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

15

Jul

2019

Sun 07/07/2019

Devil’s coach horse Ocypus olens
Devil’s coach horse Ocypus olens

It started off rainy and cool today, but by the afternoon the sky was blue and bright. We went for a walk at Jeskyns, which was thick with bugs and minibeasts of all kinds. This devil’s coach horse rove beetle was hanging on the top of a blade of grass for some reason, not making any effort to do anything else much.

Marbled white butterfly Melanargia galathea
Marbled white butterfly Melanargia galathea

Marbled white butterflies were absolutely out in force, along with ringlets, meadow browns, various skippers and whites, and the odd painted lady. Marbled whites rarely land, and then hardly ever stay still for long, but right towards the end, one stayed still enough for me to get my first ever reasonably workable photo of one!

Marbled white butterfly Melanargia galathea
Marbled white butterfly Melanargia galathea

A few other things – the black caterpillar with the light dots and the bluish spines is the larva of a Peacock butterfly. The blue spines usually look black, but they are showing up well in this light. We also have a Roesel’s bush cricket nymph, about a quarter of full size.

Peacock butterfly caterpillar
Peacock butterfly caterpillar
Roesel's bush cricket nymph
Roesel's bush cricket nymph
Scorpion fly Panorpa communis.
Scorpion fly Panorpa communis.
The long tail identifies it as a male
The long tail identifies it as a male

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Mon

15

Jul

2019

Fri 05/07/2019

Found this little jumping spider in the conservatory today. It seemed quite large for a jumping spider, maybe 7 or 8 mm long! This is a pretty common species though, Sitticus pubescens, no common name, as usual for spiders.

Jumping spider Sitticus pubescens
Jumping spider Sitticus pubescens
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Mon

15

Jul

2019

Tue 02/07/2019

14-spot ladybird
14-spot ladybird

Captured a couple of ladybirds in th e conservatory – a bog-standard 14-spot that was easy to photograph, and a lively tiny little one, only a couple of millimetres long, apparently all black or dark grey except for the legs, which are noticeably red. Not sure what the detritus is on its back; I think it might be some remnants of stuff that was in the little jar I caught it in.


 

A tiny ladybird, only a couple of millimetres long and with no discernible markings

 

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Mon

15

Jul

2019

Mon 01/07/2019

 

The comma butterflies are suddenly out in force this week. There was a veritable cloud of them up by the nettle beds at the top of Church Walk – here is just one.

Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album
Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album
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Mon

15

Jul

2019

Sun 29/06/2019

Buff ermine moths are pretty common, but moths have been in short supply this year, so here we have it:

Buff ermine moth Spilosoma lutea
Buff ermine moth Spilosoma lutea
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Wed

26

Jun

2019

Sun 23/06/2019

2-spot Ladybird Adalia bipunctata
2-spot Ladybird Adalia bipunctata

 

Loads of people have been reporting on social media about a dearth of 2-spot ladybirds this year! That may not be groundbreaking news to everybody, but the 2-spot is usually the first one around, with individuals coming out of hibernation on sunny days as early as February. I hadn’t seen a single one this year though, until today when this little’un appeared in the back garden.

 

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Wed

26

Jun

2019

Tue 18/06/2019

 

This nice moth fluttered into me when I was trying to wrestle the old pushbike down the overgrown alley this morning. This is the Yellow Shell Camptogramma bilineata.

Yellow Shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Yellow Shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
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Wed

12

Jun

2019

Sun 09/06/2019

Disturbed a small butterfly out in the back alley at home today. The upperwings were all brown, and as the females of several of the ‘blue’ species are brown, I assumed it was a female common blue. Being a cloudy day though, she perched on this fence for long enough for me to go and find my camera, come back and take a few shots. The pattern of spots on the underwing is also very similar in several of these species, but that distinctive figure-of-eight at the leading edge of the hindwing makes this a brown argus rather than a common blue – the two spots are there in the common, but noticeably further apart.

Brown argus butterfly
Brown argus butterfly
Eggs of the common green shield bug – I think
Eggs of the common green shield bug – I think

I found this small clutch of eggs on a leaf in the garden. I always think these small batches are shield bug eggs, although I can’t really remember where I got that idea from – I’ve done a bit of Googling and I still think so though.

 

In fact I will go further and say I think these are eggs of the common green shield bug.

 

 

The tiny insect below is an interesting one – this is the woolly aphid, basically a blackfly in a fleece. They are pretty common, but it’s only the second one I have ever seen, and like the first, I caught it in my hand as it winged its way lazily across our back garden.

 


Woolly aphid
Woolly aphid
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Sat

08

Jun

2019

Thu 06/06/2019

There are loads of rolled leaves in that nettle patch; one contained this green caterpillar, which I’m pretty sure is a mother-of-pearl, bolstering my prediction regarding yesterday’s pupa!

Larva of mother-of-pearl moth
Larva of mother-of-pearl moth

 

Found this fairly tatty small copper butterfly sunning itself on a low garden wall. This species can be seen from May all the way into October, but I generally tend to spot them in the autumn, so I was slightly surprised to see this one! It didn’t hang around long once I approached it with the camera though.

Small copper Lycaena phlaeas
Small copper Lycaena phlaeas
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Sat

08

Jun

2019

Wed 05/06/2019

Continuing our occasional series on carpet moths, here we have the common garden carpet Xanthorhoe fluctuata:

Garden carpet moth Xanthorhoe fluctuata
Garden carpet moth Xanthorhoe fluctuata

I saw this little brown blob on the outside warehouse wall, but without my glasses I couldn’t work out whether it was a live insect, a dead insect, or just a piece of crud stuck to the wall. I took a photo anyway, and it turned out to be a brown lacewing. There are several species, all very similar, so I won’t hazard a categorical ID, but the little fella is only 7 or 8mm long.

 

 

I also found this brightly-marked crane fly. Again, there are various species in the genus Nephrotoma, and I think this is different from the last one I photographed back on Tue 14/08/18. That had the black wing smudges that marked it out as Nephrotoma quadriferia, but this one, being clear-winged, I think is Nephrotoma appendiculata.

Brown lacewing
Brown lacewing
Crane fly of the genus Nephrotoma
Crane fly of the genus Nephrotoma

 

The factory site is liberally sprinkled with false widow spiders, mostly tiny, although we have a couple of chunky ones every year. It’s a bit early in the season for full adults, but the one on the previous page is getting towards half size. A nice specimen anyway. 

False widow spider Steatoda nobilis
False widow spider Steatoda nobilis
Ooh, what is it? Pupa of a nettle leaf-rolling moth – stay tuned for ID!
Ooh, what is it? Pupa of a nettle leaf-rolling moth – stay tuned for ID!

On the way home, I dallied in the overgrown fringes of Church Walk. The footpath is getting overwhelmed, so I suppose someone will be down there to chop the fringes back at some point, but for now the nettles are home to some leaf-rolling caterpillars. I unfurled this leaf and found, not a caterpillar, but a pupa, so I have secreted it in the shed to see what emerges. I am betting on a mother-of-pearl moth.

 

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Sun

02

Jun

2019

Sun 02/06/2019

Burnet moth pupa
Burnet moth pupa

It has been properly hot this weekend – well not really hot, but compared with the appalling spring, really quite warm. We went to Jeskyns again today and they have been letting the grass and wildflowers grow in large swathes across much of the site. This is great for me, and I went wading knee-deep in the sward, looking for bugs and beasties. There were quite a few of these day-flying moths around – this is the Burnet companion, so called because it tends to fly in company with burnet moths, as well as the Mother Shipton moth, which it resembles in size, shape and habits.

 

 

Talking of which, I also ran across this conspicuously yellow chrysalis, which I am pretty sure from previous experience contains a burnet moth pupa.

Burnet companion moth Euclidia glyphica
Burnet companion moth Euclidia glyphica

No w here was a great find – a fully-grown female crab spider Misumena vatia. They are sometimes called flower spiders, because they lurk completely still on white or yellow flowers waiting for prey to appear. The adult females can change their colour to match the host flower and become practically invisible – for me, the only thing that gives away their presence is the prey insect, which should be moving around, but is completely still. In this case, I noticed the bee and stooped to look at it, but it didn’t move a millimetre. I wondered then whether it had been snared by some predator, and only when I was looking for it did I notice this sizeable spider with its jaws embedded in the bee’s hide. Absolutely masterful camouflage!

 

Crab spider Misumena vatia preying on a bumble bee
Crab spider Misumena vatia preying on a bumble bee
Crab spider Misumena vatia
Crab spider Misumena vatia
Grass spider Tibellus oblongus
Grass spider Tibellus oblongus

 

I found this spider running at breakneck speed across the path outside the park. At first I thought it was a wolf spider, as it was about the same size and running just as fast. But it seemed the wrong shape somehow; the long legs seemed to mark it out as a running crab spider of the genus Philodromus – but then there is that stripe down its back. I must admit, it looked more than anything like a grass spider of the genus Tibellus, but  a) these are usually found in lush undergrowth, and  b) I didn’t realise they could run like that. I learned something today though; this genus of grass spiders is actually closely allied to the running crabs; they run down their prey rather than make webs, and that is exactly what this is: a grass spider Tibellus oblongus

 

Which brings me to this bird; the world’s laziest skylark. I saw it land on a fence post, then move to another one a little further away, then sit there singing away as if it was flying aloft. I had a bit of trouble with the camera at this point though – like the little Canon compact I have, which has suddenly decided that it will always focus on the background when I am trying to take macro shots of insects, the Pentax bridge has now decided to always focus on the background when I am taking telephoto shots of birds. I managed to get it to focus on a few shots, although not very well it seems. Anyway, here is the lazy skylark:

Skylark Alauda Arvensis
Skylark Alauda Arvensis

We could hear a yellowhammer singing away ten to the dozen in a low tree as we entered the park, and it didn’t fly away even when we were quite close to the tree, but for some reason I couldn’t see it. Do you ever get that? I thought I was going to get an excellent photography opportunity, but I didn’t see it even when it flew away.

 

Back at home, late in the evening, a moth came fluttering around the living room. I took a flash photo of it when it landed, and it turned out to be the yellow form of the common marbled carpet, below left. Compare it with the moth of the same species I photographed at the garden show last week, below right:

Common marbled carpet moth Dysstroma truncata
Common marbled carpet moth Dysstroma truncata
Common marbled carpet moth Dysstroma truncata
Common marbled carpet moth Dysstroma truncata

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Sun

02

Jun

2019

Mon 27/05/2019

Bank holiday Monday saw us avoiding the road to the seaside like the plague and taking to Jeskyns instead. Had a nice view of a meadow pipit resting on a fence post:

Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis
Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis
Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis
Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis

 

I also saw my first common blue butterfly of the year – this one was still a bit dopey as the weather hasn’t really heated up yet, and it took ages for me to get it to open its wings, but it was an almost fully brown-winged female. The beetle below that is a soldier beetle of the same species I found in Ashenbank Woods last Sunday; there are a lot of these around at the moment. I think the spider is a Clubiona species.

 

Butterfly: Common blue
Butterfly: Common blue
Soldier beetle
Soldier beetle
Spider: Clubiona species
Spider: Clubiona species
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Sun

02

Jun

2019

Sun 26/05/2019

 

I saw something today that I never expected to see: a red kite over the M2 verge near junction 3 (A229 Bluebell Hill)! I am familiar with red kites as they are very common in the Brecon Beacons in Wales and on the M40 in the vicinity of Oxford, and I have seen them in both places – but as far as I know, they are not present in North Kent. Buzzards are our large bird of prey, but this one was undoubtedly a red kite. I have not yet had any response to my queries about this …

Angle shades moth Phlogophora meticulosa
Angle shades moth Phlogophora meticulosa

 

 

The reason I was out that way in the first place was that we had been to the Kent Garden Show at Detling. One of the highlights for me is that I always seem to see unusual moths there. I won’t tell you where though. Oh all right then – in the mobile toilets by the entrance. The species are never rare, but are almost always unusual to me, being a townie. This year we had the common marbled carpet, which is one I don’t ever remember having seen before, and the angle shades, which is dead common everywhere but beautiful nonetheless. The photos are not brilliant, because the light is always fairly subdued in the mobile huts and if you are going to whip out a camera in the gents, then it’s a case of a quick photo and then run … !

 

Common marbled carpet moth Dysstroma truncata
Common marbled carpet moth Dysstroma truncata
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Sun

02

Jun

2019

Fri 24/05/2019

14-spot ladybird Propylea 14-punctata
14-spot ladybird Propylea 14-punctata

This ladybird species is a definite tick every year; they are very common, but not everyone realises they are ladybirds! This is the 14-spot ladybird Propylea 14-punctata, or Propylea quattuordecimpunctata if we are doing it properly! The spots tend to run into each other forming black dashes, so keeping an accurate count is not that easy.

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Sun

02

Jun

2019

Thu 23/05/2019

Brassica bugs Eurydema oeracea
Brassica bugs Eurydema oeracea

Another unrecognised shield bug species, on the bushes in Dering Way. These are quite little, and turned out to be the brassica bug Eurydema oeracea. It feeds mainly on wild crucifers, which are commonplace on these roadside verges, but sometimes goes for cultivated vegetables.

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Sat

25

May

2019

Sun 19/05/2019

We took a turn around Ashenbank Woods today. It wasn’t particularly hot or sunny, but we seemed to hit on the right day for the absolute height of spring – the air was thick with insects, the trees are in full leaf and wild flowers abound everywhere. The bluebells are still in full flower, but largely overwhelmed by tall bracken, although there were still some great views to be had!

Acorn weevil Curculio glandium - probably
Acorn weevil Curculio glandium - probably

As for bugs and beasties, I was having a bit of trouble getting my little compact camera to focus in macro mode, and every time I stopped to photograph some insect or other, there were others flying past or settling then taking off before I had a chance to get to them. I found this little weevil virtually as soon as I entered the gate, but after taking this shot, I realised they were everywhere – all over the bluebells and the nettles. In fact there is such a thing as a bluebell weevil in the UK, but this isn’t it; neither is it the nettle weevil, another species altogether. This one is either the acorn weevil Curculio glandium (which lays its eggs in acorns, on which the larva feeds), or the very similar nut weevil Curculio nucum (which lays its eggs in hazelnuts).

Click beetle
Click beetle

The two species can be differentiated by the shape and structure of the clubs of their antennae and by the length of that extraordinary nose or rostrum. By some strange chance, my camera seems to have focussed squarely on the creature’s left antenna, so I would say that this is the acorn weevil, although I wouldn’t put money on it.

 

There were also large numbers of these beetles (left) flying about – relatively large, a good couple of centimetres long, but thin, with heavily grooved wing-cases. This is a click beetle. The name apparently refers to the method they use for righting themselves if they land on their back for some reason; they flick their wing cases against the ground with a loud click and leap into the air, hopefully landing the right way up. They may have to do this several times to gain the required orientation, hence creating a series of clicks.  Below is another beetle of about the same size; this is a type of soldier beetle.

Soldier beetle
Soldier beetle

Large, handsome cardinal beetles were out in force as well; they weren’t exactly everywhere, but I must have seen half a dozen or more, which exceeds the number I have seen in my whole life up to now. Another large beetle, it is named the cardinal for its luxurious red colouring of course – in fact the red head marks this one out as Pyrochroa serrraticornis; the species more usually known as the cardinal beetle is Pyrochroa coccinea. It is very similar, but the head is black.

Cardinal beetle Pyrochroa serrraticornis
Cardinal beetle Pyrochroa serrraticornis
A frog in the grass
A frog in the grass

A movement in the grass at my feet caught my eye and I looked down to see this little frog shouldering its way through the undergrowth. This is a common frog Rana temporaria, and barely half-grown.

 

We shall get back to beetles in a moment, as they seemed to dominate the woodland scene today. Strangely, I don’t think I saw a single butterfly, even though it is prime season for orange tips and they were all over the woods last year. There were a couple of nursery-web spiders sunning themselves on leaves though; these early hatchers are already getting quite large, sitting in this characteristic pose with the front legs paired:

Nursery-web spider Pisaura mirabilis
Nursery-web spider Pisaura mirabilis

 

Here is quite an unobtrusive but nice beetle; it’s a lot smaller than the other ones we have been seeing today and black (or possibly very dark, metallic green) all over. In actual fact there were tons of tiny beetles and bugs of various kinds and I couldn’t photograph them all, but this one happened to be there and my camera happened to work, so ere we are …

 

Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis (top) and 7-spot Coccinella septempunctata (bottom)
Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis (top) and 7-spot Coccinella septempunctata (bottom)

 

Which brings us on to ladybirds. There were quite a lot of 7-spots around, and even more harlequins. These are an invasive non-native invasive species that have taken over somewhat in recent years, but they are much more variable in colour and markings than the native species. On the left is a shot of a 7-spot and a harlequin together, while below we have two differently-marked harlequins; they both have basically the same pattern of spots, but with widely differing amounts of black.


Harlequin ladybirds Harmonia axyridis
Harlequin ladybirds Harmonia axyridis
Orange ladybird Halyzia sedecimguttata
Orange ladybird Halyzia sedecimguttata

 

 

Our son found this orange ladybird, which is strange because I have only ever seen one before, and he found that one too. I got much better photo last time, but still, this one as moving! They are certainly not rare, but are not often seen in my usual suburban habitat.

 

There were lots of true bugs around, mostly small and insignificant creatures, but here is a pair of beautiful shield bugs of a species I did not recognise. Handsomely attired in purple, with chequerboard markings on the wing edges, this turned out to be the sloe bug Dolycoris baccarum, pictured here on a deadnettle known as yellow archangel:

Sloe bug Dolycoris baccarum
Sloe bug Dolycoris baccarum

And then last of all for today, a little wolf spider carrying her bluish egg sac underneath her abdomen. The camera somehow managed to focus sharply on her front end, ignoring her ample rear, but it’s better than nothing. I could pretend it was deliberate I suppose.

 

Wolf spider with egg sac
Wolf spider with egg sac
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Thu

16

May

2019

Wed 15/05/2019

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella

 

Incredibly, yet another first for me – not only did I get my first ever photos of a yellowhammer, but it was singing away in full breeding plumage at the top of a tree in full view on a bright sunny day. I managed to get reasonably close as well before it flew away, so here are a couple of great shots! Continuing the yellow theme, we saw several brimstone butterflies here at Jeskyns too; we have seen one or two every time we have been here for the last week or two, and when my wife visited without me last week, she says there were loads of them – even though I would have thought this was a bit late in the season for this extremely early species. Easier said than done to get a photo though; brimstones hardly ever settle, and then not for more than a few seconds.

 

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
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Sun

12

May

2019

Sun 12/05/2019

Damselfly Large Red Pyrrhosoma nymphula
Damselfly Large Red Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Another first for me, as a large red damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula came into our garden. I haven’t photographed one before; in fact although it is a common species, I’m not totally sure I have even seen one before. There are only two red damselfly species in the UK, the large and the small – the large is one of the first to emerge, and halfway through May is about as early as it gets, so a real trailblazer this one! In the photo below, it has its wings spread slightly and the shadow in the bright sun makes it look as if it has eight wings. I’d just like to clear up the point – it hasn’t. Four is the absolute limit for a damselfly.

Damselfly Large Red Pyrrhosoma nymphula
Damselfly Large Red Pyrrhosoma nymphula
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Sun

12

May

2019

Sat 11/05/2019

We took a trip out to Southend in Essex. It was tipping down with rain when we arrived, so we just drove along the coast until it stopped, then got out for a walk along the front. Towards Foulness I saw a little white butterfly fluttering about - it took a while to settle, but when it did, it turned out to be this orange tip. It’s a female, which is why it doesn’t have orange tips! I think this is the first photo I have ever managed to take of this species, so really pleased about that! There was also a cuckoo calling softly in the distance, which gave an idyllic quality to the whole proceedings.

Butterfly Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines
Butterfly Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines
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Thu

09

May

2019

Wed 08/05/2019

Several people have reported on Twitter seeing swifts, but they turned up at last in Gravesend this afternoon. I was alerted by the familiar screech as I was walking home from work, and looked up to see several wheeling around overhead. Mind you, that is only one day later than last year and the year before.

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Wed

08

May

2019

Mon 06/05/2019

Micromoth Esperia sulphurella
Micromoth Esperia sulphurella

Freezing cold bank holiday weather today, and although people are posting pictures of various moths and birds from all over the UK, there is precious little going on around here. I saw this attractive little micromoth fluttering around in the back garden, and when it landed I was able to take a few pictures. Took me ages to identify because the picture in my field guide is not brilliant to be honest, but this turned out to be the Esperia sulphurella of the gelechioid superfamily – no common name unfortunately. I think the extra-long bright yellow line on the wings makes it a female; the line on the male is pretty minimal. The whole thing is about 7mm long excluding antennae.

Micromoth Esperia sulphurella
Micromoth Esperia sulphurella
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Tue

30

Apr

2019

Fri 26/04/2019

Took a walk around Jeskyns today, which was alive with bird life. A bright, sunny day revealed chaffinches, linnets, pied wagtails, airborne and grounded skylarks and a nice perching swallow, amongst others. I also found a moth high up in the eaves of the snack bar hut – the maiden’s blush Cyclophora punctaria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left and below:  Male chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Linnet Linaria cannabina
Linnet Linaria cannabina
Linnet Linaria cannabina
Linnet Linaria cannabina

Pied wagtail Motacilla alba
Pied wagtail Motacilla alba
Skylark Alauda arvensis
Skylark Alauda arvensis
Skylark Alauda arvensis
Skylark Alauda arvensis

Maiden’s blush moth Cyclophora punctaria
Maiden’s blush moth Cyclophora punctaria
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Tue

30

Apr

2019

Tue 18/04/2019

Spot the peppered moth?
Spot the peppered moth?

It’s been a absolutely zero year for moths so far; apart from the usual plume and other micromoths, I haven’t seen anything with a wingspan over a centimetre yet. And then suddenly today, my wife spotted a peppered moth in the conservatory, but then it disappeared again. Later on she found it in the kitchen, where it has settled into one of her glass art pots. It stayed so quiescent for so long I thought it had died there, but I was later able to get it on to my finger and then on to a plant in the garden, so it seemed well enough.


Peppered moth Biston betularia
Peppered moth Biston betularia
Peppered moth Biston betularia
Peppered moth Biston betularia
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Tue

02

Apr

2019

Tue 02/04/2019

 

It was lovely and warm and sunny on Saturday and British Summer Time officially started overnight, but it’s been going downhill again ever since. This morning it was overcast and cold; it rained in the afternoon and got colder still. A bit of a birdy day today though; I saw the year’s first swallow flying high overhead as I approached the factory gates at 7:00am. It did not a summer make, but was flying purposefully straight in a westerly direction. Then on the way home, I paused at the top of Church Walk as a great spotted woodpecker swooped low into a tree I had just passed and commenced attacking the branches with short, digging motions of its beak, sending woodchips dropping on to the path. As I watched, another one landed up at the top of the same tree, near to where a goldfinch was slowly edging along the branch. It might be the best view I have ever had of a spotted woodpecker, but of course today was the day I had forgotten my camera. No matter, the light was a bit dull to get a really good shot anyway, but I stood and watched both of them for a fair while, listening to a chiffchaff chirping nearby.

1 Comments

Tue

02

Apr

2019

Thu 28/03/2019

Well, it has been a slow year so far, don’t you think? Apart from a few plume moths and other little micros, you can hardly accuse nature of being in a hurry this year. Nevertheless, today on the factory perimeter fence by the waste ground, I found a shield bug I didn’t recognise, similar to a hawthorn but about half the size:

Juniper shield bug Cyphostethus tristriatus
Juniper shield bug Cyphostethus tristriatus

 

I’m a bit amazed to have found nothing, and then this completely unfamiliar bug. And then over the weekend, my son found an identical one in our back garden. It turns out to be the juniper shield bug Cyphostethus tristriatus, about a centimetre long. According to my book, it is rarely found away from junipers, but truth to tell, I don’t even know what a juniper looks like. I’d be surprised if they have suddenly sprouted near the factory where they have never been before though, and even more surprised if there were any in our garden. I think this year may bring a bit of an irruption of juniper shield bugs.

 

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Fri

08

Feb

2019

Wed 06/02/2019

Wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus
Wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus

My mouse is back! I spotted it again on my way to work, in exactly the same place, in Church Walk opposite the entrance to the Grammar school. I got some marginally better photos this time as well!

Wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus
Wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus
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Fri

08

Feb

2019

Sun 03/03/2019

Spot the seal – if that is indeed its name
Spot the seal – if that is indeed its name

I had to go down to B&Q this morning, and seeing as it was such a bright, sunny day and B&Q is on a retail park by the Thames, I took my camera on the off chance that Benny the beluga would put in an appearance. No one seems to know if he is still around; I was chatting to a guy down there who said he had spotted him three times, two of them close to where we were standing, but the last time was before Christmas. Needless to say, we saw no sign, but we did see a seal pop his head up briefly, which was a kick for me, as I have never seen one down here and didn’t realise we had seals in the river at Gravesend.

The seal and the seagull …
The seal and the seagull …
0 Comments

Fri

08

Feb

2019

Fri 31/01/2019

There have been some great astronomical sights recently – apart from the super blood moon total eclipse, we have had conjunctions of Venus and Mercury and also Venus and Jupiter. I took this shot on the way to work this morning, of Venus on the left of the crescent moon and Jupiter on the right, putting on a fine display:

Venus, the moon and Jupiter
Venus, the moon and Jupiter
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Fri

08

Feb

2019

Tue 29/01/2019

wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus
wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus

This is a strange example of the way things happen sometimes – walking to work down Church walk, I heard a rustling in the undergrowth on my right and wondered briefly whether it was a mouse or something – more likely a skulking bird like a blackbird or possibly a wren, I decided. Then a hundred yards further down the road, there was more rustling to my left, and a mouse dashed out on to the road. It was really tame and stayed around for ages, but I had real trouble getting it on camera. This is about the best I managed, almost putting it completely out of shot. You can just make out its shape at the top, with a bright red eye reflecting in the camera flash. I looked it up at home and decided this is a wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus.

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Fri

08

Feb

2019

Sat 26/01/2019

On this bright January day, I noticed a shield bug sitting atop the garden fence at my house. This is the green shield bug Palomena prasina, but like common lacewings, they go brown in winter.

Green shield bug Palomena prasina
Green shield bug Palomena prasina
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Fri

08

Feb

2019

Mon 21/01/2019

This morning, while I was walking to work, the moon was still in partial eclipse. Here is a pleasant shot of Parrock Avenue with the moon aloft:

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Fri

08

Feb

2019

Sun 20/01/2019

There is going to be a super blood moon total lunar eclipse tonight. It reaches its peak between 2 and 4am, but a cloudy evening has given way to a perfectly clear night – here is the moon, pre-eclipse:

And here are some eclipse shots taken in the dead of night ...

The moon with Pollux in Gemini just about visible towards the top-right
The moon with Pollux in Gemini just about visible towards the top-right
Just hitting totality
Just hitting totality
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Fri

08

Feb

2019

Sat 12/01/2019

Light brown apple moth Epiphyas postvittana
Light brown apple moth Epiphyas postvittana

 

I knew the little critter was hanging around somewhere. At the end of last year’s log, I mentioned that I had seen a small moth hanging around in the conservatory, but it evaded me at the time and I did not get to photograph it. But here it is again, alive and well, and presenting itself as the first nature entry of 2019. I think this is a light brown apple moth …

 

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Mon

14

Jan

2019

Mon 31/12/2018

 

And here, to round off this record, is my last moth of the year. A small crambid similar to the one I photographed on Mon 24/09/2018, it may even be the same species – but if so, then it is more faded and less well marked.

Miscellaneous crambid moth
Miscellaneous crambid moth

 

I still have that little tortrix moth kicking around in the conservatory somewhere, that I spotted a few days ago. Maybe it will re-emerge in 2019?

 

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Mon

14

Jan

2019

Thu 27/12/2019

This was a slightly odd thing too. I noticed a tiny speck, just a few millimetres long,  on the outside warehouse wall, but because I didn’t have my glasses with me, I couldn’t see if it was a creature, a drifting speck of fluff, or part of some dead insect. So I took a photo on deep macro zoom, but then decided it was probably a piece of bird’s dropping or something. As it happened, when I eventually got round to checking my photo, it was a creature after all.

Miscellaneous tiny insect
Miscellaneous tiny insect

I can’t really see whether this insect is still alive or whether it is an empty skin or dead, in fact I can’t even work out what it is. Some kind of aphid perhaps? I also found a little tortrix moth in the conservatory at home over the holidays, but it was too dark to take a photo. We’ll see if it hangs around.

 

Dead or alive?
Dead or alive?

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Wed

19

Dec

2018

Tue 18/12/2018

Saw a male pheasant in full regalia walking around the car park at the back of the warehouse today. Wasn’t expecting that …

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Wed

21

Nov

2018

Mon 12/11/2018

Haven’t seen any moths around the factory for a while, but this lone creature was resting on outside of the warehouse wall this morning.

Cypress carpet moth Thera cupressata
Cypress carpet moth Thera cupressata

I couldn’t find it in my book so I Tweeted an image and asked for help – once again, ace illustrator Richard Lewington came back and identified it as the cypress carpet. It’s in the book all right, but it says it is uncommon, first recorded in the UK in 1984 and first in Kent in 1999. I imagine it has been proliferating somewhat since the book’s first publication in 2003, but still a good one for me!

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Wed

21

Nov

2018

Sun 04/11/2018

Today a flight of no less than 16 ring-necked parakeets came squawking high above our back garden, moving fast in a north-westerly direction. We have been seeing ones and twos of these parakeets here for just a few years, but I haven’t seen them congregating in these concentrations. Yesterday I saw a buzzard soaring over Lower Higham, just a couple of miles outside of Gravesend. Again, they are not unknown here, but it’s still relatively novel to see one this close to home.

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Thu

01

Nov

2018

Wed 24/10/2018

And just to continue the 'I don’t know what that is' theme for a while longer, this elongated fly got into the conservatory today. I think it is a species of soldier fly, probably the Centurion soldier fly Sargus bipunctatus. The orange patch at the front of the abdomen is almost translucent, and the thorax, which appears black against a bright background, is actually a metallic green.

Soldier fly
Soldier fly
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Thu

01

Nov

2018

Sat 20/10/2018

Miscellaneous money spider
Miscellaneous money spider

Found this tiny money spider lurking on a doorpost in Whitstable today. I was hanging around waiting for some other members of the family, so I took a photo because – well why not?

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Thu

01

Nov

2018

Wed 17/10/2018

Common Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea
Common Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea

I had noticed a few lacewings around the place recently that are brown rather than green, and when I looked it up, I found out that there is at least one very common species that turns brown when it hibernates. I found a couple of them at the factory today, as well as one that is still bright green, although in a little bit of bother in a spider’s web. It didn’t look that concerned though; I think it was just resting there.

Common Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea
Common Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea
Common Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea
Common Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea

 

While I was at it, I had another go at getting some really good comparison photos of a common plume moth and a beautiful plume. Reasonable I suppose …

 

Common plume Emmelina monodactyla
Common plume Emmelina monodactyla
Beautiful plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla
Beautiful plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla

There has been a lot of talk on the News and social media about a beluga whale frolicking in the Thames estuary right on our doorstep. It took until today though, for me to get a chance to take a look. Couldn’t see the blighter anywhere of course, only mud, mist and a large number of these wading birds. I’m not sure what they are, mist-shrouded and covered in mud as they are, but then I never am with waders anyway.

Miscellaneous wading birds
Miscellaneous wading birds
Miscellaneous wading birds
Miscellaneous wading birds
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Wed

17

Oct

2018

Tue 16/10/2018

Caddis fly
Caddis fly

Found this nice caddis fly on the warehouse wall today. It’s about an inch long and really pretty ugly, but quite easy to mistake for a moth.

 

 

Another thing was the male oak bush cricket below. I found out fairly recently that the wingless form is an invasive recent import. Most of the ones I have seen recently are wingless, like this:

Male oak bush cricket
Male oak bush cricket

And lastly, I found a medium-sized Segestria spider curled up in a crevice in the wall. When I poked it with a stick, it posed quite nicely for some photos. Evil-looking thing …

Spider Segestria florentina
Spider Segestria florentina
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Sun

14

Oct

2018

Thu 11/10/2018

Back at work now, and this rather nice moth showed up on the warehouse wall. It is relatively large, a couple of inches in wingspan, but the first time I tried to get close enough to photograph it, I managed to spook the moth and it flew off. I watched it fluttering lazily around for a while, during which time it looked remarkably butterfly-like, with creamy underwings and brown forewings, maybe like a faded meadow brown. Then it landed again and I got the shot – this is the mallow moth Larentia clavaria. It is a late moth, with only one flying season from September to November – but according to my field guide, it is seldom seen other than at lights, so I consider this a bit of a coup!

Mallow moth Larentia clavaria
Mallow moth Larentia clavaria
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Sun

14

Oct

2018

Tue 09/10/2018

 

It seems to have been an outstanding years for dragonflies; out at Cliffe Pools, the air was thick with them today. A few large ones, quite a lot of medium-sized, and thousands of small-sized, some of them apparently pretty tiny. The only one that landed within sight of my camera though, was this little brown one with a red stripe down its back. I’m pretty confused about this; there are several small darter species that have red males with the four red spots on their back at the base of the wings. Most of these have brown females. But I can not find any species with a brown abdomen with a red central stripe and the four red spots. They also should all have a couple of black blobs towards the tail, which seem to be completely missing on this specimen, or hopelessly faded. I thought it must be a male, but either immature, or perhaps out of breeding colours, it being so late in the season?

In the end I posted it on Twitter to see if anyone else knew the answer, and got the following  ID from no less than ace nature artist Richard Lewington, who was the illustrator of my dragonfly field guide!

"That’s an old female Common Darter. Females often become reddish as they age."

 

Female common darter dragonfly Sympetrum striolatum
Female common darter dragonfly Sympetrum striolatum
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Wed

10

Oct

2018

Fri 04/10/2018

Spider Nigma walcknaeri stuck in another spider’s web …
Spider Nigma walcknaeri stuck in another spider’s web …

 

The creepy-crawly population seems to be reasserting itself down at the factory. I was a bit surprised to notice this small green spider caught in a large orb web. The orb web belongs to a common garden spider, but the little green critter is a Nigma waelckneri, and they usually live on the surface of leaves. There are no leaves within about 30 feet, and even though I occasionally find on one the warehouse wall, it would have had to jump or fly to find itself in this predicament. Strange, although it appears to have got away with it so far.

 

The moth below is a fairly common find down at the factory, on the metal warehouse wall as here. Despite having a good 2-inch wing span it is easily overlooked in the wild, being perfectly bark-camouflaged and almost completely flat!

Willow beauty moth Peribatodes rhomboidaria
Willow beauty moth Peribatodes rhomboidaria
Miscellaneous noctuid moth
Miscellaneous noctuid moth

This relatively small (half an inch) noctuid moth drew my eye and I took a few photos of it, but to be honest it is so incredibly vaguely marked that I can’t be bothered leafing through the moth book page by page in a vain attempt to ID it. It is a nice warm orangey brown, but must remain forever obscure I think.

 

The lacewing below, on the other hand, is a beautiful creature. It has no noticeable blotches on the wings or spots on the head as mentioned in the guides for some of the other common species, so I think this is the most usual green lacewing Chrysoperla carnea.

Green lacewing Chrysoperla carnea
Green lacewing Chrysoperla carnea
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Wed

10

Oct

2018

Wed 03/10/2018

Large yellow underwing moth Noctua pronuba
Large yellow underwing moth Noctua pronuba

At last, a fairly chunky moth on the warehouse wall at the factory. This is the large yellow underwing, with a wingspan of about 3 inches. It is about as pale brown and boring as possible when at rest, but the underwings are a spectacular golden yellow with dark brown borders. Some moths will let you tickle their wings open slightly, but these ones are pretty skittish and fast-flying, and it was almost out of my reach up the warehouse wall, otherwise I might have had a go at getting it on to my hand – but it probably would have flown the coop anyway.

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Wed

10

Oct

2018

Mon 24/09/2018

Found this little Crambid moth on the outside of the warehouse. After a generously moth-filled summer, early autumn has been a bit barren, otherwise I might not have bothered taking a shot of this innocuous little thing. It is spectacularly marked though.

Small Crambid moth – pretty confident this is a Eudonia species; further than that I will not go
Small Crambid moth – pretty confident this is a Eudonia species; further than that I will not go
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Wed

10

Oct

2018

Fri 21/09/2018

This tiny jumping spider appeared on my desk at work today. The light conditions were not exactly conducive to photography, but I had a go. I’m fairly confident this is the common species Euophrys lanigera.

Jumping spider Euophrys lanigera
Jumping spider Euophrys lanigera
Jumping spider Euophrys lanigera
Jumping spider Euophrys lanigera

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Sat

22

Sep

2018

Mon 03/09/2018

Always a pleasure when an emerald moth turns up at my place of work! This one is the light emerald Campaea margaritata.

Light emerald moth Campaea margaritata.
Light emerald moth Campaea margaritata.
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Sat

22

Sep

2018

Fri 28/08/2018

Here’s a moth I didn’t recognise; I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before. This is the wax moth, a couple of centimetres long and with a distinctive bullet shape!

Wax moth Galleria mellonella
Wax moth Galleria mellonella
Not really sure; possibly the rustic moth ...
Not really sure; possibly the rustic moth ...

 

Not totally sure what this one is; there are tons of smallish noctuid moths with very similar but obscure markings. Usually they turn out to be rustic moths, so that is what I am going for with this one …

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