Thursday, 19 July 2012


I've managed a few quick trips out between the showers lately, but getting any decent pictures is a challenge, as it has been throughout the 'summer' so far. Last thursday I ventured out to Dene Park wood near Hadlow for a couple of hours. Purple Emperor butterfly was my target, a long shot, but nothing ventured as they say. Unfortunately nothing gained in this case though, although I did manage to find a few things to keep up my interest.

For the most part the occasional sunny spells were obscured by the canopy of the trees, but where it did filter down, the insects, like this Strangalia maculata, sometimes called Harlequin Longhorn or Spotted Longhorn made the most of it and fed on the available flower heads.

In the sunnier glades I found White Admirals (above), the first i've seen this year. I think the underside of the wings of this species are the most attractive (as also in Red Admirals), but basking open winged was the only option today it seemed.

The Meadow Browns though were not so shy and were certainly more plentiful.

I thought the butterfly pictured above was one of the many Ringlets i'd seen in the same areas as the Meadow Browns and looking very similar in flight at times, although this one is lacking the usual eye spots? 

Large Skippers (above), in this case a male and Commas (below) were both seen in good numbers, but unfortunately the Purple Emperors didn't show.

I only saw one species of Damselfly (above and below), which judging by wing colour could be a female Beautiful Demoiselle, although i'm not 100% certain.

Likewise just one dragonfly species, an immature Common Darter I think, again the first of the year.
If you are thinking of visiting Dene Park I have two pieces of advice, the first is wear wellies, the mud was absolutely horrendous and I shouldn't think it's changed much during the week. And secondly beware of the dogs! This was the worst place I have been to in a long while for out of control dogs, packs of dogs in some cases. Their irresponsible, shameless owners stand by and turn a blind eye as they crap all over the paths (although I believe the Purple Emperors don't mind, it's nectar to them, maybe that's why the site is good for them). They tell you, 'not to worry they don't bite' as they snarl and bark ferociously at you as you go about your innocent business. They smile warmly and tell you that they're 'just being friendly' when they put their mud and crap covered paws on your chest. And then they get aggressive when you complain about their pride and joy wiping its slavering mouth and snotty nose all over your trousers. I even had one owner who took offence recently when I turfed his bloody hound out of the back of my car!! Anyway, sorry for the rant, needless to say I won't be going back in a hurry, PE's or no PE's.

In contrast, here are two pictures of Reed Warblers, the top one is a busy parent and below is a hungry fledgling.

They were in the reedbed along the west bank of Brooklands lake on thursday last week. I spent half an hour in the sun watching the parents working hard to catch insects for at least two youngsters.

Dragonflies are still thin on the ground (and in the air) but during a couple of hours at New Hythe one day last week I did spot the darter above. Terry and I thought we'd found our first Common Darter for NH this year, but I think it could actually be a Ruddy Darter judging by leg colour. What do you think? 

Several Brown Hawkers were also seen, but never at rest, unlike the obliging Four Spotted Chaser above and below who perched nicely in the SW corner of Abbey Mead lake.

Here too were several Red Eyed damselflies (below) enjoying the brief sun and 'hanging out' together.

Today I revisited for a short while and as I opened the tailgate of my car to get my boots out, something wet, soggy and white splattered all over the car roof, bounced off and hit me in the face! No, it wasn't a Jack Russell or a Poodle' it was half a flipping loaf! Jettisoned in mid air by a gull, you wouldn't believe the mess it made, I had to hose the car down when I got home. Is that supposed to be lucky?
Best birds on the river were a pair of Oystercatchers who poked about in the mud alongside at least a dozen Grey Herons and a handful of Black-headed gulls. Not much else and not much singing either apart from the odd Whitethroat and the occasional shouting Cetti's and laughing Green Woodpecker.

The Gatekeepers (above and below) have arrived though, several were seen when the sun peeped through the clouds, disappearing back in the undergrowth when the sun disappeared, overgrowth really, it's six feet tall mostly.

I stopped on the mound to look for Purple Hairstreaks, but to no avail, although a possible specimen flew high around the top of an Oak tree but could have been a day flying moth. I searched the sunny side of Abbey Mead for some dragonflies, one Black-tailed Skimmer was seen and a couple of Brown Hawkers but that was all apart from a very vocal Kingfisher.

Over at the divers' footbridge I finally caught up with 'Ratty' aka the Water Vole, who zigzagged happily to and fro the ditch, until he looked up and saw me. I was then treated to a superb view of him swimming underwater and under the bridge to the safety of the reeds where he resurfaced and gave me the evil eye, well, more accusing than evil really.
Back at the car park and the sun had dried the soggy bread and it was stuck firmly all over the roof. I looked up in exasperation and there was a Buzzard floating over the car park directly overhead. So it was lucky!! 


Greenie said...

Shame no PEs for you at Dene Park , haven't heard of any in Kent yet .
Interesting abarrant Ringlet .
Would say your Demoiselle is Banded , female Beautiful has green suffusion in wing .
Would agree both Darter IDs .
I always though it was something else out of the sky for good luck .
I can understand Ratty giving you the evil eye .
Good read and nice shots .

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Ignore what I said re. Demoiselle . You're right , I'm having a senior moment .

Phil said...

Thanks Greenie. Had me worried for a moment there!

ShySongbird said...

An interesting and entertaining read Phil and lovely photos too. You certainly found lots of interest and enjoyed some very rare sunshine :-)

I believe the spots on Ringlets can be very variable or even not there at all so that seems to be what you have there. I must check the photos of one I took recently.

I have never managed a photo of a White Admiral!

Well done with the Reed Warbler, they are so much easier to hear than see :-)

I love dogs but detest bad owners and unfortunately there are far too many of those!

Warren Baker said...

Enjoyed that post Phil - rant and all :-) I, like you wont be going back to Dene Park either!

Some good flutter photo's, seems you've found them all at once :-)

Jason K said...

A great selection of butterflies and dragonflies there but Ratty made me smile (and a bit sad)'s been a long time since i last saw one in worcestershire!

Gary Jones said...

Hi Phil, a great blog you have and now added to my blog list and will be following, Regards Gary

Mike H said...

Another great account of your wildlife experiences. I think all of your shots have been correctly id'd Phil. Beautiful Demoiselle are normally at Dene Park although on my last two visits have been absent. I agree with you about the dogs there but last year I had a shot of a PE on a pile of dog poo. The lure of them and the Silver washed fritillary means that I will revisit maybe next week when the sun shines again.!! Also intend to revisit your patch soon so I may bump into you again. Regards.