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21.08.14 Orchids, butterflies and monsters

22 August 2014 | Posted in Southerham

The weather was kind to us on our August hike to Bible Bottom today. On Cliffe High street a busking trombonist sent us on our way with a rendition of 'Sunny side of the Street'. Soon we were up amongst the flower rich downland of our Southerham reserve above the town.

It wasn't long until we found our first target species - the autumn lady's-tresses. This delicate late-season orchid was in abundance on the short-grazed south facing slopes. Along with it we found Adonis, chalkhillandcommon blue butterflies.

Autumn lady's-tresses at Southerham
Autumn lady's-tresses at Southerham

But the real star of the show was the fearsome monster we found lurking in Well Bottom. The legendary hornet robberflyis one of the UK's most impressive insects and one of my favourites! It's the sort of fly that makes the headlines:

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/4553253.Giant_fly_spotted_in_Hampshire/

As the article says hornet robberflies are very rare and thankfully harmless to humans (although describing it as 'gigantic' is stretching it a bit).

We were lucky to be able to find 4 of them at Southerham and get some great close-up views too. They are stunning looking insects - and I just love seeing people reactions to these huge flies - a pleasing mixture of fear and awe.

Hornet robberfly at Southerham.
Hornet robberfly at Southerham.

One pair we observed were mating....

Mating robberflies at Southerham
Mating robberflies at Southerham

....At least I hope they were mating. Hornet robberflies are voracious predators and while their diet mainly consists of sucking the life out of grasshoppers and beetles they will eat each other.

The hunter and the hunted. A hornet robberfly watches a grasshopper.
The hunter and the hunted. A hornet robberfly stalks a grasshopper.

Thanks to everyone who came along today - especially Patsy the dog. Sorry if I got a bit over-excited about the robberfly.

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