Throughout the first nine weeks (mid April to mid May) of recording butterfly sightings during my fixed transect walks on Ashtead Common N.N.R. this northern part of the ancient oak woodland had produced just ten different species with the most abundant being Brimstone (14) and Speckled Wood (21).
On many visits the total number of species logged were in low single figures mainly due to the lower temperatures and gusty winds. Fortunately there were other distractions such as watching and listening to singing Chiffchaff, Wren, Blackcap and Garden Warblers.
During these periods of flutter inactivity I gathered a few images of some of the wild flowers encountered along my route including Garlic Mustard, Hawthorn, Stitchwort, Speedwell and Primrose.
My walk earlier this week was again under a grey sky with the sun almost permanently obscured but the species and numbers logged contrasted dramatically to all my previous visits.
My first sighting in a small sunlit clearing was a resting male Large Skipper(Ochlodes sylvanus).
Apart from a couple of flying Speckled Wood I didn't spot anything else throughout the first three heavily shaded sections of the transect. As I entered one of the the main open wooded pasture glades I spotted a distant flying Meadow Brown but got briefly distracted by this Scorpion Fly(Panorpa communis).
Walking across the open grassy glade towards the King Oak produced 17 Meadow Browns(Maniola jurina) and several more were logged in two subsequent sections.
While stepping gingerly through the ferns to photograph the Meadow Browns I spotted a Ladybird and took a quick record shot without paying much attention to its probable identity but later realised that it was one of the European invaders, a Harlequin(Harmonia axyridis).
The other Skipper species logged that was relatively easy to identify by the long thin curved sex brand was a number of Small Skipper(Thymelicus sylvestris).
The Small (T. sylvestris) and Essex (T. lineola) Skippers are often encountered in the same grassland habitat and notoriously difficult to distinguish between unless you can confirm the underside colour of the antenna-tip so I'll reserve judgement on this final image (below).
The final tally for this walk was 31 butterflies but only four species. Hopefully the coming weeks will produce some more interesting sightings. FAB.
During a recent visit to Thursley Common on another windy day I was surprised to locate a pair of (Eurasian) Teal, feeding and paddling just yards from the boardwalk, and totally oblivious to my presence.
Usually I would expect them to immediately take flight at the
slightest hint of any human presence so close by so I took this opportunity
to gather a few shots, mainly of the male with his very distinctive head pattern, as his partner managed to keep
out of view beneath the overhanging vegetation.
Unfortunately this quiet encounter didn't last very long as the pair sensed the intrusion of some noisy walkers approaching from upwind and they promptly took flight. My attention then turned to seeking out a Four Spotted Chaser(Libellula quadrimaculata) taking a rest below my feet in the watery shadows.
I had seen very few dragonflies or damselflies, probably due to the slightly cooler but windy conditions, so I was delighted to spot a Hobby dashing low across the pools and then land in a distant tree.
I waited for quite some time before this individual took flight to seek out more food and it was eventually joined by three more Hobby but attempting to get any quality images of this very fast flying species with my zoom lens (fully extended) was certainly a challenge. I've no doubt the other two photographers on the boardwalk with their very expensive gear had much more success.
After about ten minutes the Hobbies disappeared and on my reverse route I stopped to take a few more shots of the basking Common Lizards (images saved for a future post) and then spotted a resting Large Red Damselfly(Phrrhosoma nymphula) amoungst the heather.
Following on from a previous post 'Obliging Redstart', for which I thank everyone for their appreciative comments, as promised I'm returning to Old Lodge Nature Reserve with a few other images taken during my late morning stroll around this heathland location in East Sussex including a few gates and fences. (Linking toGood Fences hosted by TexWisGirl).
The first avian species seen was a Common Redstart that flew from the pathway in front of me and disappeared into the nearby woodland.
Some time later I had a much closer encounter and you can view some of those images in my earlier post and on FABirding.
Tree Pipits were also very vocal but unfortunately failed to come within range of my lens. A Cuckoo was also heard calling but not seen.
I saw several species of Moths but only one settled long enough ... a very tatty Common Heath. (Thanks to Dave for the ID correction).
The view beyond the fence line gives an indication of the terrain ... a fairly deep sided valley. I enjoyed the downward journey but didn't relish the steep climb up the other side!
Despite the warmer temperature there were very few butterflies seen apart from Speckled Wood, a couple of Brimstone and this Small Heath that was very flighty.
On the downward slope I located a small patch of Common Spotted Orchids.
Another heathland specialist is the Stonechat, often spotted on a high perch, and I also watched one pair feeding youngsters hiding in a stand of gorse.
And finally (no apologies) for another shot of the Common Redstart that was definitely the star species during this visit.
Last Friday morning we drove into East Sussex to enable Anita to attend a craft event at Crowborough and with the chance of some half decent weather I took the opportunity to revisit Old Lodge Nature Reserve.
With views across the Ashdown Forest the reserve habitat is a mixture of heathland, woodland and small pools that support a very varied selection of wildlife including a dozen species of Odonata.
On this visit I saw one or two damselflies and views of any dragonflies were also scarce as they tend to emerge here some three or four weeks later due to the colder temperature of the water.
This site is a stronghold for several avian species, including Tree Pipit and Common Redstart and while listening to Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers I saw both my target species within the first 15 minutes but it took another hour before one special species provided an opportunity to enjoy a close encounter.
As I climbed out of the deep valley I noticed a male Common Redstart(Phoenicurus phoenicurus) using a fence post as a perch in between its search for insects so I promptly found a spot to park myself and waited and watched.
On a couple of occasions it flew away from the fence line and used a dead snag as a perch, just a little too far away for a really good close up, but after a while that situation changed.
This delightful but 'Amber listed' bird gets its name from its fiery-red tail which it constantly flicks and also fans out during its courtship displays.
Originally categorised within the Chat and Thrush (Turdidae) family it is now considered to belong to the Old world flycatchers (Muscicapidae).
This male was obviously feeding a young brood by finding plenty of insects in the grass beneath its perch then flying off but regularly returning to the same spot providing me with some of the best views I've ever enjoyed.
Every so often he would just stop and rest on one of the fence posts and occasionally treat me to a burst of song so I have included below a sonogram by Patrick Aberg in Sweden and you will also hear Willow Warbler and Chaffinch in the background.
One species of wader that I don't very often see in my land-locked county of Surrey; although they do regularly turn up on various reservoir sites in the spring; is the [Eurasian] Oystercatcher(Haematopus ostralegus).
So when I spotted a pair on the roof of a hide overlooking the River Arun that also houses the Sand Martin nests at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Arundel during a visit last month it was an opportunity to grab a few shots for the album.
During a recent break from wielding the paint brush I visited Thursley Common and wandered the various tracks and pathways around this lowland heath habitat under a blue, cloud strewn sky and a very gusty south-westerly wind.
Not surprisingly in such windy conditions there was very little activity on the acidic bog pools but after a patient search I managed to grab a shot (above) of a Four-spotted Chaser(Libellula quadrimaculata) who stopped patrolling for a brief rest.
During periods when the sun became unshackled from the drifting clouds I was joined on the boardwalk by one of a few Common Lizards soaking up the rays.
During a lengthy detour across the heath the only other Odonata that came within range of the lens was this male Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum).
Throughout my visit the birds weren't very co-operative despite seeing or hearing Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Common Whitethroat, Curlew, Cuckoo, Willow Warbler, Linnet, several Woodlark, Skylark, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow and Kestrel.
In a small wooded area this Coal Tit constantly called as it collected food for its nestlings.
One heathland species that you can almost guarantee that will pose for the lens is the Stonechat.