Wednesday, 1 July 2015

July Diary

31st July - A late walk in some nice sunshine, a few dragonflies on show, two Migrant Hawkers, two Brown Hawkers, only butterflies on show were Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. same with the birds, two Song Thrush, and a few Wood pigeon calling from high up in the trees.

28th July - Cloudy with sunny intervals today,  the hedgerow in the glades, the favoured haunt of the Gatekeeper, produced at least twenty gatekeepers all of which were male, I finally came across a female, closely followed by a second female further down the track.
You can see the differences  in the forewing, the male has a brown patch on his forewing, this is missing on the females forewing,

Female Gatekeeper
male Gatekeeper

A Meadow Brown got in on the act and displayed its open wings for a change.

Meadow Brown
Back in the wood a few red berries of the wildflower Arum Maculatum ,commonly known as Lords-and-ladies, sometimes cuckoopint. have started to show on the woodland floor, these berries are the most poisonous part of the plant, but rarely fatal, because of the burning sensation in the mouth when the berries are eaten, this is followed by the tongue swelling, salivation, strong convulsions, nausea, bloody vomiting and severe gastroenteritis, all of which sounds very unpleasant.

Arum Maculatum       Lords-and-ladies

27th July -  A late morning walk today in overcast and breezy conditions, not much wildlife on show today a few Meadow Brown Butterflies, the few Gatekeepers that made an appearance seemed reluctant to fully open there wings, making it difficult to find that elusive female to photograph.
I did notice this insect resting up on a bramble leaf, not sure exactly whether it's a Bee, possibly Andrena nitida a type of solitary mining bee, or a large Hoverfly, something about the eyes and antenna(e) doesn't seem quite right.
Possible Andrena nitida or unknown Hoverfly species

A White Tailed Bumblebee was easier to identify, not much else to mention.

23rd July - Another dry warm morning walk through the woods where there are still good numbers of Meadow Browns around the bramble and bracken, The hedgerows around the glades seem to be the favourite haunt of the Gatekeepers and Ringlet with Small Skippers flying up from the  long grass. I was checking the photographs I have done on the Gatekeeper, they all seem to be of males, I am now on the lookout for an example of the female Gatekeeper, difference in the upper wing are quite obvious when you know what to look for.
This nice Nettle-leaved Bellflower  Campanula trachelium has added a splash of colour along one of the trails through the wood.
Nettle-Leaved Bellflower
Another family group of Common Whitethroats were disturbed from the hedgerow at the top of the glades, just managed to get a record photograph, three Yellowhammer were again disturbed from the long grass alongside the cattle field, with just one lingering long enough for a photograph
five Magpie were in the glades together, and back in the woods the usual Blackbird, Song Thrush Robin and Wren all made an appearance.

Common Whitethroat
The berries on the Wayfaring-tree are all ripening. These berries are particularly attractive to birds and small mammals which help to disperse the seeds.

Wayfarer- Tree Berries
Couldn't resist the colours of this Red Tailed Bumblebee feeding on some Knapweed.

Red Tailed Bumblebee on Knapweed

22nd July - Another pleasant walk in some warm early morning sunshine, plenty of Butterflies on show once again, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Small Heath, Small White, Small Skipper, Peacock, Comma, 

Another good Dragonfly sighting near Two ponds in the woods, in the form of a Female Broad Bodied Chaser. Lovely golden yellow body showing well as opposed to the powder blue of the male.
Too quick for a photograph.

Bird sightings today included four juvenile Wren in a family group disturbed from the undergrowth, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Magpie, and three Yellowhammer around the cattle field.

21st July - The white cauliflower type fungus was still on show, although it looks today like its deteriorating, still not sure what it is.

Plenty of Butterflies on show today but nothing unusual, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Large White, Ringlets. Heres a close up view of the Gatekeeper.

Birds were confined to Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Robin and a confiding Song Thrush.

Song Thrush
A few of these Labyrinth Spiders seen in the hedgerows , some looking quite big.

Labyrinth Spider Agelena labyrinthica

20th July - On a slightly overcast morning with some drizzle, Butterfly sightings were confined to the usual Meadow Browns, a few Ringlet, and a lot of Gatekeepers along the hedgerows in the glades.
On the edge of the wood a small feeding party of Tits mainly Long Tailed, a few Great Tits and a couple of Blue Tits, up on the glades a Yellowhammer was on show today with a three Skylarks and a Kestrel. Back in the woods Blackbird, Song Thrush Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow.
An unusual fungi broken through on fallen tree, looks like a  'cauliflower texture' and quite spongy to the touch, two possibilities White Rot Fungi or Cauliflower Fungi, although it does not really look like the photo's on the internet. No camera with me today, hopefully it will still be on show tomorrow.

19th July- Good selection of Butterflies on show again today, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Large White,Comma, Red Admiral, Large Skipper, Small Skipper.
Managed to get a slightly better photograph of the Red Admiral but still not perfect. Same with the white Butterflies they never seem to settle with their wings open.
Highlight of today's walk was the sighting of a Brown Hawker which zoomed by as I got back into the car. Its brown wings glistening in the sunlight, shame it didn't stay.
Dragonfly sightings 2015 for Ashenbank
 1.  Hairy Dragonfly
 2. Broad-bodied Chaser M+F
 3.Common Darter.
 4. Emperor Dragonfly
 5.Brown Hawker
Red Admiral
Large White
Large Skipper

18th July -  Today was the day for Butterflies, warm early morning sunshine and no wind. the woodland produced numerous  Meadow Browns, a few Commas,three Red Admiral   and a Large White. Out in the glades the hedgerows were alive with Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Ringlets,  the only Skippers seen today seem to be of the small variety.

Large White
Red Admiral
Small Skipper

A few White Tailed Bumblebee's were seen and one Common Darter dragonfly.

Bird sightings today included Wren, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, and a lone Skylark.
The meadows are full of wildflowers at the moment, this small yellow flower caught my attention today, well past its best, only example of Perforate St John's-wort  I have seen here, the red juice from the cut stem is suppose to represent the bloody murder of John the Baptist, although the cut stem I looked at, showed no red juice, the leaves appear to have tiny perforations in them, these are actually translucent glands.

Perforate St John's-Wort
Cobnuts are appearing on many of the Hazel trees, the cobnuts when green are said to taste similar to coconut and as they mature and become golden are much sweeter and juicier, a Kentish speciality. one which my Father-in-law looks forward too.
Kentish Cobnuts
17th July -  A pleasant walk in some warm sunshine, the walk through the woodland produced a few more bird sightings, Green Woodpecker and Blackbird disturbed from the old air raid shelters, Juvenile Wrens seen very prominent at the moment. Robin and the usual Song Thrush. Up around the glades two Ring Necked Parakeets, Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove. A quick check of Ashenbank pond produced a sighting of the lone Moorhen, doesn't look like it's managed to find a partner, no breeding, a pair of Common Whitethroats seen on the boundary fence of the pond. Only small amount of open water now with the vegetation closely in fast.

Ashenbank Pond 

Quite a few Spear Thistle breaking through the long grass,  around the glades, a very iconic looking thistle.
Spear Thistle
15th July - Honour has been finally restored, I have found the grazing Shorthorn cattle new to the wood, a bit of an anti-climax, thoughts of how I would ever be able to spot a Deer or wild Boar, on the unlikely event of one turning up, can now be put to rest. I must admit they do look slightly out of place grazing in the woodland.

British Beef ShortHorn Cattle
On the birding front another Swift flying high over the woods was seen, Green Woodpecker quite vocal around the woodland, with Blackbird and Song Thrush still rushing through the undergrowth. Wrens appear very common at the moment.
Butterflies confined to the numerous Meadow Brown, although a few Small Skippers were found resting up in the long grasses.

Small Skipper
White Tailed and Red Tailed Bumblebee's both seen today.
 A male Emperor Dragonfly seen patrolling up and down the edge of the woodland.

Red Tailed Bumblebee
White Tailed Bumblebee
14th July - Not to many birds on show today, the Juvenile Green Woodpecker was seen in roughly the same area as before, Ring Necked Parakeet flyover, a few Blackbirds, Common Whitethroat and a few Meadow Pipits, the only Butterflies on show today were Meadow Browns.
Still can't find the Shorthorn Cows although I have seen more signs. This Seven spot ladybird and accompanying larva caught my eye.

Seven Spot Ladybird and larva 

13th July - Unbelievably for the first time this year I saw a small party of seven Swifts feeding over the glades, although I have seen Swift's everywhere else, nice to see some over the local patch before they begin their return journey from whence they came, which will be very shortly.A few more bird sightings today in drizzly rain, Green Woodpecker, Ring Necked Parakeet and Skylark over the glades, back in the woodland, small family party of Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon and a couple of Carrion Crows.
Nearly every Ragwort plant is being devoured by the Cinnabar caterpillars.

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars

Still no sightings of the Shorthorn cattle, although I did come across some cowpats or cow dung by two ponds. so they are there somewhere.

12th July -  Not much to talk about on today's walk, the White Tailed bumblebee nest still has a few survivors milling around the disturbed nest.
I did come across another unexpected Orchid in the form of a Pyramidal Orchid, just showing through the long grass alongside the Darnley trail that runs down the side of the channel tunnel railway and through the woodland.
Another quite common Orchid, although not so common in these woods

Pyramidal Orchid

11th July - My daily walk around this local patch of takes me all around the wood and up into the glades. Recently, warning notices have appeared, " British Beef Shorthorn cattle are now grazing in certain areas of the woodland",  they have been in the wood now for four days, I have seen no sign of them at all, how difficult can it be to see at  six or seven cows feeding in the undergrowth, answer very difficult.
Only a few birds on show today during my dog walking duties, Wrens seen very prominent at the moment, with lots of chasing around, possibly juveniles. Robin, Song Thrush and Skylark were the only other birds noted.

Butterflies however are everywhere, Meadow Browns and Ringlets still the most common, a few Small Whites, a brief flyby of a Marbled White, always seem restless here in the woods still can't get a record photograph. There seemed to be more Gatekeepers around today managed to get a photograph at last showing the subtle differences in the underwing with Meadow Brown.
Small Skipper and Large Skippers quite common around the meadow grasses.

Meadow Brown underwing
Gatekeeper underwing 
Large Skipper
Small White
Soldier Beetles
Lots of Soldier Beetles around on the Hogweed doing their thing.

10th July - As I walked through the woods  I came across two freshly dug holes at the side of the path, my first thought was that a dog had been digging, but as I took a closer look there were a few White Tailed Bumblebee's crawling around the bottom of the hole, scattered around the hole were the dead bodies of several Bumblebee's, this  was looking more like the work of a Badger, I have read on the Bumblebee conservation site that Badgers are known to dig out a Bumblebee's nest to eat  the larvae and food stores, sadly this looks like what has happened.

 White Tailed Bumblebee Survivor from Badger attack

Remains of White Tailed Bumblebee nest

Casualty from Badger attack
Another  possible Bee mimic was also seen today looked remarkably like a Red Tailed bumblebee, but this one has brown hair, could possibly be another sub species of Volucella bombylans, or maybe another hoverfly?
Volucella bombylans  ?
Butterflies seen included the numerous Meadow Brown, Ringlets and Small White,
An Emperor Dragonfly was seen patrolling along the edge of the glades.

These two Grey Squirrels kept me occupied for several minutes as they chased each other around the trunk of a Sweet Chestnut tree, I must admit It did not look too friendly , at one point one squirrel appeared to be pulling the other Squirrel off the trunk of the tree, or could it be just a case of 'rough love'

9th July - I set off around the woodland walk with my dog, not expecting to see too much, birds are there in the woods, more often heard than seen, the usual Song Thrush, Blackbird and Robin were all seen quite quickly, I watched four Wrens  chasing each other around a Hawthorn tree, totally preoccupied with their dispute, looked like two pairs.
Nuthatches are suddenly becoming more vocal, I heard one calling from high  in the trees.
As I neared the Little Owl site, incidentally, no sign of any Owls for the last few weeks, I could hear a strange bird calling from high in the tree's, I finally managed to catch sight of it , a juvenile Green Woodpecker.

Juvenile Green Woodpecker
The walk around the glades was quite eventful, my first sighting of a pair of Yellowhammers foraging along the hedgerow, a distant photo was taken, looks like one of them has just caught a rather large moth.

A Skylark was flushed from the long grass next to the cattle field, a few Goldfinch, Great Tit, were also seen along the hedgerow.
Another Yellowhammer was disturbed from the field, but this one decided to sit on the fence and check me out, before moving off.


Finally, back in the woods near the open pasture, a pair of Mistle Thrushes, very wary of my presence, just managed to get a distant record shot, and a Blackcap singing unseen  from the woodland.
Mistle Thrush
I watched a female Common Darter moving along the undergrowth next to the path I was walking.

Common Darter female

Meadow Brown Butterflies are living up to the name of Britain's most commonest Butterfly, they were everywhere in good numbers chasing each other around.
Near the open area around the old air raid shelters, I was checking out the Meadow Browns,  I watched at least ten Butterflies flitting about over a bramble patch which was bathed in warm sunshine, when another Butterfly caught my eye, a White Admiral, the Butterfly I have been hoping to see, nectering on some bramble flowers, and nowhere near where I saw one last year.

White Admiral

As I edged ever closer to the Butterfly trying to get a better shot, I realised that I had moved into the  stinging nettles, not a wise move when attired in shorts and sandals, but I do not see these very often,
so worth it. Butterfly number 19 for this small woodland.

Other Butterflies seen today included , Small Heath, Ringlet in good numbers, Small Skipper, the only Bumblebee seen was a Red Tailed Bumblebee.

And finally this spiders web caught my eye glistening in the sunlight, when you take the time to look in depth, a fantastic piece of ingenuity

8th July -  Temperatures dropped overnight, but a dry pleasant walk, not so many Butterflies on show just a few Meadow Browns and Ringlets, a White Tailed Bumblebee seen today and many unidentified hoverflies, On the Birding front, around the glades, a couple of Carrion Crows, Green Woodpecker, juvenile Pied wagtail, in the woods Song thrush, Blackbird and Robin, heard the faint call of a Chiffchaff, and the song of a Blackcap both unseen.

As I walked through the glades I noticed the 'Yellow Rattle' had finished flowering with the capsules  brown and full of seed, they do indeed rattle if you gently shake them, according to folklore this meadow is nearly ready for haymaking.

Yellow Rattle seed capsules

7th July - Warm and overcast this morning, so not many butterflies on view, those that were seen included Meadow Brown, Ringlet and one Gatekeeper, lots of Cinnabar caterpillars feeding on the Ragwort.
Bird sightings today Song Thrush, Wren, Magpie, Wood Pigeon. Blackbird, and a Nuthatch heard calling.
Rosebay Willowherb or Fireweed giving a splash of colour to the open pasture in the woods, this may all change as the cattle are being reintroduced into the woodland to graze on the undergrowth.

Rosebay Willowherb or Fireweed 

4th July -  The overnight rain did not realy cool things down, warm and very humid walk today. The warm conditions certainly have brought the Butterflies out though, with Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Ringlet, Red admiral, Small Skippers and Common Blue. This Comma was the first I have seen for a while now posed briefly on some nettles. I have been looking for the White Admiral  in the area I saw it last year at this time, no luck so far.

Common Blue
3rd July -  A slightly earlier walk than normal found myself  and my dog with the woods to ourselves, resident birds on show today included , Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin,. Blackcap, small Tit flock including Long Tailed tits, Blue Tits and a Great Tit. On the Boundary between the glades and the meadow a distant Skylark was seen, first for a while now.


Butterflies included huge numbers of Meadow Browns, smaller number of Ringlets, one Green Veined White, one Small Heath, one Red admiral, three Small Skippers

Small Heath
Meadow Brown
Green Veined white
male Small Skipper
Back in the woods a brief encounter with a young Fox cub  in the open pasture area, not sure who was more surprised.
The Knapweed is beginning to flower now, along with the Ragwort, saw my first Cinnabar Moth caterpillar today, unusually just the one.

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar
In the wildflower meadow a few Common chicory plants, Cichorium intybusplants were flowering.

Common Chicory
Greater Knapweed Centaurea scabiosa
I think this one may be the Greater Knapweed  , a bit more showy than the Common Knapweed.
and heres a photograph of the Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra

Common Knapweed Centaurea Nigra
2nd July - A pleasant walk in some warm sunshine, not quite as hot as yesterday, bird sightings remain all as before, a few Song Thrush, Blackbirds, Robins, a Blackcap heard singing this morning and a Wood pigeon indulging in some display flights.
I have noticed some very small, what look like 'digger wasps' scurrying into their tiny burrows on the footpath, I can't quite get a decent photograph of them to identify at the moment.

[ After some further research I now believe this to be the "Ornate-Tailed Digger Wasp" a fairly common wasp species which preys on other solitary wasps,bees.]

Digger Wasp species?

Further down the trail I came across this very nice Queen Garden Bumblebee, had a very elongated tail as you can see in the photograph.

Queen Garden Bumblebee
No sign of the Marbled White Butterfly today, still good numbers of Meadow Brown, three Large skippers were seen indulging in a spiralling joust. and another new Butterfly has appeared today in large numbers the Ringlet. These appear to rest with their wings spread wide open , makes Identification easier, newly emerged Ringlet butterflies are darker almost Chocolate brown which fades with age, the ringlets are quite variable but distinctive.

And this wildflower growing in amongst the wildflower meadows I believe is a 'Mallow' species called Malva moschata

1st July - As I walked up around the glades I checked out the Scabious flower clump that has been flowering for the last few weeks, quite good for Bumblebee sightings, well today was no exception, I could see a few Bumblebee's buzzing around the flowers, two Red Tailed Bumblebee's and one White Tailed Bumblebee, or so I thought, I took a few photographs for a closer look when I got home, something different about the Red Tailed Bumblebee's they seemed to be more agile than normal.
A closer look at the photograph revealed it to be Volucella bombylans, a larger than normal hoverfly.

There is no English name for this species which seems strange, it's another bee mimic, there are two main varieties Volucella Bombylans var bombylans shows an orange/red tail mimicking the Red Tailed Bumblebee.
Volucella Bombylans var plumata showing a white tail and mimics the White Tailed Bumblebee and the Buff tailed Bumblebee.

They can be encountered any time between May and September with a peak in June, the adults feed on nectar and pollen with a preference for blue flowers.
The females of these hoverflies lay their eggs in the nests of social wasps or bumblebees, where the larvae live as scavengers, feeding on debris and occasionally on host's larvae.

Here's an earlier photograph of an actual Red Tailed Bumblebee seen at Ashenbank back in April.
Most obvious difference are the wings, two for the Hoverfly, four for the bee

Red Tailed Bumblebee
Another good butterfly sighting today with a Marbled White over the meadows it would not settle long enough for a record photograph, but maybe another day, here's one photographed by me last year at Lullingstone country park, a beautiful Butterfly

Marbled White
 Lots of Meadow Browns, Speckled Woods around the trails, good start to the month.

Heres another look at the Butterfly record list for this year
1.Comma  (14/4/15)
3.Peacock  (14/4/15)
4.Green Veined White (4/5/15)
5.Orange tip (4/5/15)
6.Speckled Wood(1/5/15)
7.Small Copper  (4/5/15)
8. Red Admiral (12/5/15)
9.Small Heath  ( 16/5/15)
10.Common Blue (30/5/15)
11.Painted Lady (5/6/15)
12. Small White (17/6/15)
13. Meadow Brown (17/6/15)
14. Large Skipper  ( 20/6/15)
15. Marbled White  ( 1/7/15)
16. Ringlet       (2/7/15)
17.Small Skipper (3/7/15)
18. Gatekeeper (7/7/15)
19.White Admiral (9/7/15)
20. Large White (17/7/15)

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