30 Days Wild – Day 11: Various Insects

Still a windy day but none the less quite warm in the sun, so if you could find some shelter it was very pleasant. The kind of day to go looking for insects making the most of exactly such places. In the garden the moth trap had one new species for the year, a varied coronet.

varied coronet

varied coronet

This moth was known only as a scarce migrant until about 70 years ago when it started to breed in Kent, since when it has spread widely, although I don’t often catch it myself.

I found a number of insects around the garden warming themselves including a number of hoverflies.

Merodon equestris

Merodon equestris

This one looks like a bumblebee in an effort to be left alone by birds, it is also known as the greater bulb-fly as the larvae feed on bulbs, it is not a favourite with many gardeners.

By the pond I found an unfortunate broad-bodies chaser that had emerged but failed to get its wings properly expanded, it will never fly, after a year of development in the pond it had failed at the last hurdle.

unfortunate Libellula depressa

unfortunate dragonfly

In the afternoon I ventured out into the New Forest for a short walk. Again it was the sheltered clearings that harboured the most wildlife and in one patch of sunlight I spotted a humming-bird hawk-moth, luckily it landed allowing me to get a picture.

humming-bird hawk-moth

humming-bird hawk-moth

There were also hoverflies, although not so many as in the garden. On one sunny logs I found a specimen of Xylota abiens.

Xylota abiens
Xylota abiens

These hoverflies almost never visit flowers, but are often seen sunning themselves or moving over leaves, they may find the food they need from honeydew on leaves rather than nectar from flowers. This individual ahs picked up a hitch-hiker in the form of a tiny red mite which you can just make on the top of the thorax.

I also found one dragonfly, this time a recently emerged keeled skimmer.

keeled skimmer close up

keeled skimmer close-up

This close-up shows how the front legs are not used for standing, but held up behind the head ready to be used for manipulating prey to allow feeding in flight.

30 Days Wild – Day 9: Send in the Troops

Despite a bit of a stutter in the summer weather this week the season still advances and Day 9 of 30 Days Wild saw the first common tern chicks on the rafts on Ivy Lake. I think they probably hatched couple of days ago. One pair was a few days ahead of the main group so I am expecting a lot of chicks to hatch next week. Common tern almost invariably lay three eggs, so if they all hatch our 36 pairs will have about 100 chicks between them, so fingers crossed for a successful season.

I saw the terns from Ivy South hide where the grass snake were on show, basking on the stump below the hide.

two grass snakes on the stump

Snakes on the stump

The most significant sightings of the day though were once again of insects. I will always try to make a quick check of the hemlock water-dropwort at lunchtime, this plant is very attractive to nectaring insects and amongst these can be some rarer species. In particular it attracts bees, hoverflies and soldierflies. Blashford is a good site for bees, many of which use the dry lichen heath for nesting. Equally the wetland habitats are the home to many hoverflies and especially soldierflies, including some nationally rare species. So I was very pleased to spot at least one ornate brigadier soldierfly (Odontomyia ornata), a species that we see at Blashford every couple of years or so and has, so far, not been found anywhere else in Hampshire. I then spotted a second species, the black colonel (Odontomyia tigrina), slightly more often recorded but still quite rare, this one at least allowed me to take a picture.

Odontomyia tigrina female

Black colonel soldierfly (Odontomyia tigrina), female on hemlock water-dropwort.

However visiting flowers to feed, as these insects must do, is a risky business, there are predators lying in wait, in particular crab spiders.

crab spider with bee prey

Crab spider with bee as prey

Elsewhere on the reserve the three smaller lapwing chicks are still surviving in front of Tern hide along with the single larger one, I did not see the oystercatcher chicks and I suspect they may have lost one late on Thursday. We will see what next week brings.

30 Days Wild – Day 26

A day in the garden, although intermittent and eventually persistent rain forced me inside at times. I had intended to try and get pictures of  as many hoverflies as I could, but in the end I only got three! There were lots of the migrant marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus).

Episyrphus balteatus

Episyrphus balteatus the marmalade hoverfly

The large number of Alliums are attracting lots of greater bulb fly (Merodon equestris).

Merodon equestris

Merodon equestris cleaning its face

My best was a species I have only seen ion the garden a few times, the large and rather impressive Sericomyia silentis.

Sericomyia silentis

Sericomyia silentis

It favours boggy ground and is especially common in the north and west of Britain, but locally it is fairly common in the New Forest.

The above pictures were all I managed in the few minutes of sunshine. In looking for the hoverflies I could not help but notice that many of the flowers were covered in tiny beetles, I think they are pollen beetles, some of the evening primrose flowers had dozens of them.

pollen beetles

pollen beetles

 

A Sticky Day

I had a public event to look at moths today, a pretty tricky thing to do as there were almost no moths in the trap! Luckily Jim had kept a few back in the fridge from yesterday. Still it was thin fare, as sometimes happens at this time of year when the nights can still be cold. Despite this by the time we had finished the sun was out strongly and there were lots of insects about, although few of them were moths.

Near the Centre pond there were a few hoverflies including the common marshland species Tropida scita.

Tropida scita

Tropida scita, male

Rather less common and possibly a new species for the reserve, but I will need to check the list, was Pipizella virens.

Pipizella virens

Pipizella virens, male

Just when I thought it was going to be a really good insect day, the rain arrived and when it rained it really poured! I retreated to the office, probably something I should have done anyway.

It did clear up somewhat later and a visitor called my attention to a water stick insect in  the Centre pond, it had pulled itself out of the water onto the top of a floating bit of plant stem. Close by were several two-pronged “things” sticking out of the stem, I had noticed these earlier and not known what they were. It slowly dawned that they were water stick insect eggs and this was a laying female inserting her eggs into the floating stem.

water stick insect egg-laying 2

water stick insect egg-laying

Each egg has two white “wires” sticking up from it, their function is apparently unknown, but could be a sort of breathing tube for the developing embryo. This female did not get to lay eggs for very long, before a male came along and disturbed her, as she tried to get away he grabbed her breathing tube with his front legs, he seemed very keen not to let her free.

stick insect pair

stick insect pair, although the female did not seem that interested.

I had never seen any of this behaviour before, although I have looked into this pond probably thousands of times, it just shows that you don’t need to go very far to see interesting and new things.

Apart from insects the day was quiet, certainly the birds seen were mostly unremarkable. There were about 300 swift over Ibsley Water during the lunchtime rain and 2 yellow-legged gull in the large group of, mostly immature, large gulls loafing around on the shingle spit and islands.

Hectic Times on Quiet Days

I am sorry for the lack of a post in the last week, I set out to write one a few times but never got to the end! It has been very busy with staff away on holiday, lots of holiday events, and a training day. Busy for the staff but actually quite quiet out on the reserve. We are entering that late summer period that is still not quite autumn, things will happen but not quite yet.

Warm days and nights have been good for moths and butterflies, with at least 2 silver-washed fritillary at the Centre on Sunday as well as a good show by brimstone, peacock, comma and various whites and browns. It has also been good for hoverflies and insects in general.

Saeva pyrastri

Saeva pyrastri

The hoverfly above is a regular migrant that probably rarely over-winters in the UK.

small copper

small copper

This very fresh small copper was the only one I saw over the last week, but perhaps there are more to come.

The numbers of dragonflies are still good with a fair few brown hawker and now southern hawker about, but damselflies seem to be getting fewer.

common blue damselfly

common blue damselfly (male)

On the birds front a black tern seen last Thursday was the pick of the last few days, but a redstart by the main car park on Sunday and a greenshank on Ibsley Water the same day were also good. A good number of warblers seem to be enjoying the blackberries around the main car park area, today I saw garden warbler, blackcap, chiffchaff and willow warbler there.

Over Ibsley Water in the rain this morning there were perhaps 200 each of sand martin and house martin along with 3 common swift and a single hunting hobby.

We still await an osprey for the new perch, but I understand the black tern was seen to use it, so this is the “top-bird” so far.

My only bird picture is of the young robin behind the Centre, which very patiently posed for this shot taken hand-held at 1/15 sec!

juvenile robin acquiring adult plumage.

juvenile robin acquiring adult plumage.