Friday, 28 August 2015

Three Beauties and a Cutie

Yellow Shell, Camptogramma bilineata.  In my garden light trap on 23 August 2015.
Yellow Shell, Camptogramma bilineata.  In my garden light trap on 23 August 2015.
The weather has been very mixed recently, but I had a very good moth night a few days ago.  Some of them are quite lovely.  These three beauties are not at all rare and anyone could see them quite easily.

The Yellow Shell's pattern varies in the darkness and intensity of its bands of colour.  This is one of the lighter variations.  You can see this moth in the daytime too.

Light Emerald, Campaea margaritata.  In my garden light trap on 23 August 2015.
Light Emerald, Campaea margaritata.  In my garden light trap on 23 August 2015.
The Light Emerald is also easy to find.  Its colour fades quite rapidly, often the case with green moths, so it was nice to see the clear contras with the reddish fringe on this specimen.

Oak Hooktip, Watsonalla binaria.  In my garden light trap on 23 August 2015.
Oak Hooktip, Watsonalla binaria.  In my garden light trap on 23 August 2015.
I keep wanting to type "Watsonella" for the name of thie Oak Hooktip, but no, it has a second a.  The deep honey tones are an excellent sight.  It's more or less the same size and shape as the first two, but from a different family; Drepanidae rather than Geometridae.

And the cutie of the post's title is this:

Ectoedemia decentella.  In my garden light trap on 23 August 2015.
Only just over 3mm long, and mostly coloured the same as the egg carton it was sitting on, it would have been easy to overlook.  Its caterpillars eat Sycamore seeds, among other things, and with several Sycamores just over my garden fence, this is not the first time I have had this tiny think in my trap.

Of course, this is from a different family again; Nepticulidae.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

EOS 5DS

A tiny Sweat Bee, Lasioglossum species, in my back garden, on garden oregano flowers.  12 August 2015.
A tiny Sweat Bee, Lasioglossum species, in my back garden, on garden oregano flowers.  12 August 2015.
I now have a new camera, an EOS 5DS, an amazing thing with a sensor capable of producing detail that only medium format would get to until now.  I am still working on making my shots super sharp*, but meanwhile I can get some shots of tiny insects that are much better than I could have managed before.  This one is a tiny Sweat Bee dipping its proboscis into a tiny flower.

Hoverfly, Sphaerophoria species. Female.  Hutchinson's Bank, 11 August 2015.
Hoverfly, Sphaerophoria species. Female.  Hutchinson's Bank, 11 August 2015.

Hoverfly, Sphaerophoria species. Male.  Hutchinson's Bank, 11 August 2015.
Hoverfly, Sphaerophoria species. Male.  Hutchinson's Bank, 11 August 2015.
These are the female and male of a small Sphaerophoria hoverfly - there are a few species than cannot be told apart just from photographs.   They are feeding on Ragwort.  You can see that their body shapes are quite distinct.  With most hoverflies you look for a gap between their compound eyes at the top of their heads; females have the gap, males do not.  With Sphaerophorias you do not need to get so close.

I got these two shots to be sharper than the bee.

Oncocera semirubella.  Hutchinson's Bank, 11 August 2015.
Oncocera semirubella.  Hutchinson's Bank, 11 August 2015.
You have to chase these moths around to get any sort of close-up.  Like the Crambid grass moths, it flits off when you get close and lands upside down somewhere where it can look like a bit of grass stem.  Oncocera semirubella is usually pinker than this specimen, so I suppose this one has been around a bit and has lost some pink scales.  But enough remain for a positive identification, and it also has this way of holding its palps pointing upwards, which few moths do.

This is about as sharp as the bee.  I do better when I have time to steady the camera.

* What's the best combination of small aperture, speed and ISO for hand-held nature shots?  Small apertures give a good depth of field, but you get diffraction effects which make the whole thing less sharp.  High ISO allows faster shots, so less motion blur, but more noise, specially in the darker areas.  High speed also reduces motion blur but means that unless you are really close, a flash shot will be quite dark, and also relatively noisy.  At the moment I am trying out f/20, 1/800, ISO 250 or ISO 1000.   Also, I can sometimes sharpen a bit and reduce noise a little bit in Photoshop without compromising the pic.  If I were working with static subjects and a tripod I would be trying a very different combination.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

More Hutchinson's Bank


Chalkhill Blue, Polyommatus coridon.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
Chalkhill Blue, Polyommatus coridon.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
This was the photo I was second most pleased with on Hutchinson's Bank.  The Chalkhill Blue is not a common species.  It's not the rarest  butterfly to be found here - that would be the Small Blue - but it was still nice to see one.

The photo I was most pleased with was a hoverfly.

Volucella zonaria.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015.
Volucella zonaria.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015.
I have been trying to capture on of these for a couple of years, and they have just zoomed past.  This time I found one feeding on a Bramble flower.  Volucella zonaria is a large hoverfly, a hornet mimic, looking dangerous but actually completely harmless to people.

I captured some other hoverfly photos too.

Volucella pellucens.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015.
Volucella pellucens.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015.
This is Volucella pellucens, also on a Bramble.  I love photographing hoverflies,  They are colourful and varied.

Dronefly, Eristalis pertinax.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015
Dronefly, Eristalis pertinax.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
I have lots of photos of this hoverfly, Eristalis pertinax, but this was an interesting angle.  It's eating pollen from a Hogweed.

Large White, Pieris brassicae, on Creeping Thistle, Cirsium arvense.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015.
Large White, Pieris brassicae, on Creeping Thistle, Cirsium arvense.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015.
Back to the butterflies .. This Large White, aka Cabbage White because its caterpillars love Brassicas, is feeding on a Creeping Thistle, our commonest thistle, which will grow in any scrap of waste ground.  It has a paler flower than most thistles, and they smell of honey.

Common Red Soldier Beetle, Rhagonycha fulva.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
Common Red Soldier Beetle, Rhagonycha fulva.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
There are plenty of other insects, too.  This is the commonest beetle (visible beetle, I should probably say) at this time of year.  It's often called the Hogweed Bonking Beetle because this is how you commonly see it, and it loves Hogweed.  I suppose it must eat sometime or other, as well. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Hutchinson's Bank

Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus., on Wild Marjoram,  Origanum vulgare.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015
Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus., on Wild Marjoram,  Origanum vulgare.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015
Hutchinson's Bank is a chalk slope near New Addington, steep enough that you need to look forward to expending some effort to get around it all.  There are paths along the top, the middle and the bottom, and at the end there is a small triangular wood.  A little further up the road there is another area of chalk grassland known for its orchids.

Last year, when I walked around, the bottom path was little more than a muddy trench, but this time all was dry and pleasant.  The chalk flora is lovely, and here is a typical specimen, a Wild Marjoram.  It's aromatic, like so many of the Lamiaceae, and moths and butterflies love it.  This butterfly is a Gatekeeper, and although this was supposed to be a plant post, as there is already a butterfly here I will show what the upper wing surface is like.

Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
It's quite small and quite colourful.

Nemophora metallica on a Field Scabious, Knautia arvensis.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015.
Nemophora metallica on a Field Scabious, Knautia arvensis.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015.
There are lots of Scabiouses scattered around, Field and Small.  This Field Scabious is being visited by a longhorn moth, Nemophora metallica, whose larvae feed on it.

Wild Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015.
Wild Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa.  Hutchinson's Bank, 21 July 2015.
OK, I will definitely cut back on the Lepidoptera now.  This is a Wild Parsnip, which I do not see on every chalk bank.  I haven't tried to pull up a root and expect I would be disappointed if I did.

Tufted Vetch, Vicia cracca.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
Tufted Vetch, Vicia cracca.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
Tufted Vetch - it's a cracca.  That is an obscure pun.  This pretty plant is quite common.  I saw some at Leybourne Lakes, too.

Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre.  Chapel Bank, 29 July 2015.
Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre.  Chapel Bank, 29 July 2015.
In the Leybourne Lakes post I mentioned the Marsh Thistle, comparing it unfavourably with a Welted Thistle.  Well, here it is, in the other chalky area close to Hutchinson's Bank.  It is quite characterful and interesting, and often grows in large groups, as you can see in the background of this photo.  It's tall and skinny, and the flower heads are tacky to the touch rather than spiky.  But those things do not make it pretty.

Wayfaring-Tree, Verbena lantana.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
Wayfaring-Tree, Verbena lantana.  Hutchinson's Bank, 29 July 2015.
Last for today, a typically multicoloured berry head of the Wayfaring-tree, one of our two wild Verbenas.  It is a common shrub on the chalk, and a lovely sight at this time of year.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

More from Leybourne Lakes

Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
There were some lovely specimens around the lakes which were not particularly water-loving, but which were growing big and lush in this friendly enviromnent.  Some were so large that I could not take a representative photo which still allowed you to see any details; that's why there is no Teasel in this post.

This Bristly Oxtongue was as tall as I am, and I usually see it two or three feet high.  It's easy to recognise in leaf because they are covered with those little blisters, each with a prickle in the centre. The flowers are cupped by very distinctive bracts.

Prickly Lettuce, Lactuca serriola.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Prickly Lettuce, Lactuca serriola.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
A tall Prickly Lettuce.  Another prickly plant.  The prickles on this one run along the centre of the underside, of the leaves, and are larger than you might expect.

Weld, Reseda luteola.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Weld, Reseda luteola.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Weld, Reseda luteola.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Weld, Reseda luteola.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
This is Weld, a plant that used to yield a yellow dye.  I expect it still does if you know how to extract it.  Apparently, lush green specimens like this were not favoured by the dyers, who wanted yellower plants grown in less forgiving environments.  In the closeup you can see the clusters of stamens, not yet open, surrounding the stigmas.

Welted Thistle, Carduus crispus.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Welted Thistle, Carduus crispus.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Welted Thistle, Carduus crispus.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Welted Thistle, Carduus crispus.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
And finally, there were several lovely specimens of this pretty Welted Thistle.  Creeping Thistle and Spear Thistle are very common, Marsh Thistle and Welted Thistle less so, and this is much prettier than the Marsh Thistle. 

Friday, 31 July 2015

Leybourne Lakes 2015


Indian Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera.   Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera.   Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
I led a walk at Leybourne Lakes in mid-July, and went for a look around a week before to be prepared for whatever might be there.  These photos are from that recce.

Leybourne Lakes has been a country park since 2004.  It began as gravel diggings and has been converted to a wildlife and recreational centre.  There is also a good range of water-loving plant life to be found and I took photos of some, but not all, of it.

This first shot is an invasive species, Himalayan or Indian Balsam.  It has colonised just one side of this small stream.  It is sometimes called Touch-me-not, because when its seed pods are ripe they will explode when touched and throw the seeds a good distance.

Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
   Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Yellow Loosestrife is a good waterside species to find.  There is a similar garden species, Spotted Loosestrife.  As you can see, it grows quite tall and bushy, very unlike its two close relations Yellow Pimpernel and Creeping Jenny, both of which never leave ground level.  The Yellow Pimpernel is a woodland plant, but Creeping Jenny likes it damp, and we found a patch actually growing under some Yellow Loosestrife.  (No photos, sadly.  We found that on the walk, and I don't take my camera when I am leading a walk.)

Totally unrelated to the Yellow Loosestrife is Purple Loosestrife, which grows freely in wet environments in this area.  There are great stands of it at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve.

Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
It's from a different family.  These are not as big and lush as some I have seen, but they are well established.  Here are some closeups of Purple Loosestrife flowers, showing their odd pollination arrangements: Heterostyly.

Marsh Woundwort, Stachys palustris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
Marsh Woundwort, Stachys palustris.  Leybourne Lakes, 12 July 2015
This rather weedy specimen is Marsh Woundwort, a close relation of the common Hedge Woundwort.  Hedge Woundwort is said to have an unpleasant smell when their leaves are crushed, but that is very variable, and actually I rather like the smell which at its best is strong, aromatic and rather medicinal in quality.  This marsh species does not have the same smell.

Other water-lovers seen, but not photographed, included Clustered Dock and Water Figwort.

Next time, some plants from Leybourne Lakes which are not particularly water-loving.









Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Three Clouds

Clouded Magpie, Calospilos sylvata.  Cuckoo Wood, High Elms, 9 July 2015.
Clouded Magpie, Calospilos sylvata.  Cuckoo Wood, High Elms, 9 July 2015.
Here are some related species of moth seen recently.  The first is a Clouded Magpie, caught at High Elms just long enough to photograph.  It's the first time I have seen one of these, and three of them came to my trap.  I think it's a real beauty.  The caterpillar eats various types of Elm.

Clouded Border, Lomaspilis marginata.  Hayes, 11 July 2015
And this one is a Clouded Border.  I have seen lots of these in the wild, but this is the first to come to my back garden.  The caterpillars eat Poplars and Willows, and there are not many of those nearby.  The basic colouration and pattern of this moth is always the same, so it is instantly recognisable, but the exact size and position of the brown "clouds" is variable.  This one is nicely balanced.

Clouded Silver, Lomographa temerata.  Hayes, 9 July 2015
Clouded Silver, Lomographa temerata.  Hayes, 9 July 2015
The Clouded Silver is also around in this season, and is also variable in detail.   This one was in my garden.  Its caterpillar eats  Hawthorns, Blackthorns and other common shrubs.

There are several other "clouded" moths, and other things too, like the Clouded Agaric, a common woodland mushroom.  But not today.