Saturday, 13 December 2014

By The Wind Sailors.

Rather bored as its the middle of winter.  I'm spending Saturday afternoon wading through a store box full of staphylinidae (rove beetles) trying to put a name to them. Most are OK and straightforward to I'D but there are some really tricky species that can only be readily identified by extracting their genitalia.  The idea of taking the genital parts out of beetles makes a few of my non entomological friends (which is most of them bar one) chuckle at the thought.  If you did similar things with other animals I'm quite certain that you would be locked up, but somehow its perfectly normal when dealing with insects. I've also no new photographs to share but thought of a photograph taken this summer of a rather strange organism Veiella veiella, commonly known as the By The Wind Sailor.  A free floating Hydrozoan similar to the better known Portuguese man o' war.  There were plenty of these on a north Atlantic beach this August washed up in their thousands.  I didn't photograph them on the beach as it was rather windy and photographic equipment and sand don't mix very well.   A strange organism about 50 mm in length.  The photographed specimen, like most on the beach were a little past their best and a little desiccated.  

By The Wind Sailor - Benone, County Derry Northern Ireland. August 2014 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Too Busy to Blog

Apologies for lack of blog over the last couple of months, I've been rather busy at work. I'm in the process of changing career, moving away from teaching, my school is closing and I just have to see the current year 11 through to their GCSE's,  and moving onto a job that I should have pursued earlier in my life, namely a career that involves my true love of the natural world. I've also not blogged as I have hundreds of beetles to I'd from my son's summer of fieldwork on Bredon Hill.  He has cleared off back to University and left me with quite a lot to look at. He's gone back to undertake a 4 year PhD eventually aiming to call himself a plant molecular biologist.   I've currently listed over two hundred beetle records and still have many more to do.  I may even start on the hymenoptera during the Christmas holidays.  Anyway a photograph of my little place of work AKA the spare room, all beetles and books, heaven.  

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Dead Tree

If you want to get me excited give me a dead or moribund tree,  it's beetle heaven.  A rare photograph of a grey haired man inspecting a flight interception trap placed by an old dead Oak in pasture woodland Bredon Hill Worcestershire.  Highlight of this trap was the beetle Prionychus ater and a couple of cuckoo-wasps Chrysis angustula.  These traps if positioned correctly spring a few nice surprises often beetles you wouldn't find by normal collecting methods. Didn't quite realise my hair was so thin until I saw this photograph. 
Inspecting a flight interception trap placed by a fissure in an old dead Oak tree. 

A Sawfly pretending to be a Bat.

Pine Sawfly - Sherwood Pines, August 2014.  (Size approximately 6mm)
A recent find up at Sherwood Pines Centre Parcs was this beautiful looking Sawfly.  Yet again I have my son to thank who was out out on an EMEC ecological survey of their ponds.  However, he found this little beast lying dead on a car bonnet.  Into a pot and home for me to stick a pin through and take a look at a later date. It turns out to be a male of the Pine Sawfly of genus Diprion,  its ethier Diprion pini or the very similar D.similis. Trying to key these little suckers to species level is in my mind really difficult given the complexity of the RES handbooks on this subject.   Neither species are encountered all that frequently NBN gateway gives only a handful of records for both species, which is surprising given the number of pine plantations there are scattered around the country.  I can't help it but it reminds me of a long eared Bat. What do you think?

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Three Crickets in a Day.

A recent trip to Bredon Hill Worcestershire with my son, who was assessing the invertebrates found in and around different compartments of the hillside provided a good couple of days insect watching.  Highlight for me was 3 species of cricket in one day,  Speckled Bush,  Dark and Roesel's.   Speckled bush was not very obliging for the camera, it wouldn't sit still but the other two were game for a picture. Quite an impressive collection of insects and getting a little commoner in these days of slightly warmer summers.  Can't ever remember seeing these as a lad in the sixties and seventies.  Iv'e even seen them in Nottinghamshire this year,  my son capturing a speckled bush cricket on Sneinton Market right in the middle of urban sprawl.    
Speckled Bush Cricket, Bredon Hill,  7th August 2014 

Roesel's Bush Cricket Bredon Hill Worcestershire 7th August 2014 

Dark Bush Cricket, Bredon Hill Worcestershire, 7th August 2014 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Is this the most Striking Caterpillar in the UK?

Apparently the Sycamore moth is quite common in the UK.  However until last week I had never seen this caterpillar before.  Didn't quite look like it should be wandering across a road in Worcestershire. 

Sycamore Moth Caterpillar 

Friday, 1 August 2014

The allure of Fennel

If you like your insects then Fennel is most definitely the plant to grow.  I have a couple of plants in my small garden and both have reached about 8ft in height this year.   Not a problem until you want to photograph what's attracted to them, you end up pointing your camera to the sky, which in my opinion leads to awkward harsh light and a not too pleasing effect. Still I show a couple of real gems that have alighted this summer, a hornet, Vespa crabro, and the wasp/hornet mimic hoverfly Volucella inanis. I also get the whopping beast Volucella zonaria, in my opinion one of the UK's most spectacular flies.  Pictures aren't up to much bit a couple of insects on the northern edge of their british distribution ain't too bad. 

Hornet - Carlton Nottinghamshire, 01/08/2014
Big Hover', Volucella inanis. Carlton Notts 01/08/2014

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Evarcha falcata

Sorry, I've shown these before, but I can't stop photographing them when I find them. Common on Heathland in north Notts,  about 5mm in lenght and seem to have real character,  wave your finger in front of them and they will turn and pose for the camera.  

Small Heath

Not one that's noticed too much and then only in passing, compared to the Peacock, Comma and Red Admiral and even butterflies of similar size such as the Small copper and Common blue the small heath can hardly be described as a classic beauty.  However I hope this photograph just shows how stunning a little beast it really is.  Earlier in this series of blogs I photographed the Dingy Skipper.  Getting up close to this little butterfly certainly changed my view on this our supposedly drabbest of butterflies.  Now I have to say that the Small Heath is up there with the Skipper.  Far more subtle in colour than many of of our more popular species. 

Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus, Budby Heath 29th July 2014

Monday, 28 July 2014

Philanthus triangulum, the Beewolf.

Philanthus trianglum - Budby 28/07/14

No apologies for more images of this little beast, one of my favourite wasps, the Beewolf.  Same place as last year, Budby Heath. Only saw the one male which was far from camera shy staying in the same area, hovering a little and then settling on blades of grass. Not a lot happening on the heath today, a few Colletes Bees waiting for the heather to flower, a few Epeolus cuckoo bees.  Day finished poorly as I managed to lose a piece of the the net I use to catch and examine the odd specimen. No big deal really, but I've had that net for over 35 years and I don't much fancy a new one, it just wouldn't feel the same. I retraced my steps several times but didn't manage to find the missing bit.  Never mind its my birthday on Saturday, might treat myself to a new one, even though I had my eyes on the latest and just published RES handbook on Vespoid wasps. I'll probably get both if I'm honest.  

Beewolf, habitas photograph, Budby Heath July 2014 

Beewolf, spent most of its time flitting from one grass stem to another. 

And another habitas photograph of the Beewolf. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Purple Hairstreak

Stumbled upon a rather obliging Purple Hairstreak. Favonia quercus, in Cotgrave Forest on Saturday. Hope you like the pictures.  Also saw White letter Hairstreak but too high in the trees for a good photograph. 

Purple Hairstreak - Cotgrave Forest 12/07/2014
Purple Hairstreak Cotgrave Forest 12/07/2014

Monday, 7 July 2014

Hoveringham, Black Tailed Skimmers and one of the UK's most beautiful Hoverflies.

Black Tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum, Hoveringham 06/07/2014
I haven't been out and about much of late, other commitments and watching my son play a bit of cricket,  two hundreds and a fifty in the 3 innings prior to me going to watch him, managed to get himself out first ball when I'm there to watch.  He is now in Sri Lanka hopefully seeing some wonderful wildlife and avoiding Dengue fever.  Weather forecast for Sunday wasn't to promising but the afternoon shaped up really nicely, good sunny spells with some warmth in the air.  A walk down to Hoveringham and the flooded gravel pits.  Plenty of dragonflies about most being Black Tailed Skimmers, not a dragonfly I find too often around here but really common in and around the stream that skirts the pits.   I also found what I consider to be the most beautiful of British flies Chrysotoxum festivum.  I have these in the garden every year but they always seem to settle just out of camera reach.  

Chrysotoxum festivum, Hoveringham 6th July 2014
Black Tailed Skimmer - Hoveringham Nottinghamshire 6th July 2014 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Roesel's Bush Cricket

Another trip up on the old colliery spoil heap at Gedling on Wednesday evening.  This was the final visit with my son who is doing an invertebrate survey prior to the site opening as a country park.  To date we have found over 140 species of beetle with two new to the county.  Several species of odonata and a couple of species of cricket. Photographed are Roesel's Bush Cricket.  There is a good healthy population up on the site, favouring the sunny south facing banks where they hang around in the long grass.  The photographs show immature specimens about 7-8 mm in length. By the end of the year they will be a lot bigger and probably more photogenic.  However much we moan about our warming climate, I for one like the spread of these exotic insects further north in the last decade. 

Roesel's Bush Cricket -Gedlng Colliery 12th June 2014

Roesel's Bush Cricket -Gedlng Colliery 12th June 2014

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Agapanthia villosoviridescens on Heracleum sphondylium

Agapanthia villosoviridescens - Shelford Notts 1st June 2014
I just had to use these names in the title, they're so much better then the common names,  not sure what Agapanthia's common name is, but the plants English name is Hogweed.  If you get out and about in the next month or two this beetle s relatively easy to find on Hogweed stems.  Look for tall strong Hogweed growing out in the open, the beetle doesn't seem to enjoy sitting on Hogweed in either the shade or in hedgerows based on my own observations. The first time I saw this beetle was on the site of the old Netherfield Railway sidings. The exact site is now covered by concrete as part of that monstrosity to progress known as a retail park.  Netherfield Retail Park, a real eyesore with absolutely nothing that I want to buy, hence I don't use it.   Still A. villosoviridescens appears to be doing OK in the county I can usually find if I look.  Also included is  a picture of a couple of dodgy looking sheep, the gave me the "proper eye"  before trotting off, if sheep trot that is, never really thought about it before. Still they made me smile even if they're looking a little serious.  

Saturday, 31 May 2014

First Leafcutters of the Year

I get the feeling that these Leafcutter Bees are a little earlier than last year here in a dull Nottinghamshire. I heard a bit of nibbling inside the hole a few days ago so kept an eye on when they might take flight.  Well the morning of the 31st May was maiden flight day.  Three bees left the same hole within the space of about 20 minutes.  What surprised me was the fact that the day doesn't seem that great, no sunshine when they took to flight, but reasonably warm.  Here's a couple of pics of them surveying the world prior to flight.

LEafcutter Bee, Carlton Nottinghamshire, 31st May 2014 - It's first look at the outside world. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Rain what Rain! Silver Wedding Anniversary in the Lakes, Colourful Beetles and Butterflies.

Sitting in the Old Volunteer, Carlton, Sunday afternoon with the wife and decision time, whether to go east to Norfolk, south to Dorset or north west to the lakes for a couple of days to celebrate 25 years of marriage.  Luckily we chose the lakes and two beautiful days weather unlike most of the south and east of the country. Two good days walking, a pub always somewhere on the walk and a few choice insects and birds aplenty, Pied flycatcher, Redstart and a Goosander with nine chicks.  Highlight on the insect front, Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, pretty common in the lakes if you know where to look.  The one photographed was just outside Elterwater, but the walk from Ambleside to Grasmere usually throws a few up.

Small Pearl Bordered Fritillay Nr. Elterwater Cumbria 27th May 2014
Underside View Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Near Elterwater 27th May 2014 
A walk around Loughrigg Tarn and a search for the most brilliantly coloured of British Beetles Plateumaris discolor, its mainstream colour is a nice bronze, but bright green, red, and purple specimens exist.  On this occasion no red were seen but I hope you like the green and purple examples.  They love feeding on Marsh marigold and Yellow Iris pollen.  Real stunners on a fantastic backdrop, only problem with photographing them is where they live, on marshy ground and invariably just out of reach.  

Plateumaris discolor green form, 27th May 2014 Loughrigg Tarn Cumbria. 
Plateumaris discolor A beautiful Blue/Violet form, Loughrigg Cumbria 27th May 2014 
Forma typica, a nice bronze example, Loughrigg Cumbria 27th May 2014. 
Finally, thanks Tina, my long suffering wife for putting up with me for the last 28 years (only 25 married) for my over the top love of insects and all the hours I spend looking at, collecting, pinning, gluing and photographing them. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

More beauties from Gedling Pit Top

Broad Bodied Chaser, Gedling Pit Top 18th May 2014 

"Improvement" ongoing up on Gedling pit top in anticipation of it opening as a country park "AKA dogs toilet", hence another trip up to record the invertebrate fauna present before wholescale change.  Highlights included good number of the Broad Bodied Chasers, more females than males and pristine Brown Argus. In my opinion the site is ripe to be managed as a butterfly reserve, with Dingy Skipper, Common Blue and Brown Argus all on the wing this week together with Small Heath.  Non of them all that rare but nice to see them in good numbers in a habitat that could be maintained if the relevant authorities notably Gedling Borough Council were willing.

Brown Argus - Gedling Colliery 19th May 2014 

Nice large spider, the common Trochosa terricola 

Broad Bodied Chaser Gedling Pit Top 18th May 2014

Monday, 5 May 2014

Bang on the Window

I've spent the day looking through a pot of beetles putting a name to them and gluing them on bits of card.  I find that this satisfies the OCD urges within me.  Whilst doing this I heard a thump on the back window,  having heard this sound before I knew that a bird had flown into it.  It's usually a wood pigeon leaving an angel like farina dusting on the pane.  This time no wood pigeon but a knocked out Greenfinch.  I nursed it in my hand for about 5 minutes,  then placed it on a perch where it sat first one legged and then two legged for about 10 minutes.  After this a short flight onto next doors trellis, followed by a more substantial flight several minutes later. Hopefully it will recover.  Gave me a chance to get up close though. 


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Dingy Skipper a Couple of Miles from Nottingham City Centre.

It's been a long time since I've added a new butterfly to my Nottinghamshire list, that is until yesterday and again today when I spent time helping my son and a colleague of his do their first ecological survey of the old Gedling Colliery slag heap before it becomes the boroughs newest country park.  Usual stuff,  bit of sweeping, bit of beating and a bit of grubbing put a good few beetles and bugs on the list, but the highlight was Dingy Skipper.   I'm aware that they frequent another pit top, in the north of the county in Warsop but these are the first I have seen near to Nottingham. They must be a reasonably recent arrival as I have been walking on the site for since a young lad back in the early 1980's.  Stunning little butterfly, to say a little brown job would not do it justice, and to call it Dingy.  Perhaps the word has another meaning I am unaware of. 

Dingy skipper Gedling Colliery spoil heap 4th May 2014.  

Monday, 21 April 2014

Best looking Flower in the Garden

Had to post a picture of this flower.  I think it's Tulipa saxitilis.  I planted these in the garden about 15 years ago.  They decide to flower about once every 4-5 years, but they're worth it.  They also seem rather attractive to my Mason Bees.  This is a nice fresh male taking a look. 

Bonking Tortoise's

Not the chelonian type, but Cassida rubiginosa, the thistle tortosie beetle.  Not surprisingly sitting on thistle.  Thsi pair were making the most of the warmest day here in Nottinghamshire so far this year.  C. rubiginosa is probably the commonest of the tortosie beetles I encounter here in Notts, other include C. viridis, quite a big beetle compared to rubiginosa and C. vibex. If you search thistle, you'll find them.  

Cassida rubiginosa,, male hopping on, Shelford Notts. 21st April 2014

Friday, 18 April 2014

Margarinotus purpurescens vs Tipulid larva.

A strange tussle on Budby Heath this afternoon.  Out on one of the paths was this small 3.5 mm Hister beetle, Margarinotus purpurescens.  Not the commonest beetle, but one I have encountered before in animal dung.  This chap was taking on a Crane Fly larva several times its size.  A secure hold was had by the beetle whilst the tipulid larva was flailing around trying to shake it off.  I have to say that I separated the two as I needed the beetle for a correct id. This beetle should usually have a reddish spot on each elytron, but as is often the case it is not too clear on this specimen. 

Beetle and larva, bit of a battle going on. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Anoplius viaticus and an unlucky spider.

One of the first pictures with new extension tubes, shocking composition but beetle is in decent detail. 
Back on Budby Heath today armed with a new bit of kit, a set of extension tubes for my macro lens. These will allow me to get in closer but also means that I have less depth of field, the lens only has about 2 mm at the best of times and also means I have to get closer to the subject.  Anyhow needed to give them a run-out. First out was a Tiger beetle,  difficult to get close enough to at the best of times, now I'm poking a lens a foot closer they're non too happy.  Couldn't for the life of me get a front on picture.  I then noticed a paralysed spider, this can only mean the spider hunting wasp Anoplius viaticus at this time of year.  They paralyse then go and dig a whole in which to put the spider.  A bit of patience and she returned. However in my excitement I failed to notice that I had removed the Vibration Reduction function on my lens.  Hence a slightly more blurry image than I would have liked.  The extension tubes also meant that at times I was wanting to move further away form the subject but was unable to do so. Finally a picture of a Tiger Beetle larva. I thought these might give some indication of how to use the extension tubes properly as the image was relatively flat, hence I should be able to get it all in focus.  Results are OK.  I need to work on  perfecting their use. 

Anoplius viaticus - forgot the Vibration Reduction function on the lens.  This would have made the image a lot better. 
As above, but not too bad. 
Tiger Beetle larva, a flat object, VR on and an example of the added detail you can get by getting a little closer to the subject.  

Monday, 14 April 2014

Ptinus sexpunctatus an association with Anthophora plumipes?

Ptinus sexpunctatus 14/04/2014 Stoke Weir Notts. 
Decent weather once more here in Nottinghamshire so another annual pilgrimage, this time to see a rather large colony of the Hairy Footed Flower Bee, Anthophora plumipes. These bees are probably the most active bees I know, constantly on the move and very rarely settling for a rest.  The site in question is a clay bank just downstream of Stoke Weir.  Here regular falls of clay leave plenty of bare clay, an ideal substrate in which the Bees can burrow.  Also present were a good number of the Cuckoo Bee Melecta albifrons.  These regularly inspect the holes created by the hairy footed's in the hope of stealing their way in to lay their own eggs in the provisions left by their host.  The highlight was however not the bees but a tiny 3 mm beetle Ptinus sexpunctatus.  I spotted this little chap scuttling across the clay, so a licked finger and a slight press onto its body and the beetle was potted for later identification.  Ptinus sexpunctatum is normally associated with the mining bees of the genus Osmia, and to date I have not been able to find a published reference to its association with Anthophora. It is described in Joy (1932), the bible for British coleopterists, as rare, south east England.   A nice new find for me and a good start to the new season.  Also included are a few other photographs from the day, couple of decent studies of Melecta a photograph of the jumping spider Salticus scenicus and finally guess the animal the teeth are from.
Melecta albifrons Stoke Weir Notts 14th April 2014 

Melecta albifrons 14th april 2014, Stoke Weir 

Melecta albifrons Stoke Weir 14th April 2014 
Salticus scenicus with prey 14th April 2014 Stoke Weir 

Guess the animal? Skull found 14th April 2014