Saturday, 22 September 2018

Clouded yellow

Butterfly season will soon be over for this year, but I'm still seeing a few species here and there when the sun is shining, Red Admiral, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Small White, Small Copper, Common Blue, Small Heath  to name a few.

 I finally caught up with a fine looking Clouded Yellow which I have been looking for these last few weeks, this one was nectaring on the yellow flowers alongside the track at Rainham.

 Funny enough, I saw one in the exact same spot a few weeks ago, I couldn't focus on that one quick enough, it was soon off at a rate of knots impossible to follow.

One other was seen at  Oare Marshes last month, that was a very pale coloured  individual, also too fast to get a photograph.

So I was quite pleased to get these photographs, a shame there all closed wing shots, but these never seem to open their wings when I see them.

 Clouded Yellow     Colias croceus,

Most of my sightings over the years have been of the odd single butterfly usally near coastal sites, how I would like to see one of those " Clouded Yellow Years" when, with the right conditions many hundreds turn up along the coast. I have seen reports of this happening back in 2006, 2013, could be happening again soon. all that's needed, are large broods to coincide with a warm summer, and the winds to be blowing from southern Europe and North Africa.  Not too much to ask for.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Woodpecker vs Pear tree

I'm rather fond of the Olde Pear Tree in my garden, being the main focal point for most of my garden bird activity, there's always a cry of  "quick look at the pear tree" especially when a Great Spotted Woodpecker grace's us with a visit

We don't get that many visits, last year we had a few sightings, this is the first this year, which looks to me like a young female, no red patch on the nape of the neck and still some remnants of a juvenile red cap on the head.

There usally attracted to the peanut feeders, this female was looking for insects on the trunk, a beautiful bird to watch, although as I noticed chips of bark starting to fly off in all directions, my heart sunk at little with concern for the health of my favorite tree.

 A quick check after the woodpecker had left the scene, they never stay for long anyway,
 no real damage to my beloved tree, to be honest the visits are quite infrequent, 
and the Woodpecker only doing what a Woodpecker does.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Seeds of Self Doubt !

Since seeing my last Willow Emerald Damselfly back in October 2014, I always pause and check for a sighting as I pass the  "Troll Bridge " at Rainham RSPB.
I have had no luck until recently, when as I checked, not really expecting to see anything of interest, unbelievably there was a Damselfly on an overhanging twig in front of the bridge, I was sure it was a Willow Emerald, even more so when a second individual turned up close by. I set about trying to get a reasonable photograph so I could check my identification later.

Sighting one  Willow Emerald Damselfly

Sighting Two  - Willow Emerald Damselfly ?

All the key identification points looked good I thought, metallic green body, no blue markings on S2 and S10 , pale wing spots, black and cream leg colouring, and just a hint of a spur on the side of the thorax.

And here lies my dilemma, as I watched these lovely Damselflys, a passerby inquired what I was looking at,  I pointed out the Damselflys I presumed were Willow Emeralds, here comes the seeds of self doubt, he informed me that there were also Common Emeralds breeding here in this same spot.

As he moved off leaving me doubting my observation, could these possibly be teneral female Common Emeralds I was beginning to ponder.

One further sighting in the woodland bramble still left me doubting my original identification, but all the key points were there.

 I was thinking that the Common Emeralds were getting near the end of there flight period surely there wouldn't still be teneral females around, which can cause confusion. Willow Emeralds are reaching their peak flying time. but I am no expert, this third sighting did look quite good for a Willow Emerald.

sighting 3 Willow Emerald ?
The above sightings were made at the end of August, I have been back several times now, and it seems to be that the Willow Emeralds have vastly increased their population, on each visit now I have made numerous sightings throughout September, the latest sighting being 18th September , mainly around woodland where the reeds have been trimmed back from the boardwalks. Hopefully these are all Willow Emerald sightings as all the key I.D. points seem to be there.

Male & Female Willow Emerald Damselfly

This last photograph I think confirms my original identification, a male and female Willow Emerald Damselfly in tandem. these were all seen in the first week of September.

The photographs below taken second and third week in September.

Strangely I have seen no sightings of the Common Emerald, male or female at this location, all the sightings I have made have had pale wing spots, none having a darker brown of the Common Emerald. Unless I have misidentified some of these sightings.

Here come those seeds of Self Doubt again

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Its just a Hobby !

The Hobby, what a fantastic bird to watch as they hawk for Dragonflys over the Marshes, my father in law was introduced to the aerobatics of this graceful Hawk as we stopped for our lunch break in the Shooting Butts hide at Rainham, they certainly put on a good display for us.

There were at least three circling the marsh on this occasion, but I have seen in the past, up to eleven of these hawking over the reedbeds, albeit over Stodmarsh on that occasion.

Trying to get a photograph of a Hobby is a frustrating process altogether, they are so fast, I find it extremely difficult to get a fix on them, but its always worth a try, these two photographs were the only ones in which the bird could be recognized as a Hobby.

There seems to be plenty of Dragonfly's around the marsh still as autumn creeps on, mainly Migrant Hawkers and Ruddy Darters, but the Hobbies are certainly depleting there numbers as they pass through.

It wont be long now until they leave our shores, returning to tropical Africa, but there be back late spring next year, something to look forward to.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

The Feisty Small Copper !

Small Copper  Lycaena phlaeas

Its that bright coppery orange fore wing that usally catches your eye, this feisty little butterfly can often be seen on its chosen vantage point overlooking its territory.

The males in particular are very territorial, chasing off other insects, butterflies of all sizes,and then returning to there vantage point where they await the appearance of a female. I witnessed a male chase off a Brown Argus, a Common Blue, a Small White as well as other male Small Coppers.

I was fortunate enough to come across a pair of Small Coppers in courtship. I was under the impression that the larger of the two was the male, as it seemed to be making all the dominant moves, in particular crawling after the smaller, brighter coloured individual, which at first did not seem to interested in the idea of courtship.

This was not the case though, according to my field guide its the female that is larger than the male, this slightly worn female was obviously keen on mating with this fresh, brightly coloured male it appears.

This female spent some time pursuing the male around this dead thistle head, there was a brief coupling, but the male left the scene leaving the female still crawling around the thistle head.

There were plenty of other sightings on this warm sunny afternoon, providing me with various photo opportunities on different wild flower scenario's

There were a few other small butterflies on view, Brown Argus gave some similar views, the usual Common Blue. But the Small Coppers were definitely the dominant species chasing these away time after time.

female Common Blue

Brown Argus

Brown Argus

Male Common Blue

Small Copper
Autumn and winter are drawing near, here in the south of the country these Small Coppers can still be seen until late October, will be interesting to see how they fare as autumn progresses.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Long time, No See.

I can't seem to hear the so called 'pinging' call of the Bearded Tit, I have put this down to the High tone hearing loss I seemed to have developed in my latter years with the fire brigade. unfortunately this 'pinging ' call serves as a good indicator that the birds are close by.

Whatever the reason I don't see these birds very often, and I do spend a lot of time wandering through their chosen habitat of reed bed,when I do see them its more by chance than design.

So its always a special occasion when one does pop up to the top of the reeds and makes its presence visible rather than audible.

This looks to be a juvenile, possibly a juvenile male, the bill looks orange/yellow, the black band in front of the eye, another indicator of a male. This one showed showed well on the top of the Phragmites for a short time, another bird was seen lower down in the reeds but was soon lost to view.

Both birds melted back into the reeds, hopefully they have had a good breeding season and more will be on view during the winter months.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Southern Hawker !

I find it hard to believe that I have only just come across this large Hawker and not registered that I am looking at the Southern Hawker, especially as this is suppose to be a very common species here in the south of the country.

This species which flies between June and October coincides with the large number of Migrant Hawkers that I usally encounter, I can only assume that maybe I have not been paying enough attention to the individuals seen and assuming that they are all Migrant Hawkers I'm ashamed to admit. but saying that, there was a marked size difference. surely it would have registered that this was something different.

 There again could be the first time our paths have crossed.

I came across at least four of these Southern Hawkers, three of which were basking in the sunshine on brambles, the fourth, true to form came head to head with me as I walked along the woodland track. my field guides tells me that they are quite an inquisitive dragonfly. All were seen  on the edge of the woodland, all were males.

Southern Hawker male   Aeshna cyanea

Key identification points:- The two large yellow shoulder patches on the top of the thorax just behind the eyes often termed the "Headlights" were quite distinctive, and showed up quite well on the individuals seen. The overall colouring of the thorax was clearly a lime green with narrower brown stripes. The Migrant Hawker which I usally see, has a yellow background colour to the thorax, and the yellow patches on top of the thorax are quite small in comparison
The blue coloured bands on the lower segments of the abdomen S9 and S10 could clearly be seen, the twin spots on the remaining segments were green in colour, on the top of the abdomen segments, blue on the side. whereas the male Migrant Hawker has twin blue spots on all the segments. The female has yellowish spots and bands in stead of blue. but I am yet to see the female.
Segment 2 has a narrow lime green narrow triangular mark, giving it a more mushroom like shape to me, again using the Migrant Hawker for comparison, which has a golf tee shaped mark on S2.

Strangely, since being more aware of this dragonfly I have seen no more to date, so maybe not that common after all. I certainly will be paying more attention in the future.

Southern Hawker (no2)

Southern Hawker No3

Nice to see  a new Dragonfly species, still ticking off the more so called common species.