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

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Lost Jewel

So yesterday after filling me boots with Small Eggar larvae, I ventured over the border into Cambs. (or at least into the Peterborough District). I went to Bedford Purlieus, a site I only recall going to once before which was almost exactly six years ago. Immediately on getting there I had doubts; the small car park was full and there was a group of youths loitering around, though to be fair they did not exactly look like snarky yoofs. I reversed into to make a U turn and depart, when I noticed that one of them had a large refuse sack filled with litter and a pick-up stick. Fair play. Even better, they each got into their own car and fecked off, leaving just a couple of cars behind. If I'd turned up a few minutes earlier I'd have not seen this and just gone somewhere else.

Anyway, boots on and almost immediately after walking through a couple of gates I was confronted by a couple of chasers in a sunny corner just in front of woodland, next to a sun-lit flowering shrub (dog wood?). I carefully laid down my nets, got my camera out and starting getting a couple of shots.

The sun-lit shrub in question

Broad-boded Chaser - nice.

All the time as I stood still watching it, I was aware that the shrub was quite busy with hoverflies, Grammoptera and other bits. And then something flew right past my face onto the bush and got my attention. My nets were on the floor some five meters away, the camera was on zoom macro to shoot a chaser that was five meters away, and this thing was sitting at face height about half a meter from me. I could see what it was, the identification was not in any doubt, but my joy was immediately dampened by the realisation that the chance of capturing the event in any way was slim. I turned, fucked about with the camera and it was gone. My first Agrilus biguttatus, in all it's shiny and spotted-elytral glory. Arse. I loitered around the bush for at least half an hour, switching between net and camera but not joy with the jewel. Best hoverfly during this interlude was this monster ..

Volucella inflata

Once it was clear it was gone for good, I set off for a look around the place. It was nothing like I remembered it. In my mind it was a lush flower-rich and slightly damp meadow with a bit of surrounding woodland. Yesterday it was a parched grassland with too much bracken and loads of woodland with long open rides.

I had a good walk around, though the heat was already rising and ento-action was a bit sporadic. Apart from the wood ants that were absolutely everywhere. Along one of the more shaded rides I spotted this scuttling across the path ...

Glow Worm larva

I also got to one particular patch of bracken that was alive with longhorns dance flighting all over the place. Lots of Alosterna tabacicolor that wouldn't sit still (one netted to check) and a handful of these .....

Rutpela maculata

I saw a fair bit flying about in places, but shrubs and bushes on the woodland edge were better for more hoverflies and other stuff, though the only one sitting still long enough for a photo was these ..

Xylota segnis

Tenthredo mesomela

After a couple of hours I headed off, dropping into Ketton Quarry on the way back as it would be daft not too. Immediately on entering the reserve I saw this on a dog rose flower ...

Stenurella melanura

Another Tenthredo mesomela hit the camera sensor, whilst actively eating another sawfly ....

Whilst walking around I was being buzzed by clegs - I'd already netted one that escaped, but I could see it was probably Chrysops relictus from the wing markings. I managed to net it with a chance sweep over my head that just managed to catch it out. Further into the reserve the same happened again, but on checking the net it was something a lot bigger and I managed to get it into a pot. I had no qualms about processing this one, nasty biting bastards that they are.

Anyway, it was a female with three-striped eyes and a sort of pimple on the top of the head ....

This immediately takes it to Hybomitra. Following the key in Stubbs and Drake was fine, Facial dusting, abdominal markings and mid-tibial hairs made it Hybomitra bimaculata.

I'm not a fan of flies that actively try to bite you, but those eyes really are funky. Here's an artist with funky eyes and a jewel-theme.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Egged On

A couple of days ago, photos were posted onto the Leics. and Rutland Butterflies and Moths facebook group requesting an ID for a larval web, with a few larvae visible. By the time I saw it, it had already been identified as Lackey, but having had a quick look and got the photos to full size I quickly posted a correction and confirmed that they were actually Small Eggar. A rare moth in VC55 (one previous record of an adult to light a couple of years ago), and one I've not seen. Subsequently three other webs were found nearby. Today I was lucky enough to be able to have a look myself.

The main web was incredible to see, actually looking heavy and with masses of larvae visible both inside and outside of the web.

A few larvae were noted moving away from the web and feeding, with the twigs actually suspending it having been stripped.

The other webs were smaller with predominantly early-instar larvae.

Really great to see these. They are apparently doing well in Northants, and co-incidentally my facebook feed today included several webs found today in Lincs. and it was recently found near to Newarke which were the first for Notts in c15yrs. You'd think anything feeding on hawthorn would be ubiquitous, but it flies in February - March and prefers hedgerows so I wonder how many of these webs never make it with the trend for flailing hedgerows in the permitted window before the end Feb deadline.

After this I had a decent day out, going just over the border to Bedford Purlieus and then a quick stop at Ketton Quarry before I'd had enough of the heat and lack of sustenance. Stuff for another day.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Blue Moon

I apologise in advance for what immediately follows ....

Whilst out on another quick visit to Huncote Embankment late this afternoon in bright warm sunshine with crisp blue skies, I noticed the moon showing well. And did what everyone does when they've got a new zoom lens / camera. You know what the moon looks like, but to be sure here are two photos: both hand held, both uncropped (just resized) and both unedited. One is without zoom, one is full zoom.

The pathetic white-looking thing in the middle.

FFS - it's full frame!

Anyway, enough of that absolutely gratuitous camera-wank, what else did I see.

I had no particular plan, other than I really did one to try and see another one of those funky small thin sawflies and see if I could get a nice photo of a live one .....

Result! Calameuta filiformis, alive and kicking. Well, loitering on a grass stem.

In the same area there were a good few hoverflies and other diptera, but nothing I felt the urge to net.

Lots of Syritta pipiens

Lots of Face Fly - Musca autumnalis

I also found a couple of these stonking beetles ....

Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle - Agapanthia villosoviridescens

In the same area, this Little Egret was moving between a shallow creek and a cattle field.

Otherwise a bit quiet really, but I wasn't really trying to find anything - just enjoying some more birdsong, sunshine and fresh air. More of the same around the pond, just more chance to play with the camera.

Four-spotted Chaser

Banded Demoiselle

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid

A couple of new-for-me species worked through last night.

First up, the long, thin & small (and frankly quite funky) sawfly I mentioned from Huncote Embankment. Turns out to be exactly in the right habitat, as the larvae feed on phragmites. It's Calameuta filiformis, with the entirely black hind tibia being key. The pictures are not pretty. Soz.

And the yellow-faced bee from the garden turned out to be exactly as expected, Common Yellow-face Bee (Hylaeus communis).

Yellow facial markings hugging the eye and not extended beyong antennae

Tergite 1 sparsely punctured and shiny, and without a pronounced fringe of white hairs along hind margin at the sides

Late this afternoon I enjoyed very peaceful walk today with Nichola. We headed to Cossington Meadows, and although there were a few cars parked up we headed on the longer circuit rather than the main path and met few people. All very nice and summery. Lots of warblers singing, Common Terns and Little Egret noted.

Of course the default position for such a walk was to head out completely net-less, pot-less and strictly no poking about for insects (apart from happening to find more Rhinocyllus conicus). So no ento-photos, but long-zoom bird photos fine apparently .....

A few Lapwings around and paired up, nice.

Sunning itself for parasite control? Or just simply drying itself?

Oystercatchers on one of the pools


Although not my usual taste for music, for the last few weeks whilst working from home I've been listening to Radio 2 during the day - a bit mellow and sort of in the background. Apart from the pop master quiz which I've always enjoyed but rarely hear in normal times. I don't like the Jeremy Vine slot though (typical antagonistic 'debate' set-ups) and usually flip over to Absolute Radio 60s for something different. After flicking through You Tube last night for yesterday's clip, today I have been blasting lots of KMFDM loudly through my Galaxy Bud+ ear-hearers (a family thing, Isabelle coined that term for headphones when she was about four). Most of it has been a bit brash and angry sounding, the polar opposite of our walk but equally enjoyable.

KMFDM = Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid which roughly translates to 'No Pity for the Majority'.

KMFDM = Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode is not what it means, though that's often played on.

Their cover artwork is one of the best continual themed works out there. So here's some more - if you've never listed to KMFDM I can recommend them.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020


A couple of catch-up bits first. I've managed to sort another of the sawflies from Ketton Quarry on 17/05 - or rather confirm from the key that the suggested ID on UK Sawflies was right. It is Cytisogaster chambersi, based on the facial markings which separate it from two other spp.

And I've also sorted a couple of small black hoverflies from the garden on Monday: one was another Pipizella viduata, but the other was new for me - Eumerus funeralis. It's not much of a looker, and only c5mm long so not exactly the most exciting hoverfly but good to sort it properly based on ocelli position and underside of hind femora.

Rear pair of ocelli positioned close to the 'baseline' of the eyes than E. ornatus

Shiny bare patch on hind femora

Another new one for the garden was a surprise, given that the one I swept at Countesthorpe Meadows on 16/05 was on the fourth or so record for the county ....

Empis scutellata - just about to escape from the moth trap it came to

I've got a few bits to pin and check later tonight, including a yello-faced bee from the garden today and a weird shaped small thin sawfly.

Here's a couple more from Huncote Embankment yesterday:

Graphomya macualata - female

Graphomya maculata - male

Helophilus pendulus

A here's a few more from the garden trap ...

Campion - only second garden record


Coxcomb Prominent

"I made a god out of blood, not superiority,
I killed the king of deceit, now I sleep in anarchy"