30 Days Wild – Day 24

Not a lot to report from Wednesday, I was busy with non-wildlife things and then it got so hot that I could not get out into the open for long, When it gets really hot a lot of insects will seek out shade and stop flying. The brown butterflies do this very readily , perhaps unsurprisingly ringlet, as the darkest, most frequently. Being dark allows better heat absorption in cooler days, but in really hot weather overheating becomes a real risk.

Some insects don’t seem to mind, wasps seem to keep going well, maybe not being hairy like bees makes them less prone to overheating. Another group that just carry on are the grasshoppers. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the pitch of their stridulations gets higher with temperature. I made a short walk onto the heath close to home and there were lots of wasps, all far too lively to get pictures of and many grasshoppers. The area has a dry bank running into a valley mire. The drier area has lots of field grasshopper, whilst the mire has a good population of the now nationally rare large marsh grasshopper. Although they are our largest grasshopper they do not have a loud stridulation, it actually sounds like a gently dripping tap. I could not find a large marsh grasshopper to photograph but did find a common green grasshopper.

common green grasshopper

common green grasshopper

In fact common green grasshoppers are not particularly common locally, they seem to become more so as you head north and west.

On the Hop

On Tuesday we were working on the western shore of Ibsley Water again with the volunteers. Over the years we have been controlling ragwort and nettle that used to be the dominant here to convert it to grassland, at last we are seeing some real results. Much of it is now mainly grass with a good range of herb species, especially bird’s-foot trefoil. We are also seeing a lot more butterflies and other insects, marbled white are especially frequent in the grass there now.

As we worked I heard a lot of Roesel’s bush-cricket and saw field grasshopper and meadow grasshopper. The grassy sward is not ideal for all species though, the mottled grasshopper likes grassland with lots of bare ground and very dry conditions, at Blashford they are mostly found on the lichen heath.

mottled grasshopper male 2

mottled grasshopper (male)

One distinctive thing about the males of this species is that the ends of the antennae are bent out and swollen, they are also our smallest grasshopper. The males were chirruping, or more correctly stridulating, the object of this is to attract a female and I found one that was evidently playing the right song.

grasshopper pair

mottled grasshopper pair

The females are quite a bit larger and have more conventional grasshopper antennae.

A Good Day for Grasshoppers

It was my turn to be on site on Saturday again and after dealing with some office work I took advantage of the good weather to have a look for some insects. I used to get out occasionally to do a bit of wildlife recording like this, adding to the reserve species list, but somehow time to do this has ebbed away over the years. It was a real treat to spend a while just looking at things.

I was rewarded with a good selection of grasshoppers including lots of the tiny mottled grasshopper.

mottled grasshopper

mottled grasshopper

I then had a real stroke of luck and found a new species for the reserve, perhaps not an entirely unexpected one, as it is common in the New Forest, but something I had looked for previously and failed to find. It was a very smart woodland grasshopper, one of my favourite species, with a black and red body and brilliant white palps, which unfortunately this picture does not show.

woodland grasshopper

woodland grasshopper

The lichen heath used to have a string population of the bee wolf, a species of wasp that preys on bees as large as itself. As the heath has slowly vegetated there are fewer sandy patches, where they make their burrows, so now there are many fewer, but they are not all gone.

bee wolf lair

bee wolf lair

Other species I came across included another tumbling flower beetle, although I have yet to identify this one, there were several of them on this one tansy plant.

tumbling flower beetle on tansy

tumbling flower beetle on tansy

Apart from a good showing of insects the reserve was quiet, despite being warm there was a distinctly autumnal feel to things. I could find no little ringed plover around the shores of Ibsley Water, so perhaps they have started their trip south. The swift have certainly done so, I saw only two all day. The common tern have also almost all gone, just one family seems to remain.

I will end with one last insect, my first southern hawker of the year, not a great picture, despite getting quite close to it.

southern hawker

southern hawker