The native and the more exotic…

This morning I was getting ready for our online Young Naturalists session when I spotted a Large skipper by the pond, the first one I’ve seen this year. It stayed there for some time although I couldn’t see it later on in the day, despite a bit of looking.

They have a pretty faint chequered pattern on the wings, so are easy to tell apart from the similar Small and Essex skippers which fly at the same time.

Large skipper

Large skipper

We have just had our Centre wifi improved enabling us to teach online whilst outside, which is great for our fortnightly Young Naturalists sessions and, although too late for this term, will also allow us to offer virtual sessions to schools as things slowly return to some kind of normal in the autumn.

I tested it out today, running our fortnightly session from the shelter behind the Centre, emptying the moth trap with the group (sadly there weren’t many moths) and showing them the evidence of leaf-cutter bees in the bug hotel.

outdoor classroom

All set up for today’s virtual Young Naturalists session

Whilst outside I also spotted a male blackbird sunbathing on the top of the bug hotel, and managed to take a couple of distant photos:

Blackbird

Blackbird 2

I then watched it bathing in the pond, but wasn’t quite in the right place to get a photo.

For our Young Naturalists session today we were joined by Owain Masters, Public Engagement and Education Officer for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust’s Snakes in the Heather project. The project aims to raise public awareness of the conservation needs of our native reptiles andFinal heathland heritage, helping to promote a better understanding that will safeguard their future. In particular it focuses on the conservation of the smooth snake, Britain’s rarest reptile.

Although not present on the reserve, we are lucky to have them locally on the sandy heaths of Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey.

Owain shared his passion for snakes with the group, talked about the three species native to the UK and tested the group with a fun quiz, ‘snake or fake’, to see what information they had picked up whilst he had been talking. He had been due to join us onsite for a session so it was great he could join us online and hopefully we will be able to reschedule his site visit at some point in the future.

Given our session had a reptile theme, the group’s show and tell was also distinctly reptilian, with Thomas and Harry sharing photos of their pet geckos. Slightly more exotic than our native snakes! Apologies to Alex’s mum… a second gecko may now be on the cards…

The group also shared a few native reptile encounters, with Harry, Thomas and Alex talking about their adder encounters, Cameron and Torey sharing a photo their dad had taken of a grass snake outside the front of Ivy South Hide and Will sharing a photo of a common lizard:

Will also talked about seeing osprey at Fishlake Meadows and watching a collared dove from his bedroom window that was nesting in his garden. He had also seen a large white butterfly, red admiral, scarlet tiger moth and female stag beetle.

Finally, Cameron shared some really lovely landscape photos from a walk around Whitsbury, near Fordingbridge:

Next time we will be chatting a bit more about reptiles and looking at all six species naive to the UK and have our usual rummage through the light trap. It will be interesting to see what wildlife they have all encountered between now and then.

After the session was over I had another look by the pond for the large skipper but had to content myself with this lovely skipper instead, I think a small skipper rather than an Essex skipper.

Small skipper

Small skipper

Finally, towards the end of the day a very kind visitor pointed out a crab spider that was lurking in amongst the buddleia flowers by the pond. After a bit of searching, I think its a goldenrod or flower crab spider. Its pale colouring and purple stripes did help it blend in really well with the flowers, I have no idea how they spotted it!

Goldenrod or flower crab spider Misumena vatia

Goldenrod or flower crab spider, Misumena vatia

Our Young Naturalists group is kindly supported by the Cameron Bespolka Trust.

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Clickety-click

A bit of a disjointed day. I was in briefly to open up then off to Testwood for a meeting and back again by lunchtime, then path strimming and clearing. Still along the way I did see a fair few things.

Opening the Tern hide a shelduck and single duckling were feeding out on the lake.

shelduck and duckling

At the Ivy North hide a fly by female cuckoo was bubbling and a kingfisher passed shortly after. There was also a considerable commotion in the tree to the right of the hide and the culprits were a pair of amorous grey squirrels.

friendly squirrels

The moth trap was busy once again, although there was nothing of great note, although a very large and threatening looking queen hornet was a catch to treat with respect. Actually they are not aggressive and they are very fine creatures indeed.

queen hornet in the moth trap

Later, when I got back to Blashford I was having lunch when I noticed something moving on a hemlock water dropwort flower, looking closer I saw it was a crab spider which had caught a soldierfly, to be precise an Odontomyia tigrina and the female crab spider that had caught it seems to be Misumena vatia.

Misumena vatia with Odontomyia tigrina

On the Pyracantha flowers I saw a soldier beetle, it turned out to be a red-headed soldier beetle, which is somewhat less common than the closely related black-headed soldier beetle.

soldier red-headed beetle

I spent sometime clearing paths in the meadows during the afternoon and came across two click beetles in quick succession the first was a fine red one and seems to be quiet scarce, if I have identified it correctly.

Ampedus pomonae

The second is one I have seen before and seem to remember identifying, although I cannot remember what it is or how I found out the name!

click beetle