For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Monday 29 May 2017

Hundreds of Azure Damselflies, Coenagrion puella at the Dew pond on Wolstonbury Hill yesterday

 Click on any picture and count the Damselflies.  There must have been hundreds yesterday morning plus a half a dozen Broad-bodied chasers and some Large red Damselflies.
There are at least fourteen Azure Damselfies in the shot above: most mating or in tandem.

Scorpion flies, Panorpa sp. sucking the nice juices from insects caught in a spider's web on Wolstonbury Hill, Sussex, yesterday morning.

 One male and two female Scorpion flies are stealing food from the spider as she watches on.

The viscious looking scorpion-like tail of the male is completely harmless.
Click on any picture to expand it.

Saturday 27 May 2017

Pale Tussock moth, Calliteara pudibunda two nights ago

Pale Tussock moth, Calliteara pudibunda
 This furry moth visited my window a couple of nights ago.
 I remain indebted to Ed jnr at  for identifying it.
Pale Tussock moth, Calliteara pudibunda
 Many thanks Ed.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Burnt Orchids, Orchis ustulata and Early Spider-orchids on the South Downs of East Sussex yesterday with François Piolino.

 Just thirteen flowers Burnt Orchids were seen yesterday afternoon on the South Downs of East Sussex.  And some of those were tiny specimens.  Last year at this time I found none here: the grass was quite high and under-grazed.
 Internationally famous tenor, François Piolino above had the day off from rehearsing at Glyndebourne Opera House and we spent the day successfully photographing rare orchids. (see )

 François, a Swiss national is making his fourth appearance at Glyndebourne in Richard Strauss  Ariadne auf Naxos

"I love being at Glydebourne" says François, "and the opportunity to walk the Downs and see rare orchids and butterflies adds to the joy of being in Sussex at this time of year."

We then walked from Kingston steeply up and over the crest of the Downs to Castle hill, where  François was delighted to see tiny Early Spider-orchids -- the first time he had seen these in Sussex.

Early Spider-orchid, Ophyrs sphegodes

Above Early Spider-orchid, Ophyrs sphegodes is flowering amongst hundreds of Fragrant Orchids.
Other orchids that we saw were Common Twayblade and Common Spotted-orchids.
A wonderful range of butterflies were seen too and will be in a separate blog entry.
In perfect weather, this was truly a day to remember.
Click on any picture to expand it.

Next month, there is a rare opportunity, organised by The National Trust for an illustrated talk, followed by a walk on Newtimber Hill from the The National Trust learning centre at Saddlescombe Farm on June 20th, 2017.
Details of the event, which must be booked in advance are at
A summary of the talk can bee seen at

Sunday 21 May 2017

Five-spot Burnet moth, Zygaena trifolii, at Denbies Hillside yesterday on a walk from Denbies Wine Estate.

Perhaps a dozen or so Five-spot Burnet moths, Zygaena trifolii were being tossed around on a colourful hawthorn bush at Denbies Hillside yesterday on the North Downs of Surrey.
 This is the bush with views of Dorking looking eastwards.

Five-spot Burnet moth, Zygaena trifoli

Five-spot Burnet moth, Zygaena trifoli

 After lunch at Denbies Wine Estate we set off under grey skies on the sloping road which joins the North Downs Way in the woods.  Later, passing St Barnabas' Church you soon reach the National Trust Denbies Hillside, where the moths were flying.  See  also more of this church and posts from previous walks by scrolling down from this link,

Returning past the site of an old fort look out for the face in the tree.  Click any picture to expand.

Most of the showers missed us and the sun was shining as we returned from this lovely stroll.

Thursday 18 May 2017

The rich insect life of a wildlife garden with Forest cuckoo bees; its prey species, Early bumblebee; bumblebee look-alike, Narcissus fly; pollen-eating beetle Malachius bipustulatus.

At this time of year this wildlife garden in Cuckfield, West Sussex is teaming with many insect species and also birds that feed on them. This is a male Forest cuckoo bee, Bombus sylvestris on bramble flowers -- a bumblebee whose females lay their eggs in the nests of Early Bumble bees where they eat the host grubs and food stores.
male Forest cuckoo bee, Bombus sylvestris

Early bumblebee, Bombus pratorum
 And above is a male Early bumblebee, Bombus pratorum which is preyed upon by Forest cuckoo bees.
Merodon equestris the Narcissus fly
 Several Hover-flies mimic bumblebees including Merodon equestris the Narcissus fly above, which is feeding on Cat's ear flowers in the lawn.  Its grubs eat narcissus bulbs such as daffodils.  Daffodils thrive in my garden and their numbers could do with some reduction.
 Allowing grasses to grow in a lawn, as above, provides a rich source of pollen for beetles like Malachius bipustulatus which are harmless to garden plants and are handsome creatures don't you think?
Malachius bipustulatus

Click on any picture to enlarge it.
See also my talk on "The extraordinary lives of wild bees and the important role of gardeners in their survival."   at if you are interested in bees or Sussex-based public speakers.

Monday 15 May 2017

Common Blue butterfly, Polyommatus icaris today in Cuckfield

Common Blue butterfly, Polyommatus icaris
 The first Common Blue butterfly, Polyommatus icaris this year was seen today in my garden in Cuckfield.

Common Blue butterfly, Polyommatus icaris

Sunday 14 May 2017

Reed Warbler warbling beautifully yesterday by the river Arun

 A strong wind could not deter Reed Warblers from warbling loudly yesterday: a magical sound on a circular walk from Burpham along the river and up on the Downs.
Arundel castle from the river bank

Warblers are in there somewhere.

View to Burpham from the Downs

Blog Archive