Tuesday, 31 July 2018

There be Dragons here.

Many of my readers will know of my regular visits, throughout the seasons, to the acidic heathland, bog, ponds and woodlands at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve  for its wealth of wildlife, notably its special birds and a habitat that also supports over 20 species of Odonata.

A carved sign alongside the boardwalk depicts some of the delights that can be found here and this post serves to illustrate the dragon species I have seen here during the past month.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata).

Four-spotted Chaser (Above and below)

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) [Male above - Female below]

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) [Male above - Female below]

Keeled Skimmer - Mating pair.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) [Male above - Female below]

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) [Male above - Female below]

The Damsels will feature in a future post.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Transect Update - Weeks 16 and 17.

The temperatures during my Week 16 and 17 transect walks varied between 24 and 28 deg.C definitely the hottest and most humid so far this season with the total number of sightings dropping slightly in the higher temperature last week.

Gatekeepers continued to be the highest recorded species over the last two weeks.


Sightings of all the three Skipper species recorded on the transect has shown a downward trend for the last three years. The reasons could be weather related at the larval stage; the timing when the grass rides are mown plus the ever increasing spread of bracken outcompeting the grasses.

Essex Skipper
Although the number of Meadow Brown and Ringlet logged during weeks 16 and 17 have fallen they continue to be the top two annual recorded species for this transect.

Perhaps not unexpectedly for this oak woodland site the one species that has done exceptionally well this year is the Purple Hairstreak. On the 21 July I recorded 26 and last week I logged 43 with many other sightings away from the transect.

Purple Hairstreak

Just one Marbled White seen again in Section 4 last week.

Marbled White

Two other species that has definitely caught my eye this season are the diminutive Brown Argus with nine individuals recorded last week plus six Common Blue.

Common Blue - Female (left) Male (right)

Brown Argus

Over the last 17 weeks I have now recorded 1024 separate sightings of 21 species. This total to date far exceeds any of the previous three years annual counts BUT this does not infer that some of these flutters are doing well just that the recent lengthy period of warmer conditions has brought them out of hiding and made it easier to find and count them.

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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Ruddy Darter.

I took a late morning stroll on Epsom Common yesterday in hot, muggy conditions hoping to grab some more butterfly images but instead came home with something entirely different.

A male Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) decided to land on a strand of the electric fencing, erected to isolate the Belted Galloway that are used for habitat management, without any ill effect. Now if I had touched it there would have been at least a few unforgettable tingles!!

The male didn't hang around for any close-ups but I found a female that was far more cooperative.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Headley Heath Fieldtrip.

Early on Thursday morning I spent a couple of hours wandering across the chalk heath and downland at Headley in the hope of adding a few species to my photo album for this season before joining an pre-planned Butterfly Conservation fieldtrip around this National Trust site.

Not unsurprisingly the most numerous species were the Gatekeeper (above) and Brown Argus (below) frantically nectaring everywhere I trod.

Not initially finding any of my target species I decided to sit awhile at a convenient spot and just soak up the atmosphere and monitor the comings and goings and nearby I spotted a couple of moths.

A Silver-Y and a Common Purple and Gold (Mint Moth).

As the temperature started to rise there was a marked increase in aerial activity and whilst I had seen Dark Green Fritillary at another site earlier this month I had not previously managed to grab any images so finding a female briefly perched was a bonus. I also saw two others, probably males, flying strongly across the hillside.

A few minutes later I located the species I was hoping to find, the rare Silver-spotted Skipper (Hesperia comma).

At around midday I was joined by the large group of BC members on this section of open hillside where a few more Silver-spotted were seen.

A male Chalkhill Blue (Lysandra coridon) was another first for me for 2018.

Above are just a few of the other species logged during our walk, including Silver-washed Fritillary, Marbled White, Speckled Wood, Common Blue and Brimstone.

The final new sighting was a very drowsy female Purple Emperor (below) who eventually fluttered high into the nearby woodland

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Thursday, 19 July 2018

Beautiful Demoiselle.

Emerging from late May through to August the Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) is in my opinion a stunning damselfly.

The males (above) are generally more obvious in flight or when perched whereas the female (below) tends to hide away but the individual below was very obliging.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Small Tortoiseshell.

Over the last four years my transect walks through the woodland glades on Ashtead Common have produced sightings of 24 different species BUT one butterfly that I have so far failed to record is the Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae).

Fortunately I had the opportunity to photograph one individual during a visit to Clandon Wood Burial Reserve at the end of June.

It spent ages with its wings closed so I had to be patient and wait for those fabulous colours to reappear.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Transect Update for Weeks 14 and 15.

My butterfly transect walk for week 14 was undertaken with temperatures around 25 deg.C and just before a short camping holiday in Kent when it soared well above 30 deg.C. On my walk last Monday (Week 15) the temperature was a more comfortable 23 deg.C.

Week 14 produced the highest count of 11 Large Skipper (above) so far this year.

Whilst I logged sightings of 9 Small/Essex Skippers I was only able to clearly identify 4 individuals as Essex Skippers (above).

As expected the most prominent species seen were Ringlets (above) with a total of 171 recorded over the two visits and Week 15 saw the emergence of the Gatekeepers (below). 

I recorded Large, Small and Green-veined Whites on both walks with the former producing 14 sightings and was also the only species that stopped long enough to be captured by the lens.

Large White.

I also recorded my highest count of 26 Purple Hairstreaks in Week 14 and the highest overall annual total so far of 39 easily exceeding any of the previous three years records. The White Admiral tally for this season stands at 40 to date and is double the sightings recorded over the last four years, 

Conversely sightings of Silver-washed Fritillary has so far been much lower than last year.

Three new species for this season were seen in the last two weeks:

Holly Blue.


A female Brown Argus. This is only the second time in four years that I have recorded this species on the transect.

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