Monday 13 July 2020

Napoleon, Clearwings, Blue-eyes and Butterflies 12th-13th July 2020

Despite venturing out yesterday, the camera did not really get much action although a lunchtime visit to Oare did mean that my telescope had its first outing since Costa Rica!

At Oare I missed the Lesser Yellowlegs by two minutes and it did not reappear during my stay but thankfully the Bonaparte’s Gull did decide that plodding around in the mud in the haze was hardly playing fair and dropped in to the East Flood for a wash and brush up. 
There were plenty of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks and 23 black-bellied Dunlin. A heavily moulting Ruff wandered the margins and a full grey and white Curlew Sandpiper was a strange sight in such a plumage and was presumably a 1st-summer bird.

Bonaparte’s Gull & friends

Beardies and Reed Warblers flicked across the pool and a scary leucistic Herring Gull flew over looking very much like an immature Iceland Gull save for the ghosting of dark in the primary tips.

It was too hazy and so I left and headed towards Queendown Warren in the hope of some butterfly action but it was incredibly quiet.  The floral display of Wild Marjoram, Thyme and Basil, Scabious, Knapweeds and Bedstraws was glorious but save for a few bees and tatty Marbled Whites it was disappointing.

Andrena flavipes on Yarrow

Megachile on Welted thistle


And so to this morning.  I had arranged to meet Frank C after eight for a chance of using his lure to attract Lunar Hornet Clearwings.  This pheromone lure has only recently been developed through my old friend Jon Clifton at ALS and so it was kind of Frank to invite me to join him. Just before I got to our meet spot between Cliffe and Cooling and large raptor drifted across the road in front. It was heavy and dark and my first thought was Marsh Harrier but a little twist showed a fork in the tail – a Kite.

I could not pull over and had a car right up behind me but once in a lay-by I scanned around and some minutes later picked it up over Rye Street. It looked compact and still dark and I took a couple of banking shots. I will leave it as Kite on here but I know what I think. As it turned out Frank and his son saw the same bird here yesterday but at long range but still setting off alarm bells and then another local, unaware of any of this had a Black Kite circling over the marshes at Rye Street a little later in the morning.

I headed down to some truly immense old Willows at the back of one of the orchards Frank works and after a walk around we returned to find our first Lunar Hornet Clearwing drifting in.  Five were seen all told and this is certainly the best wasp mimic of any other organism I have come across.  They are more slender than the hulking Hornet Clearwing and move exactly like a Vespa species.  They even buzz like one – yes... a moth making a noise.  A squeaking Death’s Head was the only species I had previously heard before and I never actually thought how remarkable this is until just now.

Lunar Hornet Clearwing

After leaving Frank to go prune, I headed to RSPB Northward Hill for a circuit around the wood for the first time in probably 30 years. It was warming up nicely and my route was quite productive with all the usual butterfly species encountered.  Only Skippers were absent and I did not find a White Admiral but a mahoosive female Purple Emperor heading out of the wood on a b-line towards Bromhey Farm was great to see and three Silver Washed Frits nectared on the Brambles.

The perfectly hidden Brimstone. Even the leaf has a mirrored spot!



Red Admiral

Silver Washed Fritillary

Small White with a deeley bopper missing

Speckled Wood

White-letter Hairstreak was at last seen well with three coming down to a patch of flowers and there were plenty of bumbles and hoverflies to be seen too including both Volucella zonaria and pellucens and many Eristalis intricaria and Episyrphus balteatus.

White-letter Hairstreak

Volucella zonaria

Volucella pellucens

There were a few Ruddy Darters and one clearing had at least 13 Blue-eyed Hawkers hunting in the lee of the wood. In all the time I watched them not one landed but they came so close and the aerial display was so good that I did not mind.

Ruddy Darter

Honeysuckle berries

The view up the Thames over Cliffe to Tilbury Port and Gravesend

An open, sandy bit of path predictably had Bee Wolves breeding in it and some of the other burrows had Anthophora bimaculata occupying them.

Bee Wolf  - Philanthus triangulum

Bee Wolf  - Philanthus triangulum

Green Eyed Flower Bee - Anthophora bimaculata
A Cheilosia hoverfly - possibly C.pagana or something better

A snatched shot of a distant fly but one that I knew instantly - Phasia hemiptera with Vulcan bomber wings

Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel and Hobby soared overhead and Blackcaps were incredibly vocal with one songster being so astonishing in his repertoire of Song Thrush and Nightingale notes that I was able to use him as a wayfinder to keep me on the right path back to the car.



It was approaching lunchtime so I came home and watered the garden before popping back again mid afternoon to Strawberry Banks near Bredhurst.  I had the place to myself and despite the increasing breeze, it was still in the mid twenties and there was plenty of butterfly activity in the valley bottom where there was a profusion of Field Scabious and Greater Knapweed flowering.  Dwarf Thistles were now flowering from those spiky rosettes that preclude kneeling down at this site and a single Musk Thistle nodded its large flowers.

Dwarf Thistle

Musk Thistle
Marbled Whites and Meadow Browns danced around but I still only saw two Gatekeepers.  I was after Chalk Hill Blues and soon found a few males shimmering through the grasses.  I often describe Adonis Blue as electric blue but Chalk Hill takes it to a different level – lightning blue.

They really do not like sitting with their wings open but I did manage a few nice shots with a little patience.  Several male Common Blues were also on the wing along with the Skippers, Small Copper, Small Heath, a single Dark Green Fritillary and Six Spot Burnets. A late Burnet Companion and Dusky Sallow were spooked from the grass.

Chalk Hill Blue

Chalk Hill Blue

Chalk Hill Blue

Chalk Hill Blue

Chalk Hill Blue

Common Blue to compare with the CHB above

Meadow Brown

Marbled White


Small Copper

Dusky Sallow

The Scabious flowers were being visited by many bumbles including pascuorum, vestalis and lapidarius and following on from Richard Hanman’s visit, plenty of Andrena hattorfiana with 33 counted as I walked through. They look rather odd without full pink pollen baskets!

Andrena hattorfiana

Andrena hattorfiana

Andrena hattorfiana

Andrena hattorfiana

There were no Hovers out in the field but I was pleased to find the chunky spiky arsed monster that is Nowikia ferox with two on the Scabious.

Nowikia ferox

Nowikia ferox

My route took me back up along the hedgeline where one of the Broad-leaved Helleborines was at long last flowering although it was the other side of the fence precluding a closer look but it was a fine way to round up my excursions for the day.

Broad-leaved Helleborine

Broad-leaved Helleborine

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