Monday, 11 April 2011


I met Greenie of Greenie in the wild fame today for a walk around the North Downs looking for reptiles, and in particular, Adders. He told me that we would almost certainly find some, and as usual he wasn't speaking with a forked tongue! The picture above shows two of the seven that we found during our wanderings. I think i'm right in saying that the female is in the front and the male, with the piercing blue eyes, which means he'll soon be sloughing his skin, is at the top. You wouldn't want to be a small mammal and see him coming towards you, would you. Left click to see what I mean!

Talking of sloughing skin, here's one that Greenie spotted in the undergrowth further along. This is a complete Adder skin and the tail end was still wrapped around a piece of vegetation which allowed the snake to slip out, so to speak.

Common Lizards like the one pictured above were, as their name suggests, in abundance. Some basking on pieces of wood and many more along the edges of the paths or anywhere that was catching the sun. This one has flattened himself to present as much of his body to the rays as possible. These would and probably do, make a nice meal for the local Kestrels, two of which we saw, but today they were more interested in displaying and calling to each other overhead.

Butterflies were well represented and I saw my first Speckled Wood of the year. It's pictured above, but the shot was taken from below, if you get my drift. And the one below was pictured from above, confused, so am I.

Without doubt the most prolific butterfly species of the day was the Brimstone. They were everywhere, mostly females but with the quite a few males thrown in the mix. Greenie told me that the females were looking for Buckthorn to lay their eggs on. We watched and waited for a female to land on a small piece with newly emerging leaves and I managed to get the picture below of her actually laying a single egg on the leaf bud. This is a first for me and I must say, I was thrilled to see, at first hand, the beginning of the next generation of this super butterfly.

The picture below is of a Buckthorn leaf bud with a Brimstone butterfly egg, the small white grain of rice to the right, laid a few seconds earlier. I've never seen one before and i'm very grateful to Greenie for showing me all this super stuff. In case you're wondering, the pink thing in the background is Greenie's hand, any palm readers out there?

Soon after we arrived Greenie said that we might possibly get a Green Hairstreak today, given the location and conditions. I've only ever seen a couple, including one at New Hythe last year. Well we saw seven in all! You just run out of superlatives with some of this stuff. I'll just say they're fantastic, there, i've run out! They flutter past you, a small dull looking thing, more like a day flying moth or something. Then they land. Then you see their true colour. Enough said.

And don't you just love their stripy socks and matching antenna.

We saw lots of Slow Worms, always a favourite of mine. They have friendly faces, well fairly friendly. This one was a bruiser, the picture doesn't do it justice. It's a male I think and although you can't see from the picture, it has some quite nice blueish spots along it's back.

Another first butterfly of the year was the Grizzled Skipper pictured above. It was the only one we found but I'm sure there were more. The trouble is they are so small and they fly so erratically, that they are easily overlooked. Plus they look to me more like moths on the wing as well. Other butterflies seen included Orange Tips and a few Peacocks.

I was amazed at how many different species of Bees we saw. The one above was seen quite regularly but i'm by no means sure what it is. Another unidentified small Bee had a red tail and we watched for ages as it built a nest from small lengths of dry grass which it ferried in like a helicopter. Greenie managed to get a shot of it in action I think, check out his blog to see if it came out and if he managed to ID it, unlike me.

The day wouldn't have been complete without a Grass snake or two and the two pictured together below fitted the bill. They were entwined, rather intimately, at the base of a wood pile. I'm not exactly sure which is which but I think the male is the one whose head is in the shot. They slipped lazily away after a while, seemingly unabashed at being caught in a romantic embrace. Or maybe i'm just imagining it.

As we walked back to the cars we heard the unmistakeable mewing of a Buzzard. We looked up into the bright blue sky and watched as no less than four drifted over together. There were a couple of half hearted talon locks before they gained height and were lost to sight. That would have been a great way to end the day, but soon after it was probably surpassed by the appearance in the roadside verge of a male Adder in superb black and white breeding plumage, not sure what the term is, but he looked magnificent. Unfortunately we were still in Buzzard mode and didn't react fast enough to get a picture.

This has by no means been an exhaustive account of a great day but hopefully you get the drift.

Thanks Greenie, looking forward to the next one!


Simon said...

Sounds like a great day Phil!! Nice photos, I love the Brimstone and top Speckled Wood shot particularly - I'm yet to get a shot of a Grass Snake. To see a butterfly egg, let alone see the adult laying one, is truly wondeful! :-)

Bob Bushell said...

A perfect day for you and Greenie.

Jason K said...

What a top day you and Greenie had Phil...stunning Reptile shots btw!

Anonymous said...

A great day & great photos to back it up. Well done, Phil.

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Phil, really looks like you had a really great day with Greenie and some of those shots are stunning, love the Grass Snake.

Marianne said...

Looks like an amazing day! Can I come next time? :) Fantastic to see Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak out already.

ShySongbird said...

What a brilliant day you had Phil and wouldn't you love to be a young child being inspired and gaining all that knowledge from Greenie...any youngster would be instantly hooked for the rest of their life.

I am always on the lookout for snakes but rarely see any, you certainly had some great views!

I don't think I have ever seen a Green Hairstreak apart from in photos, they really are a beautiful colour. Amazing to see the egg, I'm sure most people would have missed that without an expert on hand (no pun intended) ;)

I really love the first photo of the Speckled Wood! I saw my first of the year on Sunday.

The first photo of the Grass Snakes really does look like two people entwined in a romantic embrace, one with their head on the other's shoulder! Yes I know, I'm very fanciful ;)

A lovely and fascinating read Phil!

ShySongbird said...

Sorry Phil, I did realise the egg was that of the Brimstone and not the Green Hairstreak but notice I worded it badly!

Mary said...

What a grand post and the Green Snake...what a beauty!!!

Tim James said...

Lovely images – I especially like the grass snake shots. Informative and entertaining blog.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
I think that part regarding the Grass Snakes should have carried a warning , well , my glasses steamed up , and I think it made Shysongbird blush !
I think between us , we managed to remember all we saw , not bad for a couple of old uns .
Still searching for the straw carrying Bee , which I think is yours too , but yours was covered in pollen . Dean has ID'd the caterpillar and the long antennae moth .