Tuesday 14 August 2012

Nature Reserves (4): Ruby-tailed Wasp at Minsmere

I noticed this unusual insect at Minsmere last Saturday. As you can see from the next photo, it was very active and intent on vanishing down the crack, so I had to grab my camera quickly ... and consequently I should apologise for the poor quality of these photos. But at least I have two record shots.

I searched the web and Google Images, but without success. Daniel from What's that Bug came to my rescue, and you can read about this insect here. For an impressive photo, you might like to click here.

According to the Gateshead Birders site, the not dissimilar Chrysis ignita lays its eggs in the nests of mason bees, and is therefore a climber of walls. 
Rosy-tailed Wasp (Hedychridium roseum)

Friday 10 August 2012

Odonata (11): Minsmere - Brown Hawker

Brown Hawker - I think!

My thanks to David for his photos above of this splendid dragonfly, which alighted in a gorse bush during our visit to Minsmere on 21 July.

My close-up (but shaky as I was trying to keep clear of the gorse spikes!)

Thursday 9 August 2012

Home Patch (29): Harlequin

f. succinea (Harlequin ladybird)
This seems to be one of the 100+ colour pattern varieties of the Harlequin Ladybird. I found it in the garden this morning, and you may recall that I found a harlequin pupa some weeks ago. The ladybird above was not very large (for a Harlequin), and its elytra had taken a bit of a knock at some stage. It is the first ladybird I have seen for some days.

I am just about to log it on the Harlequin Ladybird survey here.

Home Patch (28): First Dragonfly!

This is the first dragonfly I have seen in our garden since we moved here a few months ago. I hope it will be the first of many, particularly since we have a mill stream nature reserve close by. I am guessing it may be a Migrant Hawker (well, a Hawker of some description), but would be delighted if anyone could confirm or contradict this assumption for me. I have just found details of a local (Suffolk) Dragonfly group here

Home Patch (27): Hawkmoth Caterpillar for Elevenses

I was having a cup of coffee by the window when what appeared at first glance to be a wriggling leaf turned out on closer inspection to be a bright green caterpillar, being attacked by a Great tit. I apologise for the quality of the photos (which serve as record shots): the Photinia was very dark and the light in the garden, shadowy.

The small bird went to great lengths over the space of ten minutes to make an inroad into the large, lively and almost luminous caterpillar. 
I eventually swapped my camera for my binoculars, and was able to see much more clearly. The caterpillar had a distinctive horn.
I know very little about moths as I have said before. My guess is that the green caterpillar would have turned into a Poplar Hawk-moth, Laothoe populi. In some parts of the world it seems that Hawk-moths are known as Sphinx moths or Hornworms: I would prefer to call this caterpillar the Green Unicorn! You might be interested to read Archie Ritter's piece on the subject of these lepidoptera here.

The Great tit finally won the day, so one less moth for our garden ...
... but we did have a beautiful Red Admiral on the Buddleia.

P.S. My post on the Hummingbird Hawk-moth ... is here.

Home Patch (26): Visiting Cricket

This cricket must have hopped in to our house during the night. Grasshoppers do not have such long antennae. Crickets rub their wings together when they stridulate while grasshoppers 'sing' by rubbing their legs against their wings. Both species belong to the group known as Orthoptera ('ortho' = rigid and/or straight and 'ptera' = wing in Greek).

Monday 6 August 2012

Nature Reserves (3): Dunwich Heath and Minsmere

We failed to notice any particularly unusual birds, but we were able to notch up 21 Gatekeeper butterflies at Minsmere during the allocated 15 minutes for the Big Butterfly Count. They were out in the intermittent sunshine, enjoying the brambles.

I also saw a single Red Admiral ...

... and this unidentified Dragonfly. It was very active and finally settled high up a tree. I was leaning back as far as possible and using my zoom ... hence the wobble and poor quality photo! I think it is a hawker of some kind.

Our most unusual sighting of the afternoon at Dunwich Heath (National Trust), and indeed a first for me, was this Gorse Shieldbug nymph. I believe it is related to the Stinkbug family. Incidentally you might be interested to see a Red-legged Shieldbug in the Cabinet of Curiosities here. You might also like this British bug guide to hemiptera.

(Piezodorus lituratus)

I think the last bug I saw in nymph form was in Pylos ... here

We also noticed a few lively Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on the ragwort ...

... and what seemed to be a Brown-tail Moth tent on the heath ...

Previously noticed here at Spurn Point
And finally, a photo to help you find your bearings if you are not familiar with these two superb Suffolk wildlife sites ...