Tuesday 29 September 2015

A Minsmere Medley

7-spot Ladybird, a native species. I have logged it on the UK Ladybird Survey.
We spent a sunny afternoon at RSPB Minsmere on Saturday. We may not have seen many birds (and indeed we looked in vain for Bearded tits on this occasion), but there were some lovely insects out and about. Our visit gave me the chance to pick up a copy of the site leaflet (previous post) that contains my Minsmere soundbite.

A small Hoverfly

A Darter (?Common Darter) perching in the sunshine

Poisonous toadstool, Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Another Common Darter (?female)

Emerald Damselfly

Migrant Hawker Dragonfly

Close-up, showing yellow 'golf tee' mark on S2

A magnificent Fox Moth caterpillar

The windswept beach that adjoins the Minsmere reserve

Friday 25 September 2015

Rosemary Beetle ... not such good news!

Rosemary Beetle (Chrysolina americana)
Those of you who have read my recent posts will know that I have been keeping an eye on a clump of Nasturtiums. I was examining the plants this morning when my eye alighted on a small Ladybird-like beetle on the post above. I took a closer look and noticed some iridescent stripes of red. The creature looked most unusual.

The Rosemary Beetle was centimetres away from our old Ladybird house. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, this is the season for feeding, mating and the laying of eggs. Perhaps the insect was checking out the shelter we had provided.

These non-native beetles were first recorded in Britain in 1994. I have added this sighting to the RHS Rosemary Beetle Survey. I note that others have been found in Suffolk.

We do not actually have any Rosemary in our garden, but these creatures also eat Lavender.

This flaboyant beetle reminds me of the young Gerald Durrell's magical encounters with the Rose-beetle Man. I wonder what I will find in, on or around my Nasturtium patch next. 

Thursday 24 September 2015

Nasturtiums (again) ... snail, trail and butterfly eggs

You can see the snail's slime trail lower right.

I took another look at the Nasturtiums yesterday. In fact I positioned a garden chair next to them so that I could have a proper look. Unlike the day before, there were no Small White caterpillars in sight, but there were a few snail trails. It was not long before I noticed the tiny snail in the photo above. Its shall was considerably smaller than my little fingernail.

I know incredibly little about snail identification. Certainly the spire was very flattened (a contradiction in terms, it seems to me!), which might suggest a species similar to Oxychilus cellarius, though the body is not the typical blue-grey.

There was also a cluster of yellow eggs, which I imagined would belong to the Small Whites ... I flipped the leaf over gently for a couple of photographs and let go afterwards.

... however, a bit of research showed that Small Whites lay single eggs. Large Whites lay clusters at the rate of four eggs a minute, so I think these are Large White butterfly eggs. 

As I made my way back to the house, I noticed this Cranefly checking out (or perhaps 'checking in to') one of our insect hotels ...

... I'm not sure how well it would fit through the bamboo holes! 

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Whose been nibbling my Nasturtiums?

I thought the nasturtiums were looking a bit droopy, and wondered if it was just on account of the heavy rain. A quick glance was all that was needed to show that there was an additional reason for their appearance ...

These fine caterpillars will turn into Small White butterflies. At this larval stage, their favourite foods are cruciferous vegetables and, no surprises here, nasturtiums!

There has been a recent flurry of books about butterflies and moths. A couple are high up on my current wish-list. Meanwhile here is a link to an excellent article entitled Butterfly Enchantment by Sue Brooks on the Caught by the River site. Happy reading! 

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Sutton Hoo - Insect Eggs

Sae Wylfing (scaled replica of the Sutton Hoo ship)

The Sae Wylfing vessel, designed along the lines of the Sutton Hoo ship, was on display at the site last weekend. Great attention has been paid to the craftsmanship and it was good to see.

However, it was not only the ship that vied for our attention. There may be few butterflies about but it seems a good season for insect eggs. We took these photos on the edge of the burial mound site.

I have not been able to identify the egg cluster on the two photographs immediately below. I am guessing that these are moth eggs. The Sutton Hoo landscape consists of sandy heath and grassland.

In my search I came across this rather interesting post about a parasitoid wasp emerging from the egg cases of a host species that had been laid on Stachys byzantina

The eggs below belong to the the Pine Hawk-moth, Sphinx pinastri. I blogged about these some days ago, and in case you missed the link to the caterpillar, which is rather striking, I will post it here. They are much smaller than they appear, but shown at this size, you can see the detail.

As we walked past a small heap of sandy soil, we noticed it move, and realised that there was a mole at work practically under our feet. Of course, the digging stopped as soon as the mole became aware of our presence. On our return, the mound had grown significantly in length. It is the closest I have (knowingly) come to one of these elusive creatures for a long time.

  • Back in 2013 I found these mystery 'egg cases'.

Monday 21 September 2015

NT Dunwich Heath - signs of autumn

We took a trip to the sea at Dunwich Heath on Saturday, and while we were there, we noticed two Red-banded Sand Wasps. One flew across our windscreen and you may just be able to make out the other in the photo above. I took a quick record shot (the photo you see), but the insect flitted off before I could take a better photograph.

I have noticed these unusual Sand Wasps on the heath before. This is what I wrote a year ago:

 '... my eyes fell upon this strange insect, which I guessed was a kind of ant. There were three of them in the area, if I remember correctly, but they were pretty speedy creatures and hard to catch on camera as the kept vanishing beyond the wire netting. I was browsing the web earlier today when I spotted a photo of the insect here on the RSPB Lakenheath Fen page. The creature turns out (it seems to me) to be Red-banded Sand Wasp (Ammophila sabulosa). It has even appeared on a Romanian postage stamp. You can read about the wasp's kleptoparasitic behaviour in the Comments here on the iSpot nature website. 
These wasps are quite striking. They are long, thin and ant-like.' 

My photo from 2014

 The heath was looking colourful, with the last flush of summer shades. 

There were a few insects about, though we saw few birds.

I'm guessing this is Hoverfly Syrphus vitripennis or Syrphus ribesii

The sign serves as a reminder that this coastal landscape is a very fragile one. The sandy cliffs are prone to erosion and at the mercy of east coast storms.

The heath divides the sea (right) from the a wooded area to the left of this photograph. It will soon be the deer rutting season.

I have a hunch that this is either Birch Brittlegill Russula betularum or a similar species. I believe it is poisonous. There were certainly plenty of birch trees at the back of the reserve. I see 'Red Russula' were recorded on nearby Westleton Heath.

Fungi identification is not my forte, so please feel free to leave a comment if you can help with an ID.

Is this a 'Blusher', Amanita rubescens, perhaps? (see last photo on this link)

The old coastcard cottages on the heath are now National Trust holiday properties, a cafe and shop.

We have seen more Kestrels than ever this summer. This one was a fair distance away, but we had a good view through binoculars.

My thanks to Facebook friends, Matt and Paul, for confirming that this looks like a juvenile Stonechat.

Saturday turned into such a lovely evening that we drove on the short distance to Southwold, where we had fish and chips overlooking the River Blyth. You can make out Walberswick on the far side. We were keeping an eye (and an ear) out for skeins of geese when we were suddenly alerted to the presence of a very strange gull silhouette. It was flying slowly over the water, and as it approached, we could see very clearly that it was a Barn Owl.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

A rather beautiful moth

Did you find any interesting moths during the recent Moth Night?

I have been going back over some of my photos and came across this one, taken beside the mill stream in Flatford in May. The moth is, I believe, a female Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica or Cycnia mendica), although there seem to be similarities with the Water Ermine. Isn't she magnificent? You can see one laying eggs here. The male Muslin Moth is brown.You can see the caterpillar here.

A range of day-flying moths have been posted here. I was surprised to see how many there were, and the linked webpage only shows a selection.  

Saturday 12 September 2015

Lizards, Butterflies and Dragonflies at NT Wicken Fen

After a rather grey summer, it was particularly good to have spells of warm sunshine at NT Wicken Fen this afternoon. I have seen very few Small Tortoiseshell butterflies this season, so was delighted to see a couple. 

Small Tortoiseshell

Bee flitting among the Nasturtiums

David on the electric boat, scanning for Kingfishers on Reach Lode (for 'lode' see here)

A Common Lizard - does this one look gravid? Possibly rather late in the season, but I think she does!

Red-legged Shieldbug Pentatoma rufipes

Wicken Fen, reedbeds and windpump

2-spot Ladybird in the Teasel

Another Common Lizard

Roesel's Bush Cricket (see cream crescent on shoulder)

Three Common Lizards

Definitely a Darter dragonfly ... but which?

A Comma butterfly - just the one

Fen Cottage has been open for 25 years this September ... celebrations are in hand

Looking up Wicken Lode from Upware towards Wicken Fen

Nearby Ely is named after the eels
A lovely day out ... not forgetting a pot of National Trust tea and a slice of coffee cake!