Waiting for the bus at Guestling today I heard a once-familiar chirrup and saw several House Martins fly over the Winchelsea Road. They seem to be absent at Hillcrest this year and the big puddles along Mill Lane have been as dry as dust.
The town Swifts have put in a good season and are constantly practising their formation flying, preparing for the journey to Africa after this outstanding summer we are having.
Today a Silver-washed Fritillary constantly circling the ground and moss on a tree stump, perhaps woodland becoming arid again in the hot sun after a recent day of light rain. The Sarcophagid fly Nyctia halterata was out, it’s boggy territory quite depleted by the lack of rain. A White Admiral was another welcome sight. Along a woodland track the robberfly Machimus atricapillus perched in dappled shade. (originally I identified this as another species, corrected by Martin Harvey).
Continuing dry in the Hastings area. Often warm and sometimes hot, especially inland away from cooling breezes. Some trees are showing signs of drought stress.
The horsefly Atylotus rusticus was seen at Combe Haven yesterday. This species had become very local in Britain, with records largely confined to the Pevensey Levels. It has been recorded more widely in East Sussex in recent years and found between Hailsham and Cooden. This record may mean it is resident in the Combe Valley now.
Other notes at Combe Haven in recent days included both sexes of the bee Macropis europea, an oligolege of Yellow Loosestrife. Although females only collect floral resources from this plant a male was seen searching for nectar on Creeping Thistles. Nearby on drier ground good number of the bee Melitta leporina were collecting pollen from White Clover. A Roesel’s Bush-cricket moved decidedly quickly through the tangled grassland vegetation.
In the woodlands around Battle insects included the Marsh Damsel-Bug and a variety of butterflies including Comma, Brimstone and Ringlet in numbers and Silver-washed Fritillary was on the wing.
On Saturday 7th a walk along part of Pevensey Bay. Already summer hay meadows have been cut. There remains a good deal of water in the ditches despite the long dry spell. Along the waysides and grassy fields remaining the Marbled White butterfly was frequent, here as further inland it seems to refer dry neutral grasslands with big patches of Upright Hedge-parsley Torilis japonica. This umbellifer is shown to be throughout Sussex in the new Plant Atlas, although there is a small gap in distribution aligned with the Pevensey Levels proper.
A Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum was watched visiting the flowers of a long-leaved ditchside mint. I identified this as one of the Mentha mints but have edited this post now as it has been identified as Marsh Woundwort, Stachys palustris. Many thanks Tim!
The lanceolate leaves and long whorls of colourful blossoms make for a distinctive and attractive labiate.
Adult males of the Ruddy Darter were patrolling the hedges and I photographed the soldierfly Oplodontha viridula.
There was some relief from the dry spell at Battle yesterday with a light shower for fifteen minutes or so. Where relative humidity becomes very low in forests insects can find it difficult to access moisture. I witnessed this in eastern Poland in 1996 when there was a great summer heat and drought. Forest fires were widespread and people were banned from entering the woods. Hundreds of Silver-washed Fritillaries were swarming around brambles and other flowers on the boundaries of the forests.
Conditions here not at all severe, although I have recorded Silver-washed Fritillaries on three occasions recently, only one was flying low along a dusty track, sometimes alighting just for a moment. The others were all patrolling powerfully higher up along forest edges, one even chasing off a hunting Brown Hawker dragonfly.
Yesterday frequent sightings of a golden-coloured dragonfly in woodland, identified as young males of the Ruddy Darter. A hunting Emperor was seen resting in a loamy gutter cut alongside the forest ride. A large fly perching on wayside leaves was the parasitic Tachinid Nowickia ferox, which seeks out caterpillars of the moth Apamea monoglypha in which to lay her eggs.
I was able to record the Conopid Zodion cinereum which is a parasite of some Halictid bees and others.
A rather startling discovery recently for me was of the Soldierfly Oxycera rara at Ore Valley, an insect that associates with waterside mosses near seepages and a species which has a distribution that perhaps reflects the drainage pattern here in The Weald.
The Golden-ringed Dragonfly is present. I have seen an individual in the same area of forest on two occasions. It is a very large dragonfly and a voracious predator.