Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Fritillary On Buddleia

Silver-Washed Fritillary,  Argynnis paphia, rather tattered, on a Buddleia.  Buddleia glade, High Elms Country Park, 30 July 2011.
Silver-Washed Fritillary,  Argynnis paphia, on a Buddleia.  High Elms Country Park, 30 July 2011.
Beside one of the paths in High Elms Country Park grows a large Buddleia. It is often called the butterfly bush, and that is a well-deserved name, because many species will come for its nectar; wasps and hoverflies as well as butterflies.

This is a Silver-Washed Fritillary, an aged individual that has lost the edges of its lower wings.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Purple Hairstreak

Purple Hairstreak butterfly, Neozephyrus quercus.  West Wickham Common, 24 July 2011.
Purple Hairstreak butterfly, Neozephyrus quercus.  West Wickham Common, 24 July 2011.
This is another butterfly I photographed on the day I had decided not to go for butterflies. It is normally an elusive creature, spending most of its time high up in oak trees. I had taken only one shot of this species previously, at a distance and with a long lens.

But this time I was looking among some low oak branches — lots of creatures live on oak trees — and this butterfly flew down from above, posed for me for ten seconds, and then flew back up again. Lucky! It is a drab little thing in flight, but the undersides of its wings are nicely marked.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper butterfly, Pyronia tithonus.  West Wickham Common, 24 July 2011.
Gatekeeper butterfly, Pyronia tithonus.  West Wickham Common, 24 July 2011.
I went out one morning with my camera with the clear intention to take photos of things other than butterflies. I had seen lots of butterflies over the previous few days and there must, I thought, be other interesting insects around. But what I saw, in perfect poses, was more butterflies, and I got a couple of shots that were better than average. No other insects, though!

This Gatekeeper was just a bit out of reach for me to capture it nicely using the viewfinder of my camera, so I tried a mode which I hardly ever use, which shows you the image in the swivellable screen on the back, and lets you hold the camera out at arms length. In this mode, autofocus is slow and cranky, but the butterfly waited for me on a bramble leaf, and here it is.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Wild Carrot

Wild Carrot, Daucus carota ssp carota, in the Conservation Field in High Elms Country Park, 22 August 2011.
Wild Carrot, Daucus carota ssp carota, in the Conservation Field in High Elms Country Park, 22 August 2011.
The Wild Carrot is a close relation of the cultivated vegetable, and has an edible root, but unless it's very young the root is hard and fibrous and you would not enjoy it as part of a meal. It is best known for its flower. The local meadows are full of it at this time of year. When the flowers first open, the umbel is flat, but as they mature and die they curve up as you see in this photo. When the petals drop, the stems and seeds form a delicate pattern, and because of this the plant is also known as Queen Anne's Lace.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Elderberries

Elderberries on Elder, Sambucus nigra, on the Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve on 14 August 2011.
Elderberries on Elder, Sambucus nigra, on the Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve on 14 August 2011.
This is a common and fast-growing shrub that is often seen in urban areas as well as the countryside. It can be cut down in one year and be five feet high and flowering again the next. The creamy flowers and these deep purple, almost black berries are both used to make wine. Elderflower wine is particularly light and refreshing, and in recent years the flowers have also been used to flavour soft (non-alcoholic) drinks, which I particularly like.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Wild Viburnum Berries

Berries on a Guelder Rose, Viburnum opulus, at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve on 14 August 2011.
Berries on a Guelder Rose, Viburnum opulus, at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve on 14 August 2011.
Viburnums are common garden shrubs in this part of Britain, and there are also two wild species which are widespread on chalky ground, often in hedgerows. They are commonly known as the Guelder Rose and the Wayfaring-Tree.

Autumn is nearly here, and like many other species, these two are displaying their berries. You can also see a bramble (Rubus) winding through the Guelder Rose, with ripe and unripe blackberries. There is also a stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, which suggests one should take care in harvesting these fruits. And, although blackberries are sweet and good to eat, Guelder Rose berries are acidic and midly toxic; Wayfaring-Tree berries more so.

The Wayfaring-Tree below was a large and healthy specimen. The berries do not all ripen together, even on the same cluster, and this makes an attractive display.

Berries of the Wayfaring-Tree, Viburnum lantana, in Lullingstone Country Park on 13 August 2011.
Berries of the Wayfaring-Tree, Viburnum lantana, in Lullingstone Country Park on 13 August 2011.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Pholcus phalangioides

Spider, Pholcus phalangioides, in my bedroom in Hayes.  19 August 2011.
Spider, Pholcus phalangioides, in my bedroom in Hayes.  19 August 2011.
Another spider that is easy to recognise. This one is often called a daddy long-legs, but should not be confused with craneflies (Tipulidae) or harvestmen (Opiliones), which are often given the same name. It likes houses, and this specimen was on the ceiling of my bedroom.

If you get close, you can see its shiny thorax, its smart leg-joints and the fine hairs in herring-bone patterns on its legs. Those legs are so long and thin, I wonder how it is possible to move and control all those sections using muscle power. But it can go quite fast if it wants to.

Tegenaria gigantea

Spider, Tegenaria gigantea, in a recycling box, 12 Saville Row, 16 August 2011.
Spider, Tegenaria gigantea, in a recycling box, 12 Saville Row, 16 August 2011.
This large spider was in the corner of my plastics recycling box under the front steps. It's thought of as a house spider, and the males can often be seen in the Autumn running over living-room carpets, much to the startlement of the occupants. At that time of the year they go in search of females.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Trapped Midge

Non-biting midge, Chironomus luridus, caught in a spider's web.
Lullingstone Country Park, 13 August 2011.
This midge has been caught in an orb spider's web and dangles there, awaiting its fate. It's not new to this blog; I saw one during a moth trapping session at Keston Common on 5th July. This time you can see the iridescence of its wings.

Taken with my EOS 60D and 100mm macro lens.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Mighty Moth

Lesser Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing moth, Noctua interjecta.  Noctuid.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Lesser Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing moth, Noctua interjecta.  Noctuid.
Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Larva eats Dock, Blackthorn, Sallow and other plants. Overwinters as a half-grown larva.
Moth traps are innocuous devices that entice moths to rest for the night on old egg boxes. This one had crawled deep into a crevice, making the normal type of photograph impossible. But it did present a different opportunity! I dislike excessive anthropomorphism, but this is very tempting.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria.  Ray's Pond, Jubilee Country Park, 31 July 2011.
Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria.  Ray's Pond, Jubilee Country Park, 31 July 2011.
This plant makes a great display by the side of large ponds or lakes. It's a bit big for a small garden, but this specimen, planted at the edge of a fairly new pond in Jubilee Country Park, does very well. You can see some beside the lake in the lower photo in this post on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Broad-Leaved Helleborine

Broad-Leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine, on Keston Common.  14 July 2011.
Broad-Leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine, on Keston Common.  14 July 2011.
These flowers are individually quite small and grow in long spikes. Broad-Leaved Helleborines seem suicidal; they grow preferentially by the edge of footpaths. This specimen and several others are on a pathway right by the road.

Taken with an EOS 60D and 100mm macro lens.

Friday, 19 August 2011

More Sevenoaks Moths

Mother-of-Pearl, Pleuroptya ruralis.  Micromoth.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Mother-of-Pearl, Pleuroptya ruralis.  Micromoth.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats rolled leaves of Common Nettle.
Here are the rest of the identified moths from Sevenoaks. As before, these and all the unidentified ones are in this Picasa album: Moths from Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011 And as before, that album includes these and the group I posted yesterday, so there will be some double exposure if you do follow this link.

This set begins with two micromoths. The Mother-of-Pearl at the top is one of my favourites from this session. I also like the colourful moth next down, and it's interesting to see two different forms of the same species, the Riband Wave, at the bottom.

Carcina quercana.  Micromoth.   Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Carcina quercana.  Micromoth.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats Oak and Beech.
Light Emerald, Campaea margaritata.  Geometer.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Light Emerald, Campaea margaritata.  Geometer.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats Oak, Birch, Beech, Hawthorn, Elm and other deciduous trees. Overwinters as a larva.
Snout, Hypena proboscidalis.  Noctuid.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Snout, Hypena proboscidalis.  Noctuid.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats Common Nettle. Overwinters as a larva.
Riband Wave, Idaea aversata.  Geometer.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Riband Wave, Idaea aversata.  Geometer.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats Bedstraw, Chickweed, Knotgrass and other low plants. Overwinters as a one-third grown larva.
Riband Wave, Idaea aversata forma remutata.  Geometer.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Riband Wave, Idaea aversata forma remutata.  Geometer.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats Bedstraw, Chickweed, Knotgrass and other low plants. Overwinters as a one-third grown larva.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Sevenoaks Moths

Lesser Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing, Noctua interjecta.  Noctuid.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Lesser Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing, Noctua interjecta. A Noctuid.
Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats Dock, Blackthorn, Sallow and other plants.
Overwinters as a half-grown larva.
Here are some of the moths from the moth morning on Sunday 14th August at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve.

There were a handful of these Underwings, all looking pretty muted with their wings closed and giving no hint of the yellow that they show in flight. Some of the others were much more beautiful in their resting position.

I am pretty sure of all these identifications, many of which were made by Susanna Clerici, who ran the exercise, but I could still be wrong despite that. For example, the "Flame Carpet" doesn't quite show all the features it should — but it doesn't show the features of other species either.

There are quite a few that are still unidentified, mostly micromoths, which are tricky and don't have such good reference books, or at least not affordable ones. They are all in this Picasa album: Moths from Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011 Which also includes these and some I will post later, so there will be some double exposure if you do follow this link. All photos taken with my EOS 60D and 100mm macro lens with ring flash.

Green Carpet, Colostygia pectinataria.  Geometer.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Green Carpet, Colostygia pectinataria.  Geometer.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats various species of bedstraw. Overwinters as a half-grown larva.
Flame Carpet, Xanthorhoe designata.  Geometer.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Flame Carpet, Xanthorhoe designata.  Geometer.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats cabbage, wallflowers and other Crucifers. Overwinters as a pupa.
Burnished Brass, Diachrysia chrysitis.  Noctuid.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Burnished Brass, Diachrysia chrysitis.  Noctuid.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats Marjoram, Nettle and probably others. Overwinters as a small larva.
Buff Footman, Eilema depressa.  Arctiid.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, Led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Buff Footman, Eilema depressa.  Arctiid.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats lichens and algae growing on the trunks of trees and shrubs. Overwinters as a larva.
Evergestis pallidata.  Micromoth.  Moth morning on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, led by Susanna Clerici.  14 August 2011.
Evergestis pallidata.  Micromoth.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Larva eats Crucifers, especially Winter-Cress.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Welted Thistle

Flower of Welted Thistle, Carduus crispus.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Flower of Welted Thistle, Carduus crispus.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Just after posting photos of two other thistles, I twice came across some of these scarcer ones. These were relatively weak specimens; I saw a much sturdier one on Riddlesdown on 2 July, though I didn't get a good photo. Here are the other two I posted recently: Creeping Thistle and Spear Thistle.

Flowers of Welted Thistle, Carduus crispus.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Flowers of Welted Thistle, Carduus crispus.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve

Flower garden at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve with the visitor centre in the background. 14 August 2011.
Flower garden at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve
with the visitor centre in the background. 14 August 2011.
On Sunday I drove down to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve for a moth morning, when a moth trap would be emptied and its contents tallied.

This is another place I had never been to. I will post some moth photos later, when I have gone through them properly. But this place was not set up for moths. It is essentially a series of lakes and seems to be mostly designed for bird watchers.

The lakes were formed by digging for gravel and sand. Now there are water birds, with permanent hides placed here and there around the banks. I am not a bird person, but it is quite beautiful. The paths are lined with interesting plant life and some care has been taken to encourage all sorts of inhabitants, as you can see from the wall of blocks with holes for solitary bees.

Bird ringing group showing us a bullfinch. Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
Bird ringing group showing us a bullfinch.
Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
The flower garden near the visitor centre is also very attractive, with a good mix of garden and wild species. Even at 7:30 am it was full of insects; bumblebees, damselflies, hoverflies and fly flies. before our start time, and after the moths were decanted, I wandered around the area, and there may be more photos from that later, too.

A bird ringing exercise was going on just opposite the visitor centre. A small group had a collection of bags, each containing a small bird; I didn't find out how they had been collected, but what came out when they put in their hands was a surprise each time. I saw a dunnock and a bullfinch being brought out and examined.

The birds were handled firmly and gently and with great confidence. They didn't seem to be worried at all, which I certainly would be in similar circumstances!

These photos were all taken with an Ixus 100.

Bee wall with homes for solitary bees, opposite the visitor centre at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve.  14 August 2011.
Bee wall with homes for solitary bees, opposite the visitor centre at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve.  14 August 2011.
One of the lakes, with Purple Loosestrife.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.
One of the lakes, with Purple Loosestrife.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 14 August 2011.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Lullingstone Country Park


The OFC walking over rolling hills.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
The OFC walking over rolling hills.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park, 13 August 2011.
Lullingstone Country Park.  I have signed up for a plant identification course here this winter (actually it's called "Discovering Wild Flowers"), so I thought it would be interesting to see it in the summer, and the opportunity came with this visit by the Orpington Field Club.

Knotgrass, Polygonum aviculare.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Knotgrass, Polygonum aviculare.
Lullingstone Country Park, 13 August 2011.
It turns out to be quite beautiful.  Rolling chalk hills, woodland, a river, and a golf course too; these are popular and seem to be common adjuncts to wild areas, as at High Elms; and there used to be one in Jubilee Country Park.

Along the river was an impressive stand of Wild Angelica. Common Blue damselflies moved around in a small clearing  nearby, and we saw them now and then all over the meadows we walked through.  We also saw a large dragonfly later, patrolling along the edge of a wood; it looked like a Southern Hawker.

The fields were still packed with flowering plants, as all local meadows have been since the Spring.  Different types now predominate.  No-one was sure of the yellow flower that was everywhere; one of those that look like dandelions but clearly aren't; perhaps it was a Hawk-bit.  I need to learn how to distinguish those.  But there were many familiar types.

Not wanting to post just a list of plants, I will still name Wild Marjoram, Wild Basil and  Wild Thyme. They aren't the same as the culinary herbs, but the Wild Marjoram has a delicious minty scent when a leaf is crushed.   But one should not pick wild flowers.  It makes a pleasant pink carpet, and butterflies love it.

Small Heath butterfly, Coenonymlha pampilus.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Small Heath butterfly, Coenonympha pamphilus
Lullingstone Country Park, 13 August 2011.
Along the way was a single Dark Mullein, distinguishable from other Mulleins by the purple hairs on all its anthers.  It's odd to see single large and unusual plants like this.  How do they survive?  There was also a single Wild Teasel, but it looked dead and might have been left over from last year.

We saw several species of butterfly, including swarms of Small Heaths fluttering around each other, and a single, spectacular Brimstone that fluttered around, visible for some while.  The Small Heaths, Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns are all clearly related; they look very similar from the side, except for their size.

This was a typical Orpington Field Club outing, quite well attended with 22 pleasant people who moved along in fits and starts and small groups examining interesting plants, birds and insects. You can see some of them spread out in the top photo.

The photos were taken with my EOS 60D and 100mm macro lens, except for the wide scene at the top and the full views of the Wild Angelica and Dark Mullein, which were taken with an Ixus 100.

Wild Angelica, Angelica sylvestris.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Wild Angelica, Angelica sylvestris.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park, 13 August 2011.
Dark Mullein, Verbascum nigrum.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Dark Mullein, Verbascum nigrum.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park, 13 August 2011.
Flowers of Dark Mullein, Verbascum nigrum.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Flowers of Dark Mullein, Verbascum nigrum.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park, 13 August 2011.
Common blue damselfly, Enallagma cyathigerum.  Female.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Common blue damselfly, Enallagma cyathigerum.  Female.  Lullingstone Country Park, 13 August 2011.
Wooden snail statue, probably representing a Roman Snail. We saw one nearby.  Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Wooden snail statue, probably representing a Roman Snail. We saw one nearby.
Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park, 13 August 2011.
Common Blue butterfly, Polyommatus icarus, male, on Wild Marjoram, Origanum vulgare.  At bottom right, a spray of Red Bartsia, Odontites vernus. Orpington Field Club visit to Lullingstone Country Park.  13 August 2011.
Common Blue butterfly, Polyommatus icarus, male, on Wild Marjoram, Origanum vulgare.  At bottom right,
a spray of Red Bartsia, Odontites vernus. Lullingstone Country Park, 13 August 2011.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cyclamen

Cyclamen hederifolium.  Harvington Estate, 8 August 2011.
Cyclamen hederifolium.  Harvington Estate, 8 August 2011.
This has the appearance of a wild flower, but is actually a garden type, introduced to the wild long ago. A cluster of flowers like this can come from a single corm that has been left to spread for a few years, and I wonder if these have grown from seen or if someone has planted a corm. This is a much-used wood with many paths.

The leaves don't appear until after the flowers. So the name hederifolium should not mislead you into thinking that those leaves belong to it. They are actually ivy leaves.

Taken with my EOS 60D, 200mm lens and 2x extender. They were in a shady spot on a mostly overcast day, but it was windy and sometimes the branches moved to let a spot of light through.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Norman Park and Hayes

The line of the River Ravensbourne across Norman Park, looking north from the east side by the bridge.  Zig Zag Walk from Norman Park to Oakfield Road, Keston.  Set up by Ewa Prokop, Led by Jenny Price.  12 August 2011.
Another visitor enjoying the wild flowers in Norman Park
next to the River Ravensbourne. 12 August 2011.
This was another local walk with Bromley Countryside Services. It was planned by Ewa Prokop before she left; Jenny Price, who has survived the recent cutbacks, led it.

You can pick out Ewa's walks from each of Bromley's six-month programmes and see that she aimed to cover as much of the borough as possible, following pathways and walking through green spaces. This one started quite close to the town of Bromley.

The river Ravensbourne runs through Norman Park. It is never much more than a stream and here. the river itself it very far from impressive, but its path is beautiful. It used to follow a concreted channel, but has now been brought back to a near-natural state. Trees have been planted. The ground around it has been scraped and allowed to regrow natural wildflowers; though it is quite likely that the grass cutters have brought seeds in from elsewhere. Those blue flowers are chicory, which grows in profusion here now, just as it does in Jubilee Country Park, who use its flower as their logo.

Crossing a field in the direction of Barnet Wood.  Zig Zag Walk from Norman Park to Oakfield Road, Keston.  Set up by Ewa Prokop, Led by Jenny Price.  12 August 2011.
Crossing a field in the direction of Barnet Wood.
Walk led by Jenny Price (right) on 12 August 2011.
Most of the park is close-cropped grass and is used for sports, fairs and fireworks, so the contrast is startling.

The walk passed by Scrogginhall Wood, with its old pollarded oak trees, then the lake of a trout farm, where we saw some damselflies, and on across Hayes Street Farm.

Through fields and past woodland, and it ended on a local road, from where most of the group made their way back along a main road. Jenny's transport was back in the car park where we started .. but this was a local walk for me so I followed another route which led me home.

These photos were taken with my Ixus 100. It was an overcast day, so the colours look a little dull, but it was warm and pleasant for the walk.

A pair of Common Blue damselflies, Enallagma cyathigrum, in tandem on an oak shoot by the trout farm on Hayes Street Farm.  Zig Zag Walk from Norman Park to Oakfield Road, Keston.  Set up by Ewa Prokop, Led by Jenny Price.  12 August 2011.
A pair of Common Blue damselflies, Enallagma cyathigrum, in tandem on an oak shoot by the trout farm
on Hayes Street Farm.  12 August 2011.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Pyrausta purpuralis

Pyrausta purpuralis.  Micromoth.  Burnt Gorse, High Elms Country Park, 30 July 2011.
Pyrausta purpuralis.  Micromoth.  Burnt Gorse, High Elms Country Park, 30 July 2011.
I photographed one of these during the moth trapping session on Keston Common on 2 July. Apparently it flies by both day and night! Here, I caught it sipping nectar just like a butterfly along Burnt Gorse on the High Elms estate. It's small, but just as colourful as the butterflies.  It's good to see it with hind wings displayed.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Two Common Blues

Common Blue butterflies, Polyommatus icarus. Male.  Hutchinson's Bank, 2 August 2011.
Common Blue butterflies, Polyommatus icarus. Male.  Hutchinson's Bank, 2 August 2011.
The top of its wings are a pleasing blue; you can just see the colour peeping over the near wingtips. The undersides have a pattern which is similar to several related species.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Spear Thistle

Spear Thistle flower, Cirsium vulgare.  Hutchinson's Bank, 2 August 2011.
Spear Thistle flower, Cirsium vulgare.  Hutchinson's Bank, 2 August 2011.
This is for comparison with yesterday's Creeping Thistle.  Spear Thistle flowers are individually larger and a darker pink, almost magenta. This one was taken with my EOS 60D, 200mm prime lens and 2x extender.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Creeping Thistle

Flower of creeping thistle, Cirsium arvense, in Hayes Station car park, 20 June 2011.
Flower of creeping thistle, Cirsium arvense, in Hayes Station car park, 20 June 2011.
This is the commonest thistle found by roadsides and in weedy clumps. It may be "creeping," but it grows tall enough.  The flower is a little smaller than other similar species, but comes in bigger clusters, and unlike them, it has a strong, sweet honey scent.

The photo below is the same plant, though not on the same day. It's on my route to the shops, the buses and the station, and I photographed it with my Ixus 100.

Creeping thistle flower head, Cirsium arvense.  Hayes Station car park, 19 June 2011.
Creeping thistle flower head, Cirsium arvense.  Hayes Station car park, 19 June 2011.


Monday, 8 August 2011

Hovering

Marmalade Hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus, hovering in a woodland glade. Hayes Common, 6 August 2011.
Marmalade Hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus, hovering in a woodland glade.
Hayes Common, 6 August 2011.
I have tried a few times to capture hoverflies in action. When not actually feeding, some species will stay in one spot, a true hover. But they have a habit of darting off to another spot if you get too near. This time I captured one fairly close up with my EOS 60D and 100mm macro lens. It looks good – but this is a crop from a much larger frame.  I had to focus by hand; the autofocus won't find such a small target in a dark wood.

This was taken at 1/400 of a second, but even so, the wings are going too fast to appear as more than a very slight blur. You can see how flat the underside of its body is. This is true of a lot of hoverflies.  They look much more substantial from above, when you get the illusion that they are more or less cylindrical.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Platform Web Spiders

Unidentified platform-web spider in the back garden of my house in Hayes.  Female.  5 August 2011.
Unidentified platform-web spider in the back garden of my house in Hayes.  Female.  5 August 2011.
I don't usually post photos of species I can't identify, but I don't have any proper reference books for spiders so for the time being I can't name it. But I do know some things about spiders in general.

This is a platform-web spinner. They produce horizontal webs with a number of anchoring strands reaching up and down. Those that reach up also act as a trap; if some flying insect collides with a strand it will fall onto the platform, and be pounced on.

This web was low to the ground, and its inhabitants were on its underside, so I could only photograph them from underneath. You can see the female's plump abdomen, and the tips of her mandibles pointing straight at you.

Below is the male. He is thinner; he does not have to accumulate energy to produce eggs. The mandibles are more clearly visible. You can also see his large, oddly shaped pedipalps which are used during sex. The male spins a small web on which he deposits sperm. He sucks this up into his palps, and it is from these that he inserts it into the female, reaching over her body to do so. A remarkable and strange method of fertilisation.

These spiders "listen" for vibrations in the web with their feet. Look at the male. He is widespread and his feet are placed to notice vibrations from any direction. Now check out the female. Two of her feet are on key strands; she made this web, and she knows its properties. She stays in it, and the male must come to find her.

Unidentified platform-web spider in the back garden of my house in Hayes.  Male.  5 August 2011.
Unidentified platform-web spider in the back garden of my house in Hayes.  Male.  5 August 2011.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Foxglove and Bumblebee

Foxglove flowers, a cultivated variety of Digitalis purpurea, with a bumblebee, Bombus lucorum, in the back garden of my house in Hayes. 23 July 2011.
Foxglove flowers, a cultivated variety of Digitalis purpurea, with a bumblebee, Bombus lucorum,
in the back garden of my house in Hayes. 23 July 2011.
This is a snap I took while working on a photo of a Love-in-a-Mist flower. The bumblebee is actually emerging from the flower. They come out backwards. This makes it quite easy to get photos that look as though they are on their way in!

The other plant you can see above the bee is a Grevillea, "Canberra Gem" (G. juniperina x G. rosmarinifolia), a garden plant native to Australia.

Taken with the EOS 60D, 200mm prime lens and 2x extender.