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

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Dor plus

Here's a few bits I've seen since coming home from Devon. First up, a visit to Bradgate Park for a family walk and picnic on Monday 21st produced some good opportunities, especially with all the deer dung lying about. One particular dollop was being addressed by a large iridescent beetle that proved under the microscope to be the Dor Beetle Geotrupes stercorarius (separable from Geotrupes spiniger from the outer side of the hind tibia and the shape of the mandibles).

Dor Beetle - no, I didn't bring home the deer dung for photography!

On Sunday 27th I had a couple of hours out in the afternoon around parts of my square which produced a new sawfly (Aglaostigma fulvipes, no photo) but otherwise a few interesting bits that I'd seen before including ...

Cardinal Beetle - seems a little early

Pammene rhediella - definitely seems too early for it to be out and worn
Ischnomera cyanea

And then yesterday evening I couldn't resist an hour and a half or so enjoying the unexpected late sunshine and warmth. I nipped over to Huncote Embankment and found a few interesting bits, with three ticks all swept from reeds/carex spp.

Kateretes pusillus

Stenocranus major

Not a great photo, but shows the black longitudinal stripes on the face and the dark tarsal segments on forelegs.

And the last one was only clinched with some helpful banter on Facebook with Devon-based arachnologist Matt Prince - mainly prompted by the highly amusing vernacular for this species ......

Marsh Knob-head (Hypomma biterbaculatum)

This one is a female though with does not have the knobbly bits on its head, and therefore is not a knob-head. ID based on general view of the epigyne as in the photo, and on a very difficult to see character - a fine sensory hair in a particular place on the metatarsus of the rear-most pair of legs (IV).

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Beach Life

Had a great break down in North Devon over easter, staying at the inlaws. I managed to combine some great family days out with some PSL activity, particularly during a couple of beach visits. There are some great beaches along the North Devon coast, with long stretches of sand and dunes with some good rock-pooling opportunities at either end. Our first full day wasn't the best weatherwise, but we headed over to Westwood Ho! beach and whilst the boys and their cousins were happily playing I ambled over to the rocks and boulders.

I wasn't exactly equipped for rock-pooling, just some pots, hand lens, penknife, camera and generalist field guide. Didn't take long to find interesting things though, just by watching patiently or tuning over rocks. There were lots of shelled molluscs including a few new for me, plus good numbers of anemones. Mainly the expected Beadlet Anemone, but also a good few of these ...

Strawberry Anemone - new for me, can't think where the name comes from

Another one I was pleased to find was my first chiton. These are odd looking things - they appear like colourful legless woodlice from above and you may think that they are crustaceans, but from below they are clearly molluscs.

Lepidochitona cinerea

I could have picked up a whole host of shelled molluscs to show the huge variation in size and colour of some species, but I picked out a few that were clearly different species to each other and some of these were new for me like ....

Thick Top Shell (Osilinius lineatus)

Flat Periwinkle (Littorina obtusata)

Flat Top Shell (Gibbula umbilicalis)

Aside from the expected marine stuff, I also found a springtail way out in the rock pools and well away from the dry area inshore from the high-tide line.

Anurida maritima

This very hardy springtail is hydrophobic thanks to the body hairs, and these also entrap air which allows it to withstand being submerged for up to two days. How hard is that!

Away from the beach, I picked up a couple of ticks from the inlaws garden.

Bank Vole - not sure how I've managed to not actually see one alive before

Bristly Millipede - massive coincidence to find this on a bright-whitewashed wall of an outhouse as we'd been out at Arlington Court all day and I'd been failing to find this on the old stone walls and buildings.

The other beach we visited was Woolacombe, and it was a much brighter and sunnier day. Again I managed to spend some time around the rockpools and add a few things to the list ..

Pepper Dulse

Elminius modestus - a naturalised barnacle, unusual in having only four plates

Greenleaf Worm (Eulalia viridis)

Speckled Sea Louse (Eurydice pulchra)

Monday, 14 April 2014

Croft Hill 13/04/2014

I nipped over to Croft Hill for a couple of hours late yesterday afternoon to enjoy the last of the warm sunshine. Turned out to be pretty productive with a couple of PSL ticks and one pending ID. The visit was also notable for a couple of things present en masse.

Firstly there are lots of dry open patches, quite likely caused by rabbits, plus dry well-walked paths. It was immediately noticeable that these areas were very busy with these ...

Ashy Mining Bee - male

Ashy Mining Bee - female

These bees were absolutely everywhere on site, 100s of them. Lots of interraction between individuals, a lot of it appearing to be aggressive behaviour, and small nesting holes were all over the place.

Typical area used by nesting Ashy Mining Bees

There were odd individuals of other solitary bee spp. around, including Early Mining Bee, but most noticeable were several Nomada spp. I've kept one to check out (and so far can't resolve it with either of the keys I've acquired) but Nomada lathburiana has to be a strong contended as it is the cleptoparasite of Ashy Mining Bee.

Nomada sp. - male

The other notable massed presence was around the oaks, with loads of these flying about or settled on trunks and fallen logs ...

Eriocrania subpurpurella

Pair in-cop

It always interesting when you look at something you've looked at 100s times before and see something new. Whilst browsing around the gorse bushes looking for Gorse Shieldbug (which I didn't find) I noticed a tiny weevil, only c2mm long. Further searching revealed that there were quite a few of them around, generally perched on the flowers and probing in. It is Exapion ulicis - a common weevil associated with gorse. How have I not seen it before?

Also new for me was this groundbug, which was a completely lucky find as it happened to crawl into view whilst I was watching the bees coming and going. Turns out to be scarce in VC55, the county recorder has no previous records but there appear to be a couple of dots on the NBN Gateway maps for Rutland.

Peritrechus lundii

I also found a couple of other beetles, Bembidion quadrimaculatum and this Badister bullatus ...

... and finally, the whole site was awash with Spring Beauty again.

Rutland Water 11/04/2014

A county tick Pied-billed Grebe had been knocking about at Rutland Water (found on Wednesday), but last news on Thursday was not ideal as it was last reported drifting off toward Lyndon. I fully expected that news on Friday morning would be -ve and that it would take a while to re-find, and so I made a concious decision to spend the day at Ketton picking up PSL lifers and enjoying myself rather than trudging around Rutland Water.

As expected, no news early on and then the 'no sign' news, but I decided to drop in the way home from Ketton just in case it had been hiding away in the willows. By then it was nice and sunny; Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were in full song and Swallows were over the water so all very pleasant.

I had a good walk westwards, well past Berrybut Spinny and the golf course, checking the water constantly and particularly in-shore near any overhanging willows. I didn't see another birder all the time I was walking, and of course I didn't see the grebe. Looking for a small bird on your todd at a place the size of Rutland Water is pretty ridiculous. In fact I was almost back at the car a good couple of hours after arriving before I saw any other birders - a car load that had come from Suffolk in the vain hope of ticking the grebe (they should've gone to Flamborough for Carg Martin!).

Quite likely that the grebe had been knocking about for a while unseen, and possible it is still around there somewhere though after a weekend with no news it's not looking promising. Still, it's just a county tick and having missed so many over the years (mainly due to them turning up on week days whilst I'm at work) then I won't lose any sleep! Unlikely there'll be another any time soon, but the Glossy Ibis that briefly appeared on Tuesday and the possible White Stork that flew over Melton whilst I was at RW will both appear on my list in due course.

Whilst the grebe was lost cause, I still gained from the visit with a couple of unexpected PSL ticks. First up, a quick stop to splash me boots in the spinny lead to a chance find of a slime mould on damp rotting wood ...

Wolf's Milk Lycogala terrestre

And bold as brass, slowing shuffling across the sun-baked pathway was this beetle ...

Pill Beetle

I'd about had enough for the day, and seeing the local inhabitants was only making me hungry.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Ketton Quarry 11/04/2014

As I mentioned in the last post, on Friday I spent most of the day pottering about at Ketton Quarry. I was hoping for some warm sunshine from early morning to bring out the reptiles, but after I'd battled my way through the rush-hour traffic and across the A47 it was still a bit overcast at c9am. No sign of any reptiles despite several searches throughout my time there. The sun did eventually come out and warm everything up, though not for any prolonged spells until late morning.

Ketton Quarry has featured several times on this blog as it is without doubt one of my favourite sites in VC55. The reserve is not exactly huge, but there is good diversity with open grassy areas, scrub and woodland, with tracks and rides both through and between these areas. Plus of course there is the adjacent huge open working quarry.

Aside from the reptiles which refused to come out, my main interest for the day was always going to be inverts. Plenty of the commoner butterflies were on the wing, including my first Holly Blue and Speckled Wood of the year, but no sign of any Green Hairstreaks, Grizzled Skippers or Dingy Skippers as yet. The only moth flying about was Common Heath, which despite the name is distinctly uncommon in VC55 - in fact this is the only known current site for it.

Common Heath

Plenty of Diptera on the wing too including lots of the smaller hoverlifies such as Melanostoma scalare, but the most obvious flies were Bee Fly - 100s of them all over the site.

Bee Fly

Beetles were the main interest though, and aside from the superb Green Tiger Beetle I picked up a couple of interesting ones. First up, a speculative search under loose bark on one of many log piles produced what I initially thought was an odd/brown Scarce Fungus Weevil. This was perpetuated for a few seconds as I noticed that there were also three other Scarce Fungus Weevils on the same log.

Scarce Fungus Weevil

Having seen this for the first time last year, I wasn't really sure on how variable they could be aside from the pale 'face' and rear end varying from buff to whitish. I also wasn't sure if there were any similar species, but then I noticed that the browner individual had obvious white spots on the elytra and white bands on longer antenna. I then found yet another odd individual - much smaller, darker and with even longer white-marked antennae and legs. I figured that these were indeed another species and I was right - they are both a male and a female Platystomos albinus. Better still, new for me and new for VC55.

Platystomos albinus - female

Platystomos albinus - male

Whilst searching, I found a random piece of rabbit leg perched on top of one of the logs. How it got there I have no idea, but once I'd moved it I noticed another interesting beetle. Like the two preceding species, this one also had some funky white markings on the underside but otherwise it just looked dark to the naked eye. Under the eyeglass though it looked pretty smart with pale grey-blue hairs and tufts of golden hairs on the pronotum. After a false start, I've identified it as Dermestes murinus - another new one for me.

Dermestes murinus

Also found under bark/around logs were Pterostichus madidus and Loricera pilicornis, along with typical woodlice, millipedes and centipedes.

Sweeping around the grasses was not as productive as it will be later in the season, though I did find the leafhopper Mocydia crocea which I've recorded from here before. Other Hemiptera noted during the day were Pied Shieldbug and Scolopostethus thomsoni.

Aside from searching logs, I also had a good look over the various rocks and stones and also a brick pile. This brick pile has been present for as long as I've been visiting the site (well over a decade) and the bricks are quite heavy and large compared to normal house bricks. Not sure what used to be built there, maybe some remnant of a quarrying building I suppose.

The bricks yielded a few molluscs, notably Discus Snail, Common Chrysalis Snail and Two-toothed Door Snail. I also found a cracking little harvestman which was new for me, and once I'd noticed it I started to find several of them on various rocks.

Megabunus diadema

I took an hour out from poking about to grab some early lunch in nearby Stamford. When I got back to Ketton, I tried out my recently acquired sieve - more out of curiosity than expectation. Not having used it before, I had a go at sieving various clumps of moss, dried grasses and a bit of leaf-litter. Apart from inadvertently finding lots of ants on a couple of occasions, it was pretty productive. Lots of very tiny stuff including Collembola (none of which looked new or particularly interesting under the eyeglass), but I was pleased to sieve out some very small jumping spiders. I like jumping spiders! One was identifiable, the other not (by me at least) although they were all very small and presumably immature.

Heliophanus flavipes - another one I've seen here before

Unidentified jumper
Thanks to Matt Prince for highlighting that this is a male Heliophanus flavipes

Also sieved from dried grass, a few click beetles that I've keyed out ...

Agriotes sputator

... and a weevil that I need to key out to confirm (when the key I've just ordered arrives)

Possible Otiorhynchus rugosostriatus

All in all an excellent few hours at Ketton. I left mid-afternoon and dropped in to Rutland Water on the way home which I'll save for another (shorter) post.