Is this a dagger I see before me?

Well last Friday, yes it was, a Grey Dagger in fact. As an adult moth I would have struggled to identify it as it is extremely similar to the Dark Dagger and I would have most likely got it wrong. Fortunately the caterpillars are easier and I have to say more interesting with their bright colours. The adult moth’s flight season is in June, so this caterpillar has hatched from this years eggs and will overwinter in it’s pupal state (chrysalis) to emerge as an adult next year. Of all places it was making it’s way down Coastguard Lane! Not sure if this is a first for the Country Park but the NBN Atlas shows well over 15,000 records for this species but none in the Country Park.

Birch Polypore

I first spotted this fungus probably about a couple of weeks ago, just emerging from the bark of a dead birch in the “Plantation”. It was just a white sphere then but has now developed into something that I have been able to identify. A “bracket” fungus which has no stem (stipe) and whose spores come out of tiny pores (see bottom photo) unlike mushrooms where they come from gills under the cap. A lot of other fungi appearing  at the moment particularly on the cleared areas of the Firehills, so more to follow on this subject.

Porcelain fungus

Having recently recorded some of the common and easily recognisable fungi that I have found in the Country Park, I came across this in the “Plantation”, the wood to the east of the Firehills. Using the key in a book I recently acquired I was able to get an identification quite quickly, much easier than looking at page after page of photos on the internet. It is Oudemansiella mucida and has the common name of Porcelain fungus which is rather apt. The dark spots are not part of the fungus but just little specks that have landed on the caps.

The sound of leather on willow?

In a word, no but it is cricket. Having been seeing masses of Field Grasshoppers on the Firehills this year, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever see anything else when yesterday when this Grey Bush-cricket just jumped onto the access for all trail right in front of me. Not an easy one to identify but have submitted the record and had it verified. The species is said to be scarce, so a good record for the Country Park and is restricted to coastal areas on the south coast and some parts of Wales. This one is a female as can be seen by the upwards curved ovipositor behind the abdomen.

Access for all? Yes

Due to the many steep gradients the Country Park does not have much scope for disabled access. There are 2 “Access for all” trails, one to the east and another to the west of Coastguard Lane. The reason for this post is to show that these trails do provide the possibility to see wildlife as these photos of two Wheatear perched on fence posts, taken earlier in the week, right beside the phase II trail to the west behind the Coastguard cottages demonstrate.

Fairlight Glen on a windy day

Arriving at the top of the western side of Warren Glen today, I decided to go round the top of Fairlight Glen rather than go up Brakey Bank and was treated to the sight of the most Comma butterflies that I have seen in one day for a long time. I also saw 2 more Golden Ringed dragonflies and wonder why I have not seen them at the Country Park before. Got a better photo this time too, the classic view showing the outspread wings, this one is a male. Good to get some records for Fairlight Glen too.

Saxon Pond Moorhen

For some time now a pair of Moorhen have been breeding on Saxon Pond and this year they have had a second brood. I have not seen that previously. Another justification of all the hard work we put in there to open up the pond and breathe some life back into it. Plenty of dragonflies there too, compared to just 2 on Barn pond which is now badly choked up with the invasive alien plant, Parrot’s Feather. There are only 2 small clear patches of water, one where peoples dogs go in the water and another on the opposite side that fishermen have cleared.

One of the adult Moorhen:-

A first brood juvenile:-

A chick from the second brood:-

Chicken in Warren Wood at the Country Park?

Walking down through Warren Wood yesterday I could see something bright orange in the distance and my obvious first thought was that it must be an item of litter or lost clothing but as I got closer I saw that it was actually a large bracket fungus on a log at the side of the  path. Not having a book on fungi, I used the power of Google and am pretty sure that it is one called Chicken of the Woods. This fungus is said to be edible and some say that it does taste of chicken, hence it’s name, yet others liken it’s taste to crab or lobster. However, be aware that depending on the type of wood on which it is growing it may contain toxins that will make you sick. My advice would therefore be to leave it where it grows and just admire it’s mere gaudiness and leave it there for others to do the same. Fungi are a very specialised subject and many species cannot be identified without microscopic examination by an expert.

On Monday also in Warren Glen I finally saw a Ringlet butterfly, a species which despite being quite common and which I have seen plenty of in other places had up ’till then eluded me at the Country Park.

Butterfly season at the Country Park

Now is a very good time to see butterflies at the Country Park. A large range of species are currently on the wing including Marbled White which I have previously not recorded at the Country Park. Others recently spotted include, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Painted Lady, Essex Skipper, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Gatekeeper, Comma and Meadow Brown. You may also see 5 and 6 Spot Burnet and Cinnabar moths which fly during the day.

If you are unfamiliar with any of these I hope the photos below may be of assistance. I have yet to photograph a Marbled White, the one below is courtesy of Taughtus, thanks.

Marbled White

 

Red Admiral

Small Tortoiseshell

Speckled Wood

Peacock

Painted Lady

Essex Skipper

Small Skipper

Large Skipper

Gatekeeper

Comma

Meadow Brown

Six Spot Burnet

Five Spot Burnet

Cinnabar

 

A new Dragonfly record for the Country Park?

Taking the rather overgrown path from bollard 23 towards the Quarry today, I saw a very busy dragonfly flitting about here and there which given it’s size I assumed to be a Hawker and watched for some time hoping that it might land in range of my camera and as luck would have it, it did. Too busy trying to get a useable photo, I did not realise that I had not seen this one before ’till I looked at the photo. it is in fact a female Golden-ringed Dragonfly, a first for me and quite possibly a new record for the Country Park as I can find nothing on the National Biodiversity Network Atlas or the Biodiversity Records Centre’s recording site iRecord within the boundaries of the Country Park. This is a very striking Dragonfly with a jet black body and yellow markings.