Saturday, 14 June 2014

A few stunning species encountered this week

This is such a wonderful time of year and yet I do get frustrated sometimes, as June is always such a ridiculously busy time for me! This week I have visited the counties of Herefordshire, Somerset, and Oxfordshire, whilst also attending the “Cereals” show near Royston in Hertfordshire.

This all means that I spend for too many hours behind the steering wheel, however, when I arrive in these different parts of the country, the distinct local character of each county is amazing and the range of people, habitats and wildlife that I come across, reminds me just how lucky I am! 

Last weekend, in amongst all this charging around the countryside, I snuck a couple of days away from work to indulge myself in June, joined by my good friend and all round naturalist Neil Harris, who came down to Hampshire from his home in Worcestershire to stay with me. Each year we spend a weekend “pootling” around, visiting great places in search of species that, shall we say, “are not your everyday stuff” and attempt to photograph them. The word “attempt” applies to me, but certainly not to Neil, as he used to be a professional photographer before joining Natural England as a farmland adviser.

Amongst the huge array of species that we saw, we were lucky enough to find the rare day flying Dew moth on the Hampshire coast, whose larvae feed on Lichen that grows amongst the shingle – now that’s a niche requirement if ever there was one! In the same place we also encountered the striking Cream-spot Tiger moth – don’t ever let it be said that moths are rather non-descript and boring! Nearby we watched elegant Little Terns hovering liked Kestrels, before diving into the water with an audible plop, to collect some unwary small fish or sand eel.

I took Neil to see Forester moths as he had never before come across these green, day flying moths with their large black antennae. It is always a bit of a risk to tell someone that you will show them a new species, as all wildlife retain the wonderful ability to go “missing” for no apparent reason, but on this occasion these delightful little moths obliged us with their presence!!

My visit to a farm in Somerset delivered yet another day flying moth, the superbly named Chimney sweeper moth, which as you might imagine is sooty black save for the outer edges of the wing, which are white. Also here, there is a small colony of the beautiful, yet declining Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (SPBF).

The upper wings of this butterfly are a rich pattern of orangey yellow and black, but it is the underside that you need to take a look at to differentiate this butterfly from its close relative the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, as the patterns here determine which species you are observing. The SPBF has seven silver “pearls” round the hind-wing border, six or seven more within the wing, while the rest of the underneath is a contrasting mosaic of pale yellow and red-brown outlined with black. What a cracking butterfly!!

These are just a small sample of some of the more unusual species that I have seen in the last week. So don’t miss out – there will be wonderful creatures showing near you – get out there and see what you can find!

The rare Dew moth

The spectacular Cream-spot Tiger moth

Dew moth habitat

A Forester moth

The wonderfully named "Chimney Sweeper" moth

The underside of the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

What a stunner - a Small Pearl-bordered from above. 

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