More species from Hembury – some rare, some common

As well as supporting 5 species of fritillary (the three from yesterday’s blog along with pearl and small pearl bordered), Hembury is also home to a huge range of other wildlife. Here are a few pictures of some of the species currently out and about.

Grayling1This is the grayling butterfly – it is a cryptically coloured animal which is easiest to spot if it is disturbed. It is uncommon on Dartmoor – Hembury and the heathland around Castle Drogo are good places to see it.

Mottled grasshopper
This is the mottled grasshopper which again is uncommon on Dartmoor but at Hembury it occurs in very large numbers. It is identified by the presence of swollen tips to the antennae which can be clearly seen in this picture.

Field grasshopper
This is a field grasshopper – very common in Devon – looks superficially like the mottled grasshopper but no swollen tips to the antennae.

Strangalia maculata - HemburyThis is a  black and yellow long horn beetle (Rutpela maculata) – one of our more common long horns

More from Hembury Woods

Another visit to find high brown fritillaries over the weekend drew a blank but I did find a couple of nice species at Hembury Woods on the River Dart.

A lovely male Siskin feeding on a marsh thistle

Siskins are fairly common breeding species but can be quite elusive – I saw this one on the Hillfort

Green hairstreak1And this is a male green hairstreak – I’ve seen quite a few of these this year

Green hairstreak2The caterpillars feed on a variety of shrubs including gorse, Dyer’s greenweed, bilberry and bird’s foot trefoil

The Devil’s Coach Horse

When I was at Hembury Woods the other day I found a Devil’s Coach Horse beetle. I haven’t seen one for years but do remember them distinctly from my youth. The Devil’s Coach Horse is a type of rove beetle.

Devil's coachman1
It is quite a large all black beetle

Devil's coachman2
They are well known to offer up their large jaws in this threatening posture when disturbed

Devil's coachman3
They also flick up their tail and as a result are sometimes also known as the Cock-tail beetle.

Fortunately it didn’t happen to me but they can also exude a foul smelly substance when provoked. They tend to feed on other invertebrates such as woodlice and worms.

Devil's coach horse


Here is the national distribution of the Devil’s Coach Horse – according to this it has only been recorded in Devon in the Plym Valley area – new record for Hembury maybe?

Dark green fritillaries

Dark green fritillaries are now out on the wing. I spent quite a bit of time over the weekend at Hembury Woods on the Dart looking for dark green and high brown fritillaries – none of the latter yet but plenty of the former.

Dark green fritillaries are large fast flying butterflies – over the last 50 years they have undergone big declines but are still reasonably common in Devon and on Dartmoor (in the valleys opposed to the high moor). For more information of dark green fritillaries see the Butterfly Conservation website here.

Here are a few photos which I managed to get when they finally stopped flying around!

Dark green fritilary 1

Dark green fritillary 4

Dark green fritillary 9

Dark green fritillary 13


Dark green fritillaries are very difficult to tell from high brown fritillaries (which are much rarer and more endangered). The most reliable feature is the underwing pattern shown above.

At Hembury Woods with a western bee fly

I spent an hour or so over at Hembury Woods in the baking sun yesterday – I had hoped to see a high brown fritillary but no luck there (it is very early in the season for them but they have already been recorded on Dartmoor this year) – instead I found a few other nice insects. The highlight for me was the Western Bee Fly which is very localised nationally.

Bombylius cansescens 1
The Western Bee Fly Bombylius canescens

Bombylius cansescens 2
The characteristic long ‘nose’ which enables it to feed inside long flowers

bombylius canescansThe UK distribution of Western Bee Fly – it has a designation of ‘Nationally Notable’ on account of its rarity

Tiger beetleHembury is also home to a strong population of tiger beetles – one of my favourites!

Cicindela camprestris
Tiger beetles – Cicindela campestris – are well distibuted across the UK but need warm and sandy soiled places

Strangalia melanura
Finally I found this long horn beetle Strangalia melanura

Strangalia melanura
Relatively common beetle in southern Britain but quite uncommon in Devon and Dartmoor

All maps are courtesy of the National Biodiversity Network


Violets at Hembury Woods

From a distance it looks as if the bluebells are out – they are not – it is still too early. When you get closer you see they are violets – thousands and thousands of them.

Violet 2Violets flowering amongst the bluebell leaves

Violet 3Good to see so many – violets are the food plant for our pearl bordered and small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies

Violet 1A close up shot