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Wednesday 26th & Sunday 30th July

Wednesday 26th July 2017:
I only had time for a brief visit to the Common today so I just walked a short circuit near the Wilden Top carpark.  There wasn't much of note except for a couple of Linnets and a rather showy singing Yellowhammer.  I can honestly say that I never tire of hearing/seeing these stunning arable birds!

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)
















I then headed over to the SE side of the Common for a quick mooch around the Oak woodland, where I discovered a rather nice clump of young Beefsteak Fungus that was exuding its blood like juices

Beefsteak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica)
















Sunday 30th July 2017:
Another sunny, mild day saw me pay a visit to the Lower Heath area of the Common.  The first thing that struck me was seeing a flurry of activity around the now flowering Ling heather.  On close inspection I soon picked up on good numbers of Heather Colletes feeding on them.  Heather Colletes is a rather attractive  solitary mining bee that times it's emergance to coincide with the flowering of the heather.  It is quite a small bee (smaller than Honey Bee) with a very prominant stripes/bands around it's abdomen.

Heather Colletes (Colletes succinctus)
































Butterflies of note during the visit were as single Red Admiral and 4 Small Heath.  Good numbers of Gatekeeper were still present with some seen feeding on the Ling flowers.

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

















Tuesday 25th July

Tuesday 25th July 2017:
It was another hot and sunny day on the Common (weather that seems like a distant memory as I type this post) and I decided to start my visit by checking out the thistle flowers at the lower terrace.

A number of Leafcutter Bees were visiting the flowers and from the photos I have taken I've managed to ID the species as Wood-carving Leaf-cutter (Megachile ligniseca).  One of the key identifying factors of this species are the graded colours of the scopa (the hairs on the underside of the abdomen that are used for carrying pollen)

Wood-carving Leaf-cutter (Megachile ligniseca)



















Notable butterflies seen during the visit were 1 Marbled White, 2 ♂ Common Blue, 1 ♂ Brown Argus, 2 Small Copper and 1 Red Admiral.  

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)































Brown Argus (Aricia agestis)
















During my walk I also discovered a Reticularia lycoperdon slime mold.  This white globular mass that can be found on dead wood isn't actually a fungus.  One of it's common names is the False Puffball due to the similarity in shape and the fact that it eventually splits open releasing a mass of brown spores.

False Puffball Slime Mold (Reticularia lycoperdon)
















My final stop on the walk was at Rush Pool which sadly has now dried out to all but a 10ft by 6ft area of shallow water.  That said there were good numbers of Common Darter dragonflies here including three oviposting (egg-laying) pairs.

Common Darters (Sympetrum striolatum) egg-laying

 

Saturday 22nd July

Saturday 22nd July 2017:
A visit to the lower terrace of the Common gave the opportunity to observe a number of  bee species visiting the numerous thistle flowers.  Although the majority of which were Red-tailed Bumblebee,  I was treated to good views of a slightly faded Vestal Cuckoo Bee

Vestal Cuckoo Bees are kleptoparasites of the Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris).  The female cuckoo bee will enter the Bombus terrisitris nest and kill the queen.  She will then lay her own eggs to be reared by the Bombus terrestris workers.


Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) - worker
















Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) - male 
















Vestal Cuckoo Bee (Bombus vestalis)
 















Of interest during the visit were a small number of  Leafcutter Bees (Megachilie sp.) that were visiting the thistles.  

A Field Grasshopper was also recorded.  This individual was of a different colour form to the one shown in my previous blog post.

Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus)

 

Monday 17th July

Monday 17th July 2017:
It was a hot, sunny day on the Common and I decided to pay a visit to the Lower Heath (the west side of the Worcester Road).  It proved a worthwhile decision as, shortly after arriving, i picked up on a stunning Brown Argus visiting the Ling flowers not far from Cooks Garden Centre.  This was especially pleasing as it is the first Brown Argus i have recorded at the Common this year.

Brown Argus (Aricia agestis)


Other notable butterflies observed today included 1 ♂ Common Blue, 2 Marbled Whites and 2 Small Copper.  I also found a Eudemis profundana micro moth at rest on an Oak leaf.

Eudemis profundana
















I also discovered a young Oak Cherry Gall on the underside of one of the Oak leaves.  This gall will often turn a reddish colour as it matures hence the common name.  It is caused by the tiny gall wasp Cynips quercusfolii.  Interestingly, these galls tend to be smooth when formed on the leaves of English Oaks but warty when formed on the leaves of Sessile Oaks.

Oak Cherry Gall (Cynips quercusfolii
 















One thing that did really strike me on today's visit to the Common was the sound.  Due to the heat and the time of year the multitudes of Broom seed pods were bursting open in a cacophony of sound.  It sounded like I was walking around in a giant bowl of Rice Krispies with all that snap, crackle and pop going on!

From the Lower Heath I crossed over the Worcester Road to check out the former carpark area.  Here there were 2 ♂ Beewolf, a Comma and a brown form Field Grasshopper present.  Also observed at this location was a Small Copper butterfly that was feeding on the Yarrow flowers.

Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus) - brown form
















Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

Thursday 13th July & Saturday 15th July

Thursday 13th July 2017:
This afternoon I visited Hillditch Pool.  The weather was cloudy with sunny spells but it still felt mild despite the slight breeze.  The highlights of the visit came on the bird front when a ♀ Kestrel was wheeling about overhead training 2 juveniles.  Also great to see was the Kingfisher that passed through following Titton Brook.

There were only 2 dragonfly species active there today with 3 Brown Hawker and 1 Emperor noted. On the damselfly front I observed Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Red-eyed.

The following butterflies were noted:  2 Comma, 1 Small Skipper, 2 Speckled Wood, 1 Large White, 1 Small WhiteGatekeeper, Meadow Brown and Ringlet were still fairly abundant.

Both Meadow Grasshopper and Speckled Bush Cricket were observed during  the visit.

Meadow Grasshopper (Chorthippus parallelus)
















Speckled Bush Cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima)
 
















Saturday 15th July 2017:
A brief visit to the west side of the Common today produced my first immature Common Darter dragonfly of the year at the site.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - record shot
 















On the Knapweed flowers I found an absolutely stunning ♂ Pantaloon Bee (they are also known as the Hairy-legged Mining Bee). These are so called as the female of the species literally has big, fluffy hairs that cover her legs which resemble pantaloons.  They use these hairy legs to brush the sand out of nest burrows.   The males on the other hand don't 'wear the trousers' so to speak and do not have such pantaloons on their rear legs, although they are still quite hairy, distinctive looking bees in their own right. 

An image of a female Pantaloon Bee can be viewed at the following link:  https://www.hartleburycommon.org.uk/linked/dasypoda%20hirtipes,%20hartlebury%20common.jpg


Pantaloon Bee (Dasypoda hirtipes)
















Mooching around in the grasses near the Knapweed I discovered a few spent larval cases of the Burnet moths.

Burnet Moth Larval Case





















Butterfly highlights included 2 Small Coppers that were feeding on the flowers of Yarrow

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)
















Also of note were 2 Swifts that flew over heading SW.

Wednesday 12th July

Wednesday 12th July 2017:
This afternoon visit to the section of The Common on the west of the Worcester Road.  I was heading back from a hospital appointment in Worcestershire and, as I had already packed my binos and camera in the car, it would have been rude not to stop off.

It was a warm sunny day and butterfly activity was plentiful.  The first of the day's highlights came from one such butterfly in the form of a Purple Hairstreak that was flitting about around one of the mature Oaks.  This was really pleasing as it was my first for the species this year.  Other noteable butterflies encountered were 3 Red Admiral, 4 Comma, 1 Small Copper, 2 Large White and 1 Small WhiteMeadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Skipper and Essex Skipper were also plentiful.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
















Sticking with the Oak trees I found two rather stunning Oak Leaf-roller beetles on one of the younger Oak trees.  These weevils get there name as the female will lay a single egg is laid near the edge of a leaf, cut the leaf and roll it up to protect the developing egg.

Oak Leaf-roller (Attelabus nitens) 
















It was also very noticeable the sheer abundance of Oak Artichoke Galls that are present this year.  These galls that resemble young globe artichoke flowers are caused by the gall wasp Andricus foecundatrix. The female wasp lays single eggs within leaf buds of Oak using her ovipositor and the chemicals produced cause the gall to to form, protecting the egg and developing larvae. 

Other galls recorded on the Oaks today were Oak Marble and Silk Button Spangle, both of which are caused by specific species of gall wasp.

Oak Artichoke Gall (Andricus foecundatrix)
















Oak Marble Gall  (Andricus kollari)
















Silk Button Spangle Gall  (Neuroterus numismalis)
















As I continued my walk around this stretch of the Common I was greated by the sight of my first few Harebell of the year in bloom.  Soon they will be fairly numerous in some parts of the site but it is always welcoming to see these delicate bell shaped blooms.

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)
















On the Hymenoptera front the Beewolf was very much in evidence with 4 ♂ noted during the visit.  One male was returning to the same perch almost every time when it returned from its patrol in an almost chaser dragonfly like fashion.  It made for a photo opportunity which was just too good to pass up on!

♂ Beewolf (Philanthus triangulum)
















The final highlight of what had been a most productive visit came in the form of an immature ♂  White-legged Damselfly.  This is a species that I had not recorded on the Common before and this individual had most likely ventured across from the nearby River Severn.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes)

Saturday 8th July

Saturday 8th July 2017:
I started today's visit by walking a circuit of the Cooks garden centre side of Hartlebury Common.  The reason i have been focusing a lot of my time and attention on this side of the Common of late is two fold.  Due to the permitted grazing of the grasslands by the travelling community's horses/ponies it is rich in a variety of flora that is no where near as abundant elsewhere on the site. This flora in turn attracts a wide variety of inverts,  Secondly it is an under recorded section of the Common and has the potential to turn up something interesting.

The first thing that was noticeable was the dramatic increase in Gatekeeper butterfly numbers since my previous visit a few days before.  They were now seemingly everywhere.  Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Skipper and Essex Skipper were still also present in good numbers.  That said, I didn't record any Marbled White or Small Heath today though.

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)






























 

Whilst looking around the lower foliage of a mature Oak tree I found a Scarce Footman moth at rest on one of the leaves.  It's amazing just how species rich oak trees are, they are always worth a mooch around.

Scarce Footman (Eilema complana)
















Quite a few thistles were now in bloom and were being visited by an array of insects.  One plant that I observed for a few minutes had Early BumblebeeRed-tailed Bumblebee, Marmalade Hoverfly and a Thick-legged Flower Beetle visiting it's blooms.

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)
















 Thick-legged Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis) ♀
















 From the west side of the Common I headed up to the Wilden Top car pak area.  I wanted to spend some more time observing, and hopefully photographing, the Brown-banded Carder Bees in that area.  At the crater their was once again both Common Carder Bees and Brown-banded Carder Bees were feeding on the flowers of the Wood Sage.  I took dozens of shots and yet when I came to edit them not one decent one of a Brown Banded was in focus.  So for now I have attached a slightly out of focus record shot until I can achieve better.  I will keep trying at this one!!!

Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia)











 




Brown-banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis)
(Slightly out of focus record shot)
 

Thursday 6th July

Thursday 6th July 2017:
Today it was shaping up to be another hot, sunny day so I decided to pay a mid-late morning visit to the Common.  I parked up at Lower Poolands carpark and walked a circuit of the site's southern area.

A short way into the walk and I was treated to cracking views of a Painted Lady butterfly that landed on a nearby Bramble flower.  This was the first adult Painted Lady I have recorded on the Common this year.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)














Continuing the walk along the sandy paths through the heather I picked up on a rather showy ♂ Beewolf that was busy making patrols around it's territory, perching occasionally, before taking flight again.

Sandy path on the southeast side of the Common 
















Beewolf (Philanthus triangulum) 
















Also of note during my amble around was a ♀ Red-banded Sand Wasp that I observed digging a burrow.  I have attached some video footage below of the wasp undertaking it's excavations and whilst watching it back noticed that a second Sand Wasp photo-bombed it and sneaks into the frame.  I didn't notice that at the time!  

Red-banded Sand Wasp (Ammophila sabulos)




Wednesday 5th July (part 2)

Oops, i just realised that I had actually missed of part of  my 5th July visit on the last post.  I actually spent an hour down at Hillditch Pool after leaving the Common so, I will now endeavour to rectify this and finish the days post!

Wednesday 5th July (continued):
From the Common I headed over to Hillditch to check on the Odonata.  Dragonfly wise there were 3♂ Emperor present, 2 Brown Hawker and an overmature female Scarce Chaser.  Damselfly species  observed at the site this afternoon were Banded Demoiselle, Red-eyed, Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Azure.

Overmature ♀ Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva)
















Red-eyed Damselflies (Erythromma najas) in copulation
 















Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
















Whilst sat at the edge of what I call the rear pool (ie. the one that doesn't have lily pads on it) I was treated to great views of a Small Skipper butterfly that had come down to take salts from the bare muddy ground at the pools edge.

Many butterfly species can be seen doing this at times and although butterflies get much of their nutrition from flower nectar it lacks some important nutrients the butterflies need for reproduction.   To take on these, butterflies will visit puddles and muddy ground.  By sipping moisture from mud puddles butterflies are able to take in salts and minerals from the soil.  This behaviour is most frequently seen in male butterflies who use the extra salts and minerals in the production of their sperm. 

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) taking salts