Sunday, 30 August 2015

Cynthia and Erica

Picture says it all, Budby Heath Nottinghamshire, Cynthia cardui on Heather, Also photographs of Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshell feeding on the heather as well.  Should have got Vanessa (Red admiral) as well but they were playing hard to get.  I think the colour of the heather really sets these butterflies of well.  Apologies for lack of blogs, been rather busy visiting lots of beautifual sites around the country but have had little time to take photographs which has been a real shame as I have seen some wonderful insects.
Painted Lady, Budby Heath , 30th August 2015

Peacock, Budby Heath, Nottinghamshire, 30th August 2015 

Painted Lady, Budby 30th August 2015 

mall Tortoiseshell, Budby Heath Nottinghamshire, 30th August 2015 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

New one for the garden. Speckled Bush Cricket.

These chaps seem a lot commoner than they were several years ago, particularly here in Nottinghamshire.  Therefore a nice surprise when picking a few gooseberries.  

Speckled Bush Cricket,  Leptophyes punctatissima. Carlton Nottinghamshire July 2015

Friday, 17 July 2015

A Sharp-tailed Bee, but which one?

I have a regular visitor to my nesting leaf-cutter bees at present, a sharp tailed bee genus Coelioxys.  I think its either C. inermis or C. elongata.  I'm afraid without killing it I'm not in a position to confirm the I'd.  However a lovely bee and even though it has the job of a cleptoparasite of the leaf-cutters is a welcome and uncommon site here in Nottinghamshire.  Any hymenopteran experts reading this, if you can identify from the photographs then please let me know. 

Sunday, 5 July 2015


A recent trip to the East Coast got me photographing pyramidal Orchids and not surprisingly Pyramidal Orchids with attendent Six Spot Burnet Moths.  I've always considered it just coincidence that you often get both together,  both the burnet moths food plant, birds foot trefoil and the orchids live in similar habitats and the moths merely make use of the orchids as a nectar source. However if you take a close look at the photograph on the left you can see that the tongue of the moth has several appendages attached. These are the pollinia of the pyramidal orchid. Pollinia are one mass of pollen grains that are the product of only one anther. They are transferred during pollination as a single unit. So this is what the moth is inadvertently doing getting the pollinia stuck to its tongue and transferring the whole mass to a new flower. Pretty impressive I think. 

Pyramidal Orchid, Lincolnshire July 2015 

Common Spotted Orchid, Lincolnshire July 2015 

Pyramidal Orchid, Lincolnshire July 2015 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Probably one of the most gruesome ways for a beetle to die.

I've spent a couple of days doing a bit of survey work on one of the Border Mires in North West Northumberland,  trapping beetles, bugs, flies and spiders.  A pretty good couple of days with a good smattering of beetles new to me, including the beautiful Carabus nitens and Agonum ericeti.  However there are plenty of pictures of these lads for you to peruse on the web, so this little blog is about something a hell of a lot more sinister.  In amongst the trapped collection of Pterostichus nigrita/rhaeticus ws this rather interesting find, a Gordian Worm or Horse Hair worm as they are now more commonly known.  These are exclusively invertebrate parasites. Their larvae enter the host and develop reaching several centimetres in length.  The beetle in this picture is about 10 mm, so it gives you a little idea of the length of the parasite.  The adult worms live in freshwater and hijack the nervous system of the insect in order that it might seek out a wet and watery place. The insect heads for the water, dies and the worm leaves its host.  Pretty impressive.  This one got it a little wrong drowning in a little propylene glycol pitfall trap sometime between the beginning of June and the 26th June when the traps were checked and hence did not fully have time to exit its host. 

Pterostichus with Horsehair worm.  Northumberland June 2015 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

A different Bee Fly in Lincolnshire, I'd help required

I'm quite familiar with Bombylius major, the common bee-fly of hedgerows and gardens, however on a recent trip to Chambers Farm Wood, one of lincolnshires Lime Woods I photographed a rather small Be-fly for later identification.  2 problems with the resultant photograph, one its not very sharp and 2, its wings were beating so fast I didn't stop them with a faster shutter speed, apart form that its perfect!  This bee fly was one of the small clear winged species either B. canescens or B. Minor. Stubbs and Drake (2001) British Soldierflies and their allies illustrates them all.   However B. canescens has a very westerly distribution whilst B. minor a very southerly heathland habitat.   So to cut to the chase, any help appreciated, anyone have records of any other bee-flies in Lincolnshire?  
Looks a bit like B. minor but nowhere near heathland.  

Bad year for my Bees!

Osmia leaniana - Carlton Notts 30th May 2015 
Followers of this blog are probably aware of my love of all things solitary.  I like wandering around on my own, I'm quite happy working on my own and I quite like bees on thier own.  For that reason for several years I have encouraged solitary bees to nest in the garden.  At present 3 species use the logs and boxes placed on my south facing wall, the most numerous being Osmia bocornis, the Red Mason Bee, followed by a megachild leaf cutter bee, probably M. centucularis  and the smaller congener of the mason bee Osmia leaiana.  This year my mason bees have struggled, the males got off to a good start during that warm spell in April but just as the females hatched the weather turned.  However they are pretty hardy beasts and they quickly started nesting in available holes whenever the weather permitted.  This unimpinged nesting was not to last as a nesting pair of Great Tits discovered that female mason bees are rather tasty, or at least suitable food for their chicks.  They've taken them all,   and I mean all I have several holes half sealed and only a few complete holes.  Last year approximately 150 holes were filled, this year about 20. Still it might leave a little more room for the leafcutters, the first one to hatch of the year was waitng for a bit of decent weather today as was a male O. leaiana.  Both are photographed, I hope they have more look than the others. 

Leaf cutter Bee, Carlton Notts, 30th May 2015 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A day in Lincolnshire, Insects Galore.

Lincolnshire, a county I usually avoid when it comes to wildlife, especially of the invertebrate kind, acres of arable aren't the best for a few decent insects.  However I discovered a jewel that several of you may already be aware of namely the Lincolnshire Lime Woods.  I've not been there before even though they are only an hour away from me here in Notts.  They're beautiful,  varied tree species, unlike my regular haunt of Sherwood, good ground flora and the purpose of our trip a reintroduced colony of Marsh Fritillary, Photographs show that we found the fritillaries, absolute stunners and looking reasonably happy as I encountered at least 3 mating pairs. Also noted were several Dingy skipper and Common Blue.  Also noted a nice full grown Glow worm larva on the path. Not often you see these before dark.  

Glow worm larva (Lampyris noctiluca) Chambers Farm Wood Lincs' 26th May 2015. 
Marsh Fritillary, Chambers Farm Wood Lincolnshire 26th May 2015 
Ragged Robin - Chambers Farm Wood 26th May 2015

Dingy Skipper in Small Skipper like pose - For some reason this one didn't want to spread its wings. 
Marsh Fritillary Lincolnshire 26th May 2015 
Mating pair of Marsh Fritillary, Lincs' 26th May

A trip to the coast followed a little dull by now but a walk from Sutton On Sea to Huttoft bank although a little too many people for me did yield the beautiful and large weevil Cleonus pigra, and the equally beautiful Marram grass weevil Philopedon plagiatum    The former beast likes thistles and is reasonably common along the Lincolnshire and North Norfolk coastline, whilst as the name suggests the latter pictured weevil is associated with Marram grass .  

Cleonus pigra, taking in the sea air Sandilands Lincs' 26 May 2015  (Size 13mm)
Philopedon plagiatum - lincolnshire (size approx 5mm)
Chips and Peas in "sunny" Mablethorpe and early evening at Theddlethorpe NNR where the sun did shhine.  Another beautiful spot with good numbers of Common blue, Wall and Small Heath. Strange how you can get excited by a Wall butterfly,   Haven't seen one for several years in Notts. However highlight was not a butterfly but fantastic views of a hunting Hobby.  Photograph of it perched on a bush shown,  taken with my trusty macro lens. 

Small Heath - Theddlethorpe 26th May 2015 

Can you see it - Hobby in the Hawthorn bush. 
Who said Lincolnshires boring - I did,  but I'll have to retract what I said after a thoroughly enjoyable and surprising day. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Grizzled Skipper and Brown Argus Nottinghamshire

Brown Argus Cotham Notts 16/05/2015

The Grizzled Skipper is an uncommon butterfly in Nottinghamshire, now confined to one or two stretches of disused railway line in and around Bingham and up towards Newark.  These specimens though a little past their best were photographed at Cotham near Newark. Several species of butterfly on the wing yesterday (16/05/2015) with good numbers of Brown Argus and my first Painted Lady of the year which was heading with some gusto into a rather stiff northwesterly. As to the Brown Argus, when I was a boy in the 1970's these were nowhere to be seen in my area of Nottinghamshire.  This is now no longer the case and they are on some occasions a little commoner than its close relative the Common Blue.    

Grizzled Skipper Cotham Notts, 16th May 2015

Grizzled Skipper, Cotham Notts, 16th May 2015 

Grizzled Skipper, 16th May2015 Cotham Nottinghamshire 

Brown Argus, Cotham Notts 16/05.2015 


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Scentless Plant Bug Corizus hyoscyami

Corizus hyoscyami - Carlton 10th May 2015 
This attractive looking plant bug was unknown in Nottinghamshire until 2011 when I discovered them at Radcliffe on Trent, since then they have been found at Southwell and Attenborough Nature Reserve.   Its now present in my Carlton garden where two examples are happy moving amongst my red campion.   I'm not as yet sure as to the foodplant of this species, internet searches proved fruitless and I believe that at present it is not known.  Hopefully its red campion,  I'll then have them for a few more years. Its original U.K. distribution was the south coast of the UK, however it now appears to be spreading and is found in many inland counties.  Global warming?

Monday, 4 May 2015

Green Winged Orchids

A few snaps of Green Winged Orchids, Anacamptis morio, at Muston meadows national nature reserve.  They are in good nick at the moment and should be for the next week or two as several are yet to open.  Really worth taking a look, but watch where you step.  Also include a photograph of a very obliging Orange Tip that settled in the garden on my Red Campion. I have plenty of these in flower at present, all the result of a few seeds I collected several years ago, I don't have the heart to pull them up they are so nice.  

Sunday, 26 April 2015

My Least Favourite Terrestrial Arthropod

Beetles, can't get enough of them, Bees and Wasps the same, Ants, not fot me even centipedes and woodlice hold a certain fascination, but ticks, they unsettle me like nothing else.  Plenty to be found on Budby Heath today.  Had an April sweep over the heath and along woodland edges to see what was out and about early,  Well Ixodes ricinus. the sheep tick seemed to turn up quite regularly in the net.  Good job I had long trousers on.  Not a lot else to find other than  the Oil beetle Meloe proscarabeus,  a single female minotaur beetle perambulating across the sand (usually these chaps don't come out until dark and several of my favourites the Tiger beetle Cicindela campestris.  Only beetle of note in the sweep net was the tiny red and black weevil Coeliodinus rubicundus (no picture provided as its a little too small to photograph clearly) 

Ixodes ricinus - Budby Heath 

Tiger Beetle - taking in the rays Budby Heath 26th April 2015

Friday, 10 April 2015

Sweet violets and the curious case of the lemming-like badger.

Woodlands in spring,  I probably don't need to say a lot more about them to those who read this blog, they're just the place to be, strong sunlight on the woodland floor and early spring flowers.  My local patch has quite an extensive covering of Viola odorata, the sweet violet at this time of year.  I know that they exist in purple and I know that they exist in white,  but it's the first time that I've noticed that they exist in intermediate colour forms as well, between the white and the purple.  Got me thinking of Mendelian genetics and co-dominance where both alleles contribute to the phenotype of their offspring, a trait shown by Red Campion, White Campion and the intermediate pink coloured variety. I'm just presuming that this is the case for the violet, I tried a bit of an internet search to discover flower colour inheritance but to no avail.  Photographs are shown to illustrate the varieties seen.

It's also the time of year for young badgers, and it was rather sad to see a rather small freshly dead fellow at the base of a steep clay cliff.  I can only speculate that this poor chap out on one of his first forays strayed a little to close to the edge and took a tumble. Not being a brock expert I don't even know when the young start to leave their sett so I might be spouting absolute tosh. This animal was about the size of a size 10 walking boot.

Viola odorata - normal purple form. 

V. odorata - white form 

V. odorata - intermediate form. 
Young dead badger, April 2015. 

Heavy Metal

I'm sure many of you have read about the effect mine spoil has on vegetation and the difficulty that some plants have in colonising spoil heaps. I've always enjoyed walking on spoil heaps as the plants that do manage to colonise are often rather scarce or not found in the surrounding countryside.  My local heap is the site of the old Gedling Colliery although Nottinghamshire is dotted with many similar sites and all of them if they haven't been capped by clay still show traces of mine spoil. The majority of Gedling has been capped but those areas still uncapped are pretty good floristically.  One of the major waste products discarded from coal mining are nodules of iron pyrites commonly known as fools gold, chemically Iron Sulphide. Iron pyrites occurs commonly in the carboniferous measures of Nottinghamshire and can be found on the spoil heaps if you keep a keen eye out.  I picked one such nodule up several years ago and brought it back to my garden and plonked it onto my rockery. This rockery is covered by Helxine soleirolii, "baby's tears" that creeps over and around the stones. As can be seen after a wet and damp winter it struggles where the Iron pyrites sits, in summer it manages to grow around and below the pyrites lump.  The reason for the dieback is the reaction between pyrites air and water,  the resultant products form both Iron oxides and Sulphuric acid. It's the sulphuric acid run off that's causing plant death.   I think the picture illustrates it rather well.

 Helxine damage caused by Iron pyrites derived sulphuric acid (10p for scale)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Salticus with prey

Sun is out, first bit of real warmth on my house wall whilst I'm at home and spiders are out and about on the hunt.  Salticus scenicus a beautiful little spider getting lucky with a nice juicy midge. Still very little about, had a fly past from a Hairy Footed Flower Bee and a brief stop over form the Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum.  The hairy footed's will hang around a little longer in the garden once the Archangel is in full flower.  Not a lot else to say other than I hope the sun comes out for a little longer tomorrow.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Hibernation Over and Esox lucius

I don't like winter, I don't particularly like spring unless it turns nice and warm,  So this year hasn't been too exciting here in Nottinghamshire.  Any nice day appears to occur during the week, as I sit here writing this my first blog of 2015 its raining outside, when I went out for a few hours yesterday it was raining.  Although not a particularly severe winter I feel as if I've spent the last 5 months in the house getting rather bored. However I've started to step outside,  A couple of days fishing as there still isn't enough insect life out and about to get me going.   So I'll show a picture of my day yesterday, a nice little pike, the top predator of UK waters.

Many associated with wildlife and wildlife conservation don't think to highly of the fishing set. Obviously as a fisherman I would have to disagree with them. A conscientious fisherman is not the litter throwing bank vegetation destroying cruel bloodsport lover often portrayed.  I care about the fish I catch, I don't kill them, I can't say they don't feel pain, but I don't think it has an undue effect on the animal - I've even caught the same fish on the same day, so I don't feel as if it upset the fish too much. Good fisherman tune in to nature, they sit with nature, it comes to them, you don't go looking for it, yesterday was no exception.  Coots are already sitting on eggs,  I sat and watched lesser celandine open when the sun came out, I observed several metallic blue flea beetle Altica lythri sunning on a dried leaf, perfectly positioned to gain maximum warmth, where have they been hiding all winter?  More blogs to come, I'm out of hibernation.

Don't know what I'm doing with my eyes?  Esox lucius The Northern Pike.