Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Hot Stuff!

It's been bloody hot so far this week! The factory I work at is hot at the best of times with multiple big industrial ovens, but in post-Covid world (with additional PPE and no air-cons) in addition to the relentless outside temps it's been pretty oppressive. I've been too hot and bothered to nip out and flounce around with net or camera after work, and to be honest sinking a beer and nodding off has been preferable. The overnight trapping has picked up in terms of numbers and variety, but really nothing too exciting other than more Tree-lichen Beauty (four last night).

Here's a load of bugs, hoppers and shieldbugs from Ketton Quarry on Friday, unceremoniously dumped onto a leaf and snapped with flash as quickly as possible. This just about clears a backlog of useable images. None of it is really hot stuff. I lied.

Cicadella viridis

Nabis limbatus - Marsh Damselbug, a new one for me

Deraeocoris ruber

Evacanthus interruptus

Coriomeris denticulatus - Denticulate Leatherbug

Adelphocoris lineolatus

Mocydia crocea

Aelia acuminata - Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug nymph

Phytocoris varipes

Euscelis incisus - another new one

Eurygaster testudinaria - Tortoise Shieldbug

Monday, 10 August 2020

Beauty Full

I'm going to go with a quick moth-based post for a change. Although sadly the highlight for me in terms of garden mothing - a garden tick Ypsolopha horridella - does not feature as it is currently lurking somewhere in my kitchen after doing a pre shutter-release bunk.

Still, the trap was happily a bit busier with moths last night, but notably fewer other inverts. The main highlight other than the aforementioned was two Tree-lichen Beauty. These two comprise the third garden record after a singleton on Friday night. One was more smartly marked than I've seen up to now ....

The other was not quite as bright, and not quite as in focus - the photo is perfect of course ....

An attempt to get them to pose together was a bit of a fail.

Alongside this pair was a good dozen or so Marbled Beauty. For such a common moth it is one I have a liking for due to the variability in size, colour and markings. Some were not pristine with worn thoraxes, but here's a selection.

The rest of the catch was not quite so beautiful, but both of these are new for the year.

Hedgehog Wax Moth

Flounced Rustic

Sunday, 9 August 2020


After getting out and about throughout the week, I'm having a chillout weekend. Weather is not so great today anyway and I'm planning on a couple of beers with the Grand Prix on - that should score me some serious old-man zzzs before I go back to work.

I didn't bother putting the moth trap out last night, wind was up and it had cooled a bit. Having said that, the mothing over the two previous nights was very disappointing. The trap itself wasn't though, plenty of other interesting inverts arriving. With that and a heap of bits from Ketton Quarry I've got too much for one post. I'll share some now, which is a medley of bits from the trap and a range of beetles.

On both Thursday and Friday nights, the traps have attracted a number of beetle species and have been bulging with 100s of Bradycellus verbasci and Staphs of two species which I've worked out to ....

Anotylus rugosus - new for the garden

Oxytelus laqueatus - new for me

And a couple more selected beetles from the traps ....

Notaris scirpi - new for the garden

Dromius meridionalis - keys to this, thought it may be different as darker than I recall

Other inverts from the traps included these ....

Lesser Earwig - good to see a handful of these over the two nights

Common Wasp
Far less thrilling to be finding dozens of these in the synergetic trap, there has to be a nest nearby.

Trigonotylus caelestialum
This one is new to me, immediately stuck out with the candy-striped first antennal segment.

The following were all swept from flowering vegetation at Ketton Quarry on Friday:

Sermylassa halensis - a new one for me

Variimorda villosa - I seem to only see this at Ketton Quarry

Pyrrhalta viburni

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Sea, Sand, Sun

With the promise of sun, I decided to head over to the coast after emptying the garden trap. Leicestershire couldn't be much more land-locked; anyone who does not believe or recognise the restorative pleasure of just a short time hearing the sea, breathing the sea breeze and walking on sand perhaps needs to live in Leics. for 52 years. Whilst we are the the middle of the Country, it's actually not too bad a run to get to the coast either side of the Wash. But, of course, the only drawback is that on a sunny day in the middle of summer everyone else wants to do the same thing. I decided that I'd head for Titchwell and combine a walk along the beach with some birding and rummaging around the dunes. The route was free of traffic until hitting a virtual brickwall immediately after the roundabout at Guyhirn. I managed to circumvent some of this with short detours through Wisbech and Kings Lynn, and then taking a rural route through Docking. All was great until the last 500m or so of roadway before re-joining the A149 at Brancaster where it was chaotic with beach-going families parking all over the place and blocking the roads. All time gained on the way was lost - and more. I arrived at Titchwell about an hour later than expected, but at least I was able to slide into a parking space easily and get out onto the reserve.

There were a few people around, though there were more carrying beach chairs etc than optics. I wandered around the boardwalks and had a look in Island Hide (Parrinder Hide still shut). Very few people actually birding or doing anything remotely in keeping with a RSPB Reserve. Social distancing was still very easy and people managed to observe etiquette and manners, so all good. Once I got to the end of the long walk to the beach, it was clear where everyone was. I've seen people using the beach whilst their other halves are birding etc, but I've never seen the beach here literally used as a beach! Beach tents, parasols, wind-breakers, chairs, pasty white bodies in the sea - the whole lot. It wasn't rammed in any way though, and groups of people were well spaced out which meant I walked another 1km or so to clear them all. But it's not like there is not much beach here ....

Inverts were few and far between in the dunes and on the beach. The only action really were a large number of presumably the same robberfly sp. that completely evaded scrutiny, plenty of Bee-wolfs carrying prey and a fair number of solitary bees nesting in the dunes. I turned a few logs but no interesting beetles. Just a couple of these ....

Dactylochelifer latreillii

It was blisteringly hot. I spent an hour or so on the beach before the sun burning my head and neck was no longer bearable. By then the sun was higher and photography from the hide and pathway was a bit more manageable though not everything was within range - a group of Spoonbills remained too far out. The camera seemed to struggle a bit with focussing through heat-haze, but I managed a few passable shots. More practice required.

Black-tailed Godwit


Pied Wagtail


Little Ringed Plover

Most numerous of the waders was Ruff, with juvs and moulting adults present.

The best birding moment though was a group of juv Bearded Tits pinging their way along. One perched up long enough to get a shot.

Whilst around the reserve I manage to pot a handful of inverts to check out, including a sizeable horsefly from the inside window of the hide. I'd spent about three hours on the reserve and needed to head back to the car for coffee and a bite. I mulled over what would be the best option now, given that it was early afternoon and heading further along the coast was probably not a good idea for getting home in time to get the garden traps outs. I decided avoiding traffic delays on the reverse journey and having time to go to a couple of sites on the way home was a better move. An hour and a half later and I was parking up at Ketton Quarry. It was now very hot and humid, but some cloud cover had built up so at least I wasn't burning and sweating at the same time anymore. I spent an hour sweeping the ample flowering vegetation and easily managed to fill up more pots that I can quickly deal with. Very large numbers of Mirid bugs, including 100s of Phytocoris varipes, shieldbugs, other hemiptera and a few beetles too. There were hazards though: every sweep included a number of honeybees and bumblebees which needed to be let out of the bag before sticking me in it. I was also constantly harassed by Chrysops relictus.

Next I headed to Eyebrook Reservoir, where a Cattle Egret has been knocking about for a couple of days. I managed to find it milling about with cattle, before it flew up to perch in a tree. I managed to get a photo, sort of, whilst poking the camera through a gap in a bush.

Also good to see a fishing Osprey, Whinchat, Common Sandpipers, Ringed Plover and a Dunlin.

I got home a full 12hours after leaving, in time to eat and get the traps on. I should have been excited about that but, in truth, on the mothing front the garden has been poor this summer. But the previous night was good for other inverts and it looked to be another good night for that.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

A Toad in the Hand

Today has been varied. This morning my car was booked in for its first service, so it was duly emptied and had a cursory vacuum and clean out yesterday evening. My boot is perpetually full of ento and birding paraphernalia, plus boots, coat and I've still got a cheap telescopic fishing rod lying around from the 2015 Portland PSL meet-up! Anyway, as usual whenever my car is going in for service or whatever I emptied out all my gear. Nichola was off today too, so after the car was handed over we headed off to a hospital blood test appointment and then off for a pub breakfast. We had a few bits to get from B&Q and another nearby shop, and then headed over the road to Abbey Park, a large area of parkland in the City that has been used and abused by generations of Leicester folk since 1882.

We had a good wander around the northern side of the River Soar which runs through the middle of the park. There are large stone boundary walls around part of the park, which are good for a few plants that were no doubt originally introduced but now flourish in some areas and have spread.


Wallflower - gone over a bit ....

Alongside the Soar, there is plenty of Canadian Goldenrod amongst the willowherbs and ragworts.

And there is a large area planted out with plants specifically to benefit bees and pollinators, including loads of Globe Thistles, Echinops spp.

I'll spare you the not very exciting shots of the dipteran leaf-miner that specialises on Echinops.

It was early afternoon by the time I picked up the car, and we had a couple of things to do so by the time I was able to think about going out somewhere it was getting on for 5pm. It was also very humid and looked like it could absolutely hammer it down. I decided to go out anyway, grabbed my bag, camera and a coffee and set off for Bagworth Heath - a reclaimed colliery and another site I've not spent enough time at for one reason or another.

As soon as I got there, the sky was looking ominous ....

Still, worth a shot. I opened the car-boot and instantly realised that I'd forgotten to re-pack my paraphernalia. Arse. No boots, no net and no coat.

It was fine though. Nothing more than a light shower that I evaded by nipping into a wooded area, and anyway after the shower (and evidently a few that had preceded it), sweeping would have been pointless. As I walked around for a couple of hours, it gradually brightened up. Like Bardon Hill yesterday, this is a site I must get to a bit earlier in the season.

Loads of trefoils, vetch, clovers and yet more Canadian Goldenrod. I also walked around the ponds that are mainly used by fishermen.

There is a Sand Martin nesting bank and it was good to see it was still busily in use. Getting a shot of the said martins was nigh on impossible.

All around the ponds the grass paths were heaving with what I initially assumed were Froglets. Trying to get shots of them was harder than the martins as they did not sit still. In fact, the only method that worked was picking them up - they seemed to hesitate at the idea of leaping four feet back towards the ground ....

As I grabbed the first one I was surprised to see that it looked more like a miniature Common Toad. And then every one I picked up after that was the same. Not one frog in at least 20 that I man-handled out of the 100s that seemed to be moving all over the place.

There were few inverts active, apart from the still-ubiquitous Common Red Soldier Beetles. I pointed the camera at a couple.

Dicyphus epilobii

Episyrphus balteatus - I've managed to avoid pointing the camera at one of these since mid-May

By the time I left, the skies were clearing and tomorrow is shaping up to be a scorcher.