Monday, 24 August 2015

Migrant Lady.

While ascending some steps on the slopes of Denbies Hillside last week I was delighted to have another encounter with a migrant Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) taking advantage of a break in the clouds to bask in the brief sunshine.

With some six generations each year this species completes an astonishing 15,000km round trip between North Africa and Northern Europe. The numbers appearing in Britain depends on suitable winds and fluctuates dramatically from year to year with the most recent major migration seen in 2009 when around 4 million were detected by radar crossing the English Channel between the 25 and 29 May. 
So far this year the data from UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme indicates that the Painted Lady has been recorded at 424 different sites.

Life Cycle: From egg to adult takes 7-9 weeks, depending on temperatures, and the adults live between 10 to 24 days.
Larval Foodplants: Mainly thistle species but also Mallow, Nettle and Viper's-bugloss.

Linking to:
Nature Notes hosted by Michelle

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Hunting Terns.

A trip to Hayling Island a few days ago to visit my father-in-law provided an opportunity for me to take a wander around the disused oyster beds. With high tide some hours away and a strong south-westerly blowing darkening clouds overhead I wasn't too hopeful of capturing any images until I spotted a pair of Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) dashing across the water and hunting for food for a youngster hidden  in the vegetation on one of the remaining bund walls.

I stood for a while monitoring their regular sorties across the water. As they seemed to be favouring two particular areas not too far away from one of the existing sea defence walls I decided  to pick a spot, park my bottom, and make myself as comfortable as possible and see if I could obtain some closer images.

I had to ramp up the ISO setting from 800 to 1600 in order to catch these very quick flying acrobatic terns so some of the shots are a bit grainy.

Amazing to see how they manage to spot their prey from so high above the surface, twisting their head from side to side, and maintain their position while being buffeted by the strong wind.

My efforts to catch them as they hovered very briefly before plunging into the water was far more sucessful than trying to get a shot of one lifting off with its prey in its bill where I failed dismally!

With very little other activity on or above the water, apart from one or two loafing Black-headed Gulls and overflying Oystercatcher and Little Egret, this pair were constantly chatting to one another until a Crow showed some interest in the nest site and then the noise levels increased dramatically as they wheeled, dived while screaming to defended their air space and promptly drove it away.  

With this final image I thought I had finally managed to capture one adult with prey in its bill but on closer inspection it turned out to be just a feather! 

For previous posts about this site and its history please click HERE.

Linking to:
Camera Critters
I'D-Rather-B-Birdin' hosted by Anni
Through My Lens hosted by Mersad
Wild Bird Wednesday hosted by Stewart

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Hillside Blues.

Following a pre-booked appointment on Monday morning to obtain some advice and an estimate for some much needed and doubtless expensive improvements to our heating system I decided to head over to Denbies Hillside on the North Downs.

Chalkhill Blue (male)
My ultimate quarry was the rarest of our downland blue butterflies on the edge of its European range in this area.

As I slowly descended the slope, with the sun hidden behind clouds, my initial views were only of the undersides of another species also characteristic of the warm chalk hillsides of southern England, a few Chalkhill Blue waiting for the sun to shine.

When the sun reappeared the flutters slowly emerged including Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Brimstone, Painted Lady plus  a Spotted Skipper and then the hillside around me was alive with many Chalkhill Blues. 

Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon)

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

As my search continued across the hillside another blue species alighted close by but this turned out to be just a Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus).
I was beginning to get a little frustrated that I couldn't spot my ultimate quarry until I heard a comment between two ladies walking nearby indicating that they had just seen a different blue butterfly that they couldn't identify. Renewing my efforts I eventually found a few males of this stunning species with the distinctive black lines through the white fringes of the wings.

Adonis Blue (Polyommatus bellargus)

With wings closed the Adonis is very similar to the Chalkhill but with wings open the males are easy to distinguish from one another. The image (bottom right) in the above collage shows several of both species taking minerals from a patch of animal faeces.

Both species share other common factors. Their larval food plant is exclusively Horseshoe Vetch and their larvae are adopted by red (Myrmica) or black (Lasius) ants. The Adonis thrives in sward of 1-6cm and the local rabbit population certainly helps to maintain these conditions.

On a track beneath the hillside is a superb wood carving that depicts the life cycle of this fabulous blue flutter.

Having finally achieved my goal I climbed back up the steep slope and made my way home with a few decent images to share. FAB.

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters


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