For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Monday 30 June 2014

Insects (Dark green fritillary, skipper etc.) on Newtimber hill in Sussex yesterday

Newtimber hill is an area of open access land and a haven for butterflies and downland plants.
On our ascent we spotted a Speckled wood butterfly and a Comma.
A Green-veined white enjoyed the warm sunshine
plus scores of Meadow browns.
 Perhaps a dozen Dark green fritillary butterflies flew rapidly past and one settled just long enough to photograph.

  Large skippers were flying in good numbers as we ate a picnic lunch;
plus a Cinnabar moth and caterpillar.

There are ponds on the top of the hill and we saw a Southern Hawker (below) nearby.

With Scabious flowers opening, six-spot burnet moths and unidentified flies were feasting on the nectar.

Although we failed to spot any Frog orchids, this was a great walk in near perfect weather.
It was a bit windy but that was perfect for the many para-gliders flying to the west of us.

Please click here for my walks site should you welcome a tailor-made lead walk in Sussex, Surrey or Kent.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Dark green fritillary butterfly on a Pyramidal Orchid on Box hill this afternoon

One had to be quick to get a shot of a Dark green fritillary butterfly this afternoon.  They fly very fast and rarely settle.  When this one stopped to feed on a Pyramidal Orchid on Box hill this afternoon, I could zoom and focus just in time for this picture.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

White-legged and Large Red Damselflies copulating today

Above is clearly a Large Red Damselfly in my garden today.
Above is the amazing copulating circle of a Damselfly.  Is it a Large Red?  I'm not sure.
Actually Yes!  Compared to the above post-coital pair of the Large Reds above, about to lay eggs, they appear to be the same species.  The female abdomen is described as more heavily marked with black; the thorax sometimes yellow striped.  That fits those above.  And they tolerate the still water of my ponds.

By contrast slow-moving water and large lakes are preferred by the White-legged Damselfly, which figures as the below picture was from the Loder valley this afternoon

A rather large Dragonfly will have emerged from the empty larva skin above, by my pond.
Insects are just fascinating at any time, especially Damselflies now.

Monday 23 June 2014

Large Yellow Underwing Moth, Noctua pronuba provides food for bats

The Large Yellow Underwing Moth, Noctua pronuba is rather common -- especially in my garden.
Attracted to light it flies in my porch and is presumably grabbed and eaten by bats that circle the house in the evening.  The indigestible wings are discarded in the porch, below; dozens of them.

Below is a discarded half-moth.
And here is a dead one, opened up which died of natural causes I presume.
I am indebted to for the identification of this attractive moth, which the bats feast on at this time of year.
According to UK Moths’ website, it is possibly the most abundant of our larger moths, this species can be found throughout Britain, and numbers are often enhanced by large migratory influxes in the south. It exhibits a wide range of colour forms and patterns, although the yellow hind wings bordered with black remain pretty constant.  It flies from July to September and is freely attracted to light; often hundreds arriving at the moth-trap in peak season.  It occupies a range of habitats, and the caterpillars feed on a variety of herbaceous plants and grasses.

From my own observation it has been flying for much of June in Sussex, no doubt a consequence of the very early Spring.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Vapourer Moth, Orgyia antiqua

Youngest son, Sam, labouring in my Sussex garden found this hairy caterpillar as he was clearing an overgrown rose.
It is head down in the above picture, the head well hidden under projecting tufts of menacing dark hairs.
 It is a Vapourer Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua 
See for details of the moth itself,
where Butterfly Conservation explain that it flies from July - October in Britain and Ireland.
The female is virtually wingless and frequents gardens, parks, heathland and scrubby places. 

The hairs and tufts of such differing colours and lengths would surely deter anything from going anywhere near it... except a camera lens!

How absolutely spectacular!

Spectacular Bee Orchids, 20th June 2014 in Surrey

Three Bee Orchids were in a meadow in Surrey, where I had never seen them before and will keep secret for fear of them being trampled or worse still, dug up by ignorant persons.  Such persons, sadly do still exist.

In the UK they are self-pollinated, it seems, in the absence of the suitable bee. One of the two pollinia above, has attached itself to the flower for self-pollination.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Mating Damselflies today

 Damselflies can mate for hours it seems, in this amorous heart configuration.
 I am really pleased to have got these pictures today.  The perfect heart shape is found if the female is not holding on to the leaf but suspended by the male.

Monday 16 June 2014

Emperor Dragonfly in Cuckfield, West Sussex

 In warm weather last Friday, this Emperor Dragonfly, Anax imperator was laying eggs in my garden pond.
What an amazing insect.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Six native Orchids in flower on the South Downs yesterday.

In glorious weather yesterday, I meandered over a South Down photographing insects and plants.
Six native orchid species follow.
 Common-spotted Orchids were common.
Uncommon and unspotted was a pure white orchid below.

Bee Orchids, below are tiny by comparison.

 Fly Orchids are also tiny and very difficult to spot among other plants and grasses.

 By striking contrast, there is no mistaking or overlooking the majestic Butterfly Orchid.

 Twayblades stand above the short grasses and are striking in a forest-like appearance.

Finally the Pyramidal Orchid.  What a great day out.  Please see if you are interested in a lead walk in the beautiful counties of Sussex, Surrey and Kent.
See also
for pictures from 2015.

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