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June Highlights from Great Dixter

White admirals are probably the most abundant butterfly on the wing in Weights Wood at the moment, either gliding overhead or getting themselves scratched and battered while feeding from bramble flowers. One particular patch of honeysuckle in the wood has one or two white admirals in constant attendance either nectaring from the honeysuckle flowers or laying eggs.

White admiral (Photo: Ian Phillips)

More importantly though is the confirmation of purple emperor from Weights Wood by Claire Williamson, the Great Dixter butterfly transect recorder. We knew that Weights Wood was prime purple emperor habitat with its tall mature oaks towering above a sallow scrub understorey. Claire has been baiting with sprats and fish paste and was rewarded with a male purple emperor coming down to feed from mud around a woodland pond on 22 June. Male purple emperors use prominent 'master trees' such as oak or beech to intercept females and mate. The species feeds mainly on honeydew and tree sap high in the canopy, hence the difficulty of recording the species, but sometimes come down to feed on salts from mud, dung, and even sweat.

To continue the purple theme at Weights Wood we also recorded purple hairstreak and the nationally scarce jewel wasp Pseudomalus violaceus, a metallic purple and green wasp that is a parasitoid of stem nesting solitary wasps. The jewel wasp lays its eggs on aphids, which are the prey of the jewel wasps hosts: Passaloecus and Pemphredon solitary wasps that nest in plant stems and beetle burrows in dead wood.

There have been many more sightings of long-horned bees (Eucera longicornis) throughout June, including four females foraging at one small patch of meadow vetchling in one of the gardens meadows. The population of long-horned bees at Great Dixter is clearly much larger than I originally thought.

Also of note is another scarce tubic moth Metalampra italica caught flying around the barn log pile.

Andy Phillips


From the Clifftop

Moth trapping seems to have hit rock bottom, with just eight species today-all that daytime heat lost to cool , clear and windy nights. Last year this was the most productive period. However I did catch this little beauty a couple of days ago, a Cream-bordered Green Pea, only my second ever. {But I cant upload the *** picture !]

Nothing to say about birds here at all, but I can reveal that the House Sparrow picture in my last post  was in fact taken at Sissinghurst NT tearoom. We went there yesterday again as Dungeness is so hopeless, and the Sparrows were out in force on the picnic tables. A group of four young women nearby were tossing bits of cake to a male, and shockingly, they didn't know what it was !!!. First ID was that it was a Great Tit, then A Thrush, and finally "it must be a Sparrow ". So much for Springwatch et al ....



Rye Harbour rubbish walk

Our monthly beach clean volunteers will meet tomorrow Wednesday 27 June at 10am at the Rye Harbour car park. Join us for a stroll, a chat, a look at the wildlife and, of course, to remove litter from the beach.

Bring gloves if you have them, and plenty of sun protection!


Rye Harbour

Butterfly transects this year have been a bit quiet, so it was nice to see that marbled white numbers are increasing near the viewpoint, with five or six seen on the last transect. The colony first appeared in 2007 and as might be expected is one of the most easterly in Sussex, with most found much further to the west. This species is usually found in unimproved grassland where the larvae feed on various species of grasses. Despite its name it is actually more closely related to other grass feeders such as meadow brown, gatekeeper and small white than the 'whites'.

Click to read more ...


From the Clifftop

After checking a rather disappointing moth trap this morning-species numbers still down, I decided to sit in the sun and stare out to sea. It soon became apparent that Swifts were on the move, and between 0550 and 0710 I counted 101 moving rapidly east out at sea. Were they arriving ? [See SOS sightings for numerous comments on low numbers of Swifts and House Martins in Sussex]

10 Common Scoters moved east over the limpid sea, and at least one Porpoise was on view. Four Linnets were feeding on seeds of thrift in our shingle front garden, a notable 25 House Sparrows were in and around the garden too- they are much more numerous here this year.

A few days ago I walked along the cliffs  to Place Farm and noted succesful breeding, for the second year, of two pairs of Stonechats-a male with one juvenile below the lookout, and another with two below coastguards.