Thursday, 8 September 2016

A Walk Among The Flies And Bees - RSPB Rainham Marshes 8th September 2016

This week I have managed a couple of fairly bird free short walks around the reserve but the insects have more than made up for any autumnal disappointments and only the continued aerial acrobatics of our tenacious dragon hunting Hobbies has focused the eyes up rather than down.
Juvenile Hobby
With the Sea Aster blooming on the foreshore Jerry Hoare and myself have concentrated our efforts on trying to find the rare little mining bee Colletes halophilus which is largely tied to this plant species and after several false alarms with the newly emerging Ivy Bees – Colletes hedera – which are also attracted to the flowers – we have now found a few of this feisty little stripy bee.  

Colletes halophilus

The nearby Ivy here (and in the woodland) is now well populated by its larger more ginger hued cousins. 

Colletes hedera

Back on the tideline the Aster and Bristly Ox Tongue is also attracting countless bumbles including both Brown Banded (Bombus humilis) and Common Carder Bees (Bombus pascorum) as well many fluffy little Shrill Carders (Bombus sylvarum) with their high pitched mosquito humming!

Brown Banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis) - no black hairs anywhere on the abdomen

Common Carder Bees (Bombus pascorum) scattered black hairs on the abdomen
Shrill Carder Bee (Bombus sylvarum)

Shrill Carder Bee (Bombus sylvarum)

Shrill Carder Bee (Bombus sylvarum)

Wasps and Brown Argus butterflies and many Whites were in attendance and a good look at some of the green bottles revealed quite a few Neomyia just like last year and using Phil Collins handy little id sheets I was able to count bristles and get at least one of them to N. viridiscens.

Neomyia cornicea

Neomyia viridiscens - the 2nd of Phil's handy pointer pics

Neomyia viridiscens- honestly I zoomed in and looked at bristles!

There were plenty of Episyrphus balteatus hoverflies and a couple of the slightly alien looking Eristlinus aeneus with their spotty half hairy eyes.

Eristlinus aeneus

The woodland loop still has plenty of flowering Bristly Ox Tongue and the hoverflies are loving it especially in the early morning sunshine. This morning I picked up four different Eristalis species along with Sphaerophoria scripta, Helophilus pendulus, Syrphus ribesii and a nice female Eupeodes luniger with her lunate spots and dark Y on her frons.

Eupeodes luniger- lunate spots not meeting the edge of the abdomen

Eupeodes luniger- black inverted Y on the frons just above antennae

Eupeodes luniger-

Sphaerophoria scripta

helophilus pendulus

Syrphus ribesii

Back at the Ivy the Ivy Bees were really getting energetic and were getting stroppy with any Honey Bees on their flowers and even the comparatively huge forms of Volucella zonaria and pellucens and Myathropa florea.  

Volucella pellucens

Volucella pellucens

Myathropa flora - I love this fly - not the most Batman of marks on this one!
Rhingia campestris (no rostrata) were delving deeply into the Large Bindweed flowers and an Ectemnius Wasp with a big head (possibly E.cephalotus) was watching for prey.

Rhingia campestris - 'I'm going in Captain'

Rhingia campestris - staggering after leaving the pub

Ectemnius sp

Tomorrow is my last day before I escape back to Lesvos and I will endeavour to get out for a final stroll if I can.
Oh and I think that that is enough scientific sounding entomology for one evening...

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A Kentish Autumnal Amble - 30th August 2016

Max and I left home in thick fog which followed us on our journey down towards Dungeness and despite almost causing us to miss out on some Golden Arches (not a moth) breakfast action it miraculously lifted just a mile from Lydd to reveal glorious blue skies without a breath of wind.

A Barn Owl drifted by as we walked down and Chiffchaffs and Cetti’s were vocal while a Greenshank invisibly tew tewed at us.

It was an idyllic if somewhat hazy view from the Hanson Hide but there was plenty to seen with a smattering of waders that included 12 Little Ringed and a solitary Ringed Plover, six Dunlin, six Snipe and three tiny scuttling juvenile Little Stints. There were no Great Whites and so we ambled back to the sound of over a hundred Greylags honking overhead.

A Room WIth  A View...



Evening Primrose

Little Stint - Max Hellicar

Before we even reached the sea we had notched up about a dozen Wheatear and a good wander around the lighthouse area raised the tally by another ten along with a couple of shiver tailed Common Redstart, a Willow Warbler and several flyover Yellow Wagtails.



The sea was very disappointing with not one tern on the Patch and just a few Sandwich and Commons milling around further out where the Harbour Porpoises were frequently surfacing. Eight Shelduck headed west and a Black-necked Grebe was slightly surprising as it bobbed by. 

A potter inland to the Obs produced much crunching of gravel along with 12 more Wheatear, two Whinchat, Stonechat and a couple of Willow Warblers and Whitethroats. 

Willow Warblers following a tete a tete

Willow Warbler cooling off that armpit

Blackberry munching Starlings

I did not look too hard for the two rare crickets that now reside here but I was fortunate enough to find a Grey Bush Cricket sat right out in the open which is the first time I have ever got a good look at this large winged species.

Grey Bush Cricket

Max had had a look at some moths in the Obs as well as seeing his second Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the day but nothing different on the bird front so we retraced our steps to the Reserve for our regular circular walk.

It was quite hot by now but we persevered and collected a nice array of small waders with Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, eight LRPs, 6 Ringed Plovers and a couple of Redshank while a smoky juvenile Black Tern dipped circuits over the middle of Burrows. Two Great White Egrets were seen poorly on here and another lurked (and loomed!) over the back of Denge Marsh where Common Terns were still feeding young and Beardies pinged. 


Not the best day for Great White Egrets at Dungeness!

Common Tern family

Lunch saw us on the last leg of the walk but we were slowed down by a lovely patch of Fleabane covered in Coppers, Blues, Torts, Bumbles and Flies. There were several common hover species along with the hulking Norwikia ferox – a tachinid of great size and spikiness.

Twin-lobed Deer Fly - Chysops relictus

Small Copper

Sphaerophoria scripta

Norwikia ferox- almost a Tachina grossa ... but not quite!

Lunch and then up to Oare Marshes for the late afternoon and despite the tide being well out, it did not disappoint with over 1000 Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank still loafing around along with Avocets, Knot, Dunlin, Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers to name a few. About 200 mixed Golden Plovers erupted at the distant passing of a male Peregrine and the air was filled with those plaintive calls that so remind me of winter days on the Essex coast. Yellow Wagtails and Starlings were coming down to poke around for flies on the exposed mud surface and a Water Rail was calling quite incessantly.

adult Black-tailed Godwit

juv Black-tailed Godwit

Spangly Golden Plover


Blackwits, Ruff, Avocet, Redshank

Yellow Wagtail
And some gratuitous shots of a large Helophilus trivittatus hoverfly that landed on Max

There was no sign of the Bonaparte’s Gull so we headed for the Swale and a check of the mud. Amazingly I found this now winter adult almost immediately and it showed very well on the flats as it delicately paddled around with the Black-headed Gulls. 

Bony and the Black-head

Nice to get both upper and under wing shots!

Black-bellied Grey Plovers and russet Barwits lined the north side and three more Little Stints tried to have a kip in a tiny runnel. With a last look at the gull we called it a day and escaped from the sun after filling up our water bottles from the beautifully cold aquifer.  Time for home...