Wednesday 27 June 2012

Odonata (9): Wicken Fen ... Black-tailed Skimmer

It was good to be back on Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, a place I have known for many years, but have not had the chance to visit since we left Cambridge two decades ago. The blustery conditions were far from ideal for dragonfly-spotting, but we were delighted to find this handsome female, sheltering in the long grass.
An ID of a female Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) was confirmed by the British Dragonfly Society. You can see the yellow costa, a major vein, on the wings in the top photo. The pterostigma, a coloured mark on the outer extremity of each wing, is hard to make out in my pictures. It should be a dark shade between brown and black. Skimmers, not surprisingly, zoom along, just above the surface of the water. The male of the species looks completely different ... perhaps it is a case of blue sky and sunshine! 

If this iconic windpump sends out a signal of the past, you may be interested to read about an ambitious project to protect the future, under the name of Wicken Fen Vision.

Yellow Waterlily
You can read more about the plants here.

There were one or two pairs of Damselfly about ...
I think this is a Common Blue (male) ...

... and a male Azure Damselfly.

Monday 25 June 2012

Seasonal First (5): Common Toad

We took an evening stroll at Orford ...
... and noticed a very speedy Common Toad scuttling across our path ...
... warts and all!
This is the first toad I have seen in 2012. I thought it was a medium-sized frog initially, but as soon as the photo was uploaded, you could see the warty skin immediately.

Friday 22 June 2012

Butterflies and Moths (7): First Caterpillar of 2012 ... for me

Seen at Snape. I suspect a Small Tortoiseshell.
This must be very late for me to be seeing my first caterpillar of the year! I don't think I've caught up with life since our move to East Anglia, but perhaps it is a late season for butterflies.

You might enjoy the UK Butterfly site's Spring Butterfly Photographic Contest (showing winners at the end) here.

Home Patch (22): Hoverfly

Possibly Helophilus pendulus

See also here.

Odonata (8): More Damselflies

Unidentified Damselfly: brown band at S9

These were both seen at Helmingham Hall in Suffolk some days ago.

Possibly a female Azure Damselfly?

Beautiful Birds (47): Summer Visitors at Snape

I had a wander around Snape Maltings in the sunshine ...
... when a bird of prey soared across the reedbeds,

... over the trees,
... and across the sky.
Was it another Marsh Harrier? I am not sure.
Closer at hand, the Swallows and House Martins ...
... were dive-bombing for insects.

Small birds were darting about at infrequent intervals in the reeds. I saw a flash of white, but nothing more. If you would like to see a couple of stunning photos of East Anglian reed dwellers, I suggest you pop over to the Kirkstall Creatures blog here.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Going Green (2): Ecopoetry and Nature Poetry


I don't often cross-post the same piece on two blogs, but it occurred to me that there might be some wildlife enthusiasts out there who are also poetry lovers or writers. If this is the case, you might care to hop across here to my Coastcard post on Nature Poetry and Ecopoetry. A number of fellow bloggers responded to my challenge to try to define the difference in a meagre 21 words. You will also find some suggestions for summer reading about the natural world.

Beautiful Birds (47): Marsh Harriers at Hen Reedbeds

Marsh Harrier hunting over Hen Reedbeds, Suffolk
Every so often the bird would fly low over the meadow ...
...with feathers catching the sunlight.
The flapping of wings was so graceful ...
... silhouetted against the sky.
And all the time the Konik Polski ponies grazed, quite unaware that such a majestic bird was flying overhead.

We had one of those rare wildlife moments!

The nature reserve information board mentioned Marsh Harriers ... and, lo and behold, we looked up and saw one almost immediately. During the course of our visit we watched at least two: it became hard to tell which ones we had already counted since they rarely appeared in the sky at the same time. We had watched a Hen Harrier before on Gower, but these Suffolk birds may have been my first Marsh Harriers.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Eye-catching Insects (12): Green Lacewing

Chrysopa perla | Green Lacewing
I couldn't resist photographing this little creature. It was enjoying the nectar from a lupin. For a close-up view of the head of these insects, you might like to click here. Like Ladybirds, these Lacewings feed on aphids. You can read more about them on Ray Wilson's site here. I saw the one above in the middle of the afternoon, but Lacewings are often active at night.

Monday 18 June 2012

Ladybird Alert (12): 7-Spot with eggs at Helmingham

We enjoyed a summer stroll (during a brief break in the clouds) around Helmingham Hall gardens. During our visit, we kept an eye out for Ladybirds, and soon came across the 7-Spot in the walled flower garden. At first I feared it had fallen victim to the parasitoid wasp, Dinocampus coccinellae, that causes paralysis, as there was something underneath the body of the insect, but we looked again, and found that the yellow 'thing' was in fact a batch of five eggs.

5 Ladybird eggs ...
... and soon there were 6 ...
... and then some minutes later, 11 ...
... followed by a 12th ...
... and finally a 13th egg, at which point the Ladybird walked off.
The egg laying took place over a matter of minutes, although we don't know when the first few appeared. The eggs should hatch in 3-10 days, allowing the larvae to emerge. I'm wondering why this Ladybird chose a piece of exposed masonry rather than the secluded underside of a leaf. There is quite a good photo (better than mine!) of Ladybird eggs here.

I'm just off to record my sighting on the UK Ladybird Survey ...

Helmingham Hall

Saturday 16 June 2012

Arachnida (2): Green Orb Spider, female

I was delighted to find what I think must be a female Green Orb Arianella spider, having encountered the more rotund male for the first time some days ago. Both were spotted in Suffolk.

Do take a look at this remarkable photo of one preparing her egg case here.

Friday 15 June 2012

Home Patch (21): This Morning's Visitors

The Chaffinch was chirping noisily from his branch ...
I don't know if he realised he had an audience!
On the subject of finches, you might enjoy Adam Tilt's Garden Bullfinch post here.
The Grey Squirrel was competing for his perch ...
... keeping an eye on the Chaffinch.
A Buff-tailed Bumblebee was busy in the Escallonia ...
... flitting from flower to flower in the gusty wind.
The Dunnock hasn't appeared today so far, but I'm still hoping he will ...

Thursday 14 June 2012

Home Patch (20): White Crab Spider

This small bulbous spider was scuttling along in the morning sunshine, keen to hide on the underside of the leaves. Its speed made it hard to view properly or photograph, but I am guessing it is a Misumena vatia or White Crab Spider. I understand that the name in Dutch means 'Chameleon Spider', and apparently colour variation is well documented. Some of these spiders have stripes. They tend to show a preference for white flowers, so perhaps the one above was hoping to find some in our garden ... daisies, perhaps. Crab Spiders do not spin webs to catch their prey.

Monday 11 June 2012

Arachnida (1): Green Orb Spider

This Green Orb Spider (Arianella) was scuttling about on its bush. Its abdomen looked like a round psychedelic-green bead, but as you can see, there are lines of black spot markings. There is often a red dot on the spinnerets on the underside.

When it comes to spiders and web-spinning, I thought the "click next to begin" sequence here was very helpful in a visual way.

Odonata (7): Damselflies

My 2012 Damselfly-spotting season got off to a very slow start, but things are picking up a little. I think the picture above shows a male Blue-tailed Damselfly, judging by the photo here. I have also checked the British Dragonfly Society site

I am wondering if the damselfly above is a female Azure Damselfly. It may not be, as although the black markings are clearly defined, the other areas look more grey to me than pale green or blue. It could, perhaps, be a female Common Blue. As ever, if you are reading this blog, and can give an ID, that would be much appreciated. Apparently these females can be particularly tricky to identify! 

I am fairly sure that the Damselfly above and the two below are examples of the male Common Blue. These were all enjoying the Suffolk sunshine and calmer conditions after the stormy winds last week that caused second day of the Suffolk Show to be cancelled.

It would be interesting to know what Damselfly guides folk find helpful. This is the one I use, in conjunction with the images and write-ups on the web. It is a Natural History Museum publication, and is in a convenient format. I also use the Guide to Ladybirds of the British Isles in the same series.