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

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Minotaurs, scary flies and an obliging Nuthatch

Friday 11th April and a day walking at last.  A day out at Sherwood Forest.  The weather looked set fair but with a cool breeze, so I chose a woodland walk as the shelter provided from the wind by trees would definitely make thinks seem pleasant.  First encounter of the day was a rather nice, if rather small Minotaur Beetle, Typhoeus typhaeus.  These beasts are rather common on the heath at Sherwood but being nocturnal are seldom seen. It is however easy to recognise their workings as they build rather large chambers underground, leaving good spoil heaps as signs of their tunnelling.   This chap was just starting to tunnel having found a rather fruity piece of Dog Faeces on which to feed. Undeterred camera out and a couple of photographs taken.   A difficult chap to photograph as macro lenses have very small focal lengths of 1-2 mm, this allied to a moving target makes sharp focus very hit and miss.  Out of about 20 pictures the one shown came out the best. Horns show up nicely though. 

Male Minotaur beetle perambulating on dog Poo. Sherwood Forest 11th April 2014

If you read my last blog I added a snap of my female Bullfinch taken with my Macro lens. Well as it happens I include two further shots, this time of a nuthatch again taken with a totally inappropriate lens. This chap was a rather inquisitive bird and was definitely checking me out as much as I was trying to photograph him (or her).  A beautiful bird with an almost exotic look, reminds me a little of a Kookaburra.

The scary fly of the title is a rather large Tachinid fly, Tachina ursina. Most Tachinids are parasites, laying their eggs on other insects, the larvae then devouring the live host. T. ursina is about 15 mm in length so must require a relatively large host in which the larvae can develop. It is therefore surprising that the Host is described as unknown in Belshaw's key to British Tachinids.  

Tachina ursina   Sherwood Forest 11th April 2014 

To finish this latest ramble, a photograph that to me epitomises spring, A brimstone and Dandelion.  Brimstones provide that splash of unnatural colour in April. That together with the knowledge that they have sat the winter out hibernating and still manage to look so fresh is just awesome. 

Goneopteryx rhamni - Angle wing of the Buckthorn.  Sherwood Forest 11th April 2014 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

First of the Mason Bees and Bird photography with a macro lens!

Escape - Osmia bicornis male emerging from its cell - 10th April 2014 Carltom Nottinghamshire.
April 10th and the very first Mason Bee to break free seen today.  This is exactly 10 days before last years emergence here in my Notts garden.  By this afternoon a grand total of 3 males are buzzing around both my log and my £3 Morrisons supermarket "bee hotel". Photograph shows emergence of the second bee of the year, the first eluded the camera and left a vice neat hole in its sealed clay entrance. Can't get fresher looking bee than this.  Hopefully we'll have a good year as I have about 60-70 holes currently sealed by the bees last year and I 've added a few more holes as after a couple of years the Bees are a little reluctant to use previously used holes,  they do eventually but only after the clean holes have been filled first.  

same bee as previous photograph, giving me the eye! 
Now from this blog it is pretty obvious that I'm not the birding type, I like birds, I feed them in my garden and I've even been known to twitch,  once for a Great Grey Shrike and more recently a trip onto Budby Heath to catch the Parrot Crossbills, I was surprised at their size, I expected a bird a little smaller.  However the pair of birds that have given me most pleasure this year are a couple of Bullfinch.  I've fed Sunflower hearts for years in my small back garden and attract the usual garden stuff, but this year has been the first year that I have daily visits from a pair of Bullfinch, photograph of the female attached. Perhaps I'm a little odd but in my eyes the females colours are so subtle as to make it far more attractive than the male.  Taken with a macro lens through the window!  Not quite sure my missus would be too happy if a spent £5000 on a big telephoto.  Still when I can take all my pension as cash rather than an annuity I'll perhaps blow some on the Lamborghini of lens a Nikon 500 mm. 
Bullfinch - Carlton Nottinghamshire 10th April 2014.  105 mm Macro lens through double glazing.