Monday, 26 June 2017

Summer Open day at Maple Lodge NR

Sunday I was back at Maple Lodge NR (link to their website here ) volunteering again for a new open day to add to their annual events, this time it was the Summer Open Day.
My job was to position myself at the infamous Comma Corner, find lots of interesting critters to show the parties of visitors that were being guided around the reserve by other volunteers and point them out and talk about them. I done a similar thing last August for the Insect Open Day and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Sunday I also had my extra pair of eyes, my little helper, Stella. She alone found a Ruddy Darter (possibly first of the year for the reserve) and a stripped wagwort plant full of Cinnabar moth caterpillars.
I didn't take as many photos as I would normally do on a day out, I spent more time chatting to the visitors, and some of my hoverfly photos aren't as sharp as I would have liked them, but all in all a very successful day.
Here are just a few of my offerings that I was able to share with the visitors....
Yellow and Black Longhorn

Green Shieldbug 1st instar nymphs

Nursery spider with egg sac

Harlequin predated by another spider (enoplognatha sp)
Thick-legged Flower Beetle (male)

Cinnabar moth caterpillars - these gorge themselves on ragwort before eventually dropping to the ground, burrowing in the soil where they will pupate and spend the winter before emerging as the beautiful black and red day flying moth

Peacock butterfly caterpillar
 As to be expected there were plenty of butterflies on the wing. The most prolific at Comma Corner being the obvious Comma and the delightful Ringlets.
Ringlets are very common but not to me. I don't get them on my home patch and the only other one I've ever seen was at RSPB Rainham, so I was in my element spotting these beauties. They feed on bramble and thistle flowers, of which Comma Corner has plenty of both. In flight both sexes are dark brown (compared to the light underwing flashes of the Meadow Brown). The one below is a male with the upper 'eye' spots being fairly small. The females upper 'eye' spots are larger.

copulating Ringlets

female Ringlet close up
and of course we mustn't forget the Comma.....

underwing showing the white mark on the lower wing which gives the butterfly its 'Comma' name
Other butterflies included a Small Tortoiseshell and both male and female Brimstone, which wouldn't settle for a photo call, and the Meadow Browns below. It's very hard to sex Meadow Browns when they sit with their wings closed but generally if the orange patch on the upper wing is dull it's likely to be a male....

The one below is a female with brighter orange patches. She is also flicking her abdomen to indicate she doesn't want to be mated with....
It's the equivalent of a woman saying to a man 'not tonight I've got a headache'.....
There were a few Green-veined Whites around too, but they weren't being quite as obliging, and my shot below was taken in a hurry before it took off again....
Stella found the first Large Skipper for me, and I found another after she'd gone to grab me a coffee. I managed to get open wing and closed wing shots. This is a male Large Skipper with the dark sex band line clear across his upper wing.

We had several sightings of Red Admiral too. They are incredibly hard to sex but some females have a white spot on the orange-red band on the forewing, which I think you can just see on the photo below...
Below is the underwing of the Red Admiral, a palette of beautiful colours almost like a stained glass window..

There were hundreds of damselflies around, mainly Common Blue and Blue-tailed but there were probably some Azure ones too....

The brambles were attracting lots of hoverflies but every time I saw one interesting I was talking to visitors and my camera wasn't to hand. However I got three poor shots of three species.....
Volucella pellucens aka Great Pied Hoverfly

Eristalis sp.

Episyrphus balteatus aka the Marmalade Fly
Also at Comma Corner I found a hoverfly pupa but bizarrely, despite showing every visitor my little 'blob of jelly' I failed to take any photos of it for myself.
There were several Harlequin pupae on the nettles, with lots of empty cases too. But it wasn't all bad news as there were several 7-spot pupae too and quite a few adults in the meadow.
Just past Comma Corner on the left hand side was one Brimstone butterfly larva that was visible and it was fun watching the visitors trying to spot it. It was so well camouflaged that my camera had difficulty picking it out too....
At the end of the day all the moths that had been trapped the night before, were released. There were too many for me to photograph so I picked my favourite three....
Ghost moth

Poplar Hawk moth

Buff Tip moth

 I had a great time. Once you get me talking about my favourite subjects, you cannot shut me up, so I was probably well suited to the Open Day.
And it was nice to see my good friends John and Therese Cass, plus Steve and Gab come along to show their support.
Lastly Stella - huge thanks, you were a massive help

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