Sunday, 20 August 2017

Hummingbird Hawk-Moth, Small Heath success story and more from Cranford Park

I had a lovely, but short, encounter with a Hummingbird Hawk-Moth this morning at Cranford Park. It was whilst I was doing my UKBMS butterfly transect so it was nice to add it to my sightings. Unfortunately my camera was on the wrong setting and I only managed the three bad photos below......

The hummingbird hawk-moth is a small, day-flying hawk-moth. They are summer visitors, migrating here from Southern Europe in variable numbers each year. In some years, they can be common and may be seen in gardens hovering like hummingbirds to feed on the nectar of honeysuckle, red valerian and many other flowers. They can also be found in woodland edge, heath and shrubby habitats. The caterpillar feeds on various species of bedstraw, so the female adult moth lays her eggs on the buds or flowers of these plants. The hummingbird hawk-moth has greyish-brown forewings, bright orange hindwings and a greyish body with a broad, black and white 'tail'. Its flight is a distinguishing feature: it can be seen hovering over flowers, feeding with its long proboscis. It flutters its wings so quickly that it can appear orange as it flashes its hindwings and makes an audible hum.
I went back to the same place after completing the butterfly transect but could find no sign of it.
I did however find the remains of another moth.......
This is the wing of the Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing moth (thanks to Jan, Richard and Dave from the Butterflies and Moths Facebook page for the id).
It had more than likely been predated by a bird.
The butterfly transect count was not very high today. But there is one success story which I'll mention later on.....
Todays tally
53 butterflies / 8 species
Large White x 7
Holly Blue x 1
Red Admiral x 6
Comma x 8
Speckled Wood x 8
Gatekeeper x 3
Meadow Brown x 8
Small Heath x 12
It is the Small Heath that has got me excited. I've not seen one since 1st July and I've only had single number sightings since my first one of the year on 14th May but today I found 12 of the endangered little lovelies. It is one of the UKs most widespread butterflies but numbers have been badly affected by habitat management and destroying of their natural habitat. It is a great success story that we appear to have a small breeding colony at Cranford Park.

Holly Blue

Comma underwing


Small Heath

Small Heath
After the transect I loitered around the Headland area hopeful of finding another Painted Lady (see yesterdays blog post) but all I saw was a low soaring Common Buzzard......

A Great Spotted Woodpecker's feather.....

and several Dock Bugs....
It seemed to be a good day for Hoverflies though I only managed to photograph four species. Others seen today but not photographed include Helophilus pendulus, Volucella pellucens, Volucella zonaria and Syritta pipiens.

Rhingia rostrata

out of focus Volucella inanis

Myathropa florea

Syrphus sp.
Fungi season is heating up. I've now got three sites for the beautiful but small Yellow Stagshorn....
and the impressive Coral fungi can be seen at several sites within Cranford Woods now.....

Another successful visit to Cranford Park. Not bad for a country park that is surrounded on three sides by the M4, A312 and Heathrow Airport.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Painted Lady, Kestrels and Goldfinches at Cranford Park today

Today was very windy and it often felt quite cold. It was also very cloudy with only the odd burst of sunshine. I decided not to do my regular UKBMS butterfly transect today because of the weather, so will do it tomorrow when the wind speeds are predicted to be lower.
There were a few butterflies around, but not many were settling enough for a photo call, except for this Red Admiral which not only perched at a reasonable head level, but also let me get quite close up.....

The high-light of my visit though was stumbling across this beauty.....

It's a Painted Lady. My first ever at Cranford Park.
 It's not a patch record though as I know others have seen them there before but it's a big fat patch tick for me.


The Painted Lady is a migrant butterfly, arriving from north Africa from May onwards. They can breed over here but second flushes don't survive our winter. You can find the Painted Lady in a range of habitats including on buddleia and some garden plants, but they prefer dry, open areas, particularly rough ground with thistles, which is exactly where I found this little lovely.
As I said earlier, this really was the high-light of my day.
The juvenile Kestrels are still in the meadow, even though most of the long grasses have been mown (my moan time now - why do the grasses have to be cut mid-August ?? Why cant it be left another couple of weeks ????)
Spot the Kestrel below.......
Now they are getting older the juveniles are spending more time flying and hovering and honing their hunting skills. Instead of perching on the tree guards and looking for prey (usually grasshoppers, crickets and butterflies at the moment) they were hovering then diving down.....

The one below landed right above a bench I was sitting on. Not the greatest of photos with all of the twigs in the way, but it was lovely to get a 'falcon stare' from it....

It's been a good year for the Goldfinches. There was a decent sized flock of both adults and juveniles in the Headland area.
Spot the Goldfinch below....
They were particularly drawn to all the thistle flower heads that have now gone to seed.
The collective noun for a group of Goldfinch is a 'charm'. Very fitting I reckon....

So a short but packed visit to the park.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Back at Maple Lodge NR for the annual Summer Open Day

On Sunday I was back at Maple Lodge NR (link to website here) for their annual Summer Open Day. Again my lovely little helper, Stella, and myself were positioned at the infamous Comma Corner to show the escorted visitors just some of the critters that can be found.

However my best find was one that I was unable to share with anyone as it didn't stick around too long. It's one of the hoverflies, but this one is a 'lifer' for me.....the ugly Rhingia rostrata......

You can see that compared to one of our most common hoverflies below,
 that the R.rostrata really is an odd looking hover....
Helophilus pendulus
Before the visitors arrived I had a quick look from the Teal Hide. I didn't even get a chance to open any of the hide windows when I heard a tell-tale bird call and a Kingfisher landed obligingly on the water marker. I just about managed one camera shot through glass before the little beauty flew off again......
hastily snapped Kingfisher from the Teal Hide
 Although the weather stayed fine all day there weren't that many butterflies about at Comma Corner, probably because the bramble flowers have now turned to blackberries and the buddleia is starting to go over. But Stella and I were able to show the visitors some Commas, Red Admirals, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Green-veined White, Large White and Small Tortoiseshell.
Before the visitors arrived I also had a possible Hairstreak species fly over.....


Comma underwing

male Meadow Brown

Small Tortoiseshell

female Gatekeeper
With all of the brambles, nettles and thistles there were plenty of critters to be found and pointed out...
Cinnamon Bug

Black and Yellow Longhorn

Robber Fly

possible Oak Bush Cricket
Dock Bug adult

Common Green Shieldbug 5th instar

Dock Bug instar

Southern Green Shieldbug

Woundwort Shieldbug

Woundwort Shieldbugs
Common Blue damselfly

Common Blue damselfly

Common Darter - female

Common Darter

Common Darter
A very good day as always with plenty of visitors and plenty of photography chances.
But the high-light for me was my first Rhingia rostrata hoverfly.
Stella, as always, thanks for all of your help and extra pair of eyes.