Chalkhill Blue's Nature Blog

*** ALERT: Sometimes photos of spiders appear in this blog. Just letting you know! ***

Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to see any corrections - Chalkhill Blue makes no guarantees as to the accuracy of any of these IDs, and does not accept any responsibility for any harm or damage you may incur by accepting them as gospel!

 

Many thanks, ChB

Mon

23

Jul

2018

Fri 13/07/2018

More moths today; I decided to ignore the first riband wave moth I saw as they are pretty common and I photograph them every year; however when I saw the second one, which was a contrasting variant, I photographed it and decided to do the first one on the way back. You’ve guessed it though – the first one had cleared off by then, so I was left with just the second variant. Never mind, it’s a nice medium-sized thing anyway. On the other common variant, the two wavy lines are filled in with grey, making quite a striking wing bar. Which I presume is the actual ‘riband’ (or r’ribbon’) in question. I might get one of those later.

Riband Wave moth Idaea aversata
Riband Wave moth Idaea aversata

This faded and sorry-looking small moth is a single-dotted wave. I hadn’t even bothered trying to look this one up because there just doesn’t seem to be enough to get hold of; I only stumbled across the identification while looking for something else on the internet – even when fresh it is not brightly marked. The bottom one has the distinctive profile that marks it out as a pug moth, but they are usually very small, only a couple of centimetres in wing span. By comparison, this one is prodigious at a good 4cm. Quite common but ‘rarely seen’ according to my book, this is the bordered pug. The body is plump, but the wings are almost as flat to the wall as if they were painted on. Overleaf is our first spider for ages, on my garden shed.

Single-dotted Wave moth Idaea dimidiata
Single-dotted Wave moth Idaea dimidiata
Bordered pug moth Eupithecia succenturiata
Bordered pug moth Eupithecia succenturiata
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Mon

23

Jul

2018

Wed 11/07/2018

This morning was moth-mungous! I was cycling into work and stopped to take a quick shot of a little moth I spotted on the outside of the warehouse. But then there was a different species seemingly every few feet. All little ones, some quite similar, but the only ‘swaps’ I found were some least carpet moths, the same as yesterday. Here are the warehouse ones. The first one is a bit faded; it is certainly a pug moth, and I’m pretty sure it is the plain pug Eupithecia simpiciata. The second is a carpet moth I don’t remember ever seeing before, the common carpet – not the garden carpet, which is actually the most common one around these parts: 

Possibly the plain pug moth Eupithecia simpiciata
Possibly the plain pug moth Eupithecia simpiciata
Common carpet moth Epirrhoe alternata
Common carpet moth Epirrhoe alternata

This attractively-marked micromoth is oen of three very similar and somewhat variable species, plus a fourth which is a rare accidental import, so my book advised against identifying it for definite unless I felt like getting the dissecting tools out – and I don’t have any. All I can say for sure then, is that this one is of the genus Oegoconia. The bottom one is the very nice least carpet, which we have already seen on these pages this year. Much smaller than the common carpet on the previous page, the least holds its wings at rest much more like a wave moth than the generally triangular-shaped carpets.

Oegoconia micromoth
Oegoconia micromoth
Least carpet moth Idaea usticata
Least carpet moth Idaea usticata

Below is one of the more common pug moths, and does not usually show as colourfully as this. Generally it gives the impression of being white, with some prominent dark wing patches. The hindwings are completely hidden, giving it a very distinctive outline – this is the lime-speck pug Eupithecia centaureata. Not sure what the ‘centaur’ connection is though. The bottom specimen is one of loads of small, unobtrusive grass moths and others that all look pretty much the same. Ii is from the family Crambidae, but further than that I shall not venture

Lime-speck pug moth Eupithecia centaureata
Lime-speck pug moth Eupithecia centaureata
A pretty unremarkable crambid micromoth
A pretty unremarkable crambid micromoth

The attractively-speckled micromoth below is a different thing again; roughly the same size and shape as the above crambid, this is the bird-cherry ermine Yponomeuta evonymella. The common plume moth below that is present all year round on the warehouse walls.

Bird-cherry ermine moth Yponomeuta evonymella
Bird-cherry ermine moth Yponomeuta evonymella
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla

Even that wasn't then end of it - there was a brown-tail moth 12 feet up the wall that I couldn't get to, sadly. My final moth for the day is this spectacular Jersey tiger (below left) I found on my way home. Below right is a little beetle, which I’m sure is a ladybird of some kind, and which was loose in the conservatory.

Jersey tiger moth Euplagia quadripunctaria
Jersey tiger moth Euplagia quadripunctaria
I’m sure this hairy black beetle, about 6mm long, is a ladybird of some kind, but I have not yet been able to identify it
I’m sure this hairy black beetle, about 6mm long, is a ladybird of some kind, but I have not yet been able to identify it

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Mon

23

Jul

2018

Tue 10/07/2018

A lot of these little moths have suddenly appeared, and they are dotted at intervals over the outside of the warehouse and the office block. These two next to each other caught my eye though; I thought it was one larger single moth at first! The little micromoth at the bottom is Agonopterix alstromeriana, from the Elachistidae family of micromoths, whose caterpillars are leaf miners on various grasses.

Least carpet moth Idaea usticata
Least carpet moth Idaea usticata
Micromoth Agonopterix alstromeriana
Micromoth Agonopterix alstromeriana
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Mon

23

Jul

2018

Sat 07/07/2018

Dwarf ladybird, possibly Nephus redtenbacheri
Dwarf ladybird, possibly Nephus redtenbacheri

I am finding quite a number of tiny ladybirds these days, either in the kitchen or the conservatory. They are quite active and difficult to photograph, and so small that until I get a decent shot and blow it up on screen, I can’t even tell what I’m looking at. However, most of the tiny species, (in the region of 2mm long), are pretty dully-coloured, either plain brown or black with sombre brown markings. This one turned out to have bright red markings though, more in line with the larger species, and I’m positive I have never seen one before, so I’m pretty excited! I have no way of identifying it other than via the Ladybird Survey, so I have fired off some photos to them, to see what they come back with. As usual, my photos are dreadful on this scale. Helen at the Ladybird Survey suggested Nephus redtenbacheri as a possible ID.

Dwarf ladybird, possibly Nephus redtenbacheri
Dwarf ladybird, possibly Nephus redtenbacheri
Dwarf ladybird, possibly Nephus redtenbacheri
Dwarf ladybird, possibly Nephus redtenbacheri

This moth got into the conservatory tonight. I thought it was the standard Silver Y, but it turned out to be a similar species, not easily identifiable – dark arches? Clouded brindle maybe?

Not-totally-identified moth
Not-totally-identified moth
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Wed

11

Jul

2018

Fri 06/07/2018

Yesterday one of these moths appeared on the outside wall of the office block at the factory, but it had gone by the time I went down to photograph it. Then this morning I came in and there were two there, including this lovely specimen. This light green species is the small emerald Hemistola chrysoprasaria. Chrysoprase, by the way, is a light green semi-precious gem.

Small emerald moth Hemistola chrysoprasaria
Small emerald moth Hemistola chrysoprasaria
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Wed

11

Jul

2018

Wed 04/07/2018

Here is another, similarly small-sized moth on the outside of the shed. I pored long and hard over my various moth books but without gaining any positive ID. I believe it is one of the wave moths.

And yet another unidentified moth! One of the wave moths probably
And yet another unidentified moth! One of the wave moths probably
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Wed

11

Jul

2018

Wed 27/06/2018

Micro-moth Endotricha flammealis
Micro-moth Endotricha flammealis

Found this strange moth on the kitchen wall at home today! Quite small, with a wingspan of a couple of centimetres, it stands virtually upright so that its wings are almost perpendicular to the wall, and its body is sharply curved at the back end. The spines on its legs and the curved body are reminiscent of some of the plume moths, but the broad wings look  more like those of a thorn moth. Eventually tracked it down as the pyralid micro-moth Endotricha flammealis. In my book, there is nothing else that looks anything like it anywhere on the page!

Unidentified moth
Unidentified moth

 

 

This triangular moth was lurking on the kitchen ceiling at the same time. 

 

So far unidentified, sadly.

 

 

 

 

 

The small moth below showed up on the outside of our garden shed too, but I haven’t manage to identify that yet either …

Another unidentified moth
Another unidentified moth
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Tue

26

Jun

2018

Fri 22/06/2018

Female stag beetle Lucanus cervus
Female stag beetle Lucanus cervus

Out for a walk after dark, we came upon this female stage beetle crossing the pavement. Closeup flash shows the subtle reddish-brown coloration well, but bleaches out the pavement! Slightly further away give more natural results, but the beetle appears plain black.

Female stag beetle Lucanus cervus
Female stag beetle Lucanus cervus
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Fri

22

Jun

2018

Wed 20/06/2018

Found this nice dusky yellow moth in the back garden today. With a wingspan of about an inch, this is the yellow shell moth. They are apparently quite variable, but most of the time they look exactly like this …

Yellow shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Yellow shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Robber fly
Robber fly

Another find was this totally weird fly in the conservatory. At not much more than a centimetre long, it looks at first like a tiny, tiny damselfly. This is, in fact, a member of the robber flies family. They are predatory and are called robber flies because they catch smaller flies in those powerful, grasping legs and carry them off.

 

After a bit of Googling, I belie this is the Striped Slender Robberfly Leptogaster cylindrica.  (Thanks to www.ukwildlife.net)

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Wed

20

Jun

2018

Mon 18/06/2018

The harlequin ladybirds have all suddenly emerged. In Church Walk I found several, and they are quite representative of the variation this species displays. 

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Thu

14

Jun

2018

Thu 14/05/2018

Groovy wasp in the office at work!

Miscellaneous parasitic wasp
Miscellaneous parasitic wasp
Thick-legged flower beetle. Oedemera nobilis
Thick-legged flower beetle. Oedemera nobilis

 

 

I have to walk past a dog rose in Church Walk on the way home, and today it was alive with thick-legged flower beetles – so called because they like flowers and the male has thick legs, like this.

Large skipper butterfly Ochlodes sylvanus
Large skipper butterfly Ochlodes sylvanus

 

 

This large skipper butterfly was quite obliging to the cameras too – it wouldn’t open its wings fully, but then they rarely do; this strange pose in which the hind wings are slightly more open than the forewings is characteristic of large skippers.

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Thu

14

Jun

2018

Wed 03/06/2018

Cycling in to work this morning, I ran across this buff ermine moth at the base of the warehouse wall. I don’t know what that bash is on its head; looks like it’s been in a fight.

Buff ermine moth Spilosoma lutea
Buff ermine moth Spilosoma lutea
Buff ermine moth Spilosoma lutea
Buff ermine moth Spilosoma lutea

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Thu

14

Jun

2018

Sat 09/06/2018

My wife spotted this attractive moth in the back garden today; this is the small magpie Anania hortulata.

Small Magpie moth Anania hortulata
Small Magpie moth Anania hortulata
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Thu

14

Jun

2018

Fri 08/06/2018

A bit annoyed today – on my way home I noticed a spectacular caterpillar in a plant I didn’t recognise, right by someone’s garden wall. I got out my camera, but it said the battery needed charging, so I didn’t manage to get a photo. When I looked it up, it was the caterpillar of a mullein moth, fat and maybe 3.5 cm long, speckled sky blue and light grey. The plant, needless to say, was mullein.

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Tue

12

Jun

2018

Fri 08/06/2018

Caught this really neat tiny moth in the bathroom last night!

Oegoconia moth, possibly Oegoconia caradjai
Oegoconia moth, possibly Oegoconia caradjai
Oegoconia moth, possibly Oegoconia caradjai
Oegoconia moth, possibly Oegoconia caradjai

It appears to be a member of the Autostichidae family, one of three very similar species in the genus Oegoconia. Although there is a fair bit of variation and overlap in the markings of the three species, this one looks a dead ringer for the Oegoconia caradjai in my book, so I’m going with that ID. All three are supposed to start their flight season in late June, so it’s a bit early in any case.

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Tue

12

Jun

2018

Sat 02/06/2018

Wandering out the back of the house at dusk to shut up the back door on this very warm evening, I saw a large beetle fly past the far end of our very small garden. I went out to have a look and saw several of them, stag beetles, flying around. Our adolescent offspring also came out to have a look, and we stayed there watching them fly around until it got too dark to see. Again, 20 years in this house, and we have never seen stag beetles in our air-space – although they are common up on nearby Windmill Hill, and I did discover one in the road out the front of the house last year.

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Tue

12

Jun

2018

01/06/2018

Minibeasts were rife in Church Walk as I was strolling home from work this afternoon. First is this dark beetle, which is exactly the right size and shape for a rosemary (or lavender) beetle, but if so, then it should have metallic green and purple stripes. This one appears to be completely black, which is somewhat confusing. In fact I believe this is the leaf beetle Chrysolina Banksi. No common name I’m afraid ...

Leaf beetle Chrysolina Banksi
Leaf beetle Chrysolina Banksi
Leaf beetle Chrysolina Banksi
Leaf beetle Chrysolina Banksi

Other stuff included this neat little 14-spot ladybird, a bronze shield bug, and the two ladybird larvae shown below. When I got home, my wife and daughter said they had been out the back of the house listening to a cuckoo a short distance away. 20 years in this house, and we have never heard a cuckoo nearby!

14-spot ladybird Propylea quattuordecimpunctata (or 14-punctata)
14-spot ladybird Propylea quattuordecimpunctata (or 14-punctata)
Bronze shield bug Eysarcoris fabricii
Bronze shield bug Eysarcoris fabricii

OK, your masterclass in ladybird larva identification starts here …

Ladybird larva - 7-spot
Ladybird larva - 7-spot
Ladybird larva - harlequin
Ladybird larva - harlequin

Not all ladybird larvae look like this, the small species are quite different, but most of the larger black-with-red-spots one are similar. They take the form of a black, agile carnivore with spiky orange markings. The one on the left will metamorphose to become a 7-spot, while the one on the right will be a harlequin.

 

Finally, there were several of these almost translucent green caterpillars wrapped up in nettle leaves. I think this is the larva of the mother-of-pearl moth.

Mother-of-Pearl moth caterpillar Pleurotya ruralis
Mother-of-Pearl moth caterpillar Pleurotya ruralis
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Thu

31

May

2018

Tue 30/05/2018

Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

Found this fledgling blue tit in the wooded section of Church walk on my way home. It couldn’t fly, although I think it is only a day or two short. It may have tried to fledge just a little too early, or maybe the rain had knocked it out of the nest. There was another storm today with torrential rain, really very spectacular. One of the parents was swooping around, twittering when I found it. Hope it makes it OK.

The rain may also have rousted this spider out of its accustomed lair, and it was huddled in the reveal of our next-door neighbour’s kitchen window. Honestly, this is by far the OhMyGawdWhatTheHellIsThat-est spider I have seen this year, and may even be a contender for biggest one ever. This is a full-grown female house spider Tegenaria domestica. The one on the right is a close-up by the way – it is not that massive!

Two photos of the same house spider Tegenaria domestica
Two photos of the same house spider Tegenaria domestica

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Thu

31

May

2018

Sun 27/05/2018

 

Unusually for a bank holiday weekend, the weather was blue-skied and summer-hot after a spectacular electrical storm over Saturday night. My wife found this neat caterpillar on a lilac tree on the Sunday . . .

 

She was also very aware of green shield bugs on the wing, and found this mating pair while we were gardening. We found several in the garden.

 

Green Shieldbugs Palomena prasina
Green Shieldbugs Palomena prasina

 

The garden encroached into the house as well, as I found this tiny bush cricket nymph on the kitchen ceiling! This is a speckled bush cricket; we usually have one or two every year, quite often inhabiting the conservatory, and sometimes we have a litter of them. This is the only one we have found so far this year.

 

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Fri

25

May

2018

Thu 24/05/2018

The scarlet lily beetle is a spectacular insect, but it’s repellent little larvae will chomp away at your lilies until they disappear. Even Monty Don on Gardener’s World on telly this week advised to “despatch them as you see fit.” Take some photos first though!

Lily beetles Lilioceris lilii
Lily beetles Lilioceris lilii
Marmalade hover Fly Episyrphus balteatus
Marmalade hover Fly Episyrphus balteatus

The marmalade fly (because of its colour, not for any particular predilection for orange preserves), is one of the commonest hover flies, certainly in this area. I don’t really know why this one was posing with one wing outstretched. It stayed that way for a while though.

Running crab spider, Philodromus spp.
Running crab spider, Philodromus spp.

And lastly, let’s have this little running crab spider that has been lurking in the conservatory for the past several days. Running crabs are hunting spiders and they can’t half move when the mood grabs them, although this one seems pretty docile. It’s only a few millimetres long.

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Wed

23

May

2018

Sat 19/05/2018

On this bright, sunny day, this rather damaged holly blue butterfly was hanging around the ceanothus in our back garden for ages. I took loads of photo, but my little compact camera kept focussing on the wrong thing. I eventually coaxed it into focussing on the actual butterfly for this shot, although the direct sunlight has washed out the blue into a bright silver. More importantly though, I have now worked out how to get the camera to focus on whatever I’m pointing at, rather than something away on the side.

Holly blue butterfly Celastrina argiolus
Holly blue butterfly Celastrina argiolus
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Wed

23

May

2018

Fri 18/05/2018

Found this lovely Cardinal beetle in Church Walk (fittingly!) on my way home from work. This is the red-headed species Pyrochroa serraticornis. I think this is only the third time I have spotted one of these, but I have never seen the black-headed variety at all.

Cardinal beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis
Cardinal beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis
14-spot ladybird Propylea quattuordecimpunctata (or 14-punctata)
14-spot ladybird Propylea quattuordecimpunctata (or 14-punctata)

As my fourth documented ladybird species of the year, let’s also have this 14-spot:

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Wed

16

May

2018

Wed 09/05/2018

Ladybird Scymnus interruptus – probably!
Ladybird Scymnus interruptus – probably!

Continuing my search for tiny and obscure ladybirds – I found this little one in the conservatory today. It’s only about 2 mm long, but it still qualifies as a ladybird! From previous identifications, I believe this one to be Scymnus interruptus. It has reddish markings on a black background, and does not have a common name in English.

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Tue

08

May

2018

Mon 07/05/2018

Unexpectedly, after one of the longest, coldest winter in living memory, the May bank holiday weekend was absolutely steaming hot. One week ago there was still some frost around. Today it is summer, and the first three swifts turned up, wheeling and screeching over our back garden. We took a trip to Ashenbank woods, where the bluebells and the butterfly population were the most disappointing I can ever remember – but there were some orange-tip butterflies around, and I saw what I think was a hornet, possibly a queen, my first one ever.

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Tue

08

May

2018

Fri 04/05/2018

Found this 2-inch brown caterpillar crossing the pavement on my way to work this morning. I don’t think it hasn’t had time to get that big this year, so I’m assuming it has been hibernating somewhere. It was walking towards the road, with a brick wall the other side of the far pavement, which didn’t bode well, so I shoved it back on to someone’s garden.

As yet unidentified caterpillar
As yet unidentified caterpillar

Also found this groovy fly at lunchtime today, on the overgrown patch outside the factory perimeter fence. It was resting with its wings outstretched like this, although when it brought them back in, it looked a whole lot more ordinary.

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Tue

08

May

2018

Thu 03/05/2018

Well it still hasn’t warmed up, but at least the sun is out, so it’s quite nice. Today we are aphid-comparing. Here we have a greenfly and a blackfly on a galvanised fence round the back of the warehouse. Firstly, I bet you never realised the greenfly was such an ugly beast close up – the black fly is quite smooth and smoothly-contoured by comparison. And their heads are completely different shapes.

Greenfly
Greenfly
Blackfly
Blackfly

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Tue

08

May

2018

Thu 24/04/2018

Quite a lot of stuff around today, but I will start with this little slide show. It includes a Larinioides cornutus, curled up on a nettle leaf; amongst the other spiders I found today were tons of these half-grown nursery web spiders Pisaura mirabilis. The young ones have a bit of a habit of scrunching their long legs up into uncomfortable-looking poses, but they still move rapidly enough if you get too close. The little wolf spiders are similar, in that they bask in full open sunshine, but if you get too close, they clear off with impressive rapidity. Wolf spiders do not spin webs to catch prey; they are ground hunters, and therefore remarkably quick

There are also hundreds of these dock bugs around at the moment, seen here inhabiting nettles and – er – dock. They are a kind of squash bug.

Dock bugs
Dock bugs
24-spot ladybird Subcoccinella vigintiquatuorpunctata (or 24-punctata)
24-spot ladybird Subcoccinella vigintiquatuorpunctata (or 24-punctata)

Which brings us on to ladybirds. I usually rack up several species every year, so we might as well start – here we have the 24-spot, quite a small species, but unfortunately this one was strolling along quite fast, hence the blurry photo.

 

Below, we have the classic 7-spot.

7-spot ladybird Coccinella septempunctata (or 7-punctata)
7-spot ladybird Coccinella septempunctata (or 7-punctata)

And then finally, we have this tiny, 2-3 mm beetle, that was moving even faster than the 24-spot and is correspondingly even more blurred. I don’t know if this qualifies as a ladybird; I’m hoping the Ladybird Survey will be able to shed some light on it.

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Thu

19

Apr

2018

Thu 19/04/2018

It has gone from winter-cold to summer-hot in less than a week. Today I ventured out for a mooch around at lunchtime, for the first time this year and was rewarded with a pair of mating green-veined white butterflies. They took off and landed several times, being disturbed by small whites fluttering around them, and then I had trouble clearing enough space on my SD card for the camera to take some decent shots, but they stayed around and allowed me to get really close!

Green-veined white butterflies Pieris napi
Green-veined white butterflies Pieris napi
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Thu

12

Apr

2018

Thu 12/04/2018

I saw a blackcap on the way to work this morning. “How do you know it was on its way to work?” I hear you chorus. To which I shall give a smart, witty and spontaneous reply, as soon as I think of one.

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Mon

09

Apr

2018

Sun 07/04/2018

Quite a good day of ‘firsts’ today – drove down to Whitstable and saw my first brimstone butterfly of the year, fluttering along by the roadside. Saw three swallows swooping over Tankerton slopes, (or maybe the same swallow three times), and heard my first chiffchaff in the trees down there.

 

There was also something weird going on with this queen white-tailed bumble bee in a clump of celandine. There was a group of smaller bees that were hovering around, and every now and then, one would swoop down and touch the queen briefly, then fly off again. I don’t know if they were drones; they certainly weren’t hanging around long enough to be mating. I wondered if they were stinging her for some reason. She looked really dopy at first, but then woke up a bit and kinds of walked off. I don’t know what was happening.

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Mon

09

Apr

2018

Thu 22/03/2018

On Tuesday we had a pair of long-tailed tits in our back garden; not bad for a postage-stamp-sized plot. Spring is definitely in the air, with bird-song all over the place; this morning on my walk to work I heard a woodpecker drumming, and a ring-tailed parakeet screeched solo overhead. There seem to be a lot of kestrels wheeling around over the last couple of weeks too.

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Mon

05

Mar

2018

Mon 05/03/2018

The UK was battered by freezing winds and drifting snow all last week, as a Siberian weather front nicknamed ‘the beast from the east’ intersected the precipitation-bearing storm Emma from the south. With 6 inches of lying snow in Gravesend, we actually got off lightly compared with both Scotland and the West Country. A sudden upturn in temperature saw it melt rapidly on Saturday, then heavy rain yesterday washed away the remnants of the slush. By this morning, apart from a few patches in sheltered corners, it was as if it had never happened.

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Mon

05

Mar

2018

Fri 02/03/2018

We woke up to snow on Tuesday and it continued on and off all week, amidst a continuation of this unremittingly cold winter. I kept a lookout for redwings and fieldfares, as these country birds often drift into the towns when the weather is really bad. I caught glimpses of a couple of fieldfares, but today, one landed in the evergreen hedge on the other side of the car park at work, and rested there for a couple of minutes. I have kept a pair of cheap, low-magnification binoculars in my desk drawer for several years, just in case of something like this, but to be honest I don’t think I have ever used them! Today was the day though, as I got a great view of a beautifully-marked fieldfare, as big as a mistle thrush but with blue-grey head and creamy yellow side patches.

 

 

Managed to spot one redwing in Cross Lane East as I was walking home too!

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Mon

12

Feb

2018

Sat 10/02/2018

Took the family down to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve today. It was bright sun when we got out of the car, and blustery, arctic rain when we got back in. Plenty of waders and gulls around though. We spotted these from the John Gooders hide near to Lime Kiln cottage:

A mixed bag of small waders; dunlin Calidris alpina, which are the greyish birds in the background, and ringed plovers Charadrius hiaticula, the strongly-marked specimens in the foreground.
A mixed bag of small waders; dunlin Calidris alpina, which are the greyish birds in the background, and ringed plovers Charadrius hiaticula, the strongly-marked specimens in the foreground.
Redshank Tringa totanus
Redshank Tringa totanus
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, (photographed down the path a little from the John Gooders hide)
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, (photographed down the path a little from the John Gooders hide)
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Mon

12

Feb

2018

Sun 11/02/2018

Skylark Alauda arvensis
Skylark Alauda arvensis

Skylarks are singing cheerily in the cold but bright air at Jeskyns today!

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Wed

07

Feb

2018

Thu 25/01/2018

Nice false widow spider active in the sun today …

False widow spider Steatoda nobilis
False widow spider Steatoda nobilis
False widow spider Steatoda nobilis
False widow spider Steatoda nobilis

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Fri

19

Jan

2018

Wed 17/01/2018

The winter has been cold, overcast and wet so far. Today was glorious though, certainly very cold still, but bright and sunny. I was in a meeting at work when a red admiral butterfly came fluttering around the outside of the office, flapping against the windows trying to get through.

 

I met my son from school and we walked home together; a huge bumble bee was buzzing about the cotoneaster hedge in one of the gardens. It goes to show that it’s difficult to hibernate when the sun is out.

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Fri

19

Jan

2018

Fri 05/01/2018

Whenever I have walked round to the Security gatehouse at work these last few cold, winter weeks, I have seen a flock of linnets. We get a lot of these down in this area all year round, but in the winter they like to congregate around the waste ground behind the warehouse. They are sparrow-sized and sparrow-shaped, but they gather in a loose knot of about 15 birds, wheeling round above the ground for a few turns before landing on the fence or the seed-rich dead undergrowth. I managed to get a photo today, although the light was so bad that hardly any detail can be made out – I think you can tell they are linnets though!

Linnets Linaria cannabina
Linnets Linaria cannabina
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Mon

11

Dec

2017

Mon 04/12/2017

False widow spider Steatoda nobilis
False widow spider Steatoda nobilis

There has been hardly any bug life around; the odd plume moth here and there; a few irritating tiny, slow flies. And then today, despite the miserable cold, I found a decent-sized false widow spider on the outside metal wall of the warehouse. It was pretty well dormant, but it gave me a chance to try out my new little Canon IXUS compact camera. That’s the tip of my index finger there, so we are not looking at a massive spider here, but still unexpected! 

False widow spider Steatoda nobilis
False widow spider Steatoda nobilis
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Sun

03

Dec

2017

Sun 03/12/2017

Well, a couple of things happened at the beginning of November. Firstly, I decided not to try to photograph every tiny bug I see, as I can never keep up with my own stuff and I always seem to be behind uploading it. Secondly, November was so hideously cold and miserable that there was nothing about anyway. The result is that there has been nothing worth reporting on for weeks. Nevertheless, a huge irruption of hawfinches from the continent has been reported, so I hurried out to Ashenbank Woods for half an hour this afternoon to see if I could see anything.

Siskins Spinus spinus – I think!
Siskins Spinus spinus – I think!

 

Apparently the invasion has been going for a couple of months, although I only read about it on Friday. But this afternoon was so poor, grey and overcast I could hardly see anything anyway. I made out one chaffinch, a couple of blackbirds and a whole load of pigeons and jackdaws. There were also a few grey-silhouette birds high in the branches, but the light was so appalling, all I could do was attempt a couple of long-range photos so I could identify them when I got home. It turns out that one was a bog-standard great tit, but I think these little fellow high up in a birch tree are siskins.

 

Mon

06

Nov

2017

Mon 06/11/2017

The temperature has been vacillating between mild and freezing cold so far this month, but it wasn’t until this morning that we got our first frost down here in Gravesend. A hard frost too.

Mon

06

Nov

2017

Tue 31/10/2017

Harvestmen are out and about at the moment. This one was found on the brickwork outside the new production staff entrance at work, stretched out along the mortar between bricks. It seems to have a couple of legs missing from one side.

Another harvestman
Another harvestman

Mon

23

Oct

2017

Thu 19/10/2017

More horrendous spider stuff. One of the guys at work found this humungous house spider on the side of a fence post. I don’t know quite how, but it has damaged one of its legs, which is twisted under its body and caught under a splinter of wood on the post:

Male Tegenaria house spider
Male Tegenaria house spider

That is a 4-inch post, 9½ centimetres in new money. The spider’s head and body are about 2 cm long, about ¾ inch, the same as Monday’s Segestria – but the legs give it a tip-to-tail length of a good 7 cm, or more-or-less 3 inches. And that is not stretched out either; I think it would hang over each side of the post if it did that. Female house spiders tend to have larger bodies but shorter legs. Also, it is generally the males that are out and about in the autumn looking for a mate, and this one is definitely a male.

Harvestman
Harvestman

Interestingly, right on the opposite side of the same post was a pretty stretchy harvestman too. Like spiders, harvestmen are predatory arachnids, but the usually have very small bodies and tremendously long, skinny legs.

 

OK, I think we’re about done with big scary spiders for now. Below is a nice moth I discovered on the side of the warehouse. The moth is again, a couple of centimetres long, but I can’t get a positive ID on it. It is very similar to the large ranunculus I found down here on 12th October last year, although this one is pretty faded by comparison and lacks the little orange highlights. It is certainly a related species though, maybe the dusky brocade Apamea remissa.

Unidentified noctuid moth
Unidentified noctuid moth
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Mon

16

Oct

2017

Mon 16/10/2017

I was walking past that patch of waste ground at the back of the warehouse today, where they cleared all the thickets back in June. It is already pretty heavily overgrown, but with dense wild flowers rather than shrubs and bushes. Anyway, to my surprise, a couple of male pheasants swooped in, noisily chuck-chucking and chasing each other around. I have never seen pheasants here before. It’s not exactly rural; the works back on to a railway, which backs on to an industrial estate, which backs on to the Thames estuary. There is some marshy pasture out the west side on the other side of the water purification works and the traveller site, but I think the pheasants were a bit lost.

Spider Segestria florentina
Spider Segestria florentina

I have to admit this: Segestria spiders always make me jump. They are big, black and aggressive, and they move like lightning. Having said that, when I come across one of their distinctive, trip-wire webs, with strands of silk radiating from a hole in the wall, I can never resist stroking the filaments to see if I can coax the spider out. Usually, when they emerge, they are so quick it makes me flinch, no matter how cool I intend to be.

Spider Segestria florentina
Spider Segestria florentina

I know there was a big one on the outside of our shed at home, but I have never seen more than its front legs, and recently not even that, so I presumed it had left or died. But it was so warm this evening, overcast with the spooky yellowish clouds of hurricane Ophelia, that I tried again. I stroked the trip wires with a foot-long grass stem so as not to get too close, and the beast came steaming out immediately. It had its fangs into my grass stem before I could react; I whipped the stem away and yanked the spider with it, sending it barrelling across the garden. It landed on a paving slab and sat there, puzzled and a bit disappointed I think. 

Spider Segestria florentina
Spider Segestria florentina

I could have got some great shots, but it was manically overcast and quite dark, so I had to take these with flash, which meant I couldn’t get that close. The ones without flash are a bit fuzzy. This spider is 2 cm nose to tail, or about ¾ inch not counting the legs.

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Mon

16

Oct

2017

Wed 11/10/2017

Immature nursery-web spider Pisaura mirabilis
Immature nursery-web spider Pisaura mirabilis

Found this small, juvenile nursery-web spider indoors in the factory office block today. It looks fearsome at this scale, but it’s only 5 or 6 mm long.

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Mon

16

Oct

2017

SAt 17/10/2017

Sat 07/10/17: We went for a walk through Greenwich Park today. The screech of ring-necked parakeets is everywhere, and over at the east end of the park they are flocking in people’s gardens and eating their rose hips.

Ring-necked parakeet Psittacula krameri
Ring-necked parakeet Psittacula krameri
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Wed

04

Oct

2017

Sun 01/10/2017

The swifts cleared off all of a sudden nearly two months ago, but there are still loads of swallows around; I haven’t even seen them lining up on telegraph wires to migrate south yet. Today though, a large group of house martins was buzzing about above our house. We don’t usually see many of them round here, so I guess that’s a migratory group. 

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Wed

04

Oct

2017

Sat 30/09/2017

A late trip out to Cliffe Pools blackberrying yielded a lot of distant bird sightings today. The below large bird of prey was visible way over towards the distant docks; I was hoping it would be a marsh harrier, as they are well-known inhabitants of these wastes, and according to my bird-watching friend Matt, that's exactly what it is. The pools, too, yielded large numbers of waders; last time they were dominated by a group of spoonbills, but these ones turned out to be avocets. There were some spoonbills keeping to the background, but none came within range of my lens. 

Marsh harrier!
Marsh harrier!

It was less than a month ago that these pools were populated by spoonbills, striding purposefully along and waving their spatulate beaks back and forth in the shallows. Today’s birds looked similar in the distance, but had splodges of black as well – zoom photographs revealed them as avocets! One or two spoonbills still hanging around in the distance though, along with the odd little egret. Plenty of lapwings too, and a dense stand of grey-brown waders all facing the wrong way. I think they might be bar-tailed godwits, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

In the foreground:  Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta
In the foreground: Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta

 

Later, the raptor returned, (or a raptor anyway), and put the wind up a lot of these waders. The masked face markings identify it as a female marsh harrier I think - rather than the more common buzzard!

 

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus
Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus
2 Comments

Wed

04

Oct

2017

Fri 29/10/2017

22-spot ladybird Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata, often shortened (for some reason) to Psyllobora 22-punctata.   Also sometimes referred to as Thea 22-punctata
22-spot ladybird Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata, often shortened (for some reason) to Psyllobora 22-punctata. Also sometimes referred to as Thea 22-punctata

Just when I thought my supply of ladybird species for the year was drying up, this little 22-spot blundered into our conservatory. It’s a relatively small variety, but it still constitutes my 9th ladybird species of the year.

2 Comments

Wed

04

Oct

2017

Sun 24/09/2017

Winchats Saxicola rubetra
Winchats Saxicola rubetra

On this lovely, sunny, late September day, we took a trip out to Jeskyns for a walk. These little birds were fluttering in and out of a bush way out in the middle of a field, so I attempted to get some photos under heavy zoom. I can’t say they were particularly successful, but they did at least allow me to identify the birds as winchats, a migratory species that sits on the borders between thrushes and flycatchers.

Winchats Saxicola rubetra
Winchats Saxicola rubetra
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