Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Trosley in Spring


Trosley Country Park, steps down.  27 March 2015.
Trosley Country Park, steps down.  27 March 2015.
I posted some photos from Trosley Country Park in January last year. Two months further into the year this time, there are many signs of life.

These steps might look daunting, but they are far from the steepest part of this route.  They cover about half of the downhill path through the wooded slope.  It's actually easier to walk alongside them, when going downwards at least.  They have the texture of wood but are actually some sort of cast stone.

Higher up, before I got this far, the path was bordered by primroses.  (But these are less dramatic for an opening picture.)

Primroses in Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
Primroses in Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
The path turns left at the bottom and is fenced off from the outside world. But just over the fence is another path, part of the Pilgrim's Way, which is supposed to have led from Winchester to Canterbury.  On the park side, there are clumps of Dog's Mercury under the trees.

Dog's Mercury in Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
Dog's Mercury in Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
All the plants in one clump are genetically the same, and have a single gender.  I saw many male clumps, with pollen like this plant, but none that were female; but some clumps were not yet flowering.  Later in the year, it should be possible to spot the females easily because they will be bearing seeds.

One green patch looked different.  It was a charming, rather tender little plant which is called Moschatel because it is supposed to smell musky at dusk.

Moschatel in Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
Moschatel in Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
The flowers normally all have the arrangement you can see here in bud, four at the sides and one on top.  An alternative name for it is Town Hall Clock.  This plant flowers early and disappears before the middle of summer.

Further on I crossed the grassy chalk slopes, the grass kept short by rabbits.  The grass was full of Hairy Violets, a species typical of chalk country.

Hairy Violets in Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
Hairy Violets in Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
It is the leaves that are hairy.  And further still, I climbed back up by the side of a disused chalk quarry.  This route was steep enough for me to need to hold onto the fence round the quarry to help pull myself up.

Here's a shot taken from halfway up.

Horse riders on the Pilgrim's Way, taken  from Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
Horse riders on the Pilgrim's Way, taken  from Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
I had been hearing voices from half a mile away, getting closer.  Of course, you would have to speak quite loudly to be heard when riding in single file like this.  Seeing the horses explained all!  This is where the Pilgrim's Way turns away from the park.

Finally, walking back along the top I saw masses of Wood Anemones under the trees, always a lovely Spring sight.

Wood Anemones in Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
Wood Anemones in Trosley Country Park.  27 March 2015.
(The top photo was taken with my iPhone; all  the others with my EOS 6D and 100mm macro lens.  I turned the ring flash off for the view of the riders.)

Friday, 20 March 2015

First Moths of 2015


Pale Brindled Beauty,  Phigalia pilosana.  Hayes, 14 February 2015
Pale Brindled Beauty,  Phigalia pilosana.  Hayes, 14 February 2015
Moths are stating to appear in my garden trap at last.  I actually had one in mid-February, the Pale Brindled Beauty shown above, which flies from January to March.  It was good to see one of the winter-flying species.  There are several, but last year I saw none of them.  This species was a first for my garden, unlike the other three below:

Hebrew Character, Orthosia gothica. Hayes,19 March 2015
Hebrew Character, Orthosia gothica. Hayes,19 March 2015
This is the easily recognisable Hebrew Character, a spring flier with strongly marked wings.  The Common Quaker also has well marked wings, but I like taking these front views.

Common Quaker, Orthosia cerasi.  Hayes,19 March 2015
Common Quaker, Orthosia cerasi.  Hayes,19 March 2015
The antennae are curved backwards in this shot, and look rather like eyebrows. 

And I have seen one micromoth, not in my trap but fluttering on the inside of my window.  You can never be sure of the provenance of moths found doing this because they might have had an unusual life cycle in the warmth of the house.

Mompha subbistrigella.  Hayes, 15 March 2015
Mompha subbistrigella.  Hayes, 15 March 2015
This 5mm long creature with the strongly upcurved palps is Mompha subbistrigella.  Most micros don't have proper common names, though they all have vernacular names which have recently been made up for them, which are really not worth memorising as they make no more sense than the proper scientific names. 


Saturday, 28 February 2015

Sphagnum at Keston

Sphagnum capillifolium subsp. capillifolium.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum capillifolium subsp. capillifolium.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
 Sphagnum mosses like it really wet, and live mostly in boggy places and at the edges of some streams.  I am certainly no moss expert, but I have a small field guide so last December I had a look at Keston Bog.  I managed to find and identify three of the species that live there; I know there are more.

Sphagnum capillifolium subsp. capillifolium.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum capillifolium subsp. capillifolium.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
You can see how the stem is covered by some clasping branches that grow quite differently from the spreading ones.  The stem also has its own types of "leaves".  If you look carefully you can also see a spore capsule.

Sphagnum fallax.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum fallax.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
This light green species seems to be the most common. 

Sphagnum fallax.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum fallax.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
The leaves of this one are even more thin and pointed than the reddish one above.  But the next one:

Sphagnum palustre.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum palustre.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Has much broader leaves.  You can see that you have to look closely to distinguish these.

Sphagnum palustre.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum palustre.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
But once you do, differences become apparent.  This one also has some spore pods.

The stems of these mosses are quite relaxed and floppy.  In situ they are supported by the mass of the stems all around them.  For these photos, I dangled them downwards and they flipped the photos the other way up!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

More Wisley Butterflies 2015

Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
More exotic butterflies from the RHS gardens at Wisley.  This Malachite has a more autumnal tone on its underside.  Here's one at a feeding station.

Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Underwing.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
One of the prettiest types was almost monochrome, with just a hint of yellow.

Tree Nymph, Idea leucona.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Tree Nymph, Idea leucona.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Despite the droplets in the background, it wasn't raining outside.  That was condensation on the glass.  Actually, it was so warm and humid that it was some while before I could take photos without my lenses steaming up.  Next time I will take the camera in the cabin of the car, not the boot, to keep it warm - a tip given me by another photographer.

Common Leafwing, Doleschallia bisaltide.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Common Leafwing, Doleschallia bisaltide.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Like some of our native species, this leafwing disguises itself quite effectively when its wings are closed.  Though it did rather stand out on the feeding station.

Glasswing, Greta oto.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Glasswing, Greta oto.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
I saw a few of these Glasswings flying around but they never seemed to perch within reach, until just as I was leaving.  I colled down in the temperate section of the glasshouse and popped back in to the tropical area for one last look, and this one flew down and perched nicely within reach.  The transparent wings look highly unusual on a butterfly, though they are quite normal for insects considered more widely.

I will certainly visit this butterfly display again.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Wisley Butterflies 2015

Scarlet Peacock, Anartia amathea.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Scarlet Peacock, Anartia amathea.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
In February, the Royal Horticultural Society releases exotic butterflies into the tropical portion of their large glasshouse at Wisley Gardens.  Wisley is a lovely place at any time of year, and the glasshouse in winter is always worth a visit.  The RHS take care to have interesting and beautiful plants on display there all the time.

Knowing what would be there this time, I took my big camera (EOS 6D with 100mm macro lens and ring flash).  I saw maybe a dozen species of butterflies and ended up with a few nice pics.  Other species are released at different times.

I am reasonably sure of the identification of most of these, but less so of the swallowtails, some of which are very variable species.

Owls and Blue Morphos at a feeding station. Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Owls and Blue Morphos at a feeding station. Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Feeding stations were set up with sugar solution and various fruits.  These Owls and Blue Morphos had their wings closed; they both looked very different when they were held flat.

Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides. Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides. Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
This is a Blue Morpho, one of those on the right above.  Here's a closeup of the same species with closed wings, feeding from one of the flowering plants. 


The trouble with the feeding stations, from the photographer's point of view, is that they were too bright and colourful, and the butterflies blended in!

Great Mormon, Papilio memnon, female.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Great Mormon, Papilio memnon, female.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
This is one of the variable species, and I think I have the right name.  It's also sexually dimorphic, and this would seem to be the male of the same species, if my web searches have revealed the truth to me (be wary of such truths):
Great Mormon, Papilio memnon, male.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Great Mormon, Papilio memnon, male.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
At first it looks very different, but it does have the same veins and compartments in its wings.  It doesn't have the long tails, but some female forms don't have those either.

I had hoped to show the chrysalides the butterflies emerge from, as they are on display in a side room.  But that cabinet is just as humid as the tropical area and has just as much condensation on the inside of the glass.

The chrysalis cabinet.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
The chrysalis cabinet.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.




So there is not much to see!  With the naked eye you can move about and see quite a lot, but it can't be shown by a single photograph.


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Last Summer's Predation

Spider, Tegenaria species, predating Pale Mottled Willow, Paradrina clavipalpis. Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 21 June 2014.
Spider, Tegenaria species, predating Pale Mottled Willow, Paradrina clavipalpis.
Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 21 June 2014.
Some of last summer's spiders were quite active.  This Pale Mottled Willow moth had been resting in the crack between the garage door and its jamb.  When I opened the door, it fell to the ground, right into a few strands of web that this Tegenaria spider had spun just under the door opening.  Sensing that something had fallen in, it ran out and grabbed the moth.

Well, the spider was happy, and this also shows off the very light underwings that are typical of the moth.

Jersey Tiger, Euplagia quadripunctaria, being eaten by Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus.  Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 16 August 2014.
Jersey Tiger, Euplagia quadripunctaria, being eaten by Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus.
Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 16 August 2014.
Jersey Tigers are large and colourful moths that used to be scarce here, but now arrive in some numbers over a period of three to four weeks every year.  This orb web spider clearly appreciates the way they come to the light of my trap.

Harvestman, Leiobunum rotundum.  Male.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 7 June 2014.
Harvestman, Leiobunum rotundum.  Male.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 7 June 2014.
I also get Harvestmen in my trap.  They are arachnids, related to spiders, but different in several important ways.  I am showing this one because ..

Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis.   Male.  Eating a Harvestman, a male Leiobonum rotundum. In my garden light trap in Hayes on 19 May 2014.
Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis.   Male.  Eating a Harvestman, a male Leiobonum rotundum.
In my garden light trap in Hayes on 19 May 2014.
Spiders like them too.  A trap full of insects naturally attracts predators, but some of them are more at risk than they would probably like, were they capable of liking things.

(This Nursery Web Spider would have started with eight legs, but has lost two.  I quite often see spiders with missing legs.  The spider at the top of the page and the harvestman in the photo above have both lost a leg.  It doesn't seem to slow them down.)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Last Summer's Spiders

Wolf Spider, Trochosa species.  On my back wall in Hayes on the morning of 5 June 2014.
Wolf Spider, Trochosa species.  On my back wall in Hayes on the morning of 5 June 2014.
And now the spiders I found in and around my moth trap last year.  As a group, I think these are the prettiest apart from the moths themselves.  They are also quite varied.  This wolf spider chases down its prey, and has big eyes to see it and muscular legs to run fast.

Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus.  Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 14 September 2014.
Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus.  Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 14 September 2014.
This is our most familiar orb web spider.  The colouration varies from this medium brown to almost black.

Enoplognatha species,  probably.  Juvenile coloration.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 18 May 2014.
Not quite sure what this one is because it is still a juvenile, but it looks like a web spinner with those long tactile legs.

Spider on the thermometer.  Probabkly Metellina merianae.  In my back garden in Hayes, 1 October 2014.
Spider on the thermometer.  Probabkly Metellina merianae.  In my back garden in Hayes, 1 October 2014.
This species lives around the mouth of caves, so feels quite at home under my balcony near my garage door!  I see the juveniles in my trap quite often.

Noble False Widow, Steatoda nobilis.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 3 September 2014.
Noble False Widow, Steatoda nobilis.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 3 September 2014.
This one was interesting, as well as being pretty.  Wikipedia says " it has a reputation as one of the few local spider species which is capable of inflicting a painful bite to humans, with most bites resulting in symptoms similar to a bee or wasp sting."  There was a media fuss about this Noble False Widow, sometimes just called a False Widow, in 2014.  It's not really rare, but it doesn't go about biting people, even though it could if it wanted to.

More spiders next time.