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Thursday, 2 August 2018

Butterflies and other wildlife of Sussex on Wolstonbury Hill, 1 August 2018

The wind made photographing flowers and butterflies somewhat tricky on 1st August 2018.  The bright sunshine brought butterflies, grasshoppers and bees out in good numbers.
 This is the view from near the top looking westwards.
 On the way up in the far distance is the spire of Cuckfield Holy Trinity church with the village of Hurstpierpoint in the foreground
 Along the woodland edges Speckled Woods were common.
 Scabious attracted many insects including a hover fly, above, bees and Silver-spotted Skippers as below.

 A fly.
 The "Pride of Sussex" the county flower was abundant.

 Chalk Hill Blues were flying in good numbers too together with Common Blues.
Chalk Hill Blue

 Buzzards "mewed" overhead.
Common Blue

 Above and below Bombus sylvestris, the parasitic Forest Cuckoo Bee 

 A solitary Wall butterfly was seen, above.

Chalk Hill Blue

"The Pride of Sussex"

Forest Cuckoo Bee

Silver-spotted Skipper

 Silver-spotted Skippers.

 Common Blue butterflies: female above and male below.

 Above, a mature Stripe-winged Grasshopper, Stenobothrus lineatus
Spectacularly there were four Kestrels flying around the hill at the same time.
Looking eastwards towards Jack and Jill windmills, and the meadow, which the Friends of Wolstonbury, have created by clearing the woodland over the years to create a uniquely diverse habitat rich in plants and insect species.  There is much more conservation work to be done than the Friends of Wolstonbury can tackle.  If such work appeals to you, come and join us: new volunteers are welcomed and much needed.
See also for guided walks.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

A smooth newt searching for dragonfly eggs in broad daylight?

 An Emperor dragonfly laid eggs in or on a dead iris flower stalk this morning in my garden pond.
That was a normal occurrence each year.
What happened next surprised me.
 A smooth nest surfaced on the stalk, which it crawled all over and around, in bright sunshine on the surface of the pond.
 Was it sniffing out a tasty morsel of freshly laid dragonfly eggs?  If not, as a usually nocturnal creature why risk predation from birds? For herons do drop in occasionally.

I have observed an Emperor being attacked and dragged under water by a gang of newts in this same pond before.  Whilst below, a dead Broad-bodied Chaser is being dismembered by a couple of newts as its juices are being sucked out by a pond chaser.

Newts are partial to dragonflies like this dead chaser in the same pond in an earlier year.  See

Perhaps this newt was simply looking for an egg laying dragonfly.  Its behaviour remains a mystery.
Click on any picture to expand it. for my talk on Dragonflies and damselflies.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Eight species of Damselflies and Dragonflies on a walk from Horsted Keynes in West Sussex

 On 11 July 2018, we (William Coleman and I) set off from Horsted Keynes in search of Odonata.  We walked sections of the Greenwich Meridian Trail and other paths and spotted eight Odonata species.  Above Four-spotted Chaser, Libellula quadrimaculata.
 Black-tailed Skimmer, male Orthetrum cancellatum.
 Black-tailed Skimmer and Common Blue Damselfly
 Common Blue Damselfly, Ellanagma cyanthigerum
 This Damselfly is what we had hoped to find --- a White-legged Damselfly, a male, Platycnemis pennipes.

 Blue-tailed Damselfly
 Gatekeeper butterfly on Fleabane, Pulicaria dysenterica.

 Azure Damselfly above.
 A fleeting shot of what may be a Downy Emerald, Cordulia aenea.  These are grainy images so any corrections are welcomed.

Danehill Brook feeds into this small, rather mucky looking pond, which had at least three species flying around: all difficult to identify from fuzzy pictures.
This just might be a Common Hawker female Aeshna juncea.  The abdomen colours don't look right to be a Brown Hawker.  If it is a Common Hawker then this is a rare sight in Sussex.  It is described as "largely absent from much of eastern and south-eastern England, which lacks suitable habitat."  Source: Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland.
 If you expand this picture then you can see a blue and green dragonfly.
 It is possibly an Emperor, Anax imperator.
 Also flying around was what appears to be a pair of copulating dragonflies: which species though is unclear.  From the size and flying pattern perhapsthey are Black-tailed Skimmers but it is impossible to confirm that.

Click on any picture to expand it.  See also details of my illustrated talk at

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