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

Friday, 31 July 2020

Escapes & Weeds

Having trawled though photos and some samples, sense-checked to existing records and generally convinced myself, I've just about got as far as I think I will get with the various plants, weeds and vegetation that I saw around Cosby yesterday evening. Photos are not great: when I first got there the sun was low and blisteringly warm and bright, but most of the plants of interest were in deep shade down in the brook bed. Later as the sun dropped the light went completely. Still, one way or another I managed to get some useable shots. Not all of the following were new, but a good few were - I ended up with 14 new vascular plants, however that included Garden Lobelia which I know I've seen on the loose before but clearly forgot to list.

Yellow Corydalis

Dwarf Mallow

White Stonecrop

Pink Water-speedwell

Galls of the weevil Gymnetron villosulum on Pink Water-speedwell



Fool's Water-cress

Branched Bur-reed

Reflexed Stonecrop

Argentinian Vervain

There was loads of this growing in a garden about 200M further up the road, and none growing anywhere near this shooting spike. I don't think Virgin delivered it with the fibre-broadband.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Back in the Village

This evening I've had a splendid couple of hours wandering around the nearby village of Cosby ....

You may recall that earlier in the year I ventured here to (successfully) find Winter Heliotrope, and around the same time I also mentioned I would try and make some effort to see a few common vascular plants around the county this year. I remembered earlier this week that there were a couple of common plants I should be able to find in the brook that runs through Cosby, and that was the plan.

However the other good thing about Cosby is that there are many well-established cottage gardens meaning a good potential for escapes, and also plenty of corners and walls where weeds wildflowers may establish and thrive.

Essentially I've got lots of photos and material to work through, including a couple of leafmines, and I anticipate recording a number of new plant species from this outing. However that can all wait, as the complete unexpected star of my time in the village came in the form of a sawfly flitting about and landing on vegetation alongside the brook. After grabbing some poor record shots, I was lucky in that it settled long enough to get the Raynox back on and set the camera up. I then got a few more shots as it sat, flitted and re-settled a couple of times, albeit still one-handed and reaching a bit. I managed to pot it to be sure, but there's not much mistaking this one ....

Figwort Sawfly (Tenthredo scrophulariae)

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Basil Munchers

Last week I was contacted on messenger to say that a nearby reader of this blog had found some caterpillars - would I like to see them? The next evening, a plastic tub with two noctuid larvae was delivered - many thanks to Debra Kitchen both for finding me via the blog and for bringing them around. They were found feeding on some organic Basil, which at least gave me a chance of rearing them as they were highly likely to be an unfussy polyphagous species. And in all honesty they were likely to be a common species, though at first glance I wasn't sure which. I was able to quickly get them feeding on dandelion, which wasn't lasting long, and last night I offered them a huge tomato leaf which has been demolished. They've already grown a fair bit in just five days, and although the general markings are the same they are different colours. I've now worked out that they are the two colour forms of Bright-line Brown-eye.

I'll keep them going for a while longer but these can go out to pupate before long.

Also growing well, remember that small first-instar Puss Moth I found at Croft Hill on 10th July? It's now looking a lot more like you'd expect a Puss Moth larva to look.

It still has a lot of growing to do though, only half way there.

Meanwhile, this week I have been listening to lots of Dreadzone ....

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Bog Trotting

A quick post before I settle into an afternoon of nail-biting nervous tension with the close of the longest football season imaginable.

This morning I've been out on a quest. It was like twitching birds, except having far more chance of scoring as the quarry is absolutely unable to get up and wander off (although in some situations it could have been mowed, picked or lathered in weed killer). Yes - I've been tracking down published dots on Naturespot maps and finding vascular plants and their parasites where they were recorded as being.

So the blue dots on here are for various records from a site that I'll refer to as Sapcote Marsh. They are all generated by probably the most diligent and prolific recorder on Naturespot, Graham Calow. I'd never been to this site, but Graham assured me that access was easy from a signposted footpath through a field and that walking boots were more than adequate ....

I'm glad I put full length trousers on and also took the precaution of wearing my waterproof Sealskinz socks! The site is essentially a wide strip between a cultivated field and a drainage ditch, surrounded by mixed hedgerow. It has a potential to be damp. No idea of the history of the site, or whether the landowner is obliged to maintain the strip as it has been there for decades, but Graham seems to think it is a little in decline and generally dryer than it used to be.

I managed to traipse around for an hour or so getting wetter by the minute thanks to the knee-high vegetation and over-night rain. The strip between the crop and the grass was best, with a few arable plants mixed in with the crop. I ended up finding most of the species I was looking for, including Gypsywort, Pale Persicaria, Black-bindweed and Parsley-piert. I also found dipteran galls on Perennial Sow-thistle and Meadowsweet, and a smut rust on White Campion.

I've got a few plants lined up to look for, but the Leicester City lockdown is creating a bit of a blocker for that the moment.

Meanwhile the moth trap has been dormant for most of the week with poor trapping conditions and/or work related commitments getting in the way. Here's a couple from recently ....

Plain Pug


Hoary Footman (hindwing checked)

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Russian Interference

I don't mean in some deep state-sponsored cyber spymaster Tory donor kind of way. I mean in a botanical sense, an adventive scourge on our waysides and byways. And of course a creeping vascular tick on my pathetic list of greenstuff. Russian-vine.

I found some of this at Croft Hill at the weekend, but it looked decidedly 'just-escaped' from the adjacent garden. Still, a quick look at Naturespot revealed a few nearby sites. I had to nip out to drop Alex off at work early this evening, so took a very minor detour to look for a sprawling mass of this stuff down a rural lane heading out of Broughton Astley - well away from gardens. It wasn't hard to find, as it stands out very easily creeping around amongst the more familiar bindweeds, brambles and hawthorns.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

The Zone

I nipped to Croft Hill again this evening. No high expectations at it was around 18:30 by the time I got there so aside from plenty of bumblebees not much going on. Still masses of flowering Ragwort, and ridiculously still a relative lack of Cinnabar larvae - I've seen a bigger mass on a single plant down the lane in the last week than I've seen here.

Still, there was some gold amongst the bees - almost literally in terms of colour ....

Volucella zonaria - by far the biggest hover to be seen and one I love to see

I also spied what I was certain was a new fly for me, so no dithering trying to get an 'on-the-flower' shot, I needed to get it potted and check it at home. Sure enough, I was right ....

Physocephala rufipes

I also stumbled, almost literally, on a female Emperor in the grass. I grabbed a quick shot before it made a quick escape.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Distressing Damsels

Early this evening I had a leisurely and relaxing amble around an area of what was wet grassland / marshland which has now been opened up and made accessible as a leisure area with cycle tracks/paths etc. It's also part of a complex associated with the building of the newly located Everards Brewery, and accordingly it's been named Everards Meadows. It's easily big enough to walk away from the flat grassy picnic area, cycle shop and coffee house and find nice open areas with potential. It runs into the Soar Valley and you could easily walk from there onto Aylestone Meadows.

I took a sweep net, but the camera didn't get any use. Although it was reasonably warm and sunny there wasn't a lot flying or active, but the sweep net yielded lots of hemiptera. In particular, I found lots of Damsels, the Nabidae. Having potted them, by the time I'd got home and eaten etc it was too late to try and photograph them properly, so I've had to anaesthetise them, plonk them on card and grab a shot with flash. You get the gist, but they're not pretty to look at and are more like damsels in distress.

Tree Damsel Bug - Himacerus apterus

Broad Damsel Bug - Nabis flavomarginatus

Field Damsel Bug - Nabis ferus

Which Nabis?
I believe it's a nymph, though it superficially resembles Marsh Damsel Bug - Nabis limbatus

And a couple of leggy Miridae, same shape different family:

Miridius quadrivirgatus
This turns up in moth traps a fair bit in VC55, but not sure there are any other 'in the field' records

Phytocoris varipes

The damsel distress didn't stop there either, as on checking whether I'd seen Nabis limbatus before I realised that I had Himacerus apterus listed twice. Arse, -1 for the list.

"I just wanted somebody to caress
   This damsel in distress
      I just wanted somebody to undress
         This damsel in distress
            I just wanted somebody to bless
               This damsel in distress"

Sunday, 19 July 2020

More Alluring

I headed out this morning on a whistle-stop tour of a few sites to dangle the Lunar lure. With success - another three sites, albeit in two tetrads. So far it seems that the peak response is within a two-hour window between c9am to midday, with warm sunny days bringing and earlier response and an earlier cessation. Whether I'll get another chance this year I don't know, they may be over by next weekend. I've also avoided heading out to look at a scraggy bone muncher - hurrah!

No moth trap out last night as it was forecast (and did) throw it down in the night, and not much else done today so here's a few snaps while I gather my thoughts.

Conops quadrifasciatus

Eriothrix rufomaculata

Male Beewolf (with a few light drops of drizzle)

Phytocoris ulmi - from the moth trap on Friday night