Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Green Hairstreaks and more...

A few highlights from the first 10 days of May. It’s amazing what a bit of warmth and sunshine can achieve!

The first Green Hairstreaks have emerged, spotted by butterfly surveyor Brendan Sheridan on the 3rd. The first Small Copper was also fluttering around the chalk dell on the 4th, occasionally tussling with a territorial Green Hairstreak and a less aggressive Holly Blue.

Also of note, the leaves of Common Spotted and Twayblade Orchids are beginning to form and colour.

Small Copper on nettle

Green Hairstreak nectaring on Forget-me-not. This butterfly rarely feeds so a nice moment to capture

The brown upper-wing of the Green Hairstreak. Very rarely seen without the aid of a photographs/video

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

First moth trapping of 2016

Ben and Roger set themselves the ambitious task of trapping at 3 Box Moor Trust sites simultaneously on 12/4/2016 (Gadespring, Roughdown and Westbrook Hay). In spite of torrential rain, dodgy electrics and spluttering motors, they had the skill, patience and dogged determination to stick with it. Between them, they trapped and netted some exciting specimens: for the full account, including some superb photographs, head on over to Ben's blog, HERE.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Willow Warbler arrives

Not the best photograph but the first Willow Warbler of the year to arrive from sub-Saharan Africa to the dell at Roughdown Common. Wonderful to hear him singing in the sunshine today.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Colourful gathering

Before stepping out on to Further Roughdown from the cover of the trees in Lower Roughdown, I always pause and scan for birds. Often, there's a lovely mix of species feeding on the ground, out in the open. Today, I was treated to 8 species, all commuting back and forth from the sun drenched, south-facing hedge, to the worms, seeds and insects on the soft ground.

2 Green Woodpeckers
2 Mistle Thrushes
3 Blackbirds
14 Redwing
11 Greenfinch
4 Goldfinch
5 Blue Tit
4 Great Tit

Further east, there were also 3 Magpies foraging on the ground.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Autumn blooms!

The 1985 SSSI listing for Roughdown Common includes the jewel that is Autumn Gentian (Gentianella amarella). At that time, it seems to have been limited to the steep slopes of the chalk pit in Lower Roughdown. Since then, it has clearly spread and there are a good number of specimens out on Further Roughdown. These are a lot more accessible even if they do take some spotting. If you’ve never seen these flowers before, they are tiny, but well worth the effort required in searching them out.

As its name suggests, it is late flowering, continuing right through October. It’s a flower of chalk grasslands and sand dunes, and if you’d like to find out more, there’s a very detailed article here.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Next generation of moths

Whilst out looking for Purple Hairstreaks and Purple Emperors this week at Roughdown, I spotted a couple of moths in their pre-adult stages of development. A Burnet moth species had formed a chrysalis on a stem of Agrimony…

Burnet sp (likely 6-Spot) chrysalis on Agrimony

And, a fabulous Small Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila porcellus) larva was feeding on Hedge Bedstraw. The head of the mature larva has incredible eye-like markings on the top. When alarmed, the larva retracts its long nose/mouth parts or trunk (from which its name is derived) and rears up like a snake. Very convincing it is too.

On the 11th June, the Trust mothing team trapped a Small Elephant Hawk-moth adult at Roughdown and it could well be the parent of this larva!

Left: larva/caterpillar; Right: adult/moth. Both photographed at Roughdown

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Purple Hairstreaks!

Fellow Trust volunteer and experienced butterfly recorder, Brendan Sheridan, sent the following news:

"Carried out my [butterfly] transect walk on Saturday morning [18/07/2015]. Nothing particularly unusual until I had almost finished when I caught sight of a Jay watching me from a tree close to the access track to Lower Roughdown. Whilst keeping an eye on it to get a photo my attention was taken by three butterflies moving in an upward spiral above the tree canopy. I watched two of them eventually settle and flit intermittently around the upper branches of the canopy for the next 10 minutes.

This was my first sighting of Purple Hairstreaks (Favonius quercus) since 2013 (also at the exact same location). Pleased to see that they are still on Roughdown!"

This is really fantastic news and they should be around until early August.

Track to Further Roughdown from locked gate. Purple Hairstreaks seen in tree tops, right hand side.