Beetles and Bugs

It is ages since I spent a Sunday at Blashford, but this weekend I got to fill in for the regulars as they were all occupied elsewhere. The day was a fair bit better than forecast and in the morning we enjoyed some warm sunshine which brought out a range of insects.

I have only seen a couple of dragonflies so far this year but I have seen thousands of damselflies. Two of the commonest are the very similar common blue damselfly and the azure damselfly. I managed to get a picture of a common blue today, although I could not get close enough to an azure.

common blue damselfly

common blue damselfly

The only other damselfly I got a picture of was a blue-tailed damselfly, one of the few species that can withstand slightly polluted or brackish water and so one of the most widespread species.

blue-tailed damselfly

blue-tailed damselfly

There is a very similar species that I would very much like to find at Blashford, the scarce blue-tailed damselfly, it is found in the New Forest and does wander so there is a chance it will turn up one day.

It was quite a days for beetles and I came across several including this brilliant red-headed cardinal beetle.

red-headed cardinal beetle

red-headed cardinal beetle

Whilst at lunchtime I spotted several figwort weevils including this pair.

figwort weevil pair

figwort weevil pair

Various other insects were out and about too including hoverflies like this Helophilus pendulus.

Helophilus pendulus

Helophilus pendulus

I also saw a lot of scorpion-flies today, these are not actually flies in the true sense. There are three very similar species and I don’t know which one the picture shows as I seem to remember that only the males are at all easy to identify and this one is a female.

scorpion-fly

scorpion-fly

Of course when there are lots of insects flying about there will be spiders catching them, one of the most distinctive and common is the very slender Tetragnatha extensa.

Tetragnatha extensa

Tetragnatha extensa

I spent the greater part of the day in the office, but when I did venture out it seemed that the day was quiet, at least for birds. Highlights were the drake pochard still on Ibsley Water, the lapwing chicks still surviving near the Tern hide and the oystercatcher pair having settled down on the small island close to the same hide.

Very Wet Woodland

More rain today and overnight has made for a soggy reserve and one with few visitors. To be fair it did dry a bit in the afternoon and even warmed up a bit. I ventured out to check on some damaged trees and went over the boardwalk south of the Ivy South hide where the Dockens Water was flowing across a wide front through the willow swamp.

flooded woodland

Further down the Dockens Water a fallen oak tree has partly blocked the flow, although this can be a problem where it can result in flooding upstream, in this case there is no difficulty as the upstream area is wet woodland and quite capable of taking the flooding, in fact the wet woodland it creates is actually an important wildlife habitat. Such fallen branches can collect debris and form debris dams, in extreme cases these might obstruct the passage of migrating fish such as sea-trout, but again this is not likely to be a problem here as there are alway routes for fish to get through.

oak branch fallen into the Dockens Water

This wet woodland is home to lots of insects including many rare species, I did get a few pictures of some wet woodland insects, but none of them rare ones. The one below looks rather like a cranefly, many of which are wet woodland specialists, in fact it is not a true cranefly, I think the species is Ptychoptera contaminata, but don’t quote me, if it is the larvae are aquatic.

Ptychoptera contaminata (probably)

Another characteristic group of damp sites are the snipeflies, Chrysopilus cristatus is one of the common species.

Chrysopilus cristatus

The slightly warmer and drier spell in the afternoon also brought out a few hoverflies including a lot of Helophilus pendulus.

Helophilus pendulus

Closing up at the end of the day it was pleasing to see that the common tern chicks are still doing well despite the rain, which can often chill young chicks to death. I think a combination of  lots of food and their use of the chick shelters we provide ar ethe twin secrets of their success. Several pairs are still feeding three young and as they only lay three eggs are still on course to another very successful season. I also saw the oystercatcher chick on the western side of Ibsley Water, there appears to be only one, but it is growing very well. Like the terns the oystercatchers at Blashford are very successful rearing young almost very year, which is actually a very unusual feat.