Old Lodge NR, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex ... 31st July 2011

Three and a half hours at the reserve proved rather disappointing with only seven Common Redstarts, which included just one juvenile, a female Stonechat, a large party of Long-tailed Tits, several family parties of Chiffchaffs and Coal Tits, a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker and a couple of Green Woodpeckers being the best birds seen.

I did hear the distant churring of a Dartford Warbler on the M.O.D. land but, to my frustration, it didn't show itself.

Butterflies were a bit more obliging, if nigh-on impossible to photograph, with a Silver-washed Fritillary and a probable Silver-studded Blue dashing past us.

Others included several Small Heaths, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Large Whites, a Small White, two Red Admirals, two Small Coppers and a Large Skipper.


A very tatty SMALL COPPER


A couple of interesting moths were found - the first I thought was an Udea lutealis but the kind people at the iSpot website consider it to be a worn Brown China Mark (Elophila nymphaeata). The second moth I thought was a Satin Grass-veneer (Crambus perlella) but, yet again, the experts at iSpot consider it shows enough of a two-toned appearance to be a Straw Grass-veneer (Agriphila straminella). I bow to their expertise in noticing subtle variations that pass me by completely.

Brown China Mark


I had hoped for Golden-ringed and Black Darter dragonflies but, like the birds, they were noticeable by their absence with just a male Emperor, a male Common Darter and a surprise in the form of a Brown Hawker patrolling at the edge of a belt of conifers, but not a single damselfly was seen

An Adder slithered into a clump of grass close to the M.O.D. land but refused to come out for a photo which was frustrating for me as I have never managed to photograph one yet!

A few Heath Spotted Orchids were still in flower and Sue found what I think is a Heath Milkwort, based on the habitat (although it could just as easily be Common Milkwort, but I think that prefers chalk grassland).



Fungi were everywhere but I don't have sufficient knowledge to identify them with any confidence but, again, the iSpot team reckon the first is The Blusher (Amanita rubescens var. rubescens) and the second is one of the Brittlegills (Russula sp). I will have to take their word for that.

All in all, the heathland was exceptionally quiet but, with only three other people present on the reserve, it still made for an enjoyable visit.

Graham & Sue

Old Lodge NR, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex ... 3rd July 2011

A return visit to Old Lodge NR on the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex produced 14 Common Redstarts (7 males, 4 females and 3 juveniles), 7 Stonechats (3 pairs and one juvenile), one Raven, a Common Buzzard, a Woodlark, 4 Tree Pipits, 2 Nuthatches, a Treecreeper, 3 Common Whitethroats, a Mistle Thrush, several Chiffchaffs, Coal Tits and Goldcrests. Fourteen Swallows were overhead including several young birds.

Common Redstarts

Common Buzzard

Spotted Flycatchers still elude us this year at Old Lodge NR. There have been several reports that they are present but we have failed, as yet, to find them.

There were lots of Heath Spotted Orchids on the valley slope.

Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata

Butterflies were represented by several Large Skippers, Large Whites, Small Heaths and Meadow Browns, a Red Admiral, a Ringlet and a Speckled Wood. One small blue butterfly shot past me and may well have been my target species for the day – a Silver-studded Blue – but I will never know for certain.

Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus

Moths seen were mainly grass moths, Common Grass Veneers seeming the most abundant, with a few Inlaid Grass Veneers
. Also a Silver Y and a Brown Silver-line.

Inlaid Grass Veneer Crambus pascuella

Silver Y Autographa gamma

Brown Silver-line Petrophora chlorosata

Dragonflies and damselflies were surprisingly few but a couple of Emperors were at the ponds and, best of all, two BRILLIANT EMERALDS were chasing each other at Keeches Brook, only settling where I couldn’t photograph them, hence the out-of-focus flight shot.

Brilliant Emerald Somatochlora metallica

Anax imperator

We could only find Common Blue and Large Red Damselflies, which was disappointing.

Sue found this striking beetle on a tree stump. It was at least an inch long and I managed a blurry shot as Sue recoiled in horror.

Four-banded Longhorn Beetle Leptura quadrifasciata

I also found this 'butterfly' resting high up on the trunk of a conifer.

I needed to ID it as it had to be something rare, so I moved further round the tree only to find that the butterfly had turned into a piece of bark! Obviously I was barking up the wrong tree with my ID (I wish I hadn't just written that but I'll leave it in).

I should have gone to Specsavers!

We will need to return again soon in the hope of finding Black Darter and Golden-ringed Dragonflies which occur on the Ashdown Forest.

I am far from being a supersticious person and neither do I gamble but, after finding this amongst the usual heather, I might just be tempted to buy a lottery ticket this week!

Graham & Sue

Holmethorpe Sand Pits, Surrey ... 1st July 2011

An early morning wander around Spynes Mere at Holmethorpe Sand Pits for a couple of hours produced 14 Egyptian Geese, 13 Lapwings, a Lesser Whitethroat, 11 Common Whitethroats, 8 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, 3 Reed Warblers, a Nuthatch, a pair of Bullfinches, a Reed Bunting and two Yellowhammers.

As I approached the sand-spit at Spynes Mere, all the Greylag Geese that were loafing there took to the water honking like crazy and in a state of panic. I couldn't see what had caused this frenzied behaviour - no sign of a fox or a raptor - then low over the M23 motorway this appeared, losing height rapidly.

I didn't hear any screeching of brakes so they must have touched down just the other side of the M23.

Yesterday, Matt Farmer had seen a Purple Hairstreak and an Essex Skipper in the area and I was optimistically hoping that I might be lucky enough to connect with one or the other.

As it was still early in the morning and quite cool, I hadn't yet seen a single butterfly on the wing but this little micro moth had caught my eye. It is Acleris forsskaleana, sometimes called the Maple Button.

Acleris forsskaleana

I headed round to the southern side of Spynes Mere and, about half way along the path, a fast flying butterfly whizzed past me and landed on the hedge by the path. I couldn't believe my luck - a Purple Hairstreak. It stayed there for at least five minutes and I managed to get a few shots before it flew off towards a nearby oak tree.

Purple Hairstreak

I then decided to do another circuit of Spynes Mere as the sun was warming the air and the butterflies should be active by now.
A few Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Large Whites, Small Skippers, a Brown Argus and loads of Garden Grass Veneers had now appeared. I took a couple of shots of the Small Skippers and decided to head home as quite a few dog-walkers and joggers had turned up.

Garden Grass Veneer (Chrysoteuchia culmella)

After transferring the photos to the computer, I quickly flitted through them and noticed that one of the skippers was actually an Essex Skipper. Like the Purple Hairstreak, this is not a species that gets noted very often at Holmethorpe.

Essex Skipper

So, the birding may not have been that good this morning, but the butterflies made the visit worthwhile.