Tuesday 27 March 2012

Eye-catching Insects (8): Bee-fly

Bee-fly Bombylius major

Not a good photo, I'm afraid, but a good enough record shot for me to discover that this is probably a Bee-fly or Bombylius major. The insect was darting about and hovering in my new garden. It hardly rested for a moment, so was quite hard to catch on camera. I have seen these creatures once before - in Yorkshire.

You can read about these flies and how they mimic bees on the Natural History Museum site here. You will also see how the markings on the single pair of wings on the insect on my photo helped to confirm my identification.

Postscript: 16 April ... I have just learned that there is a rare Dotted Bee-Fly

Saturday 24 March 2012

Ladybird Alert (5): Seven-Spots welcome us to our new home

It was interesting to see ...

... how many different plants they favoured in the garden.

I must submit these to the UK Ladybird Survey ...

Friday 23 March 2012

Beautiful Birds (43): Never Too Late for World Sparrow Day

Sparrow on Liberty Island, USA, January 2012
I am grateful to fellow poet, Alan Summers, for drawing our attention to World Sparrow Day ... and my apologies for running late, which is rather the story of my life at present due to an imminent house move!

Alan has some excellent information on his blog, Area 17, so you might like to discover some new Sparrow facts for yourself. You can also visit the World Sparrow Day site, and see gallery photos of many different Sparrows. I had no idea that some were so colourful.

We may be late, but why not post a Sparrow photo on your blog. If you do, please throw a link back to the WSD site. You might also care to leave me a link in the Comments section below ... and we can always aim to mark 2013 World Sparrow Day ON TIME.

P.S. Did you know that the House Sparrow has a RED conservation designation?

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Beautiful Birds (42): What a Lark

There is usually a gaggle of geese on the foreshore, in the vicinity of ...
The Orwell Bridge, where ...
... Canada Geese, in particular, gather to feed.
There were Oystercatchers at the water's edge last Saturday ...
... and I'm wondering about the bird on the right. A Mallard, end on?
I watched most of these birds through binoculars, and the zoom on my camera was somewhat challenged by the distance. I could also see Lapwing some way off, and when I got out of the car, I heard my first Skylark of 2012. I turned and was treated to the spectacle of the songster's display flight before it disappeared down into scrubby grass in a nearby field.

You can read more about the Skylark here on the Southend RSPB pages. What is it about this bird that gives us all such a 'lift'? There is a quotation from Wilfred Gibson's poem, but I prefer Shelley's classic take on the subject, which you will find here. You might also enjoy the Skylark selection here

First 2012 sighting:

Monday 12 March 2012

Seasonal Splash (6): Spring Sunset at Snape

Serenity . . .
Just before the light went, we managed to see our first Avocets of 2012 at Snape. They were not at very close range, but you could just make out their distinctive white and black forms with the naked eye - and they looked much better through binoculars!

We passed a toad crossing on our journey home, with a volunteer assisting these foolhardy creatures across the road. It brought back memories of toad-watching last Spring in South Wales. We have a toad tunnel in our local area, to allow the toads to cross from Landseer Park to Holywells Park in safety.

Toads in South Wales: last year's photo re-visited

Creatures of camouflage

Thursday 8 March 2012

Beautiful Birds (41): Plus a Hoverfly ... Calendar Photos

I was delighted to receive two contributor copies of the Swansea Vale Resource Centre calendar today. My wildlife photographs represent ...
  • April - Puffins and a Gannet
  • May - Mumbles Pier, with its Kittiwakes
  • July - the Hoverfly you see above
The calendar was part of the COASTAL Project, 'Life through a Lens'.

Monday 5 March 2012

Beautiful Birds (40): 2012 Species List Wordle

Wordle of birds spotted in January and February 2012. I was in Philadelphia and New York in January for two weeks, so one or two of the birds were seen in the USA.

Islands and Islets (2): Mersea Island - and its Brent and Brant Geese

We had checked the tide timetable before driving over the Strood to Mersea Island ...
The weather was bitter and blustery and it was hard to steady the camera ...
... I was determined, however, to try to capture these geese.
I suspect these are all Brent (rather than Brant) Geese ...
They were foraging in the tidal mud.
The one at the back looks as if it has a white collar that goes (almost?) all the way round.

West Mersea is an extraordinary place, with an unusual mix of wild, windswept coastal regions and small settled communities. We even noticed a Tesco! You can read about the history of the island here.

I checked the geese against the goose photos on the Mersea Wildlife blog, and am pretty sure that they are probably Dark-bellied Brent Geese (and not Black Brant Geese). It's a shame my record shots are just that due to the adverse weather conditions, but I was struck by the white collar on the goose at the back of the top photo. We must go back and explore the island further in better weather conditions.   

I was intrigued to learn that the Reverend Sabine Baring Gould (who wrote the words of 'Onward Christian Soldiers') spent a decade on the island as Rector of East Mersea. His book, Mehalah - A Story of the Salt Marshes, a best-selling Gothic Victorian tale, was based upon some of his island experiences. One of his other works was a biography of the eccentric Cornish clergyman, the Reverend Stephen Hawker of Morwenstow, who wrote ballads and kept an eye out for mermaids and shipwrecks from his cliffside hut.

Saturday 3 March 2012

Ladybird Alert (4): Seven-spot Ladybirds at Ickworth

We spent a glorious afternoon in the grounds at Ickworth near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
We spotted (sorry!) seven Ladybirds. My first photo shows a Seven-spot Ladybird on bark.
I also noticed this Funnel-web Spider web, and threw the photo in for a 'spot' of variety.
This Seven-spot Ladybird was enjoying the brickwork ...
. . . and this one was walking along a leaf in the Spring sunshine.
I was pretty sure that these were not Harlequins but native British Seven-spot Ladybirds. However, I checked on the Harlequin Ladybird Survey site just to be sure (where I read 'If it's red with precisely 7 black spots, it is a 7-spot ladybird)'. I felt confirmed in my ID.

So I went across to the UK Ladybird Survey website to record my sightings. Please consider doing the same if you come across these creatures. You might enjoy a look at the Survey's gallery page

Thursday 1 March 2012

Ladybird Alert (3): My First Ladybird of the Season

There is definitely more than a hint of Spring in the air on this mild St David's Day. I saw my first Ladybird of the season this afternoon. It was walking along the body of my car in the sunshine.

I didn't have my camera with me at the time, so this is an old Ladybird photo. If you click the link here, you can read about Ladybirds and their winter habits.

The first sighting on Shetland of a non-native Harlequin Ladybird occurred some days ago. Harlequins were first reported in the UK back in 2003. 

All sightings are valuable, so do visit the UK Ladybird Survey website.