Monday, 18 April 2011


After my visit to the Downs with Greenie in The Wild last week, Carol decided that she too, would like to see an Adder in the wild. So today, with talk of sun and temperatures nudging 20 degrees, surely a recipe for success, we headed for the hills. I wasn't totally surprised to see Greenie's car parked on the roadside verge when we arrived at 09.45. But I was surprised when a quick squint through the bins revealed not just Greenie, but also Ken Browne, alias 'Focusing on Nature'. This was looking like a bloggers convention. A quick call to Ken revealed the surprising news that they hadn't, at that time, found any snakes. But never mind, the morning was still young.

Carol and I had some early success with a single Grass snake, which spotted us at the same time and retreated unhurriedly to the safety of the undergrowth. But from then on, for whatever reason, the snakes didn't want to be seen. We saw a couple of Common Lizards but even they were few and far between. Thankfully, there were plenty of Slow Worms to provide at least some reptilian interest. And of course when our crawling and slithering friends don't play ball, we can always turn to our flying friends. Like the Common Whitethroat pictured at the top of the post.

Just a single Green Hairstreak was seen today, pictured above. This is the smallest of the Hairstreaks and is the first to appear in Spring after overwintering as a chrysalis. At rest, with wings always closed, it's green coloration looks stunning, but in flight they appear drab due to the brown upperwings of both the male and the female. Maybe it was the cool breeze that kept the numbers down, but if it was, it certainly didn't trouble the Brimstones. Like last week, they were plentiful, bright, sulphur yellow males rode the breeze along the hedgerows with presumably just one thing on their minds. Females. Like the one pictured below, who had just one thing on her mind as well, and after some searching, eventually found it. Buckthorn. Having found it, she laid her eggs on it. You can almost see the smile on her face in the second shot. Left click it to see what I mean.

Like Green Hairstreaks, Brimstones never settle with their wings open and keep them closed over their back when they are feeding. The one below is nectaring on what I think are a species of Forget-Me-Not and I really like the way the sun is shining through it's wings and outlining the shape of the abdomen and the overlap of the fore and hindwing.

I followed what I thought was a small day flying moth which eventually landed on the ground for long enough to see that it was actually a Grizzled Skipper. This is the smallest and the earliest of the Skippers and it's seemingly erratic flight is incredibly difficult to follow. I believe Wild Strawberry is one of the caterpillars main food sources and there's lots of it on the Downs so there were probably more around, but like I said, they're not easy to spot.

The last picture is a bit of a mystery. We noticed a Brimstone on the ground in front of us and realised that it was dead. I went to pick it up and saw that there were actually three of them, all together, all in pristine condition, and all dead. Any ideas anyone?

So no Adders for me and Carol today, but a very enjoyable morning anyway and we'll be back in the not too distant future. I'm looking forward to reading how Ken and Greenie's day went, hopefully they did better on the reptile front than me.


Warren Baker said...

Very strange seeing those dead Brimstones Phil. Must be a predator of some sort. We could always blame the Magpies! :-)

Bob Bushell said...

Yes, I agree with Warren. Three of them, that is a mystery.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Unfortunately for Ken , we did little better on the Adder front .
We did do better on Gn.Hairstreaks (10/12) and Grizzled Skippers (3) .
Have never come across anything like your dead Brimstones . Usually predated specimens are found without abdomens as this is eaten by the predator , but yours look intact . A mystery indeed .

Phil said...

My first thought was predation and I checked straight away to see if the abdomens were missing, but as you say, they were intact. I'm really baffled!

Chris said...

Blaming the magpie!! I guess we have ti investigate! Nice post even if you mention some deadly threat there!

Ken. said...

Hi Phil.
It was lovely to finaly meet Carol. Hope you both enjoyed your walk.
Well done on seeing the Grass Snake, i'l save that one for next time.
Nice Brimstone photo's, shame about the dead ones.