Oh, to Bee in England…

As though to emphasise the change in season today was one of those rare days when it was possible to see both brambling and swift at Blashford Lakes an opportunity that lasts for only a few days.  When I started birdwatching in the Midlands our equivalent was seeing fieldfare and swallow in the same place, on the same day. The brambling were at least 2 males at the feeders and the swift at least 14 over Ibsley Water.

Despite the remaining reminders of winter it felt very spring-like, with orange-tip, green-veined and small white, comma, peacock, brimstone, holly blue and several speckled wood butterflies seen, along with the year’s first damselfly, the large red.

After last night’s thunder storm I was not surprised that the moth trap was not over-filled with moths, although the catch did include a lesser swallow prominent, a pale prominent and a scarce prominent, the last a new reserve record, I think.

The warm weather has encouraged a lot of insects out, I saw my first dark bush cricket nymph of the year near the Centre pond. Nearby I also saw my first dotted bee-fly, this species used to be quite scarce but can now be seen widely around the reserve, although it is well outnumbered by the commoner dark-bordered bee-fly.

dark bush cricket nymph

dark bush cricket nymph

The wild daffodil are now well and truly over but the bluebell are just coming out.



A lot of trees are in flower now or are shortly to be, the large elm on the way to Tern hide is still covered in flower though.

elm flowers

elm flower

Trees are a valuable source of food for a lot of insects and the find of the day was a species that makes good use of tree pollen. I had spotted what I at first thought were some nesting ashy mining bees Andrena cineraria, but they did not look right. That species has a dark band over the thorax and black leg hairs. This one had white hairs on the back legs and no dark thorax band. I took some pictures and it turns out to be grey-backed mining bee Andrena vaga, until very recently a very rare species in the UK which seems to now be colonising new areas.

grey-backed mining bee 2

grey-backed mining bee

They make tunnelled nests in dry soil and provision them with pollen from willows for the larvae.

greybacked mining bee

grey-backed mining bee with a load of pollen

The same area of ground also had several other mining bees, including the perhaps the most frequent early spring species, the yellow-legged mining bee.

yellow-legged mining bee 2

yellow-legged mining bee (female)



A New Species!

One of the things we do at Blashford is to record species that occur on the reserve, this builds up a picture of what species we have and what management we might need to do to encourage the ones that are either rare or particularly reliant upon the reserve. To this end one of the groups we record regularly are moths, having done so for many year snow new species are a rare occurrence nowadays, but yesterday we found one. Admittedly in this case I tis probably a migrant sop not on that will change our management in any way, but interesting all the same. It was a micro-moth and actually quite a rare one in Hampshire with never more than five recorded in any year and those usually on the coast. This distribution is a clue to the fact that they are probably all migrants arriving from the continent. This year has seen quite  arrange of migrants from the south, although we are still awaiting the really huge numbers of silver Ys that can occur in a migrant super-year. Although small the new species is rather smart.

Oncocera semirubella

Oncocera semirubella

We have been rather busy in the last couple of days so picture opportunities have been few, but I did get a close-up picture of the business end of a horsefly on one of the picnic tables as I had lunch yesterday.

Horsefly, business end

Horsefly, business end

Only the females bite, this one is a female and the apparatus below the head is the biting bit! They do have splendid eyes though.