Saturday, 23 June 2018

National Insect Week 18th-24th June 2018

Thankfully the weather has been kind to us for the duration of National Insect Week and RSPB Rainham Marshes has been alive with a plethora of insects.  The first proper flush of Meadow Browns have emerged along with Ringlets, Small and Large Skippers. Speckled Woods are dancing once again and the first Marbled White of the season was gliding along the river wall on Friday. 

Small Tortoiseshell - Bernard Bradshaw

Meadow Brown - Chris Barnes
Dragonflies have also emerged from their watery larval homes and Brown Hawkers and Emperors are now cruising the ditches with the odd late Hairy Hawker, Broad-bodied and Four Spot Chasers and Black-tailed Skimmers while Ruddy Darters are hunting from the brambles in the woodland but have as yet, not turned pillar box red.

Ruddy Darter - Pete Woods

Four Spot Chaser - Pete Woods

Red-eyed and Common Emerald Damselflies have joined the trio of Blues and all eyes are open in the hope that one of us will find the first Green-eyed Hawker or Scarce Chaser for the reserve as both these species are increasing in the south-east.

I managed several hoverfly hunting sorties and found a good selection with at least 24 species identified confidently!

  • Chrysotoxum bininctum and verralli, 
  • Xanthagramma pedissequum agg, 
  • Sphaerophoria scripta, 
  • Eupeodes luniger and corolla, 
  • Meliscaeva auricollis, 
  • Episyrphus balteatus, 
  • Syrphus ribesii, 
  • Cheilosia illustrata, 
  • Neoascia interrupta, 
  • Eristalis pertinax, tenax, nemorum, arbustorum and inticaria, 
  • Eristalinus sepulchralis, 
  • Helophilus pendulus and hybridus, 
  • Parhelophilus versicolor, 
  • Volucella bombylans and pellucens, 
  • Syritta pipiens, 
  • Tropidia scita. 
Unsurprisingly the hogweed and brambles were the favoured nectar bars of choice for many species.

Cheilosia illustrata

Eristalinus sepulchralis

There were lots of Blue and Greenbottles around and paddy footed Flesh Flies and hopefully Phil will narrow down one or two for me along with an impressive Tachinid with rather protruding mouth parts and i will then add some more images.

The biggest Soldierfly I have ever seen whirred past me and felt more beetle like in flight! It was a Flecked General - Stratiomys singularior which was then seen supping on the smelly Hogweed in the Cordite three days on the trot!

Flecked General - Stratiomys singularior

And all the time we were watching all these lovely insects we were having to keep an eye on the marauding Clegs who were homing in on us for blood...  I also saw a couple of chunky Tabanus autumnalis and only my second in the field Hybomitra ciurea - the Levels Yellow Horned Horsefly. Most records are of ones on the inside of the visitors centre window!

Cleg - Ken Bentley

The first Cockchafers were on the wing and it is always pleasing to find my favourite longhorn beetle with the best Scientific name I know. - Agapanthia villosoviridescens

Agapanthia villosoviridescens - Paul Bashford

Glow-worms were seen crossing the paths most days whish was a good omen for Friday night and golden Sun Beetles scurried out of the way. I have a bit of history involving one of these quarter inch long lovelies, a red hibiscus patterned shirt, my inner ear and a glass of water but I may save that traumatic ‘while at work’ story for another day...

Bumblebees seem to be around in good numbers and it was pleasing to find Tree - Bombus hypnorum, Shrill - Bombus sylvarum and Brown Banded – Bombus humlis amongst the more usual species. Several large Andrena were seen but I am still working on the id.

Andrena sp

Bryony Bees are still nectaring on the White Bryony around the trail but particularly near the centre and the progeny of the slightly furry Bryony Ladybirds can now be easily located on the undersides of the same leaves.

Bryony Ladybird larvae after a moult - Andy Reid
And so to our Late Night Opening yesterday where we were treated to a clear blue sky and speedy sunset complete with Barn and Short-eared Owls and a productive mothing session in the Wildlife Garden through to about 1130 where about 30 or so species came to the light while we all gathered round and watched.

These included such great names as the Phoenix, Scarce Footman, Heart and Dart, the Snout, Angle Shades and the Gothic but it was the duo of Elephants that stole the show with singles of Small and Large Pachyderms although the latter waited till we were packing up to appear unlike the enormous Privet Hawkmoth that clattered around the top of the willow tree on several occasions!

Phoenix - apparently a scarce moth and a new one on me

Double pinkness
As usual we were kept company by several Common Pip bats and both Barn Owl and a Whimbrel were heard. There was one species we all wanted to finish up a superb evening and that was Glow-worm and a scout around the car-park and ramp verges resulted in ten illuminated females and two males – one of which was busy making more Glow-worms and the other that was attracted to my moth bulb and obviously thought his luck was in!

Glow-worms doing what they do best
I finally got in at about 1am and managed a few hours kip before a relaxing day but I was determined to do something insecty and so headed down to Grove Ferry in the late afternoon sunshine to look for Green-eyed Hawkers. They have been established here for a few years now and are thought to be of continental origin rather than from Norfolk dispersal but I had never made the time to go and look for them.
As it happened they were a doddle with seven or eight seen over a short walk. There are an impressive dragonfly with burnt orange bodies, transparent wings and glowing green eyes.  They were very active and I doubted one would alight near me despite hunting just yards away but eventually one did and I snapped a couple of pics before it resumed its search for prey.

Green-eyed Hawker

Scarce Chasers and Black-tailed Skimmers dashed around the pools and a Green Sandpiper was suggesting that returning birds are already on their way while a Turtle Dove zipped through and brought a smile. My circuit added Banded Demoiselle to the dragon list and a Kingfisher and Cuckoo to the bird one before fish n chips in Herne Bay and a swift journey home.

Green Sandpiper
Tomorrow sees me helping at a countryside fair so I am going to have to work hard to find my insect of the final day of this fantastic week long event...

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Lesvos Day 12: 2nd May 2018

Day 12: 2nd May: 

An early rise saw sunup illuminating the waders on the north east salt pans. The monstrous Dalmatian Pelican was still cruising around like some adrift iceberg and somehow managed to sneak from the back pan to the closest water with none of us seeing it. There was a similar assortment of waders but only eight Grey Plover remained but Curlew Sandpipers had increased to 39 and 19 Marsh Sandpipers were feeding in one flock. Another 17 Marsh and 23 Curlew Sands were on the south west corner pan and a couple of Ruddy Shelducklings swam in the channel.

Dalmatian Pelican
Stunning pans
White Stork

Black-winged Stilt

Most of the day was spent doing the northern circuit.  We started at the Raptor Watchpoint where a Goshawk and the usual Buzzards and Short-toed Eagles were seen before heading up to an already too warm Kavaki.

A few Yelkouan Shearwaters were offshore and the Ruppell’s and particularly the Eastern Subalps performed very well while the cobalt Blue Rock Thrush was still using his favourite outcrop. Ravens kronked and Turtle Doves purred and six Bottle-nosed Dolphins passed so close to shore you could hear them blow.

Kavaki view

Ruppell’s Warbler

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Blue Rock Thrush

Bottle-nosed Dolphin

Turtle Dove - ACV

Perasma Reservoir gave me Coot and two Black-winged Stilts along with the usual squabbling gulls, Hooded Crows and Ruddy Shelduck. The butterflies were just as magical as last week although migrant Silver-Y Moths were now present in droves along with the odd Hummingbird Hawkmoth. Most of the Browns were female and I am unsure as to which species they should be ascribed.

Balkan Marbled White

Balkan Marbled White

Balkan Marbled White

Scarce Swallowtail

Scarce Swallowtail

Scarce Swallowtail

female Meadow Brown sp

female Meadow Brown sp

female Meadow Brown sp

female Meadow Brown sp - no spots on this one!!!
Painted Lady
Clouded Yellow

Black-veined White

Levantine Skipper
Orbed Underwing Skipper

Silver Y Moth

Fallenia fasciata
Syrian Thistle Notobasis syriaca

From here we followed the main road inland towards to Sykaminea where Alpine Swifts zoomed through the sky and the trees were full of singing Chaffinches, Nightingales and Blackbirds with the odd trill from an Eastern Bonelli's and Subalpine Warblers

Down the bends to Skala Sykaminias for ice cream and the back along the north track to Eftalou seeing  an adult Audouin's Gull  as we left the village and then down through Anaxos and onto the mast at Agriosikos before dropping back to Kalloni. 

Skala Sykaminias

Skala Sykaminias

Skala Sykaminias

Skala Sykaminias and Dias the Red and Green Macaw

Audouin's Gull

The mast was full of Scarce Swallowtails and another early Cardinal but rock turning in the extreme heat was once again un-productive and frustrating so a return to base was called for.

From Agriosikos to the Kalloni Saltpans

Megascolia maculata flavifrons

An as yet, unidentfied very large Bombus with curious black spots in the white tail  - ACV

And this at last explain why I have never, ever see a live Beech Marten.  They not only throw themselves in front of the sparse traffic on the island but electrocute themselves by being too inquisitive...
A couple of hours on the pans in the evening saw 13 graceful White Winged Black Terns hawking the channel and a good search did not yield anything new bar the first Dunlin of the trip and a couple of Pratincoles. Bee-eaters prukked all around but most were invisibly high. The Alykes still held water and Red-throated Pipits dotted the grass and a few flavas flicked amongst them but the male Citrine seemed to fly off as I arrived. 
  We had dinner in Anaxos at Omega with Alison and Costas as hosts with the sound of Red-rumped Swallows and Bee-eaters in the in the warm evening air...