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Local Weather

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

Monday 3rd July & Wednesday 5th July

Monday 3rd July 2017:
A brief visit to the Common this afternoon saw me return to the area of former car park along the Worcester Rd that i had visited the day before.  I had hoped to get more photos of Sand Wasps but was out of luck on that front.  That said, I was treated to another of the site's speciality species in the form of a ♂ Beewolf.  

The Beewolf is one of the largest solitary wasp species in Britain and nests in sandy places on dunes, heaths and sand-pits.  It gets it's common name, Beewolf, from the fact that it stocks its nest burrows almost exclusively with Honeybees.  Female Beewolfs are large imposing wasps that are easily recognised by the narrow reddish stripe behind the eye and extensively pale face.  The males on the other hand are smaller with bluish eyes and a distinctive trident-like mark between the eyes.

Beewolf (Philanthus triangulum)

Wednesday 5th July 2017:
It was yet another warm sunny day on the Common and for my visit I walked a circuit on the west side of the Worcester Rd.  There was a good mix of butterfly species on the wing, with notables including:  1 Marbled White, 2 Small Heath, 1 Small Copper,  1 Red Admiral, 2 Comma and 2 Large White Essex Skipper, Small Skipper, Meadow Brown and Ringlet were all present in good numbers.  A small number of Gatekeeper had also emerged since my previous visit.

The highlight of the visit was finding a rather diminutive 24-spot Ladybird.  This was the first I have seen this year.  To give you an idea of scale I have attached a photo below showing the beetle on a plant stem next to my thumbnail.

24-spot Ladybird (Subcoccinella 24-punctata)


Tuesday 27th June to Sunday 2nd July

Tuesday 27th June 2017:
I made a breif visit to the Wilden Top car prak area of the Common today.  The weather was a cloudy with light drizzle and I just thought there may be the chance of an interesting bird being pushed down.  Of course there wasn't but you've got to be in it to win it!  That said there was a fair bit of bird activity in the scrub and it was heartening to see juveniles of Dunnock, Robin and BlackbirdYellowhammers and Linnets were also present and singing away. A Skylark was up singing above the NE edge of the Common and the adjacent farmland.   Two Swifts were also seen over heading West.

Saturday 1st July 2017:
A return to the warm sunny weather saw me undertake a walk on the Cooks side of the Common (west of the Worcvester Rd).  3 Marbled White butterflies were present near the gate by Cooks feeding on the Knapweed.  Both Essex Skipper and Small Skippers were present in this area too feeding on knapweed and the Lady's Bedstraw.  These two species of dinutive orange butterflies can be told apart by looking at the underside of the antennae tips.  In Essex Skipper they are ink black and in Small Skipper they are brown (although some Small Skippers can have what look like black tips with a brown underside so it is worth double checking).  2 Large Skippers were also recorded.

Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola)

Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)

Other butterflies recorded during my circuit included 5 Small Heath, 2 Red Admiral, 1 Comma, 3 Small Tortoishell, 1 Speckled Wood and 1 Large White.

4 Six-spot Burnet moths were also noted.  As was a single Fan-bristled Robberfly.  It was also nice to see the Bell Heather coming into bloom.

Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae)

Bell Heather (Erica cinerea)

Sunday 2nd July 2014:
Today I started my visit at the Wilden Top carpark and managed to catch up with another of the Common's speciality species Brown-banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis).  Small numbers of this bumblebee were present alongside the more commonplace Common Carder Bee feeding on the flowers of Wood Sage in one of the craters just of the entrance road. Sadly I was unable to get a clear record shot of one this visit but I will endevour to on subsequent visits.

Also of note in the Wilden Top carpark area were 1 Marbled White, 2 Small Heath and a Silver Y moth.

I then headed down to the lower terrace of the Common to check out the area that used to be the 3rd carpark along the Worcester Rd (and is now but a pull in).  This area has many interesting plants coming through and it's almost waste ground nature has the potential to turn up the odd interesting invert or two.  On arriving I soon picked up on a Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle that was feeding on Yarrow

Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle (Rutpela maculata)

I also recorded a Sand Wasp (Ammophila sp.) at this location, but I need to do more work on these before I can determine if it was Heath Sand Wasp or Red Banded Sand Wasp (both of which occur on the Common).

Saturday 24th and Monday 26th June

Saturday 24th June 2017:
It was another warm sunny afternoon on the Common and I walked a circuit on the lower terrace taking in the Rush Pool area and the Cooks side of the Worcester Rd.  Butterflies were the order of the day with 2 Marbled Whites, 6 Small Heath, 1 Red Admiral, 1 Comma, 1 Small Tortoiseshell, 1 Large White, plus many Ringlets & Meadow Browns were recorded.  I also observed my first Small Skipper of the year during the walk.  It was also nice to see a mating pair of Six-spot Burnet moths.

Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae) - mating

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

Also of interest on the walk was seeing an adult Green Woodpecker with two juveniles on the Cooks side of the Common.  Of concern was the ever-dwindling water levels of the Rush Pool.  The surface area of the water remaning in the pool is now only approx. 10ft by 8ft! 

From the Common I geaded over to Hillditch Pool.  Unlike the Rush Pool, Hillditch is an old mill pond and is fed by a brook (Titton Brook), so is the water level remains fairly constant there.  On arrival at the pool I was greeted by the sight of my first Brown Hawker dragonfly of the year.  Other dragonflies of note were 3♂ Emperor and a single Four-spotted Chaser.  a small number of Common Blue damselflies were also noted during today's visit.

On the bird front, a Raven flew over 'kronking' heading west and the Moorhen family on the main pool still had three chicks with them.

Two Large Skipper butterflies were also observed at this site. As was a Tachinid Fly known as Tachina fera that was feeding on the umbellifer flowers near the pool.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)

Tachina Fera - Tachinid Fly

Monday 26th June 2017:
Today I returned to Hillditch Pool to take advantage of the ongoing sunny weather and spend some time Odonata watching.  On arrival at the site i was welcomed by the site of a Southern Hawker dragonfly that was patrolling the wooded clearing near the roadside pull in.  This is the first Southern Hawker that I have recorded at the site in 2017.  Other dragonflies observed at the pool were a single  Brown Hawker and 4 Emperor (3♂,1♀).

From the pool I walked the adjacent meadow where 2 Large Skipper, 2 Comma, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 1 Speckled Wood were observed. The ubiquitous Meadow Brown and Ringlet were again out in large numbers.

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus)

The highlight of the visit came in the form of a butterfly caterpillar as I managed to find a second active Painted Lady larval tent near the sand bank (see previous post)

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) - larva in larval tent

Friday 23rd June

Friday 23rd June 2017:
Today I headed over to the meadow adjacent to Hillditch Pool to look for a couple of interesting species that had been observed there earlier in the week by my good friend and fellow amateur naturalist Mark Peacock.  During his visit Mark had managed to locate a small number of Brown-banded Carder Bees visiting flowers near the sand bank at the top of the Meadow.  Brown-banded Carder is a nationally scarce bumblebee species that was discovered by well know entomologist Steve Falk as existing on Hartlebury Common back in 2010.  Another small population was discovered at the nearby Wilden Marsh.  For more information on this species at the Common,  the following article published in the Worcestershire Record is worth a read (just click on the link highlighted in blue):


The other interesting species Mark recorded in this area was Painted Lady larval tent and larva of one on a nettle there.  This is something I have never observed before so I was hoping to try and find it.  I visited the area that Mark suggested to look and spent a fair while mooching about.  Sadly I was unable to connect with the Brown-banded Carder bee but I did have more success with the Painted Lady Larva and managed to locate it's tent.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) larva

Butterfly wise there were large numbers of Meadow Browns & Ringlets present in the meadow.   I also recorded a single Silver Y moth in the area.   Other interesting inverts recorded included Black-striped Longhorn Beetle and Pellucid Fly.

Black-striped Longhorn Beetle (Stenurella melanura)

Pellucid Fly (Volucella pellucens)

Saturday 17th June to Wednesday 21st June

Saturday 17th June 2017:
It was a very hot, sunny afternoon on the Common and I decided to walk a circuit on the Cook's side of the Worcester Rd.  It proved a successful walk as I recorded 14 Small Heath butterflies during the course of the circuit.    2 Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moths were also of note.

Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet (Zygaena lonicerae)

Monday 19th June 2017:
The hot weather continues with temperatures this afternoon pushing 30°c.  At Hillditch Pool there were 4 Emperor (3♂,1♀) and 1 ♂ Scarce Chaser dragonfly present.  I was also treated to a rare photographic opportunity of a Red-eyed Damselfly that actually perched up on a stem instead of sitting on a usual lily pad.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas)

The meadow adjacent to the pool was very productive on the butterfly front with 2 Large Skipper, 2 Comma, 1 Small Tortoiseshell, 7 Ringlet and 21 Meadow Brown noted.  A rather stunning Brimstone Moth was also observed.

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

Wednesday 21st June 2017:
The hot spell of weather continued with the temperature again up at 30°c.  I decided to prioritize today's visit on the Cook's side of the Common where there are some quite substantial areas of  Lady's Bedstraw flowering and also a number of Common Knapweed plants in bloom.  It proved to be a wise decision as in this area there were 3 Marbled White butterflies on the wing.  This especially pleasing as not many records of this species have come from this side of the Common before.

♂ Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)

Other Lepidoptera (butterflies & moths) recorded during the visit included 8 Small Heath, 1 Large Skipper, 1 Comma, 8 Cinnabar plus the ubiquitous Ringlets and Meadow Browns