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

Thu

19

Sep

2019

Mon 16/09/2019

Here is another new species of moth for me, on the warehouse wall as usual, but so cryptically coloured that I think I walked past the pair of them a couple of times. This is a mating pair of the Pale mottled willow, to distinguish it from any other species of mottled willow you may come across. Below them is a photo of a lime-speck pug moth, a small but very recognisable species due to the wing configuration.

Pale Mottled Willow Caradrina clavipalpis
Pale Mottled Willow Caradrina clavipalpis
Lime-speck pug Eupithecia centaureata
Lime-speck pug Eupithecia centaureata
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Thu

19

Sep

2019

Fri 13/09/2019

Small dragonfly visiting the office
Small dragonfly visiting the office

Quite surprised when this dragonfly landed on the edge of the open window next to my desk! I think it is a female ruddy darter, but I wouldn’t swear to it. The thing buzzed off when I tried to reach my camera-arm out through the window.

 

Just about public enemy no.1 in gardening circles this year is the box-tree moth. It’s caterpillars ravage the box shrubs so beloved of formal gardeners. It was introduced from Asia, accidentally apparently, and first recorded in the UK in Kent in 2007. I have never seen or heard of them before this year, but I have seen two or three around the warehouse walls at work, and one in the alley behind my house. They seem to be easily disturbed though, and are therefore a bit tricky to photograph, close up at least. Today I found at least half a dozen around the warehouse, all too high up for me to reach apart from one – I took a distance shot of it, but as soon as I moved in it got spooked and flew off.

Box-tree moth Cydalima perspectalis
Box-tree moth Cydalima perspectalis

Their colouring makes them difficult to photograph too, as the bright white in the centre always seems to over-expose. I did, however, manage to get some reasonable shots using zoom, of a specimen 10 or 12 feet from the ground. So here we have – my first record of a box-tree moth.

Found this nice caddis fly on the warehouse wall too – about 2cm long and could easily be mistaken for a moth, this is the adult of the children’s-book-favourite caddis larva, that lives underwater and covers itself with a casing of sand, grit and tiny twigs.

Caddis
Caddis

And then while I am about it, probably my best-ever shot of what is probably a common plume moth, and a reasonably decent one of a beautiful plume, which is actually about half the size.

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Thu

19

Sep

2019

Wed 11/09/2019

Yet another fantastic new species of moth turned up on the warehouse today. Small but perfectly formed, this is the gold triangle. The pose most commonly seen in illustrations is of the moth holding its wings in a triangle shape; forming a gold outline, hence the name. But this species is known for two distinctively different resting postures, and this specimen selected the second, spreadeagled on the side of the warehouse, displaying warm purplish-brown colouring highlighted with gold, an arched back and bright green eyes.

Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
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Fri

13

Sep

2019

Sun 08/09/2019

Had a nice walk in the early autumn sunshine at Jeskyns today. Here           are a couple of butterflies: a late comma and a small heath.

Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album
Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album
Small heath butterfly Coenonympha pamphilus
Small heath butterfly Coenonympha pamphilus
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Fri

13

Sep

2019

Fri 06/09/2019

Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner Cameraria ohridella
Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner Cameraria ohridella

 

This miniscule but beautofully-marked moth is the horse-chestnut leaf miner. It’s fairly unusual for a tiny micromoth to have a common name, but many of the leaf miners do, because their larvae tend to feed on specific plants and are thus easy to identify. At 4mm long and barely 1mm wide though, if it was any smaller it would hardly be a moth at all. And yet my book labes it as ‘common’. How do they know? Are there teams of spotters wandering the country tripping over the things?

 

And here’s another guidebook anomaly. This small moth, with a wingspan of about 2 cm, has virtually no identifying features other than a creamy colour and dusty complexion, and a vague horizontal dark line halfway down. There is also, you may notice, a dark spot near the middle of each wing. This is enough to identify it as the small dusty wave moth. It is on a page with half a dozen virtually identical moths of different sizes and slightly variable shades. And yet under ‘similar species’, the book says, ‘no similar closely-related species’, but sometimes confused with a couple of moths of the pug family. Maybe there are some glaringly identifiable features that just pass me by.

Small Dusty Wave moth Idaea seriata
Small Dusty Wave moth Idaea seriata
Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis
Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis

And just for fun – here is a newly-emerged harlequin ladybird (of very similar markings to the one I photographed on Tue 27/08/19), fortifying itself for the life ahead by eating its own pupal case. Yummy.

 

Not had many good spider pictures lately, so he is a beautifully-coloured male Araneus diadematus loose on the walls of the warehouse …

 

Male garden or diadem spider Araneus diadematus
Male garden or diadem spider Araneus diadematus
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Fri

13

Sep

2019

Tue 05/05/2019

 

After a woefully slow start to the year, new moth species are flowing thick and fast now. This one looked at first to be a blood-vein, although the thick central line is grey rather than dark red, and the moth seems a little small. So it turns out to be a new one to me, the small blood-vein Scopula imitaria.

Small blood-vein moth Scopula imitaria
Small blood-vein moth Scopula imitaria
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Fri

06

Sep

2019

Sat 31/08/2019

 

We took a trip up to Greenwich Market today, and I kept passing this dusky thorn moth roosting on the wall. It seems to have that cryptic colouring so common in moths that causes it to virtually disappear against tree bark – but the individual way thorn moths have of holding their wings makes it impossible to lie flat! It struck me that it looked more like a bracket fungus, but roosting on a white wall didn’t seem to be the best camouflage strategy. It was there when we arrived at 8:00am and still there when we left at 5:30pm!

 

Dusky Thorn moth Ennomos fuscantaria
Dusky Thorn moth Ennomos fuscantaria
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Thu

05

Sep

2019

Thu 29/08/2019

Not much around today, except for a few Crambid moths. These are the long, thin micromoths, often called grass moths because they tend to land on grass blades, and being so thin, they often disappear completely behind such a slim leaf! This Catoptria falsella is well-marked and relatively colourful though, and although they are reckoned to be pretty common, I don’t remember seeing one before.

Micromoth Catoptria falsella
Micromoth Catoptria falsella
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Thu

05

Sep

2019

Wed 28/08/2019

Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya

Yesterday’s common plume moths illustrate how difficult it can be to identify even a common species. The first one is quite hale and hearty, and relatively sturdy, with closed wingtips. It may not be easy to tell from the photos, but the second is way smaller and more wispy-looking, and the wing tis are splayed slightly. I submitted it to the Twitter fraternity though, and the consensus was that it is still a common plume rather than some more exotic species. Below is yet another pose from the ubiquitous common plume moth; this one holding itself in a shallow ‘Y’ shape.

Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus chawing on a mayfly
Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus chawing on a mayfly

Mostly though, today was about the very common little zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus. I have taken a few shots of these with prey, but because they are so common, so small, and rarely stand still, I have no very good portrait photos of them. Today I tried to rectify this shortfall, only to realise that there is a remarkable amount af variation in their markings. The usual type is a faded dark-grey-on-light-grey stripe, but the fresher, better-marked specimens have a shiny black thorax and brown-on-white abdominal markings. Even the books describe them as black and white; rarely a mention of the brown variant – they are all the same species though.

Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus
Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus
Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus
Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus

While I am on a spidery theme – I found this fully-grown male Segestria florentina on the pavement on my way to work this drizzly morning. It wasn’t moving at all, but it wasn’t dead – just a bit cold I think. Probably been out on the razz.

Spider Segestria florentina
Spider Segestria florentina
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Tue

03

Sep

2019

Tue 27/08/2019

Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis
Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis

 

OK, now this morning was manic for moths! I cycled in to work, which meant I had to pass by the northern wall of the warehouse, with its slab-sided metal wall. This habitat often harbours roosting moths, and I always keep an eye out for them as I cycle past. But this morning, I couldn’t go more than a couple of feet without spotting another great moth or beetle of some kind! The harlequin ladybird on the left is a case in point, with those four black quarter-circles in the middle being an unusual variant.

 

So here is a selection of the best …

 

Angle Shades moth Phlogophora meticulosa
Angle Shades moth Phlogophora meticulosa
Yellow Shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Yellow Shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Micromoth Cochylis molliculana
Micromoth Cochylis molliculana

Chinese Character moth Cilix glaucata
Chinese Character moth Cilix glaucata
Blood-vein moth Timandra comae
Blood-vein moth Timandra comae
Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
Light Emerald moth Campaea margaritata
Light Emerald moth Campaea margaritata
Treble-bar Aplocera plagiata, or possibly the very similar lesser treble-bar Aplocera efformata
Treble-bar Aplocera plagiata, or possibly the very similar lesser treble-bar Aplocera efformata
This gorgeous beast is the frosted orange Gortyna flavago, not an ice lolly but a moth
This gorgeous beast is the frosted orange Gortyna flavago, not an ice lolly but a moth
As-yet unidentified crambid moth
As-yet unidentified crambid moth
The same as-yet unidentified crambid moth
The same as-yet unidentified crambid moth

A species of wainscott
A species of wainscott
The white-point Mythimna albipuncta is still widely considered a migrant, although it is well-established in southern England now
The white-point Mythimna albipuncta is still widely considered a migrant, although it is well-established in southern England now
This one is a bit worn-out and knackered, and I thought it was a badly worn flame-shoulder Ochropleura plecta – but it turned out to be another new species for me, the pearly underwing Peridromia saucia
This one is a bit worn-out and knackered, and I thought it was a badly worn flame-shoulder Ochropleura plecta – but it turned out to be another new species for me, the pearly underwing Peridromia saucia

Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya

The two common plume moths at the bottom illustrate how difficult it can be to identify even a common species. The first one is quite hale and hearty, and relatively sturdy, with closed wingtips. It may not be easy to tell from the photos, but the second is way smaller and more wispy-looking, and the wing tis are splayed slightly. I submitted it to the Twitter fraternity though, and the consensus was that it is still a common plume rather than some more exotic species.

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Tue

03

Sep

2019

Tue 20/08/2019

Most years, the number of swifts starts thinning out halfway through August, with stragglers all the way to the end of the month. This year was strange though; I think it was yesterday that I noticed several swifts wheeling around out the back of the house. Then today, we did a massive day trip to Bath, and I don’t remember seeing any swifts down there. In fact I have not seen one since, so it seems that yesterday was the last day for swifts.

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Tue

03

Sep

2019

Sun 18/08/2019

Tiny ladybird Rhyzobius lophanthae
Tiny ladybird Rhyzobius lophanthae

So, regular readers of this panel may realise that I have a bit of a fixation with ladybirds, especially really small ones. Some are no bigger than a couple of millimetres, but the shape still gives them away as ladybirds, and even the smallest often have black and red markings. This one was slightly larger, maybe 3mm instead, but appeared to be totally black. I shoved it in the fridge for a couple of days to slow it down, then took some photos when I let it out. And it looks like – yes I know – a hairy ladybird.  

Which is exactly what it is. Last time I found one of these, I submitted a photo to the ladybird recording scheme, who helpfully identified it as Rhyzobius lophanthae, a brown-headed species and, we believe, a first record for Kent! The same authority IDd this one as Rhyzobius forestieri. Richard Comont observed on Twitter that it Seems to be having a very good year in the southeast, lots of sightings on Facebook groups.

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Tue

03

Sep

2019

Mon 12/08/2019

A family day trip down to Rye Harbour went through Tenterden in Kent, where we stopped for a break. This oak bush cricket was crawling up a shop window for some reason, so I captured it for a photo session. Every oak bush cricket I have found in Kent for ages has been wingless, which is not unknown in the usual variety, but is always the case for the southern variety, which has colonised the southern counties from Europe over the last few years. It is difficult to tell a southern from a wingless common, so I won’t take a guess at this one. I can however, tell from the sickle-shaped ovipositor that it is a female.

Oak Bush-cricket Meconema thalassinum
Oak Bush-cricket Meconema thalassinum

 

When we reached Rye Harbour, I found this moth tucked under the eaves of a small building. I think it might be a straw underwing, certainly something similar, but I have not tracked it down positively yet.

 

Below is a predatory wasp I found on some fennel by the footpath. The wasp has been identified by a couple of people as most likely Ichneumon sarcitorius.

Ichneumon wasp
Ichneumon wasp

When we got down to the seashore, this large gull landed on a marker post some way away, and I zoomed in with the camera. This is the great black-backed gull Larus marinus. Although the great black-back is notably larger than the lesser, they are both large gulls and pretty solitary, so the scale is not easy to judge. However, the great’s back is genuinely black, as opposed to the more washed-out dark grey of the lesser, and the great has pink legs as opposed to the lesser’s yellow legs.

Great black-backed gull Larus marinus
Great black-backed gull Larus marinus
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Sun

01

Sep

2019

Sun 11/08/2019

A dragonfly got into the conservatory today, so I shut the door and waited until it landed so I could get a shot. A migrant hawker of course (they always are), but a real beauty nonetheless.

Migrant hawker dragonfly Aeshna mixta
Migrant hawker dragonfly Aeshna mixta
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Sun

01

Sep

2019

Fri 09/08/2019

Willow beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria
Willow beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria

More moths around today – those little spotted ermines, a yellow shell, all the usual stuff. Here’s a nice one though, a geometrid with a wingspan of a good inch and a half. This is the willow beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria.

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Sun

01

Sep

2019

Thu 08/08/2019

Spider Nigma walckenaeri with prey
Spider Nigma walckenaeri with prey

You know how your attention is sometimes drawn to a spider you hadn’t noticed by the presence of a stationary insect? No? Well sometimes you see a fly or something, and wonder why it isn’t flying off, moving around or otherwise twitching – then you see the camouflaged spider in close proximity. The insect didn’t see it either.

Spider Nigma walckenaeri
Spider Nigma walckenaeri

In this case I noticed a fly attached to a leaf in the back garden, but I couldn’t see any reason why it should have expired and become stuck there, so I plucked off the leaf for a close look. Then I noticed the web of this tiny green spider, which actually spins its trap on the surface of the leaf then lurks underneath waiting for something to land there. These spiders tend to inhabit colonies, and I have seen a few around the area, but this is the first time I have seen an individual in our garden. This surprisingly beautiful spider is Nigma walckenaeri; no common name as usual.

 

Below that – a stunning brimstone moth. I do love these beauties!

Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
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Thu

22

Aug

2019

Wed 07/08/2019

Yet another attempt to get the definitive photograph of a common plume moth. This is one of my better attempts, hence its inclusion here …

Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla
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Sat

10

Aug

2019

Tue 06/08/2019

Found this nice grasshopper on the fence round the back of the factory. It was quite large and very mottled, but in the end I think it is just a common field grasshopper. Might be wrong though.

Grasshopper Common Field Chorthippus brunneus
Grasshopper Common Field Chorthippus brunneus
Grasshopper Common Field Chorthippus brunneus
Grasshopper Common Field Chorthippus brunneus

 

This attractive micro moth is one I have never seen before, and like most of my best finds, was basking on the outside back warehouse wall. It looks good from the left side, but the right side has sustained a fair bit of damage. I was musing on Twitter that moths have some great names, but the privileged folk who get to name them don’t seem to apply their art to naming spiders, which I think is a shame. For instance, this is the rosy-striped knot-horn moth Oncocera semirubella. So why do we never get to reply to some little spider as the semi-washboarded toe horn or something?

Rosy-striped knot-horn (or rhubarb and custard) moth Oncocera semirubella
Rosy-striped knot-horn (or rhubarb and custard) moth Oncocera semirubella
Rosy-striped knot-horn (or rhubarb and custard) moth Oncocera semirubella
Rosy-striped knot-horn (or rhubarb and custard) moth Oncocera semirubella

In any case, a fellow blogger named Douglas Boyes maintains that a more common vernacular name for this little moth is the ‘rhubarb and custard’. In any case, my book gives no common name for it at all, but says that it is ‘very local’, so another good find!

Went out for a walk after dark with the male offspring. He spotted a moving shadow down on the tarmac, which he correctly identified as a stonking great spider. I nearly trod on the bloomin’ thing, and I think I probably would have skidded … I had my compact camera with me and rattled off this flash shot, which reveals a male Tegenaria house spider of prodigious proportions, a bit early for the traditional autumn pilgrimage if you ask me. And has it got one freakishly long leg, or what?

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Fri

09

Aug

2019

Fri 02/08/2019

The warehouse wall was absolutely rife with moths this morning. I can’t do it though – no matter how much I try, I can’t get good shots round that side of the warehouse that time in the morning. I don’t know if it is the brown background messing up the light-metering or what, but all the shots are washed out and pallid. I can compensate somewhat with software, but it’s not a natural look. Anyway, let’s have a yellow shell moth first; this was behind a down-pipe and doesn’t look too bad, then a lovely brimstone and a small emerald.

Yellow Shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Yellow Shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
Small Emerald moth Hemistola chrysoprasaria
Small Emerald moth Hemistola chrysoprasaria

 

About the most interesting thing though, was this little beetle. I could not see it properly without my glasses, but I trusted that a few photos would suffice to get a proper ID. It wouldn’t keep still once I pointed the camera at it, hence the blurry motion sickness, but what a little beauty eh?

 

Here is an ermine moth similar to the one I photographed on Tue 16/07/19. The markings are not identical; this one seems to have more spots, but still probably not enough to be a bird-cherry ermine, so I am not going to attempt a specific ID.

And just to round things off, here is a much better shot of the micro moth Cochylis molliculana, one of which was included on Mon 29/07/19. Can see individual wing scales on this one!

Micro moth Cochylis molliculana
Micro moth Cochylis molliculana
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Fri

09

Aug

2019

Wed 31/07/2019

 

This gypsy moth turned up on the outside of one of our house windows today. This is clearly a male, as the females are much lighter, almost white – but the males often display huge bunny-ears, which are actually feathery antennae. In this case they are folded down across its shoulders though – you can just make out the shaft of its left-hand antenna. 

Gypsy moth Lymantria dispar
Gypsy moth Lymantria dispar
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Fri

09

Aug

2019

Mon 29/07/2019

… and today is the day! I could hardly get in to work today as there seemed to be an interesting beastie every few yards along the warehouse wall. First up though, is the Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla. These are common all year and can often be seen at rest in the full open, on all but the most viciously icy days. The common plume is usually light brown, with a lighter stripe down the middle of its back, punctuated by darker spots or dashes. There is an indistinct spot halfway along each wing.

Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla
Saltmarsh plume moth Agdistis bennetii
Saltmarsh plume moth Agdistis bennetii

 

As mentioned, I thought that some of the common plumes I see, especially later in the season, are actually brown plumes, as they tend to be slightly larger and more sturdy-looking. I can’t really find any convincing evidence though, so I may have to go back to viewing them as common plumes. More exciting though, is the salt marsh plume moth Agdistis bennetii shown on the next two pages. They live on foetid coastal marshes like those that Gravesend sits on, and yet I have never seen one of these distinctively Y-shaped moths until this day!

 

Saltmarsh plume moth Agdistis bennetii
Saltmarsh plume moth Agdistis bennetii

Other beasts I found on the warehouse included this fearsome red-legged shieldbug, another new species for me, and the micro-moth below that, another one that is unusual in this area according to the book – and yet the warehouse wall is absolutely rife with them. This is Cochylis molliculana, and although they are always small, they seem to have a remarkably wide size range. The largest are 11 or 12mm, but some are no more than 5 or 6mm.

Micro-moth Cochylis molliculana
Micro-moth Cochylis molliculana

Other small creatures I found today include this mayfly, which seems a bit larger and more sturdy that the general run of mayflies, and a tiny spider running down a gutter pipe.

 

There was some other stuff too, but either my camera is getting worse, or I am.

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Fri

09

Aug

2019

Sun 28/07/2019

Shaded Broad-bar moth Scotopteryx chenopodiata
Shaded Broad-bar moth Scotopteryx chenopodiata

We took another trip out to Jeskyns today, which was almost really good. I found a male wasp spider and another orb-weaver, Neoscona adiantum, but the autofocus on my compact camera is not up to the task of telling the difference between a spider and a field of grass, so would not focus on either of them. There were a lot of these moths around, the shaded broad-bar, which sometimes rest flat like this, but often with their wings folded upright, like a butterfly. I was quite pleased with this portrait of two Roesel’s bush crickets, a male and a female. They both pinged away in unison immediately after I took this shot, so I was lucky to get it. The female on the right is fully-winged, which is quite unusual for a Roesel’s; they are usually short-winged, like the male on the left. They are named after August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof, a German entomologist.

Pair of Roesel’s bush crickets Metrioptera roeselii
Pair of Roesel’s bush crickets Metrioptera roeselii
  • I saw two crows sitting on adjacent fence posts and thought, well why not? I don’t have any decent photos of crows. I think the one on the right is a fledgling; it looks a bit fluffy anyway.

 

Last time we came to Jeskyns, three weeks ago, it was absolutely rotten with marbled white butterflies, but they had all gone now. Until, that is, we were most of the way round the park, where there was a 100-foot stretch of grass that was absolutely infested with the things. They were fluttering and landing all around me, to the point that I didn’t know which way to point my camera. They never rested for more than a few seconds though, and this is the best shot I managed. They are all starting to look a little raggy and careworn now as well.

Marbled white butterfly
Marbled white butterfly
Large Skipper butterfly Ochlodes sylvanus
Large Skipper butterfly Ochlodes sylvanus

This little butterfly is a large skipper, on some kind of dandelion-derivative wildflower. The peculiar wing pose is characteristic of skippers, especially the large.


The moth below rejoices in the name of beautiful plume. I’m told there are something like 35 species of plume moths in the UK, but I only ever see common and beautiful, with the occasional white. Having said that, they are mostly notoriously similar, and I think some of the commons I see are actually browns, but I am hoping one day to see one that is clearly different! Cue tomorrow’s blog …

Beautiful Plume moth Amblyptilia acanthadactyla
Beautiful Plume moth Amblyptilia acanthadactyla
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Fri

09

Aug

2019

Fri 26/07/2019

Dewick's Plusia Macdunnoughia confusa
Dewick's Plusia Macdunnoughia confusa

 

Now this is more interesting. This is the third time I have found a moth that my field guide reckons to be rare in the UK, but in the 10 years or so since the edition was printed, populations have changed dramatically. The Jersey tiger moth is virtually a highly ornamental and common addition to the south-east now, and the toadflax brocade moth is a regular find. My field guide says that there have only been about 50 records in the UK of the Dewick’s plusia shown here, but UKMothIdentification says “The species is now established in a few parts of the south-east.”

 

Dewick's Plusia Macdunnoughia confusa
Dewick's Plusia Macdunnoughia confusa
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Mon

05

Aug

2019

Thu 25/07/2019

This lovely emerald moth was languishing on the side of the warehouse when I came into work this morning. Unfortunately with the early-morning sun on its highly-reflective wings, it made a poor subject for my dodgy little compact camera. The photo was almost pure white, but I reduced the brightness as far as it would go in Microsoft Photos, whacked the colour up as high as it would go, messed around with the contrast a bit and added a vignette, which darkens the edges of the shot, leaving the subject in a kind of spotlight. It still looks a bit grey, but it’s a nice shot now!

Small emerald moth Hemistola chrysoprasaria
Small emerald moth Hemistola chrysoprasaria
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Mon

05

Aug

2019

Tue 23/07/2019

Mother of Pearl moth Pleuroptya ruralis
Mother of Pearl moth Pleuroptya ruralis

Any foray onto a hedge of nettles will kick up a huge cloud of mother-of-pearl moths at the moment. I found this one in the alley behind the house. I must admit, I had never realised how gossamer-thin their wings are – the sun is shining through this leaf and showing green through the moth's light-brown wings.

Jersey tiger moth Euplagia quadripunctaria
Jersey tiger moth Euplagia quadripunctaria

 

My wife said there was a tiger moth fluttering around under the car today, but I found it inside the hallway. Later in the evening it had found its way to the bathroom, where I photographed it and then conspired to heave it out of the window. This is the Jersey tiger moth, which my field guide says is still a rare sight along the extreme southern edge of the country, but in fact it has now colonised the south-east to the point of being extremely common.

 

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Mon

05

Aug

2019

Sun 21/07/2019

Found this half-grown speckled bush cricket in the back garden today.

Speckled bush cricket - male
Speckled bush cricket - male

 

Now here’s an interesting thing. I found this beastie, that looks like a predatory wasp, on the outside windowsill of the conservatory. It appears to have caught a green shieldbug nymph and carried it to the windowsill, but then it just sat there looking at it. I expected to see it laying eggs in or on the nymph, or if not that then simply eating it, but it didn’t seem to be doing anything. They stayed in that pose for some while, enough time for me to take several photos, then when I went back inside I left them in the same position. 

Predatory wasp Astata boops with a shieldbug nymph
Predatory wasp Astata boops with a shieldbug nymph

 

I took it to Twitter to find out what was going on and received the full gamut of replies along the lines of, “Maybe it was just too heavy,” “Looks like he’s giving it a hug” and stuff. All of which had occurred to me as it happens. Thanks to Matt Berry though, who identified the wasp as Astata boops and stated, “That shieldbug is paralysed and ready to be used for laying the wasps eggs inside.”

Predatory wasp Astata boops with a shieldbug nymph
Predatory wasp Astata boops with a shieldbug nymph

 

JoeBeeDazzled inquired, “She has to carry it home doesn't she before laying eggs?” to which Matt replied, “Yep, hence the long legs she has for carrying such a chunky payload! Not sure why she’s stopped en route though. Question is, did she continue afterwards or abandon the nymph?”

As it happens, when I came back out, both wasp and nymph had gone, s I presume she hefted it away to her chosen destination. I assume, by the way, that ‘boops’ has two syllables, like the Co-op, rather than a single like Betty Boop. 

It turns out that they specialise in predating on half-grown shieldbug nymphs, especially green shieldbugs, and there are loads of photos online almost identical to mine.

 

 

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Mon

05

Aug

2019

Fri 19/07/2019

Micromoth Epinotia species
Micromoth Epinotia species

 

So I seem to be having a bit of trouble with me moffs at the moment. I couldn’t find a positive ID for this micro I found around the warehouse at work either. Closest I can find for this one was one of the variants of Epinotia solandriana, although I am was at all confident about it.

 

I wasn’t a million miles off as it happens, but the ID is still not clear - Twitter identifiers have it as “a form of Epinotia ramella” or “a form of Epinotia nisella”.

 

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Sun

28

Jul

2019

Thu 18/07/2019

This little beast was inhabiting a big, white wall in my office at work. The colouring looks like it is supposed to be cryptic and camouflaged, but not against a huge expanse of white.

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Sat

27

Jul

2019

Tue 16/07/2019

As I was dragging my bike out of the garden into the back alley to cycle to work at about 6:30 this morning, this large dragonfly landed in a lilac tree in a neighbour’s garden. I manage one shot before it took off again, but I had high hopes wasn’t one of the usual species I see all the time, because I did not recognise the coloured markings. As it happens though, it is a dead common migrant hawker – but the pinkish colouration is due to it being a juvenile. I found the micro moth overleaf on the outside of the warehouse wall at work.

Juvenile migrant hawker dragonfly Aeshna mixta
Juvenile migrant hawker dragonfly Aeshna mixta

I have seen the moth below several times before, and I would identify it unhesitatingly as a bird-cherry ermine. Checking the book though, it seems to be one of the other similar ermine moths – the bird-cherry has noticeably more spots than this. Several of the other species are very similar though, and I could not make a positive ID.

Ermine moth
Ermine moth

Having ruled out the bird-cherry, there are several other species that are all very similar. I noticed someone else on Twitter having trouble identifying a very similar moth, so I threw my hat into the ring and we reeived a reply from a very useful expert named UKMothIdentification. I should point out that very similar species of spider, moth etc. is by a microscopic examination of their reproductive organs. I guess that whn they look that similar, they have to have some inbuilt method of making sure they reproduce within their species, so they have specific genital specialisations that a naturalist can use to identify the. On this occasion though, UKMothIdentification said the following:

 

So, Apple, Spindle, Orchard and Willow are all too variable to be IDed from appearance, and on top of that they can't be separated by genitalia either, as they're also similar in that department. The only way is to see their caterpillars, and upon which plants they are feeding.

 

Time travel isn’t yet within my remit, so this one must remain forever a mystery.

 

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Fri

26

Jul

2019

Sun 14/07/2019

Plume moth - more specific than that, I will not dare.
Plume moth - more specific than that, I will not dare.

We went out to the lavender fields at Castle Farm in Eynsford this afternoon. I had some hopes of finding some great green bush crickets at the top of the hill there, because I am sure I have heard them there before, but I couldn’t hear a thing today – maybe it’s just that my hearing has gone west. On the other hand, I did find this little plume moth – I get the impression that it is not a common plume moth, but I have not been able to identify it for certain from my books. I stuck it up on Twitter, but no one else came back with an ID either.

 

There were also some orchids growing in the verges; I remember these from last year. Again, couldn’t say for certain because there are two or three very similar common purple species, but I think these might be pyramidal orchids. One is shown below:

Orchid
Orchid

Walking down the hill, I was captivated by this incredible damsel fly that flew across the road and settled sporadically in the hedge. It is only the second time I have seen a demoiselle; they are a stunning metallic green and at least twice the size of most common damselflies. I think this one is a female; the species are quite easily distinguished in the males because the beautiful demoiselle has brownish wings, whereas the banded demoiselle has a thick dark band across the wings. The females of both species are very similar though, lacking either of these distinguishing marks. However, I lean towards the banded, because a little later on I saw a male banded fluttering about the stream at the other end of the site. I couldn’t get near enough to photograph it, although I did manage a short video at a distance.

Female demoiselle damselfly
Female demoiselle damselfly
Ladybird Scymnus interruptus
Ladybird Scymnus interruptus

 

Later on at home, I got my ladybirds out of the fridge. Yes, you heard correctly – ladybirds often come into the conservatory at home, including some very small species indeed. There’s no chance of me seeing them clearly without taking some macro shots and blowing them up, but unfortunately they are quite energetic little things and won’t keep still for a moment, so my photos are always absolutely rubbish. I sometimes stick them in the fridge for a day or so to slow them down, but they defrost remarkably quickly so it doesn’t often make much difference. This time I did manage to get some reasonably sharp ones though.

Ladybird Scymnus interruptus
Ladybird Scymnus interruptus

I found 4 of these in the conservatory a couple of days ago and captured two of them. It can be seen that the amount of red is quite variable, nevertheless I think these are both the same species, Scymnus interruptus, because I have caught them several times before. These are tiny for ladybirds, only a couple of millimetres long. The individual in the two top photos below has less red than the one in the bottom two.

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Fri

26

Jul

2019

Fri 12/07/2019

I did something today that I hadn’t done for a while, and took a walk out on to the patch of wild land in front of the factory at lunchtime. One specific ragwort plant was infested with cinnabar moth caterpillars, always a nice find!

Cinnabar moth caterpillars Tyria jacobaeae
Cinnabar moth caterpillars Tyria jacobaeae
Spot the brimstone butterfly!
Spot the brimstone butterfly!

Returning to the building via the car entrance, there is a fenced-off patch of unused land overgrown with wild flowers. A brimstone butterfly was flitting about in there, often landing and staying still for minutes at a time. I found this a bit frustrating, as when you chase them up and down the hedgerows, they never settle for more than a second or two. This one seemed totally at east, but I couldn’t get in to approach it! 

Brimstones are usually one of the earliest fliers, sometimes as early as February, but they have a lesser flight season in mid-summer too. This is only the second late flier I have ever seen though. Anyway, that’s it right there, hanging off that yellow flower.

 

Lastly, back in the office, I found this rather plain moth. Although it looks like a bog-standard grass micromoth, it was nearly an inch long. I have seen similar moths before, and though tit was a rush veneer, but when I Googled that species, the markings are quite different. In fact this marks the beginning of some real problems identifying things ...

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Fri

26

Jul

2019

Thu 11/07/2019

Four-banded bee grabber Conops quadrifasciatus
Four-banded bee grabber Conops quadrifasciatus

Early this morning, the conservatory was full of hover flies as usual, tapping against the ceiling and generally causing a commotion. One of them seemed an odd shape though, so I tracked down my camera and took a couple of shots of it. Here is it; it’s the same size and colouring as the general run of hover flies, but is quite clearly something different – o robber fly, I would say.

So I sent a tweet out to the universe to see if anybody could I d it for me. It turns out to be a conopid or ‘thick headed’ fly, which seems a bit harsh. They are not classified as robber flies, although their sturdy legs allow them to capture other flies in flight and deposit their eggs. This one goes by the picturesque name of the ‘four-banded bee grabber’, with the Latin name Conops quadrifasciatus. Thanks to Biodiversity Ireland and Ryan Mitchell for those two identifications respectively! Ray Cannon’s Nature Notes has a page on this species here.

I also noticed at the back of the garden that several of our Solomon’s seal plants are absolutely shredded. This is usually the work of Solomon’s seal sawfly caterpillars, which are a mid-grey and live underneath the leaves – but I lifted up a number of leaves and couldn’t find any. Later in the day, on my return, I still couldn’t find any caterpillars, so I’m a bit puzzled.

 

They usually wallop all the plants at once starting from the bottom up, but this time they seem to have started by the back gate and are working their way outwards. Maybe it is something completely different doing it?

 

Anyway, this smallish moth appeared in the office where I work, buzzed around the room for a bit, then settled on the window blind, so I got this photo.

 

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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

Back at home, I got a few shots of this goldfinch on the TV aerial up on the roof. Perhaps not the prettiest goldfinch you’ve ever seen, but nice and clear at least.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
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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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