Saturday, 17 June 2017

Highest butterfly count of the year at Cranford Park

I spent an hour this morning looking for the Little Owls in the oaks by the Information Centre. I heard an adult calling several times, but could not locate it. However thanks to Lynne and Lorraine I was able to briefly see a juvenile fairly deep inside the nest hole. The tree I have always suspected as being the nest tree, and is now confirmed, is a short distance from the oaks and both Lynne and Lorraine have seen an adult at the nest hole several times recently. I suspect the owlets will be outside within the next week.
With temperatures set to soar this afternoon I decided to do an early UKBMS butterfly transect.
It paid off as I wasn't too hot and I made sure I had plenty of water with me.
The count was a huge success. I spotted 84 butterflies in 95 minutes, plus one rather beautiful moth.
So todays tally.....
84 butterflies / 8 species
Small Skipper x 1 (first of the year)
Large Skipper x 2
Green-veined White x 5
Red Admiral x 1
Comma x 4
Speckled Wood x 9
Small Heath x 7
and todays success story...
Meadow Brown x 55 !!!!!
Yup, 55 Meadow Browns and 51 of them were just seen by walking along the grass paths in the large meadow area. These fairly large brown butterflies are nearly always seen flying low and slow through the long grasses.
Meadow Brown

Small Heath

Red Admiral - front view

Red Admiral - back view


Large Skipper - female

Small Skipper
plus this beautiful Magpie Moth below.
No my photo is not upside down, it was settled under a leaf.....
Not too many ladybirds were about. I counted just five Harlequins and three 7-spots

7-spot ladybird
And if you ever wondered what a Harlequin ladybird looks like when it first emerges from its pupa shell, here's one I had in my possession last week. They are bright yellow at first, and it can take hours for them to colour up (sorry about the photo quality - picture taken with my iPhone)....
and yes, I did name it Sian. I had collected three pupae and named them after work colleagues. Two emerged as Harlequins and one sadly 'leaked' yellow liquid after a few days and failed to emerge.
I now have another three pupae in a breathable pot at home, and I'm fairly confident two are 7-spots and one is a Harlequin.
Although butterflies like the hot dry weather we had today, hoverflies don't like too much heat. Therefore I only saw three species today. All IDs under the photos...
Epistrophe grossulariae
Epistrophe grossulariae in flight
Myathropa florea - note the 'batman' symbol on the thorax

Scaeva pyrastri - white strips instead of yellow

Scaeva pyrastri
The heat also meant most birds were sheltering. The Common Whitethroats in the Headland area have fledged their young. There was a lot of calling and birds flying around, but none were settling for a photo call. The sounds of Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers could be heard in Cranford Woods but again, none wanted to pose for a photo. Two distant Common Buzzards flew over the woods 'mewing'. Several Swifts also soared over. There were lots of Chiffchaffs, Wrens, Blackbirds, Robins and Blackcaps singing all over the park but most were tucked deep in the shadier areas.
Absolutely no bird photos today at all.
So I had to make do with photographing yet another obliging Black and Yellow Longhorn (Rutpela maculate) that was very handily at my eye level.....

Sadly todays blog post ends with the upsetting news that my friends dog, Jasper, passed away earlier today.
He was a good companion to Sue, and often accompanied Sue and I on little bird watching trips to Cranford Park and Lake Farm. He earned his nickname 'the bird-dog' as he always stayed on the paths, never disturbing the wildlife, and only occasionally become impatient with us if we were taking too long watching or photographing birds.

Sue and Jasper - June 2014
RIP Jasper. You will be sorely missed.

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