Monday 30 July 2012

Home Patch (25): Marmalade Fly and Leaf Miner

Episyrphus balteatus (Marmalade Fly)
I gather this is a common Hoverfly in the UK. The twin stripes (one large, one small) make identification relatively straight forward. This tiny insect was sucking nectar in a white Pelargonium in the garden this morning. I gather it eats aphids ... there are a lot of Blackfly on the nearby nasturtiums!

Grown from seed ... Nasturtium, adding a splash of colour ... and home for Blackfly ...

... and the Leaf Miner! (Click here and scroll down just a little ... amazing photos of Leaf Miner)

Friday 27 July 2012

Butterflies and Moths (13): Meadow Brown in Home Patch

There were few butterflies about in the garden, but this Meadow Brown stayed still just long enough for a couple of photographs. It was the first time I had seen this species around our home and it made me realise that I should do an updated tally of my Home Patch recordings soon.

There has been little sunshine today, but now it's looking just a little brighter, so perhaps a few more butterflies will take wing.

Seals, Sharks and Cetaceans (4): National Whale and Dolphin Week

Bottlenose Dolphins in Loch Carron, Scotland, 2010

Did you know that we are nearing the end of the 2012 National Whale and Dolphin Week, an initiative of the Sea Watch Foundation?

I am unlikely to see any whales or dolphins in the next couple of days, so I thought I would mark the week with a few photos of dolphins I have watched off the British Isles. Mind you, it seems as though there are Killer Whales not too far away: you can read about a recent sighting up the coast, off Bacton Beach in Norfolk. You can read about a previous sighting here. I have also been reading the Whales in Wales report of Risso and Common Dolphin sightings off West Wales.

Bottlenose Dolphins in the Moray Firth ...

Do leave a comment if you see any whales or dolphins off Britain. If your sightings are in the Scottish Hebrides, do record them on the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust site here.

Sadly, the only real whale I have ever seen in the UK was a dead one many years ago, washed up on a beach in Cornwall, so for my whale photo, I shall have to make do with this Britain in Bloom sculpture in Whitby. The wood has found a new future as a whale, and my hope is that now that our whaling days are past, these magnificent mammals will continue to inhabit our oceans.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Eye-catching Insects (13): Pellucid Fly

At first I thought I noticed a bee on our fence, but then I realised that the insect only had one pair of wings showing, so I began to suspect a Hoverfly. It seems to be a Pellucid Fly, Volucella pellucens, which you can see on this site, if you scroll down. You can read more about it here.

I associated the word 'pellucid' with (sea) water, and in fact it can mean 'limpid' (as in a favourite translation of Aristophanes' comedy, 'The Frogs', in which the frog chorus inhabit the 'limpid lakes'), or 'clear' in the sense of admitting the maximum passage of light. I imagine this may refer to the wings of the fly, but perhaps it refers to the distinctive alabaster-like band!   

Butterflies and Moths (12): National Moth Week (in North America)

One of many moths in our home last night ...

I know shamefully little about moths!

I could identify a brightly-coloured Burnet moth or a Cinnabar moth, but that is about all. I wasn't even sure when I began to type this post whether the offspring of the moth in the photo above were about to eat my clothes. It's about time I learned a bit more.

It is National Moth Week in North America, and although I'm UK-based, it seems a good idea to join in. I am very grateful to the self-styled novice naturalist of Rambling Woods for her inspiring post.

I have been an admirer of Canadian naturalist, Seabrooke Leckie's blog, The Marvelous in Nature, for some time now. You can read her post for National Moth Week here. Seabrooke has just co-authored The Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America with David Beadle. 

Enjoy moth-spotting, and keep an eye on your wardrobe!*

Our colourful Burnet Moths

* Note: Our UK clothes moth (Tineola biselliella - or Tineola bis-selliella, according to The Independent) does not flutter around our lights. It seeks out dark places like wardrobes for breeding. The egg-laying female is surprisingly small, perhaps a centimetre in length. After some days her eggs, often laid on our natural fibres, start to hatch into larvae. These can spend a year or two eating away at our best clothes! I will try to ensure that wardrobe doors are kept closed ...

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Butterflies and Moths (11): Near Snape

The butterfly above is, I believe, a Small Copper. The bright sunlight has affected the level of iridescence and made the outer wing look rather purple! These Ragwort flowers near the River Alde in Suffolk were a magnet for lepidotera ...
This tiger-like caterpillar will develop into a Cinnabar Moth. Cinnabars have a lengthway stripe while Burnets have spots.

You might also like ... this lizard that we saw in the same area.

P.S. There were some Large White butterflies in my garden today, but they were too fluttery to photograph! I would encourage those of us in Britain to follow Sir David Attenborough's advice and take part in the Big Butterfly Survey. If you click the link (or this one here), you will also be able to read about the part M&S are playing in encouraging their farmers and customers to look out for butterflies.

Monday 23 July 2012

Herpetofauna (4): Common Lizard near Snape

Common Lizard
We were a few metres from the car at Iken Cliffs, on a walk back from Snape Maltings, when something caught my eye on an old tree stump. It was a female Common Lizard. She wasn't exactly basking in the sun, but I suspect she had been lured out by the warm temperatures. She was fairly well camouflaged, in her shadowy spot. These lizards are also known as Viviparous Lizards: they bear live young in cold areas and lay eggs in locations where the climate is warm. They tend to choose habitats with a mixture of sunlight and shadow, with open space to bask and cover for protection.
 I love the way in which the scales of her skin blend with the markings of the bark.
I wished I had had a bit longer to observe her, but there were other people coming up behind us on the narrow path, so we had to make way for them. This was my first lizard of 2012 ... and a fine specimen!
The iconic reedbed landscape between Iken Cliffs and Snape Maltings, Suffolk, England

Saturday 21 July 2012

Butterflies and Moths (10): At Sutton Hoo

This is the Sutton Hoo site, looking down towards Woodbridge ...

I think this is a Meadow Brown ...

I thought this was a Small Heath, with circle round 'eye' mark ... but I'm not sure the lower wing patterns match up.

A Meadow Brown among the Harebells

I think this is a Gatekeeper, with the two 'spots' in the eye-like wing marking
... and here with its wings closed.

This is the beautiful Small Copper ...

... and this is what it looks like when its wings are closed. See lower image here.

Here's another ...
... and another!
I saw a single Painted Lady.
A red-spotted caterpillar ... as yet unidentified!
You never quite know who you will meet around the corner at Sutton Hoo!
Seriously, I was thrilled to see a good number of butterflies, particularly since I haven't noticed many this year. I must go again soon, and do the Big Butterfly Count.

Oh, and I also some Skylarks and other creatures ...

Skylark hovering ...

... and one taking off.

There were one or two Damselflies ...
... and other insects, like this Sulphur Beetle
... and I mustn't forget the Grey Squirrel.

Friday 20 July 2012

Nature Reserves (2): WWT Welney in the East Anglian Fens

Rainbow iridescence! Possibly Dock Beetles (Gastrophysa viridula) ...
We spent some wonderful hours at WWT Welney, and although the weather could hardly be described as a perfect summer day (dream on!), we thoroughly enjoyed all that the reserve has to offer. The highlights on this occasion were the mammals ... water voles (the prototype 'Ratty') and hares, but there were also other stars such as Avocets and grasshoppers.

Something was stirring in the river bed ...
... and a beady-eyed Water Vole ...
... emerged from the reeds.

A male Reed Bunting perched just outside one of the hides.
I'm not sure that this is the female ... but it was close by. Do you recognise it?
A Marsh Harrier caused some consternation as it flew overhead.
The Oystercatcher seemed unconcerned.
Sadly I don't think we saw a Butterfly ...
... but there were some great insects! I think these are Carpenter Bees ...

There had to be 7-Spot Ladybird (we actually saw two). The white insect is, I believe, small Lacewing.
We heard a Cuckoo (my 2nd this summer). It was perching on this wire some way off.

I love to see Avocets ...
... even at a distance.
We may not have seen butterflies, but this green caterpillar was stunning!
It was too windy for Dragons, but we saw one or two Damselflies ...

... in sheltered spots ...

... and quite a few Grasshoppers.
These distant ears were unmistakable!
... but the Hare didn't hang about for long!
Welney ... what a great place!