Blue Bells, Early Purple Orchids and dirty hybrids

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 30 April 2010 17:56

Early Purple Orchids are just coming out and Bluebells are at their best right now. I took these in the West Weald today. The Bluebells and orchids (oh and the Wood Spurge I just noticed in the foreground) were all taken in an area of W10 woodland in the form of overmature Hazel coppice under oak standards. The other picture is not an Oxlip, it's a False-oxlip, the hybrid between Cowslip and Primrose. The flowers spread in all directions in False-oxlip but all lean to one side in Oxlip. That and Oxlip is not a Sussex species! This was on a dirt bank on the edge of The Mens.

Booby prize

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 29 April 2010 18:05

Although I failed in my attempt to follow in Michael Blencowe's footsteps and find Sloe Carpet at Woods Mill I did find a Sloe Pug larvae there by beating Blackthorn blossom. Sorry for the slightly blurred photo. This common species is not often seen as an adult (I have never seen one in twenty years of moth-ing) but this was quite easy to find by beating Blackthorn blossom. The reddish mark on the back is diagnostic. It is currently sat on my desk munching on flowers, I'm gonna rear it through to an adult so I can get some photos.

Slender Speedwell

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 28 April 2010 13:16

A quick walk around Woods Mill while we were waiting for the server to come back on line proved useful. Finally got evidence that we have three Reed Bunting territories. Also saw this patch of Slender Speedwell, a garden escape since 1830. It has a very slender stem and small round leaves, much smaller than the flowers. Meadow Fox-tail grass is growing taller by the day. There were a large number of Kestrel pellets in the meadow. The valley field is covered in Cuckoo-flower this year (one of the main foodplants of Orange-tip butterflies that are also doing well there this year) and I am sure this is due to SWT's conservation grazing by opening the sward. Also found an old Hornets nest in a dead tree.


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 27 April 2010 22:07

I decided to do my bird surveys in the evening this week (the protocol states that 2/10 visits can be evening visits). There were five Nightingales on the reserve at Woods Mill, one up on last year (if they all hang around!). There may be three Reed Bunting territories too but I'm still not sure. There was a Cuckoo late on and some large Noctule type bats. I also saw a Scorched Carpet and a few Shoulder-stripe moths. This evening I went to Filsham Reedbed, there was one Nightingale there, good numbers of Cetti's Warblers and Reed Warblers. I flushed a couple of Snipe but they were not behaving territorially. I heard a Whimbrel fly over but I could not see it.

Carp diem

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 26 April 2010 16:52

Steve and Bryan managed to get this fat boy out of the dipping pond where it has been making a menace of itself for sometime by hoovering up pretty much whatever it can fit in its mouth. Carp are bad news for nature conservation, not only reducing plant and invertebrate life but also making the water really turbid. This individual was released into the lake where there are so many Carp that one more will not make the least bit of difference. However, there are plans to remove or control the Carp there too next year. Other sightings today included the first soldier beetle of the year although it flew off before I could ID it, a female False Widow brought in by a member looking evil as ever and a patch of Goldilocks Buttercup. I'm hanging around late at work tonight to do an evening bird survey and might then stay on to look for Sloe Carpet after Michael Blencowe & co. found one at Ebernoe Common on Saturday, first record in West Sussex since 1997.

Dr Who and the Green Tigers of Parys

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 25 April 2010 18:25

More Anglesey I'm afraid. Sussex will have to wait one more day until I get back to work! We visited Parys Mountain on the 21st April, one of the few places on Anglesey I had not been to. It is an old open cast copper mine and has every colour rock and soil you can think of. It looks like some bizarre post apocalyptic nightmare or a strange alien world and has has been used as the location of a number of episodes of Dr Who and such timeless classics like Mortal Kombat 2. Ahem. I tracked down a link which is attached. Enjoy. You can see patches of Heather in the background, the only plant to thrive here.

This was perhaps most barren place for wildlife I have ever been to. In two hours I saw two invertebrates, the hoverfly Eristalis pertinax and a Green Tiger Beetle despite warm, calm and sunny conditions. The only birds there were a nesting pair of Ravens (try and spot the nest in the photo) and a singing Wren. The shot of the tiger beetle took a little effort, they are really fast ground predators that also fly off quickly when you approach them. With persistence though, when there is limited latent heat (i.e. sunny days in early spring) you can tire them out quickly by casting your shadow over them. That is how I got this shot. Being a visual predator they have binocular vision and a very flat face, a perfect subject for macro photography. The purple colour is not really that visible in the field. A common species associated with bare ground but it's always awesome to see these savage beasts, Dr Who would not stand a chance!


Posted by Graeme Lyons 12:03

Saw my first Swift of the year last night over The Roundhill at about 7.30pm.


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 24 April 2010 10:25

OK, so the first post is not even from Sussex. Jo and I just got back from three days in North Wales, on Wednesday we climbed Snowdon and we are still aching now. The sun is shining in Brighton as I write but I can hardly move my legs so it looks like I won't be doing any natural history today. Anyways, back to the monutain. Not only was the cafe at the top closed but an annoying hippy was hogging the summit so he could beat his drum. His native American Indian drum that was utterly irrelvenat and quite frankly the last thing I wanted to hear after a three hour climb! Grrrr. We ate our pittance of a lunch (we were relying on the cafe) and were soon surrounded by 1084m high Herring Gulls begging for food. Just as I was thinking that I could have seen the same avian fauna from my Brighton flat window I saw two passerines a few metres away which turned out to be a pair of Snow Buntings. The bird photographed looks like a male just passing into summer plumage. They were feeding quite actively on the edge of patches of snow. As I was creeping closer to get a better shot (they were quite tame) a woman shouted 'don't turn around' behind me. I turned around of course. There was a woman having a piss. The birds flew off. I wouldn't have even known she was there if she hadn't shouted and scared the birds off! Grrrr. Anyway, first time I have seen Snow Buntings anywhere near the breeding season. There were hardly any flowering plants out, did see Alpine and Fir Club-moss. Small Tortoiseshell at 830m was looking as bit lost.

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