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.

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