Friday, 12 July 2013

DIP, DIP,DIP.........

 It was with misplaced optimism that Terry and I set off on Thursday morning to find Red Veined Darters at a location near Reculver on the north Kent coast. These lovely little dragonflies are rare migrants and I for one had never seen one. However, not for the first time recently, the weather conspired against us and heavy grey skies and a particularly keen north east wind (straight off a very cold north sea) did nothing to tempt them on to the wing. In twitching circles this would be called a dip. Luckily we had a plan B.
Not too far from Reculver are Blean woods, home to delightful butterflies called Heath Fritillaries. With optimism still intact (and misplaced) we headed off, feeling confident that by the time we reached said woods the sun would have burned off the clouds and the butterflies would be airborne. Wrong on both counts. A traverse of the horrendously dog fouled paths, some of the worst i've ever seen (and i've seen some bad ones), proved fruitless. Dip number two.

Luckily we had a plan C. Not too far from Blean woods  is Westbere lake. A private fishing lake bordered with a public path, edged with lush vegetation and reeds, which leads down to and along the banks of the beautiful Great Stour river. This has been home in recent weeks to Scarce Chaser dragonflies, another species on my wish list. By the time we get there the clouds would surely have gone, the cold NE wind should have dropped and the air would be full of dragonflies. Dip number three. 
The sun did eventually break through though and as if by magic, damselflies, mostly Banded Demoiselles like the female above took to the air in their droves. The territorial males jostling for the best positions on the swaying reeds which made photo taking a bit difficult. 

 We saw only one unidentified dragonfly which appeared suddenly on the path ahead and disappeared up into the trees just as quickly. It could have been our quarry, who knows. Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells (something of a success story this season), Speckled Woods, Skippers and ridiculously bright and pristine Comma butterflies (above and below) all responded to the sun's now warm rays. But it was time to move on again.

The sunshine looked set to last so we headed back to Blean woods once again, to brave the outrageously desecrated footpaths in search of a Heath Fritillary or two. Success was swift. We found a few (above and below) almost straight away, but taking pictures was once again difficult as the insects were tending to shelter low from the still brisk wind. Some of the individuals were also looking a bit worn, it would be a shame to post pictures of such a fine creature if it wasn't looking its best.  

The stars of the show though were undoubtedly the White Admirals, we saw perhaps half a dozen, all in pristine condition like the one above.

I though this could be a female egg laying when I got home and saw the picture, but my books state that the food plant and therefore the choice of egg laying leaf is Honeysuckle not Sweet Chestnut which I think these were on.

We spent some time watching and getting pictures of these beauties, even risking treading off piste on occasions. Worth the risks though I think!

Just to round off the day we paid a final visit to Reculver for another look for our intended quarry, the Red Veined Darter. But the onshore wind was too much I think and we had to admit defeat.

And finally. Our garden has been alive with the sight and sounds of Nuthatches for the last few weeks. It's been fledging time and we've had various family groups constantly dropping in and out and watched the adult birds feeding our peanuts to their noisy, demanding youngsters (below). West Farleigh is certainly a stronghold for this charismatic bird. Long may it last.


Marc Heath said...

I'm glad you finally caught up with the Heath Fritillary and White Admiral. The Red veined Darters can be hard to see and best times seems to be 8.30-10.00am when they first appear on the paths to warm up.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Well done on persisting with the Heath Frits in 'foul' conditions , and for getting some great shots of both them and the White Admirals .
Your Commas look like form 'hutchinsoni' .
A chap I spoke to yesterday said the HFs are more numerous at East
Blean Woods this year .
Nice to have the Nuthatches in the garden .

Warren Baker said...

You stuck it out Phil, and got something for your efforts in the end :-)

Nuthatch's on my feeders too, almost tame at times!

Ken. said...

I called in to Blean Woods on the way home from Stodmarsh last Thursday, I didn't see anything to report so I left it out of my blog, I met a few people looking for H/F but no lucklooks like I went a day to early. Wish I had seen the White Admirals, I have never seen one, would have made my day.
I was also told that there are good numbers at East Blean even around the car park.
very well done with the great butterflies. Nice pics.

Lou Mary said...

Some fab butterfly photos here! I must go check out the site, I do live fairly near, I just didn't realise white admirals inhabited blean woods!