For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Nemophora metallica "Longhorn" moth in Shabden Park, Surrey

These pictures are from Surrey ten days ago in Shabden Parknature reserve   Click the link for more info'.
According to  Nemophora metallica "is one of the 'longhorn' moths, the male has antennae three times the length of the forewings, the female around half this length. The wings have a relatively plain bronzy sheen.
Like other members of the genus, the larvae feed at first on seeds and later on leaves or leaf-litter, mainly of field scabious (Knautia arvensis).  Occurring in the south of England and East Anglia, the moths fly in June and July during the day."

There were scores of these Micro moths feeding on Scabious flowers ten days ago.

Monday 28 July 2014

Fakenden Down, Kent; a haven for chalk hill plants, butterflies and moths.

This steep-sided, west facing chalk hillside is wonderful for butterflies, moths and snakes.
The flower rich meadow support Brimstones (above), numerous Six-spot Burnet moths (below) and
very many Chalkhill blue butterflies.
 A male Chalkhill blue
and a female.
Other moths included the Shaded Broad-bar moth, above.
Can you see the Mint moth in the center of the above picture?

This Dark Green Fritillary was the rare and most exciting sighting of the visit yesterday.
The view westwards.

Sunday 27 July 2014

Violet Helleborines flowering in Wakehurst Place; Public Speaker on Natural History.

Wakehurst Place is owned by the National Trust and managed by Kew Gardens.
Native orchid such as Common-spotted, and Bee orchids thrive in the meadows and near the entrance, in the flower beds!
In one location Violet Helleborines are flowering now.
 Spot the flowers in the foreground above.

Sussex, Surrey and Kent are rich with native orchids in numerous nature reserves.  Many of these plants and locations feature in my illustrated talks.  Please see for details.  Bookings are being taken now for the year 2016.  Societies may occasionally need a speaker at short notice and I'm pleased to speak at short notice if available.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Insects on the South Downs yesterday; butterflies, moths and a Spider-hunting Wasp.

 The weather was hot and humid with a good breeze making photography difficult.  On a Hogweed flower was a wasp -- is it a male Ichneumon or a Spider-hunting Wasp?  I guess probably the latter.
 There were dozens of Chalkhill Blues about.
 This moth is yet to be identified.  Please let me know if you can name it.
This looks like a Chalk carpet moth.
 The "Pride of Sussex" the County flower of Sussex, Round-headed Rampion is beautiful now.

 Marbled whites enjoyed a Greater Knapweed.  Not the blood-gorged mites on the back of one of them.
 Common Green Grasshoppers lived up to their name in being extremely numerous in their hundreds.  This one posing elegantly on a Pyramidal Orchid.
Note the number of blood-filled mites on the Small Skipper above on a Scabious flower.
This walk was very hot and very enjoyable.
 As a bonus a pair of Linnets settled briefly on a bush.

Cinnabar Moth caterpillars munching through Ragwort whilst Hogweed bonking beetles bonk away unperturbed.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Crab spider kills violently in a domestic herbaceous border on an Achillea flower

Achillea makes a stately, bold splash of colour in this English garden.  It is available from seed merchants such as Suttons, click here for the link.
These flat, yellow Yarrow flowers, are attractive to insects; that is their purpose.
However, an eight-eyed, eight-legged sprinting predator, lies in wait -- Misumena vatia, one of the Crab spiders.
It spins no web, just lies in wait and pounces on unsuspecting insects such as flies and butterflies, biting them in the neck to paralyse them with its venom.   

 Disturbed by my camera lens, (which through eight simple eyes may have appeared as a one-eyed blackbird seeking a crab spider and fly canape), the spider retreated under the flower head.  There it lurked whilst my lens sought it out.

 This is a female, which may be pale green, white or yellow as this one.  The male is smaller with dark legs; source: Insects of Britain and Western Europe by Michael Chinery.
Both rows of four simple eyes can be seen above.  See also the spiny legs with which it secures its prey.
Gardens are fascinating in detail, the more so where no chemicals or sprays are used.  

Thursday 17 July 2014

The aptly named Marmalade fly, Episyrphus balteatus

The Marmalade Fly, Episyrphus balteatus is very common hoverfly. Adults are on the wing right through the year, although in largest numbers in the summer. They feed on nectar, often gathering in very large numbers on flowers like tansy, ragwort and cow parsley. The larvae are predators of aphids. As well as being a common breeding fly, in some years, huge numbers migrate here from the continent when they can be seen busily feeding on flowers near the coast.  Ref;
This one enjoyed a good lick of pollen from a Hemerocallis, (Daylily), in my garden.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Brickfield Meadow Nature Reserve; an unimproved meadow in Fairwarp, in the High Weald of Sussex

 This 1.5ha meadow, managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, is a fine example of a traditional Wealden meadow: one that has been managed traditionally for many, many years - without chemical fertilisers or other agricultural improvement.
William Coleman and I enjoyed a gentle stroll through this meadow yesterday with scores of Meadow Brown and Small Skipper butterflies, Meadow Grasshoppers, a Goldfinch and hosts of other insects.
Above and below, the Musk-mallow, Malva moschata.

A Meadow Brown on Knapweed.

Lots of Meadow Grasshoppers hiding in the long grass.

Along the side of the meadow is an overgrown Hornbeam hedge with its seed clusters hanging like lanterns.

And on the Hogweed flowers... Hogweed Bonking Beetles bonking.

Also at the field edge was a spider Agelena labyrinthica, which makes a sheet web leading into a retreat from which the spider quickly pounces on its prey insects.

The web was littered with discarded insects limbs and bodies after their juices had been sucked out.
This is a jewel of a meadow, full of interest to nature lovers.

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