Chalkhill Blue's Nature Blog

*** ALERT: Sometimes photos of spiders appear in this blog. Just letting you know! ***

Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to see any corrections - Chalkhill Blue makes no guarantees as to the accuracy of any of these IDs, and does not accept any responsibility for any harm or damage you may incur by accepting them as gospel!

 

Many thanks, ChB

Fri

10

Jan

2020

This is the end - for now

I have decided to knock the nature blog on the head for now. I always write it in my personal journal first, then copy and paste it to this web log. It's painful and time-consuming though, as all the pictures have to be formatted and pasted separately, and then after a couple of years I have to delete them to make room for new stuff. No bugger reads it anyway, so I might as well just write my personal log. If time frees up in the future, I may go back to it, but in the meantime any really decent stuff will go on Twitter and/or Facebook. Thanks for looking everyone, and if anyone ever reads this, feel free to leave a comment! Cheers! ChB

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Fri

10

Jan

2020

Thu 31/12/2019

Megalepthyphantes nebulosus
Megalepthyphantes nebulosus

Not much of 2019 left! I had today off work though, but still got up earlier than the rest of my family, then wandered out into the cold back garden in my dressing gown. To my surprise, this little spider was crawling up the outside of the conservatory – by the time I went and fetched my camera it was facing downwards, but stayed still while I took a few photos. Chris at Rye Harbour reckons this is Megalepthyphantes nebulosus, which is common enough in my house, but this is a bit of a faded specimen.

 

And thus endeth 2019!

 

Megalepthyphantes nebulosus
Megalepthyphantes nebulosus
Megalepthyphantes nebulosus
Megalepthyphantes nebulosus

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Fri

10

Jan

2020

Wed 18/12/2019

House spider - at work
House spider - at work

 

No wildlife around really. People keep posting moth sightings on Twitter, but I haven’t seen any moths for a while, not even plume moths. A few spiders still around though, such as this juvenile house spider on the outside wall at the office where I work.

 

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Fri

20

Dec

2019

Sun 08/12/2019

 

Today we drove down to East Sussex to interview the artist Roger Dean. We were on the M25 in Surrey near Clackett Lane when I saw 2 raptors soaring overhead. I took them to be a pair of buzzards, but when they departed in different directions, I saw that one was a red kite! This makes the second red kite I have seen in a year in Kent or Surrey this year, (the first was on Sun 26/05/19). I am still surprised, because I did not know there was a population of them here!

 

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Fri

20

Dec

2019

Sun 24/11/2019

 

This tiny little spider appeared above the kitchen window a few days ago and has not moved more than a few centimetres since. I think it is a juvenile running crab spider, which if true would mean that it is capable of a fair turn of speed – but this doesn’t want to move at all.

 

We went for a walk at Jeskyns later. There was a male kestrel perching on the topmost twig of a tree, looking really uncomfortable, so it moved – to another topmost, uncomfortable twig.

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

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Fri

20

Dec

2019

Sat 16/11/2019

I found this little spider, maybe 5mm long, on the window inside the shed today. It has eveidently just shed its skin; so is fresh as a daisy. The enlarged palps on the front of its head flag it as a male; not sure of the species though. It looks like a Lepthyphantes or Megalepthyphantes.

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Fri

20

Dec

2019

Sun 10/11/2019

Found this small spider (about 1cm long) in the shed today. Photo taken hand-held in artificial light.

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Fri

20

Dec

2019

Fri 08/11/2019

I haven’t seen a decent moths for ages – but then this morning, the the second time we have seen frost here and the coldest day of the season by far, this beast was waiting for me on the outside metal wall of the office block at work. It was identified by UKMothID on Twitter as a mottled umber, quite a variable species, but yet another new species for me.

Mottled umber moth Erannis defoliaria
Mottled umber moth Erannis defoliaria
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Thu

28

Nov

2019

Sun 20/10/2019

Steatoda grossa
Steatoda grossa

Quite an eventful day today – one of my morning jobs was to take three rubbles sacks of old bricks down the tip. I was expecting to find some big old venerable spiders amongst them, but there was nothing except for some real tiddlers, and these two Steatodas, a member of the false widow family. A peruse of my new spider field guide suggested Steatoda grossa for both individuals, although it also pointed out that a dark and obscurely marked grossa can look effectively identical to a dark and obscurely marked nobilis. The lighter (and slightly smaller) one seems to be a grossa though, so I am assuming they both are, and the spider people on Twitter tended to agree.

Steatoda grossa
Steatoda grossa
Steatoda grossa
Steatoda grossa

Later in the day, we went to Beacon Wood Country Park at Bean near Dartford, which is always good for mushrooms and other fungi at this time of year, particularly the colourful fly agarics. The place surpassed itself today though, with hundreds of fly agarics all over the place! Here are some of the best shots – starting with some fly agarics Amanita muscaria.

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Thu

28

Nov

2019

Fri 18/10/2019

 

There was a tiny spider in the hallway at work, at the top of the wall in the crook of the ceiling. I wouldn’t have noticed it at all if it wasn’t for the fact that the walls and ceiling are white, making camouflage a bit of an issue for predator and prey alike. Anyway, I have not yet identified the species, but it was only about 5 or 6mm long; very small indeed.

 

 

Despite the distinctly autumnal conditions, the box tree moths are still flying thick and fast. This one (on a glass door at the offices where I work) was more thick than fast, to be fair...

Box-tree moth Cydalima perspectalis
Box-tree moth Cydalima perspectalis
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Fri

25

Oct

2019

Tue 15/10/2019

Found another yellow underwing moth on the wall at work today. It looks very much like the large yellow underwing I found last week, and is the same size or nearly, but those dark blotches on the wings looks distinctive. Again, it was IDd on Twitter as the lesser yellow underwing.

Lesser yellow underwing moth Noctua comes
Lesser yellow underwing moth Noctua comes
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Fri

25

Oct

2019

Mon 07/10/2019

Large yellow underwing moth Noctua pronuba
Large yellow underwing moth Noctua pronuba

I spotted this moth on the stairs as I wandered into work this morning. It is a large yellow underwing. The only notable thing about it when it has its wings closed is the size; it is well over an inch long. It’s a shame you can’t see the underwings though, because they are – well – yellow.

Large yellow underwing moth Noctua pronuba
Large yellow underwing moth Noctua pronuba
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Wed

09

Oct

2019

Mon 30/09/2019

 

ARACHNOPHOBE ALERT: The following entry may contain spiders. Flippin' HUGE, hairy, scary spiders with ENORMOUS pointed TEETH!

Well, we had a really weird event at work today. As the factory/office block I work at is close to the Thames estuary and very low-lying, there is always a danger that river water will come up through the drains and flood the car park. Some years ago, decking was installed around the office block perimeter to raise the footway above the tarmac. Overnight there were very high tides though, coupled with a mechanical breakdown of Southern Water’s flood defences, so when we came in, water had already got into the production plant and warehouse.

There was another high tide at about 3:00pm, and the water started rising again. A lot of people were out on the decking watching the level rising, and when it touched the underside of the decking, all the creepy-crawlies that live down there were forced up into the open. Huge spiders came up from between the boards and huddled against the building, while loads of tiny and immature spiders started running backwards and forwards looking for somewhere to hide. It was like someone's worst Hallowe’en nightmare. E few roosting moths crawled up as well, and several beasts found their way through the doors into the office block. It was a bit of a photo-fest for me of course, and I saw some species I have never seen before! So arachnophobes beware; this journal is about to become very spidery! Big monsters first I think …

A moth clambers up from the decking to find itself face-to-face with a large male Tegenaria house spider. The moth looks like a lunar underwing, like the one I found on the pavement on Friday.
A moth clambers up from the decking to find itself face-to-face with a large male Tegenaria house spider. The moth looks like a lunar underwing, like the one I found on the pavement on Friday.
Large female Tegenaria house spider with a younger one playing wingman
Large female Tegenaria house spider with a younger one playing wingman
Small Segestria in a hole in the brickwork
Small Segestria in a hole in the brickwork
A lot smaller than it looks in this picture, a Megalepthyphantes spider, probably M.nebulosus
A lot smaller than it looks in this picture, a Megalepthyphantes spider, probably M.nebulosus

 

Two new species for me, flushed out by the flood!

A large Amaurobius, identified online by Richard Lewington as A.ferox, which does not even have a picture in my Dick Jones spider guide.
A large Amaurobius, identified online by Richard Lewington as A.ferox, which does not even have a picture in my Dick Jones spider guide.
Steatoda grossa, from the false widow group of spiders
Steatoda grossa, from the false widow group of spiders
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Wed

09

Oct

2019

Fri 27/09/2019

A bit of a strange thing happened as I was walking to work in the semi-darkness this morning. Not long after 6:30am, I spotted an insect crawling across the pavement in front of me. I stopped and it stopped too; I gave it a prod with my foot, but it wouldn’t start moving again. There was a lot of autumn leaf detritus spread around, but I was sure I had seen this particular dot moving; it was too dark to see what it was, so I crouched down and took a couple of flash photos of it. I thought it might be some kind of bee or something. When I was able to check the photos, I found out it was a moth, and I’m pretty sure it’s one I haven’t seen before, too:

Lunar underwing moth Omphaloscelis lunosa with a sycamore seed for scale
Lunar underwing moth Omphaloscelis lunosa with a sycamore seed for scale

 

I have left a sycamore seed in the photograph for scale, and I believe this moth to be a lunar underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa, which is a new species for me! It gets the name from a crescent-moon shaped marking on the underwings, not visible in this photograph of course.

 

As I mentioned two weeks ago, there has been a massive irruption of box tree moths this year – but these are virtually the most shy and easily-spooked moths I have ever come across. Usually they see you coming even before you see them, and any roosting specimens that are close enough to photograph take off and flutter away before you can even get your camera out. They don’t settle back down quickly either, and tend to meander away or up and over the roof. I have managed to get some fairly distant photos, but even then it tends to fail because the high contrast of their bright white wings with the dark borders tends to mess up the light metering, and all you get is a flat, glowing expanse of white, (as with my photo from Fri 13/09/19). But today it was quite chilly, and this one let me get close – really close. I had to take shots in between gusts of wind (that regularly disturbed the creatures wings), but I got some decent shots at last.

Box tree moth Cydalima perspectalis
Box tree moth Cydalima perspectalis

 

It is an invasive species from East Asia, introduced to Europe in 2006 when they started being spotted in Germany, and invading the UK two years later. However, this is the first year they have been really noticeable and common.

 

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Thu

19

Sep

2019

Mon 16/09/2019

Here is another new species of moth for me, on the warehouse wall as usual, but so cryptically coloured that I think I walked past the pair of them a couple of times. This is a mating pair of the Pale mottled willow, to distinguish it from any other species of mottled willow you may come across. Below them is a photo of a lime-speck pug moth, a small but very recognisable species due to the wing configuration.

Pale Mottled Willow Caradrina clavipalpis
Pale Mottled Willow Caradrina clavipalpis
Lime-speck pug Eupithecia centaureata
Lime-speck pug Eupithecia centaureata
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Thu

19

Sep

2019

Fri 13/09/2019

Small dragonfly visiting the office
Small dragonfly visiting the office

Quite surprised when this dragonfly landed on the edge of the open window next to my desk! I think it is a female ruddy darter, but I wouldn’t swear to it. The thing buzzed off when I tried to reach my camera-arm out through the window.

 

Just about public enemy no.1 in gardening circles this year is the box-tree moth. It’s caterpillars ravage the box shrubs so beloved of formal gardeners. It was introduced from Asia, accidentally apparently, and first recorded in the UK in Kent in 2007. I have never seen or heard of them before this year, but I have seen two or three around the warehouse walls at work, and one in the alley behind my house. They seem to be easily disturbed though, and are therefore a bit tricky to photograph, close up at least. Today I found at least half a dozen around the warehouse, all too high up for me to reach apart from one – I took a distance shot of it, but as soon as I moved in it got spooked and flew off.

Box-tree moth Cydalima perspectalis
Box-tree moth Cydalima perspectalis

Their colouring makes them difficult to photograph too, as the bright white in the centre always seems to over-expose. I did, however, manage to get some reasonable shots using zoom, of a specimen 10 or 12 feet from the ground. So here we have – my first record of a box-tree moth.

Found this nice caddis fly on the warehouse wall too – about 2cm long and could easily be mistaken for a moth, this is the adult of the children’s-book-favourite caddis larva, that lives underwater and covers itself with a casing of sand, grit and tiny twigs.

Caddis
Caddis

And then while I am about it, probably my best-ever shot of what is probably a common plume moth, and a reasonably decent one of a beautiful plume, which is actually about half the size.

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Thu

19

Sep

2019

Wed 11/09/2019

Yet another fantastic new species of moth turned up on the warehouse today. Small but perfectly formed, this is the gold triangle. The pose most commonly seen in illustrations is of the moth holding its wings in a triangle shape; forming a gold outline, hence the name. But this species is known for two distinctively different resting postures, and this specimen selected the second, spreadeagled on the side of the warehouse, displaying warm purplish-brown colouring highlighted with gold, an arched back and bright green eyes.

Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
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Fri

13

Sep

2019

Sun 08/09/2019

Had a nice walk in the early autumn sunshine at Jeskyns today. Here           are a couple of butterflies: a late comma and a small heath.

Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album
Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album
Small heath butterfly Coenonympha pamphilus
Small heath butterfly Coenonympha pamphilus
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Fri

13

Sep

2019

Fri 06/09/2019

Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner Cameraria ohridella
Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner Cameraria ohridella

 

This miniscule but beautofully-marked moth is the horse-chestnut leaf miner. It’s fairly unusual for a tiny micromoth to have a common name, but many of the leaf miners do, because their larvae tend to feed on specific plants and are thus easy to identify. At 4mm long and barely 1mm wide though, if it was any smaller it would hardly be a moth at all. And yet my book labes it as ‘common’. How do they know? Are there teams of spotters wandering the country tripping over the things?

 

And here’s another guidebook anomaly. This small moth, with a wingspan of about 2 cm, has virtually no identifying features other than a creamy colour and dusty complexion, and a vague horizontal dark line halfway down. There is also, you may notice, a dark spot near the middle of each wing. This is enough to identify it as the small dusty wave moth. It is on a page with half a dozen virtually identical moths of different sizes and slightly variable shades. And yet under ‘similar species’, the book says, ‘no similar closely-related species’, but sometimes confused with a couple of moths of the pug family. Maybe there are some glaringly identifiable features that just pass me by.

Small Dusty Wave moth Idaea seriata
Small Dusty Wave moth Idaea seriata
Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis
Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis

And just for fun – here is a newly-emerged harlequin ladybird (of very similar markings to the one I photographed on Tue 27/08/19), fortifying itself for the life ahead by eating its own pupal case. Yummy.

 

Not had many good spider pictures lately, so he is a beautifully-coloured male Araneus diadematus loose on the walls of the warehouse …

 

Male garden or diadem spider Araneus diadematus
Male garden or diadem spider Araneus diadematus
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Fri

13

Sep

2019

Tue 05/05/2019

 

After a woefully slow start to the year, new moth species are flowing thick and fast now. This one looked at first to be a blood-vein, although the thick central line is grey rather than dark red, and the moth seems a little small. So it turns out to be a new one to me, the small blood-vein Scopula imitaria.

Small blood-vein moth Scopula imitaria
Small blood-vein moth Scopula imitaria
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Fri

06

Sep

2019

Sat 31/08/2019

 

We took a trip up to Greenwich Market today, and I kept passing this dusky thorn moth roosting on the wall. It seems to have that cryptic colouring so common in moths that causes it to virtually disappear against tree bark – but the individual way thorn moths have of holding their wings makes it impossible to lie flat! It struck me that it looked more like a bracket fungus, but roosting on a white wall didn’t seem to be the best camouflage strategy. It was there when we arrived at 8:00am and still there when we left at 5:30pm!

 

Dusky Thorn moth Ennomos fuscantaria
Dusky Thorn moth Ennomos fuscantaria
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Thu

05

Sep

2019

Thu 29/08/2019

Not much around today, except for a few Crambid moths. These are the long, thin micromoths, often called grass moths because they tend to land on grass blades, and being so thin, they often disappear completely behind such a slim leaf! This Catoptria falsella is well-marked and relatively colourful though, and although they are reckoned to be pretty common, I don’t remember seeing one before.

Micromoth Catoptria falsella
Micromoth Catoptria falsella
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Thu

05

Sep

2019

Wed 28/08/2019

Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya

Yesterday’s common plume moths illustrate how difficult it can be to identify even a common species. The first one is quite hale and hearty, and relatively sturdy, with closed wingtips. It may not be easy to tell from the photos, but the second is way smaller and more wispy-looking, and the wing tis are splayed slightly. I submitted it to the Twitter fraternity though, and the consensus was that it is still a common plume rather than some more exotic species. Below is yet another pose from the ubiquitous common plume moth; this one holding itself in a shallow ‘Y’ shape.

Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus chawing on a mayfly
Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus chawing on a mayfly

Mostly though, today was about the very common little zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus. I have taken a few shots of these with prey, but because they are so common, so small, and rarely stand still, I have no very good portrait photos of them. Today I tried to rectify this shortfall, only to realise that there is a remarkable amount af variation in their markings. The usual type is a faded dark-grey-on-light-grey stripe, but the fresher, better-marked specimens have a shiny black thorax and brown-on-white abdominal markings. Even the books describe them as black and white; rarely a mention of the brown variant – they are all the same species though.

Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus
Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus
Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus
Zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus

While I am on a spidery theme – I found this fully-grown male Segestria florentina on the pavement on my way to work this drizzly morning. It wasn’t moving at all, but it wasn’t dead – just a bit cold I think. Probably been out on the razz.

Spider Segestria florentina
Spider Segestria florentina
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Tue

03

Sep

2019

Tue 27/08/2019

Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis
Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis

 

OK, now this morning was manic for moths! I cycled in to work, which meant I had to pass by the northern wall of the warehouse, with its slab-sided metal wall. This habitat often harbours roosting moths, and I always keep an eye out for them as I cycle past. But this morning, I couldn’t go more than a couple of feet without spotting another great moth or beetle of some kind! The harlequin ladybird on the left is a case in point, with those four black quarter-circles in the middle being an unusual variant.

 

So here is a selection of the best …

 

Angle Shades moth Phlogophora meticulosa
Angle Shades moth Phlogophora meticulosa
Yellow Shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Yellow Shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Micromoth Cochylis molliculana
Micromoth Cochylis molliculana

Chinese Character moth Cilix glaucata
Chinese Character moth Cilix glaucata
Blood-vein moth Timandra comae
Blood-vein moth Timandra comae
Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
Light Emerald moth Campaea margaritata
Light Emerald moth Campaea margaritata
Treble-bar Aplocera plagiata, or possibly the very similar lesser treble-bar Aplocera efformata
Treble-bar Aplocera plagiata, or possibly the very similar lesser treble-bar Aplocera efformata
This gorgeous beast is the frosted orange Gortyna flavago, not an ice lolly but a moth
This gorgeous beast is the frosted orange Gortyna flavago, not an ice lolly but a moth
As-yet unidentified crambid moth
As-yet unidentified crambid moth
The same as-yet unidentified crambid moth
The same as-yet unidentified crambid moth

A species of wainscott
A species of wainscott
The white-point Mythimna albipuncta is still widely considered a migrant, although it is well-established in southern England now
The white-point Mythimna albipuncta is still widely considered a migrant, although it is well-established in southern England now
This one is a bit worn-out and knackered, and I thought it was a badly worn flame-shoulder Ochropleura plecta – but it turned out to be another new species for me, the pearly underwing Peridromia saucia
This one is a bit worn-out and knackered, and I thought it was a badly worn flame-shoulder Ochropleura plecta – but it turned out to be another new species for me, the pearly underwing Peridromia saucia

Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactlya

The two common plume moths at the bottom illustrate how difficult it can be to identify even a common species. The first one is quite hale and hearty, and relatively sturdy, with closed wingtips. It may not be easy to tell from the photos, but the second is way smaller and more wispy-looking, and the wing tis are splayed slightly. I submitted it to the Twitter fraternity though, and the consensus was that it is still a common plume rather than some more exotic species.

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Tue

03

Sep

2019

Tue 20/08/2019

Most years, the number of swifts starts thinning out halfway through August, with stragglers all the way to the end of the month. This year was strange though; I think it was yesterday that I noticed several swifts wheeling around out the back of the house. Then today, we did a massive day trip to Bath, and I don’t remember seeing any swifts down there. In fact I have not seen one since, so it seems that yesterday was the last day for swifts.

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Tue

03

Sep

2019

Sun 18/08/2019

Tiny ladybird Rhyzobius lophanthae
Tiny ladybird Rhyzobius lophanthae

So, regular readers of this panel may realise that I have a bit of a fixation with ladybirds, especially really small ones. Some are no bigger than a couple of millimetres, but the shape still gives them away as ladybirds, and even the smallest often have black and red markings. This one was slightly larger, maybe 3mm instead, but appeared to be totally black. I shoved it in the fridge for a couple of days to slow it down, then took some photos when I let it out. And it looks like – yes I know – a hairy ladybird.  

Which is exactly what it is. Last time I found one of these, I submitted a photo to the ladybird recording scheme, who helpfully identified it as Rhyzobius lophanthae, a brown-headed species and, we believe, a first record for Kent! The same authority IDd this one as Rhyzobius forestieri. Richard Comont observed on Twitter that it Seems to be having a very good year in the southeast, lots of sightings on Facebook groups.

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Tue

03

Sep

2019

Mon 12/08/2019

A family day trip down to Rye Harbour went through Tenterden in Kent, where we stopped for a break. This oak bush cricket was crawling up a shop window for some reason, so I captured it for a photo session. Every oak bush cricket I have found in Kent for ages has been wingless, which is not unknown in the usual variety, but is always the case for the southern variety, which has colonised the southern counties from Europe over the last few years. It is difficult to tell a southern from a wingless common, so I won’t take a guess at this one. I can however, tell from the sickle-shaped ovipositor that it is a female.

Oak Bush-cricket Meconema thalassinum
Oak Bush-cricket Meconema thalassinum

 

When we reached Rye Harbour, I found this moth tucked under the eaves of a small building. I think it might be a straw underwing, certainly something similar, but I have not tracked it down positively yet.

 

Below is a predatory wasp I found on some fennel by the footpath. The wasp has been identified by a couple of people as most likely Ichneumon sarcitorius.

Ichneumon wasp
Ichneumon wasp

When we got down to the seashore, this large gull landed on a marker post some way away, and I zoomed in with the camera. This is the great black-backed gull Larus marinus. Although the great black-back is notably larger than the lesser, they are both large gulls and pretty solitary, so the scale is not easy to judge. However, the great’s back is genuinely black, as opposed to the more washed-out dark grey of the lesser, and the great has pink legs as opposed to the lesser’s yellow legs.

Great black-backed gull Larus marinus
Great black-backed gull Larus marinus
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Sun

01

Sep

2019

Sun 11/08/2019

A dragonfly got into the conservatory today, so I shut the door and waited until it landed so I could get a shot. A migrant hawker of course (they always are), but a real beauty nonetheless.

Migrant hawker dragonfly Aeshna mixta
Migrant hawker dragonfly Aeshna mixta
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Sun

01

Sep

2019

Fri 09/08/2019

Willow beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria
Willow beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria

More moths around today – those little spotted ermines, a yellow shell, all the usual stuff. Here’s a nice one though, a geometrid with a wingspan of a good inch and a half. This is the willow beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria.

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Sun

01

Sep

2019

Thu 08/08/2019

Spider Nigma walckenaeri with prey
Spider Nigma walckenaeri with prey

You know how your attention is sometimes drawn to a spider you hadn’t noticed by the presence of a stationary insect? No? Well sometimes you see a fly or something, and wonder why it isn’t flying off, moving around or otherwise twitching – then you see the camouflaged spider in close proximity. The insect didn’t see it either.

Spider Nigma walckenaeri
Spider Nigma walckenaeri

In this case I noticed a fly attached to a leaf in the back garden, but I couldn’t see any reason why it should have expired and become stuck there, so I plucked off the leaf for a close look. Then I noticed the web of this tiny green spider, which actually spins its trap on the surface of the leaf then lurks underneath waiting for something to land there. These spiders tend to inhabit colonies, and I have seen a few around the area, but this is the first time I have seen an individual in our garden. This surprisingly beautiful spider is Nigma walckenaeri; no common name as usual.

 

Below that – a stunning brimstone moth. I do love these beauties!

Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
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Thu

22

Aug

2019

Wed 07/08/2019

Yet another attempt to get the definitive photograph of a common plume moth. This is one of my better attempts, hence its inclusion here …

Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla
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Sat

10

Aug

2019

Tue 06/08/2019

Found this nice grasshopper on the fence round the back of the factory. It was quite large and very mottled, but in the end I think it is just a common field grasshopper. Might be wrong though.

Grasshopper Common Field Chorthippus brunneus
Grasshopper Common Field Chorthippus brunneus
Grasshopper Common Field Chorthippus brunneus
Grasshopper Common Field Chorthippus brunneus

 

This attractive micro moth is one I have never seen before, and like most of my best finds, was basking on the outside back warehouse wall. It looks good from the left side, but the right side has sustained a fair bit of damage. I was musing on Twitter that moths have some great names, but the privileged folk who get to name them don’t seem to apply their art to naming spiders, which I think is a shame. For instance, this is the rosy-striped knot-horn moth Oncocera semirubella. So why do we never get to reply to some little spider as the semi-washboarded toe horn or something?

Rosy-striped knot-horn (or rhubarb and custard) moth Oncocera semirubella
Rosy-striped knot-horn (or rhubarb and custard) moth Oncocera semirubella
Rosy-striped knot-horn (or rhubarb and custard) moth Oncocera semirubella
Rosy-striped knot-horn (or rhubarb and custard) moth Oncocera semirubella

In any case, a fellow blogger named Douglas Boyes maintains that a more common vernacular name for this little moth is the ‘rhubarb and custard’. In any case, my book gives no common name for it at all, but says that it is ‘very local’, so another good find!

Went out for a walk after dark with the male offspring. He spotted a moving shadow down on the tarmac, which he correctly identified as a stonking great spider. I nearly trod on the bloomin’ thing, and I think I probably would have skidded … I had my compact camera with me and rattled off this flash shot, which reveals a male Tegenaria house spider of prodigious proportions, a bit early for the traditional autumn pilgrimage if you ask me. And has it got one freakishly long leg, or what?

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2019

Fri 02/08/2019

The warehouse wall was absolutely rife with moths this morning. I can’t do it though – no matter how much I try, I can’t get good shots round that side of the warehouse that time in the morning. I don’t know if it is the brown background messing up the light-metering or what, but all the shots are washed out and pallid. I can compensate somewhat with software, but it’s not a natural look. Anyway, let’s have a yellow shell moth first; this was behind a down-pipe and doesn’t look too bad, then a lovely brimstone and a small emerald.

Yellow Shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Yellow Shell moth Camptogramma bilineata
Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
Brimstone moth Opisthograptis luteolata
Small Emerald moth Hemistola chrysoprasaria
Small Emerald moth Hemistola chrysoprasaria

 

About the most interesting thing though, was this little beetle. I could not see it properly without my glasses, but I trusted that a few photos would suffice to get a proper ID. It wouldn’t keep still once I pointed the camera at it, hence the blurry motion sickness, but what a little beauty eh?

 

Here is an ermine moth similar to the one I photographed on Tue 16/07/19. The markings are not identical; this one seems to have more spots, but still probably not enough to be a bird-cherry ermine, so I am not going to attempt a specific ID.

And just to round things off, here is a much better shot of the micro moth Cochylis molliculana, one of which was included on Mon 29/07/19. Can see individual wing scales on this one!

Micro moth Cochylis molliculana
Micro moth Cochylis molliculana
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Wed 31/07/2019

 

This gypsy moth turned up on the outside of one of our house windows today. This is clearly a male, as the females are much lighter, almost white – but the males often display huge bunny-ears, which are actually feathery antennae. In this case they are folded down across its shoulders though – you can just make out the shaft of its left-hand antenna. 

Gypsy moth Lymantria dispar
Gypsy moth Lymantria dispar
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2019

Mon 29/07/2019

… and today is the day! I could hardly get in to work today as there seemed to be an interesting beastie every few yards along the warehouse wall. First up though, is the Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla. These are common all year and can often be seen at rest in the full open, on all but the most viciously icy days. The common plume is usually light brown, with a lighter stripe down the middle of its back, punctuated by darker spots or dashes. There is an indistinct spot halfway along each wing.

Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla
Common plume moth Emmelina monodactyla
Saltmarsh plume moth Agdistis bennetii
Saltmarsh plume moth Agdistis bennetii

 

As mentioned, I thought that some of the common plumes I see, especially later in the season, are actually brown plumes, as they tend to be slightly larger and more sturdy-looking. I can’t really find any convincing evidence though, so I may have to go back to viewing them as common plumes. More exciting though, is the salt marsh plume moth Agdistis bennetii shown on the next two pages. They live on foetid coastal marshes like those that Gravesend sits on, and yet I have never seen one of these distinctively Y-shaped moths until this day!

 

Saltmarsh plume moth Agdistis bennetii
Saltmarsh plume moth Agdistis bennetii

Other beasts I found on the warehouse included this fearsome red-legged shieldbug, another new species for me, and the micro-moth below that, another one that is unusual in this area according to the book – and yet the warehouse wall is absolutely rife with them. This is Cochylis molliculana, and although they are always small, they seem to have a remarkably wide size range. The largest are 11 or 12mm, but some are no more than 5 or 6mm.

Micro-moth Cochylis molliculana
Micro-moth Cochylis molliculana

Other small creatures I found today include this mayfly, which seems a bit larger and more sturdy that the general run of mayflies, and a tiny spider running down a gutter pipe.

 

There was some other stuff too, but either my camera is getting worse, or I am.

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Fri

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2019

Sun 28/07/2019

Shaded Broad-bar moth Scotopteryx chenopodiata
Shaded Broad-bar moth Scotopteryx chenopodiata

We took another trip out to Jeskyns today, which was almost really good. I found a male wasp spider and another orb-weaver, Neoscona adiantum, but the autofocus on my compact camera is not up to the task of telling the difference between a spider and a field of grass, so would not focus on either of them. There were a lot of these moths around, the shaded broad-bar, which sometimes rest flat like this, but often with their wings folded upright, like a butterfly. I was quite pleased with this portrait of two Roesel’s bush crickets, a male and a female. They both pinged away in unison immediately after I took this shot, so I was lucky to get it. The female on the right is fully-winged, which is quite unusual for a Roesel’s; they are usually short-winged, like the male on the left. They are named after August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof, a German entomologist.

Pair of Roesel’s bush crickets Metrioptera roeselii
Pair of Roesel’s bush crickets Metrioptera roeselii
  • I saw two crows sitting on adjacent fence posts and thought, well why not? I don’t have any decent photos of crows. I think the one on the right is a fledgling; it looks a bit fluffy anyway.

 

Last time we came to Jeskyns, three weeks ago, it was absolutely rotten with marbled white butterflies, but they had all gone now. Until, that is, we were most of the way round the park, where there was a 100-foot stretch of grass that was absolutely infested with the things. They were fluttering and landing all around me, to the point that I didn’t know which way to point my camera. They never rested for more than a few seconds though, and this is the best shot I managed. They are all starting to look a little raggy and careworn now as well.

Marbled white butterfly
Marbled white butterfly
Large Skipper butterfly Ochlodes sylvanus
Large Skipper butterfly Ochlodes sylvanus

This little butterfly is a large skipper, on some kind of dandelion-derivative wildflower. The peculiar wing pose is characteristic of skippers, especially the large.


The moth below rejoices in the name of beautiful plume. I’m told there are something like 35 species of plume moths in the UK, but I only ever see common and beautiful, with the occasional white. Having said that, they are mostly notoriously similar, and I think some of the commons I see are actually browns, but I am hoping one day to see one that is clearly different! Cue tomorrow’s blog …

Beautiful Plume moth Amblyptilia acanthadactyla
Beautiful Plume moth Amblyptilia acanthadactyla
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2019

Fri 26/07/2019

Dewick's Plusia Macdunnoughia confusa
Dewick's Plusia Macdunnoughia confusa

 

Now this is more interesting. This is the third time I have found a moth that my field guide reckons to be rare in the UK, but in the 10 years or so since the edition was printed, populations have changed dramatically. The Jersey tiger moth is virtually a highly ornamental and common addition to the south-east now, and the toadflax brocade moth is a regular find. My field guide says that there have only been about 50 records in the UK of the Dewick’s plusia shown here, but UKMothIdentification says “The species is now established in a few parts of the south-east.”

 

Dewick's Plusia Macdunnoughia confusa
Dewick's Plusia Macdunnoughia confusa
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05

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2019

Thu 25/07/2019

This lovely emerald moth was languishing on the side of the warehouse when I came into work this morning. Unfortunately with the early-morning sun on its highly-reflective wings, it made a poor subject for my dodgy little compact camera. The photo was almost pure white, but I reduced the brightness as far as it would go in Microsoft Photos, whacked the colour up as high as it would go, messed around with the contrast a bit and added a vignette, which darkens the edges of the shot, leaving the subject in a kind of spotlight. It still looks a bit grey, but it’s a nice shot now!

Small emerald moth Hemistola chrysoprasaria
Small emerald moth Hemistola chrysoprasaria
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2019

Tue 23/07/2019

Mother of Pearl moth Pleuroptya ruralis
Mother of Pearl moth Pleuroptya ruralis

Any foray onto a hedge of nettles will kick up a huge cloud of mother-of-pearl moths at the moment. I found this one in the alley behind the house. I must admit, I had never realised how gossamer-thin their wings are – the sun is shining through this leaf and showing green through the moth's light-brown wings.

Jersey tiger moth Euplagia quadripunctaria
Jersey tiger moth Euplagia quadripunctaria

 

My wife said there was a tiger moth fluttering around under the car today, but I found it inside the hallway. Later in the evening it had found its way to the bathroom, where I photographed it and then conspired to heave it out of the window. This is the Jersey tiger moth, which my field guide says is still a rare sight along the extreme southern edge of the country, but in fact it has now colonised the south-east to the point of being extremely common.

 

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2019

Sun 21/07/2019

Found this half-grown speckled bush cricket in the back garden today.

Speckled bush cricket - male
Speckled bush cricket - male

 

Now here’s an interesting thing. I found this beastie, that looks like a predatory wasp, on the outside windowsill of the conservatory. It appears to have caught a green shieldbug nymph and carried it to the windowsill, but then it just sat there looking at it. I expected to see it laying eggs in or on the nymph, or if not that then simply eating it, but it didn’t seem to be doing anything. They stayed in that pose for some while, enough time for me to take several photos, then when I went back inside I left them in the same position. 

Predatory wasp Astata boops with a shieldbug nymph
Predatory wasp Astata boops with a shieldbug nymph

 

I took it to Twitter to find out what was going on and received the full gamut of replies along the lines of, “Maybe it was just too heavy,” “Looks like he’s giving it a hug” and stuff. All of which had occurred to me as it happens. Thanks to Matt Berry though, who identified the wasp as Astata boops and stated, “That shieldbug is paralysed and ready to be used for laying the wasps eggs inside.”

Predatory wasp Astata boops with a shieldbug nymph
Predatory wasp Astata boops with a shieldbug nymph

 

JoeBeeDazzled inquired, “She has to carry it home doesn't she before laying eggs?” to which Matt replied, “Yep, hence the long legs she has for carrying such a chunky payload! Not sure why she’s stopped en route though. Question is, did she continue afterwards or abandon the nymph?”

As it happens, when I came back out, both wasp and nymph had gone, s I presume she hefted it away to her chosen destination. I assume, by the way, that ‘boops’ has two syllables, like the Co-op, rather than a single like Betty Boop. 

It turns out that they specialise in predating on half-grown shieldbug nymphs, especially green shieldbugs, and there are loads of photos online almost identical to mine.

 

 

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Mon

05

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2019

Fri 19/07/2019

Micromoth Epinotia species
Micromoth Epinotia species

 

So I seem to be having a bit of trouble with me moffs at the moment. I couldn’t find a positive ID for this micro I found around the warehouse at work either. Closest I can find for this one was one of the variants of Epinotia solandriana, although I am was at all confident about it.

 

I wasn’t a million miles off as it happens, but the ID is still not clear - Twitter identifiers have it as “a form of Epinotia ramella” or “a form of Epinotia nisella”.

 

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28

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2019

Thu 18/07/2019

This little beast was inhabiting a big, white wall in my office at work. The colouring looks like it is supposed to be cryptic and camouflaged, but not against a huge expanse of white.

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Tue 16/07/2019

As I was dragging my bike out of the garden into the back alley to cycle to work at about 6:30 this morning, this large dragonfly landed in a lilac tree in a neighbour’s garden. I manage one shot before it took off again, but I had high hopes wasn’t one of the usual species I see all the time, because I did not recognise the coloured markings. As it happens though, it is a dead common migrant hawker – but the pinkish colouration is due to it being a juvenile. I found the micro moth overleaf on the outside of the warehouse wall at work.

Juvenile migrant hawker dragonfly Aeshna mixta
Juvenile migrant hawker dragonfly Aeshna mixta

I have seen the moth below several times before, and I would identify it unhesitatingly as a bird-cherry ermine. Checking the book though, it seems to be one of the other similar ermine moths – the bird-cherry has noticeably more spots than this. Several of the other species are very similar though, and I could not make a positive ID.

Ermine moth
Ermine moth

Having ruled out the bird-cherry, there are several other species that are all very similar. I noticed someone else on Twitter having trouble identifying a very similar moth, so I threw my hat into the ring and we reeived a reply from a very useful expert named UKMothIdentification. I should point out that very similar species of spider, moth etc. is by a microscopic examination of their reproductive organs. I guess that whn they look that similar, they have to have some inbuilt method of making sure they reproduce within their species, so they have specific genital specialisations that a naturalist can use to identify the. On this occasion though, UKMothIdentification said the following:

 

So, Apple, Spindle, Orchard and Willow are all too variable to be IDed from appearance, and on top of that they can't be separated by genitalia either, as they're also similar in that department. The only way is to see their caterpillars, and upon which plants they are feeding.

 

Time travel isn’t yet within my remit, so this one must remain forever a mystery.

 

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Fri

26

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2019

Sun 14/07/2019

Plume moth - more specific than that, I will not dare.
Plume moth - more specific than that, I will not dare.

We went out to the lavender fields at Castle Farm in Eynsford this afternoon. I had some hopes of finding some great green bush crickets at the top of the hill there, because I am sure I have heard them there before, but I couldn’t hear a thing today – maybe it’s just that my hearing has gone west. On the other hand, I did find this little plume moth – I get the impression that it is not a common plume moth, but I have not been able to identify it for certain from my books. I stuck it up on Twitter, but no one else came back with an ID either.

 

There were also some orchids growing in the verges; I remember these from last year. Again, couldn’t say for certain because there are two or three very similar common purple species, but I think these might be pyramidal orchids. One is shown below:

Orchid
Orchid

Walking down the hill, I was captivated by this incredible damsel fly that flew across the road and settled sporadically in the hedge. It is only the second time I have seen a demoiselle; they are a stunning metallic green and at least twice the size of most common damselflies. I think this one is a female; the species are quite easily distinguished in the males because the beautiful demoiselle has brownish wings, whereas the banded demoiselle has a thick dark band across the wings. The females of both species are very similar though, lacking either of these distinguishing marks. However, I lean towards the banded, because a little later on I saw a male banded fluttering about the stream at the other end of the site. I couldn’t get near enough to photograph it, although I did manage a short video at a distance.

Female demoiselle damselfly
Female demoiselle damselfly
Ladybird Scymnus interruptus
Ladybird Scymnus interruptus

 

Later on at home, I got my ladybirds out of the fridge. Yes, you heard correctly – ladybirds often come into the conservatory at home, including some very small species indeed. There’s no chance of me seeing them clearly without taking some macro shots and blowing them up, but unfortunately they are quite energetic little things and won’t keep still for a moment, so my photos are always absolutely rubbish. I sometimes stick them in the fridge for a day or so to slow them down, but they defrost remarkably quickly so it doesn’t often make much difference. This time I did manage to get some reasonably sharp ones though.

Ladybird Scymnus interruptus
Ladybird Scymnus interruptus

I found 4 of these in the conservatory a couple of days ago and captured two of them. It can be seen that the amount of red is quite variable, nevertheless I think these are both the same species, Scymnus interruptus, because I have caught them several times before. These are tiny for ladybirds, only a couple of millimetres long. The individual in the two top photos below has less red than the one in the bottom two.

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Fri 12/07/2019

I did something today that I hadn’t done for a while, and took a walk out on to the patch of wild land in front of the factory at lunchtime. One specific ragwort plant was infested with cinnabar moth caterpillars, always a nice find!

Cinnabar moth caterpillars Tyria jacobaeae
Cinnabar moth caterpillars Tyria jacobaeae
Spot the brimstone butterfly!
Spot the brimstone butterfly!

Returning to the building via the car entrance, there is a fenced-off patch of unused land overgrown with wild flowers. A brimstone butterfly was flitting about in there, often landing and staying still for minutes at a time. I found this a bit frustrating, as when you chase them up and down the hedgerows, they never settle for more than a second or two. This one seemed totally at east, but I couldn’t get in to approach it! 

Brimstones are usually one of the earliest fliers, sometimes as early as February, but they have a lesser flight season in mid-summer too. This is only the second late flier I have ever seen though. Anyway, that’s it right there, hanging off that yellow flower.

 

Lastly, back in the office, I found this rather plain moth. Although it looks like a bog-standard grass micromoth, it was nearly an inch long. I have seen similar moths before, and though tit was a rush veneer, but when I Googled that species, the markings are quite different. In fact this marks the beginning of some real problems identifying things ...

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Fri

26

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2019

Thu 11/07/2019

Four-banded bee grabber Conops quadrifasciatus
Four-banded bee grabber Conops quadrifasciatus

Early this morning, the conservatory was full of hover flies as usual, tapping against the ceiling and generally causing a commotion. One of them seemed an odd shape though, so I tracked down my camera and took a couple of shots of it. Here is it; it’s the same size and colouring as the general run of hover flies, but is quite clearly something different – o robber fly, I would say.

So I sent a tweet out to the universe to see if anybody could I d it for me. It turns out to be a conopid or ‘thick headed’ fly, which seems a bit harsh. They are not classified as robber flies, although their sturdy legs allow them to capture other flies in flight and deposit their eggs. This one goes by the picturesque name of the ‘four-banded bee grabber’, with the Latin name Conops quadrifasciatus. Thanks to Biodiversity Ireland and Ryan Mitchell for those two identifications respectively! Ray Cannon’s Nature Notes has a page on this species here.

I also noticed at the back of the garden that several of our Solomon’s seal plants are absolutely shredded. This is usually the work of Solomon’s seal sawfly caterpillars, which are a mid-grey and live underneath the leaves – but I lifted up a number of leaves and couldn’t find any. Later in the day, on my return, I still couldn’t find any caterpillars, so I’m a bit puzzled.

 

They usually wallop all the plants at once starting from the bottom up, but this time they seem to have started by the back gate and are working their way outwards. Maybe it is something completely different doing it?

 

Anyway, this smallish moth appeared in the office where I work, buzzed around the room for a bit, then settled on the window blind, so I got this photo.

 

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Mon

15

Jul

2019

Sun 07/07/2019

Devil’s coach horse Ocypus olens
Devil’s coach horse Ocypus olens

It started off rainy and cool today, but by the afternoon the sky was blue and bright. We went for a walk at Jeskyns, which was thick with bugs and minibeasts of all kinds. This devil’s coach horse rove beetle was hanging on the top of a blade of grass for some reason, not making any effort to do anything else much.

Marbled white butterfly Melanargia galathea
Marbled white butterfly Melanargia galathea

Marbled white butterflies were absolutely out in force, along with ringlets, meadow browns, various skippers and whites, and the odd painted lady. Marbled whites rarely land, and then hardly ever stay still for long, but right towards the end, one stayed still enough for me to get my first ever reasonably workable photo of one!

Marbled white butterfly Melanargia galathea
Marbled white butterfly Melanargia galathea

A few other things – the black caterpillar with the light dots and the bluish spines is the larva of a Peacock butterfly. The blue spines usually look black, but they are showing up well in this light. We also have a Roesel’s bush cricket nymph, about a quarter of full size.

Peacock butterfly caterpillar
Peacock butterfly caterpillar
Roesel's bush cricket nymph
Roesel's bush cricket nymph
Scorpion fly Panorpa communis.
Scorpion fly Panorpa communis.
The long tail identifies it as a male
The long tail identifies it as a male

Back at home, I got a few shots of this goldfinch on the TV aerial up on the roof. Perhaps not the prettiest goldfinch you’ve ever seen, but nice and clear at least.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
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Fri 05/07/2019

Found this little jumping spider in the conservatory today. It seemed quite large for a jumping spider, maybe 7 or 8 mm long! This is a pretty common species though, Sitticus pubescens, no common name, as usual for spiders.

Jumping spider Sitticus pubescens
Jumping spider Sitticus pubescens
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Mon

15

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2019

Tue 02/07/2019

14-spot ladybird
14-spot ladybird

Captured a couple of ladybirds in th e conservatory – a bog-standard 14-spot that was easy to photograph, and a lively tiny little one, only a couple of millimetres long, apparently all black or dark grey except for the legs, which are noticeably red. Not sure what the detritus is on its back; I think it might be some remnants of stuff that was in the little jar I caught it in.


 

A tiny ladybird, only a couple of millimetres long and with no discernible markings

 

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Mon

15

Jul

2019

Mon 01/07/2019

 

The comma butterflies are suddenly out in force this week. There was a veritable cloud of them up by the nettle beds at the top of Church Walk – here is just one.

Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album
Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album
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