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

Friday, 26 November 2021

Rough Hill Leafmining

Another belated post - busy, etc etc

Last Sunday, after a few e-mail exchanges and shared ideas, a group of us met up for some late leaf-mining. We headed to Rough Hill in Charnwood, very close to Bradgate Park. I've only been to this site a couple of times before, and only in June - mainly looking for Forester and other day-flying moths, plus a decent selection of Diptera and Symphyta last time. But of course in November, the lush flower-rich meadows are long gone and it is more obvious that the site is reclaimed land that has been cleared/planted up. There are plenty of pockets of woodland with a decent range of broadleaved and coniferous trees - really it is only lacking Alder.

It was nice and bright in the main, but the wind was a bit sharp when not sheltered by the trees. I managed to leave my phone in the car, which I usually use for general landscape shots as it is much better for this than any of my 'real' cameras. Still I had the TG-6 in my bag so here's a couple of not very good shots to set the scene ....

It turned into exactly what we hoped for - a leisurely and sociable but productive amble around the site, collecting leaves along the way and passing on a bit of knowledge to each other in the process. So far the provisional list stands at 31 leafmining species (plus Coleophora laricella cases on Larch, Infurcitinea argentimaculella larval tubes on lichen and a Scarce Umber found at rest). Not bad at all considering that most of the trees were almost bare and many leaves were picked up from the floor.

Here's a selection:

Ectoedemia intimella - tenanted mine on Salix sp.

Phyllonorycter cerasicolella - tenanted mine on Cherry (Prunus sp.)

Phyllonorycter quercifoliella - mine on oak with pupa intact, pupal cremaster checked

Gypsonoma dealbana - early stage larval feeding pattern and frass 'tube' on oak

Coleophora laricella - case on Larch

Scarce Umber

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Blacktoft Sands - WTL

WTL - I expect you think I am about to post about travelling up to Yorks and grabbing some snaps of the long-staying White-tailed Lapwing at Blacktoft Sands RPSB (and ticking it in the process). Well, that's not going to happen. Firstly, it's not going to happen because I am old enough to know that White-tailed Lapwing is not actually a thing (whereas White-tailed Plover absolutely is). Secondly, it's not going to happen because this particular WTL is a different acronym - 'waited too long' ....

So, last week I was off work to get some decorating done. By Thursday I was done (or as done as I needed to be at that point). I'd been vaguely aware that this bird turned up in mid-August and had been knocking around for a while. A quick check across Twitter confirmed it was still present, usually being seen from Xerox Hide. I made a snap decision - Friday would be a day out looking for/at a rare bird. Me going out specifically to see a rare bird is actually a rarer event than the birds turning up these days. Friday dawned and I was up and out; not at the crack of dawn as I'm really not that enthusiastic these days about getting up, but early enough that I would have a good few hours of decent daylight to enjoy the reserve. 

I arrived just before 10am, and the handful of cars in the car park perhaps suggested others were there with the same plan. It was nice and bright though a bit nippy. I'd not been to Blacktoft Sands for a decade so was looking forward to enjoying a variety of waterbirds as well as looking for/at that lanky yellow-legged wader. I headed straight to Xerox hide, the first hide west of the reception cabin (which was closed, with no staff on site). As I entered, I realised that perhaps not everyone on site was going to be looking for the rarity; maybe an unfair snap judgement. I quietly settled into position and eagerly scanned the vista. And immediately a pang of doubt smacked me in the face. Don't get me wrong - it's not that I was expecting to rock up and just see the bird immediately, but I was hoping that picking it out from the other birds would be the most difficult part of it. And that was the problem - there was a lack of other birds. After a good half hour of scanning, checking, scanning again, I managed to muster two Redshanks, two Snipe and a Teal. A bloke that had set up next to me and had apparently been doing the same commented on how quiet it was. I acknowledged this, and that I expected more than just Redshank and Snipe, to which he responded 'oh, where is the Snipe'. I decided to check out the other hides. Every single one was similarly birdless - in fact more so. Across the other five hides, several of which I checked twice, I saw less than I'd seen from Xerox hide.

I could not believe my luck - or lack of it. This bird had been seen daily for months, and the one day I turn up it is nowhere to be seen. Over the five or so hours I stuck at it, I did come across two other blokes that were looking for and failing to see the Plover, whilst the other 10 or so people on site were clearly looking for 'birds' but not quite sure what they might be. Or have any clue about the Plover.

I did find a Water Pipit, heard numerous Cetti's, Bearded Tits and Water Rails and saw a few Marsh Harriers patrolling plus a couple of skeins of Pink-feet over. Everytime I passed Xerox hide I checked in and scanned again - nothing. I spent the last hour of my visit sat in Xerox hide hoping that stuff would come back in; a flypast flock of Lapwings and a couple of brief Black-tailed Godwits dropping in brought some hope - but not for long. I was absolutely sure the Plover would not have gone anywhere, but also knew that however long I stayed it was not happening today. I should have called time on the visit much earlier and gone to do something else, but I just waited too long looking at birdless views.

Absolutely as expected, the blasted Plover was back on show on Saturday ....

I may try again another day, if it sticks around for the winter (as it may) but my opportunities are limited. It really doesn't matter - I'm not bothered at not seeing the bird, I'm more kicking myself at sticking around there too long wasting time.

Here's a selection of nice but birdless views, and a couple of snaps of birds I did see.

Redshank - this is the sort of view I was hoping to get of the Plover

Snipe - the sort of view I thought I might get

This Tree Sparrow was auditioning for a Drag Race, going by the moniker 'Princess Passer'

It's mate was not impressed

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Island Life

I nipped out today with a specific leafminer target. Given my rank amateur approach to leafmining, most of my finds have generally been a case of looking at and finding mines on whatever trees I come across and then trying to work out what they are - rather than looking for a specific target on a specific host. Anyway today, the host was Aspen. I nipped over to Croft Hill where there are a couple of decent stands, and noted that there were plenty of golden yellow leaves still on the trees ....

But actually, I had no intention of looking into the foliage. Instead, I was intent on looking through the masses of fallen leaves ....

It seemed like looking for a needle in a haystack initially, but I soon spotted what I was after ....

If you look carefully, you'll see that amongst the numerous yellowed leaves with signs of decay is one with a distinct green flush - a so-called green island. Before long I was finding lots of them.

What you may also have noticed on the above closer shots, at that right at the base of the green island, right between the mid-rib and a vein and into the petiole is a mine.

This is the mine of Ectoedemia argyropeza, and happily as you can hopefully see in the above at least one of the several leaves I brought home was tenanted. The early part of the mine actually causes a gall in the stem and petiole, and some of the mines that seemed to have been vacated may just have the larva in the petiole where they retreat in the day. Apparently.

This species is thought to be parthenogenetic in the UK, which perhaps explains the wholly daft vernacular 'Virgin Pygmy'.

As you can see here, I got lucky with one leaf having two mines.

There are some very complicated scientific explanations for how leafminer larvae create these green islands, which remain photosynthetically active, using bacteria. Like this one.

This is a new species for me. There are very similar mines to look for created by closely related Ectoedemia spp. on hybrid Black Poplar (E. hannoverella, no VC55 records) and on either White Poplar & Grey Poplar (E. turbidella, one VC55 record of a gen detted adult to light).

Saturday, 13 November 2021


Here's some more from that Greek trip, a mixed bad of inverts:

These first couple are from the car park area at the hotel just outside of Athens before heading home, where lots of stuff was just a lot bigger than I'm used to. These ants were (relatively) massive with huge jaws. Believe they are some type of 'Carpenter Ant' Camponotus sp.

And on the same big theme, this Psychid case was attached to a kerbside next to a group of conifers. No idea on species.

All of the following were just around the same two areas near Kamina as in the last post.

Think I've only seen one Snakefly in the UK, before I was bothered and it was not identified. This one - I think - looks a good match to Raphidia mediterranea.

This darter was in the car park of the hotel at Kaminia. I mulled over it for a while before realising it is a female Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea).

I think this funky-looking shieldbug is Carpocoris mediterraneus.

I've made no attempt to identify the remainder.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Karma Kaminia

I didn't realise until I just checked, but this here blog has existed for 14 years almost to the day (I should have looked a couple of days ago on the 7th). Within that time, I've posted countless images and endless streams of nonsense. Occasionally the blog has lapsed into complete hiatus, sometimes I have a surge of enthusiasm. Regardless, I have used the blogger label function liberally over all of those years.

Ultimately the blog serves one key purpose - for my own reference and recollection. I often flick back through old posts, and sometimes I scan through the labels and remind myself about a species / place / time. It's also not unusual for me to notice a label and have no clue what it refers to until I click it. And that happened again earlier this evening.


It was only when I pulled up the posts with this label that I remembered a business trip to Greece back in April 2015. In fact it was the last overseas business trip I made before changing my role from Quality Manager to Manufacturing Manager; visits to other plants have been very few indeed since then. The trip was a week-long activity in one of our plants, referred to as Patras albeit actually a reasonable drive away from the city. Greece is a quirky shape with lots of islands, so to save you Googling here are some maps to give some reference:

Patras a good three hours drive west of Athens (c130 miles). It seems even longer when driving on the wrong side of the road in an unfamiliar hired automatic car ....

Zoomed in a bit, the green dot is Patras (Greece's third largest city and the regional capital of Western Greece, apparently), and the red dot is the large industrial estate where the plant I was working at is.

Zoomed in a bit more again, the red dot is the plant and the cyan dot is where I was staying in the coastal town of - yes - Kaminia. And the yellow dots ...

Whilst I was there for a week, I did manage a couple of quick half-hour or so forays at the yellow dots with the camera with the intention of snapping any odd inverts or birds I saw. One spot was literally some roadside scrub, and one was a pull-in right alongside the coast with some scrub. Neither looked anything like promising, but honestly it was ridiculous how much activity there was despite it being April and there still being snow on the mountains. I had no net or pots of course, but a lot of stuff was easily snapped or coaxed onto the hand to try and get a shot out of the glare of the sun.

I've already posted a number of images from this trip (hence the couple of labelled posts) - a few red and black hemipteran species and a number of weevils. But looking back to my photos I had plenty more that have never been shared. So now is as good a time as any. There are too many for one post, so I'll share a few beetles on this one and some varied inverts another day.

First up, this was literally on the steps of the hotel when I arrived - and it was pretty sizeable too. The shape seems right for Buprestidae, and checking it seems it is perhaps Capnodis tenebricosa.

Here's a couple that look very familiar in terms of shape, and are clearly closely related to our Oedemera nobilis. Some quick Googling brought up likely names for them ....

Oedemera rufofemorata

Oedemera femorata

These two are even more putatively named ....

Tropinota squalida

Omophlus lepturoides

And these two remain unnamed, and are likely to stay that way - there's no imperative to name them anyway, no records or lists awaiting them.

Presume Cerambycid

Presume Cantharid

This last one is actually from the car park of the hotel I stopped at just outside of Athens before flying home.

Opatrum sabulosum

Snow-capped mountains viewed from the plant

Sunset over the sea from the hotel