem to get the whole moth in focus, probably rushing a bit as I half expected the Moths to suddenly take flight, but no they do seem to just sit tight, occasionally  moving to a darker area. 

Hopefully I have got some of these identifications right, This blog will be used to record my Moth sightings around the garden pear tree as and when they appear.

 My first was quite easy to identify, a buffy brown individual that turned out to be a Scalloped Oak, like most of my wildlife sightings, a resident and common species that flies in July to August found in gardens and parks, sometimes in larger numbers, although I had only one individual.

So far so good, pretty confident with the Scalloped Oak, the next Moth was also reasonably easy, and just as interesting, not hard to see how it gots its name. I had about three of these unusual looking Moths, 

This is possibly a second generation that flies between late July to September, flies from Dusk and is partial to the flowers of Red valerian and sage. Another resident and common species often found in gardens, hedgerows  woodland edges.

Another species easy to identify was this Tiger Moth found skulking on the side of the trap. This one is a Jersey Tiger, I have seen these before, often being seen inside peoples homes.quite distinctive.

This one was unsettled and made a break for a hanging basket close by.

Not  hundred percent confident with the one below I think it may be a Straw Underwing, again a few of these in the trap, colouring looking slightly variable

Another very similar looking moth is the one shown at the beginning of this blog, a tentative identification as to a Copper Underwing, two species of Copper underwing found in this country both very similar looking, once again quite common and resident, more usally found in woodland, but also gardens, flight period about right, July to August, sinister looking face on this one.

Another one easily identified with the diagnostic gold squares on the wings, you've got to love those fur collars, as you can see the focus is all over the place, hopefully I will get another chance to photograph this species.
Another common resident found in gardens usally late July to early October

I am struggling with an identification on the rest but recorded here for future reference.

Unidentified 1

Unidentified 1

unidentified 2

probable Common Carpet

unidentified 3

Very enjoyable session, Hoping for a Hawkmoth of some description in the next session.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Gossamer-Winged Butterflies !

'Gossamer-Winged Butterflies', there's a term I was unfamiliar with, we are talking small to medium Butterflies of the Lycaenidae family, there are many species in this family, but in this country I think we are just talking about coppers, blues and hairstreaks. not the easiest to find in my limited experience, about Sixteen resident species in all, only another ten to find

They are described as agile and delicate, the males often have brightly coloured upper surfaces to their wings, with the underwings either spotted or streaked, sometimes with trailing filaments on there wings.

I have caught up with a few of these namely Holly Blue, Common Blue, Brown Argos, Duke of Burgundy, Small Copper and just recently the Purple Hairstreak.

Here's a few seen recently.

 I have mentioned in my other local patch blog about the absence of the Common Blue's, so I was really pleased with this fine looking male, only the second seen this year, which landed in front of me on some low vegetation, in pristine condition.

Common Blue

As I was watching the Common Blue another small  Butterfly disturbed the tranquility, both spirally up into the air, the Common Blue moved on, in its place this gorgeous looking Small Copper, living up to its reputation as being a bit feisty, each time the Common Blue came too close it would launch itself into a spiralling sortie, only to return to its chosen thistle each time.

Small Copper

And to finish of the collection a very brief view of a Holly Blue, which couldn't make up its mind whether to open its wings or not, choosing the latter in the end.

Holly Blue.
I have seen no Brown Argos this year, so here's the one seen on my local patch last year in August so there still might be time to see this again this year.

The Duke Of Burgundy seen earlier this year at Denge Woods in Kent.

Duke of Burgundy
And more recently a Purple Hairstreak at Lullingstone, Kent.

Certainly are exquisite little Butterflies, sometimes going unnoticed,  always worth a second look .

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Lullingstone Beauties !

Lavender fields at Lullingstone
My Wife and probably my dog wanted a change of scenery this morning, so we decided on a walk around Lullingstone Park in the Darent Valley, gorgeous views all around the country park, one of my favoured haunts for Dark Green Fritillaries in the meadows and Banded Demoiselles along the river Darent.

So it was with some surprise that the small silver grey Butterfly which flew up from some bramble next to the path, turned out to be a little more special than I expected, about the size of a Holly Blue butterfly, which was what I expected it to be.

My first ever Purple Hairstreak, posed for a short while, always with its wings closed, which was disappointing, a glimpse of some purple iridescence would have been nice, I read that this particular Hairstreak likes to bask with its wings open, so obviously not in a basking mood.

Purple Hairstreak
This particular Hairstreak, one of the more common apparently, is always difficult to see, or is that just me, they usally found around Oak trees, again usally high up in the uppermost branches, a warm sunny evening is suppose to be the best time, I saw this one around midday.
They feed on the Honeydew found on the Oak trees, occasionally coming down to feed a ground level.

The orange markings could clearly be seen, but I must admit from a distance looked very non- descript

I can't be certain whether this is a male or female, when seen with open wings the male has much more purple on its wings, where the female has a much smaller patch on the upper wings only.

I feel very lucky to have come across this individual, common or not, it will probably be a long time before I see another I expect.

Plenty of other commoner Butterflies to be seen, Meadow Brown, Gatekeepers, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Green Veined White, Small White and a pristine Brimstone passing by at speed.

Meadow Brown

Honey Bee and Gatekeeper on Ragwort

Green Veined White
Small White.
Speckled Wood.

Along the River Darent, plenty of Common Blue Damselflies to be seen and a few of my favourite Banded Demoiselle, still have not seen a female yet this year.

Common Blue Damselfly

male Banded Demoiselle

Can't resist taking lots of photographs of these as they pose on the riverside vegetation, waiting for a female to appear.

Always an enjoyable walk in this beautiful country park.

Monday, 8 August 2016

The Water Carrier !

On a hot summer's day, as I attempted to trim the grass around the base of the bird bath, I found myself ducking and diving in an attempt to avoid the steady stream of Western Honey Bees visiting the bird bath and quenching their thirst, or that was my first thought, strange so many Bees all thirsty at the same time, something more going on here I thought.

I noticed a Honey Bee on the water's edge with a nice reflection, a photo opportunity if ever there was one. A Honey Bee sucking up water with a reflection, preferably a head on shot, sounded easy in my head, not so practically, this was the closest I could get to the image I was after.

We have been experiencing a hot dry spell recently, so the Western Honey Bee Nest wherever it may be, was in need of some water, judging by the number of "Foragers" as they are known visiting the bird bath.

Forager Western Honey Bee
It appears that Bees prefer water with some green slime growth in it, my Bird bath is filled with fresh rain water from the water butt, so must be to their liking, probably is a bit of green slime there I'm ashamed to say, but now I can say it's to encourage the Bees as well as the Birds.

Here is the clever bit, the "forager Bees" after finding a suitable water source, suck it up through their proboscis  and store it in their crops before returning to their hive. The water is then transferred to waiting "in-hive workers", through a process called  trophallaxis basically a transfer  from one bee to another through their proboscis.

Here's another clever bit, if the "in-hive workers" are slow to unload the water, the foragers sense that the need for water has lessened and fewer bees return for more.

 I wonder how the in-hive workers let the foragers know that water is required ?

Water is very important to the community of bee's within the hive for the following reasons.

It is used by the in-hive workers to cool the interior of the hive, a thin film of water is smeared over the sealed brood or the rims of the cells containing larvae and eggs. The in-hive workers then fan vigorously, setting up air currents which evaporate the water and cool the inside of the hive, very clever.

Secondly, the nurse Bees who feed the larvae have a high demand for water, it is they that consume pollen,nectar and water so that they can produce the jelly that's used to feed the larvae.

Thirdly, the use of water is required in the winter months when the stored honey can crystallise as it dries, the Bees need the water to dilute the crystals back into a liquid before they can eat it

I have only witnessed the Honey Bees taking water from the bird bath and the occasional Wasp.

So much going on in the garden that you take for granted, nice to know whats going on.