31 August 2010

Oversley Wood

A few of the more interesting finds from a recent visit to Oversley Wood.

Digger Wasp - Ectemnius lapidarius

A species of solitary wasp that nest in the ground or rotting wood. They prey on other insects and caterpillars  and drag their prey back to their nest burrows as food for the wasp grubs. This one didn't appear to be hunting but feeding on pollen.

Leaf Beetle ?
This was a tiny beetle on a thistle and  you can see a ladybird in the background to guage the scale. I don't think it is a small ladybird but some kind of leaf beetle or bug. However i have not yet been able to settle on an ID.

Thick-Headed Fly - Conops quadrifasciata
I like these conopid flies which aren't that common , look unusual and go by the rather insulting name of Thick-Headed Flies.

Eriothrix rufomaculata
Another one I hadn't seen before. It is a member of the Tachnid Fly family which are characteristically hairy and is similar to the much more common Tachina Fera except this one is bright red and a lot smaller.

30 August 2010


From Oversley Wood

Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta

Brimstone - Gonepteryx rhamni

Small White - Pieris rapae

Common Blue - Polyommatus icarus

26 August 2010


Identification Difficulty

These were all taken at Oversley Wood and (I think) demonstrate the difficulty in identifying Grasshoppers.

Should be dead simple , surely? There are only about half a dozen Grasshopper species you are realistically going to come across. trouble is they can come in a variety of colours.

These 4 all look different but I am going to stick my neck out and say that I think that the first 3 are all Meadow Grasshoppers and the 4th may be also.

Meadow Grasshopper?
I love the colours of this one. I think it is a female by the very short wings as the Meadow Grasshopper is flightless and the female has the shortest wings.

Meadow Grasshopper?
Colouring is very different to the one above but it again has the very short wings.

Meadow Grasshopper?
Same again?  What I like about this shot is how it demonstrates how this colour form is perfect camouflage for its environment.

Meadow or Common Green Grasshopper?
I would like this to be another Meadow Grasshopper to reinforce the theme but on this one I do have my doubts. I think the wings might be too long even for a male and if so then it is probably the Common Green.

Common Darter

Common Darter - Sympetrum striolatum

One I didn't have to chase or stalk for a change. Landed in the garden and sat on  a wall for a while.

25 August 2010

Hornets !

I've been trying to get some decent shots of Hornets since one taunted me earlier in the year and all I got was a very blurry shot. I hadn't even come across any more until a few weeks ago when I managed a slightly better picture but he just wouldn't stay still.

Then last weekend at Oversley Wood I came across a number of them at different times and different places. They were particularly abundant where there was Scabious growing.

I spotted this one or rather heard him and at first I thought he was caught up in a spiders web. I could tell he was having a tussle but I wasn't sure if he was the predator or the prey. Then he was off.

I couldn't really tell what was going on in real time but looking at this photo he appears to be standing on the spiders web rather than being "trapped" and he has some kind of "fly" which he may have spotted in the web and decided it was too good an opportunity to miss or just used the web as somewhere to land. When he flew off there was nothing left so he may have flown off with his then inert victim.

Hornet - Vespa crabro. with victim

Hornet Death Grip

Then a bit later in a different location I again heard a wild buzzing which led me to another Hornet this time clearly in the process of stinging some kind of Bee whilst hanging from a Scabious stem.

He was there for just over a minute immobilising his prey and then was off, presumably with the bee. It was quite a savage display and I was pretty close to the action and I wouldn't fancy getting the wrong side of one of these.

Hornet - Vespa crabro. with Bee victim

Hornet - Vespa crabro. with victim

Thirsty Work!

I was then lucky once again to spot another Hornet!  I was standing by a puddle looking at some hoverflies on a plant and this one swung by and decided to have a drink He landed only about a foot away enabling me to get clear shot at last.

16 August 2010

Trench Wood

After torrential rains on Saturday it became "balmy" on Sunday and I decided to see what was happening at Trench Wood.

It was a day for Butterflies and other big flying insects.

Common Blue - Polyommatus icarus
You could spend your life chasing these around. So when they finally settle.....

Comma - Polygonia c-album
Their upperwings are so much more pretty but it is interesting also to see the underwings and their overall shape.

Brimstone - Gonepteryx rhamni
I haven't seen any Brimstones since about May but there was a patch with about 8 of them

Green Veined White - Pieris napi

Southern Hawker - Aeshna cyanea
For once I didn't have to chase this Dragonfly. Instead of a cat and mouse pursuit this beautiful Dragonfly decided to land close by and pose as I was taking shots of the Brimstones. He didn't stay long but it was long enough and I am grateful.

Hornet Alert !

For the past month or so I have been on the lookout for a large hoverfly Volucella zonaria which is huge and is a Hornet mimic. I have seen fleeting glimpses but never enough even to get a bad photo. I came across a spot where I saw one but it kept just out of reach and evrytime I tried to change position to grab a picture it would disappear again!

Then out of the blue I heard the unmistakable droning buzz of a Hornet and it came lumbering into view. Last time I saw one of these I failed miserably to get a decent picture as it was gone as soon as I saw it but this one flew around for about 5 minutes. However it just wouldn't settle anywhere and whilst it looked to be lumbering about quite slowly I think that is just because it was so big and in reality it is still going quite fast. Anyway excuses out of the way I must have taken about 30 shots and these are the best !

To be honest they do not do justice to how big this thing was You don't get any sense of scale and it could just be the size of an ordinary wasp, but believe me it was HUGE. It would also have been nice to have gotten an in focus shot in profile but some other time maybe. I suppose the only consolation is that it is not too bad for an "in flight "shot.

Hornet - Vespa crabro

Hornet - Vespa crabro

Hoverfly - Volucella inanis
As for Volucella zonaria I didn't manage to get a picture but I did at least come across its slightly smaller cousin.

Shieldbug - Corizus hyoscyami

Location:Middletown Ln,,United Kingdom

Perseid Meteor Shower

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaked at the end of last week and I decided to try and get a picture. As is usual when there is anything worth looking at in the night sky it started off cloudy but there was a window between about 10pm and midnight. I set up my tripod with a wide angle lens focused to infinity and chose a 20 second exposure. If you go for much more than 30 seconds the stars actually blur as they move sufficiently in the sky in that time. I then set my camera to take a number of exposures.

Out of 50 or 60 shots this was the only one of a meteor but I quite like it.

This may look like a really good meteor but don't be fooled. It is in fact a plane moving across the night sky. Click for a larger view and you can clearly see the red and white lights which ave been flashing on the tail and wings

Oversley Wood

Chasing the Dragonfly

Spotted this dragonfly darting about and returning to his perch, so as he was dashing about I moved in close to his perch. Trouble was he actually had more than on perch he was using so he would go to the one farthest from me and whenever I crept closer he would go to another perch. Therefore I couldn't get too close.With a bit of heavy cropping, though,  of the pictures aren't too bad.

Common Darter - Sympetrum striolatum

Shieldbug Nymph
In order to grow insects have to "moult" their existing exoskeletons and they can go through a number of transformations before they reach maturity. The period between molts is called an instar and shieldbugs go through 5 instars before maturity and they gradually get to look more like the finished product. Having said that I couldn't tell you which instar of which shieldbug this is!

Dark Bush Cricket - Pholidoptera griseoaptera
Crickets are like birds..... Not because they have wings but because they have identifiable songs. In fact just like birds it is often easier to identify a cricket by its song, especially as they are often hidden in undergrowth or grass. This cricket makes a very uncomplicated sound, just a single , fairly high pitched note . Others may be more intricate and interesting but at least this one is "easy". If you get to know them you can know if it is worth waiting  to try to see the critter or if it is just one of the same type you have seen loads of. Or if like me you haven't really got that skill you can at least compare what you are hearing in the undergrowth and decide if there are multiple species present.

Bush Cricket Nymph
Can't really say more than that. Its not fully developed and it didn't make a noise ! I think it is female though because of the long oviposter (egg laying tube).

Hoverfly - Eristalis pertinax
Could be considered quite a dull hoverfly and could even be confused with a honey bee maybe. But it has quite a distinctive tapered body shape that doesn't really occur ( or at least not as pronounced) in other hoverflies.

4 August 2010

Hay Wood

It was a disappointingly dull weekend when I was hoping for some good sunshine but I decided on a trip to Hay Wood again to see what was about.

Hoverfly - Helophilus pendulus

One of my favourite hoverflies. I have not seen any in the garden but Hay Wood seems to be  a good spot for them.

Flesh Fly - Sarcophaga carnaria

A very large and striking Blow Fly. Very common.

Sloe Shieldbug - Dolycoris baccarum

Spotted him on the top of a thistle and on closer inspection found this on an adjoining thistle....

Corizus hyoscyami

This unusual orange bug is actually another Shieldbug This isn't the best picture I got of him as he is slightly obscured by parts of the thistle but I am using it as when I was processing it I noticed another creature (bottom right) which I hadn't noticed out in the field.
The clue to what it is is in the previous picture, it is Sloe Bug Nymph. So that may be its parent!

Figwort Sawfly - Tenthredo scrophulariae

I recognised this one instantly as I had seen one in the garden, briefly, earlier in the year and whilst I had grabbed a shot then it was not very good and I was glad to get the chance to get a better shot. They don't sit still for long though!.

Longhorn Beetle - Strangalia maculata

I have also seen a a lot of these this year but usually on something like Hogweed but I think they look good against the purple of the Thistle head. As do a lot of insects so it is a good time of year to get pictures.

Conopid Fly - Physocephala rufipes

This one I haven't seen before and I fell into the same trap as the last Conopid I saw. Is it a wasp? Is it some kind of Hover? Bee? Ichneumon? Well I got there in the end....

Cimbicid Sawfly - Zaraea fasciata

Yes it is a sawfly but like the Conopid before it took me some time to get there. In the field I thought it was a Bee. I've kind of been avoiding photographing Bees this year as I struggle to get a decent picture and then I struggle on the ID. This one looked a bit unusual however and maybe distinctive enough to get a positive (and easyish) ID so I took a few shots. Not a brilliant picture so you can see why I avoid them, but whilst it is Bee like it is also unlike a Bee in some ways. For a start it is not very hairy, the abdomen is shiny even. The antennae also look wrong somehow and that was actually the best pointer to what it is. The antennae are clearly "club" shaped at the end and that is a characteristic feature of this family of Sawfly.

Garden Newt

Median Wasp ?
I had just found this interesting mainly black wasp when I heard a rustling below me and this little chap appeared. I would have liked to get a better picture of the wasp but I'm not complaining.
[edit: on the Wild about Britain forum I came across great tip for identifying Median Wasps. They have a "7" on their shoulders. You can just make this out on this photo]

Common Newt - Triturus vulgaris

Now this is one of the driest parts of the garden and we do not have a pond (but there is one next door) so I certainly wasn't expecting to see a Newt. However in late July adult newts shed their skins and the characteristic "crests",  return to land and and can be found in all sorts of habitats. So maybe I will see him or his friends again


More stuff from around the garden

Scalloped Oak - Odontopera bidentata
Hiding out in the greenhouse amongst the cucumbers

Marmalade Hoverfly - Episyrphus balteatus

Hoverfly - Sphaerophoria scripta
This was a new one for me although I have since seen a few, both in the garden and out and about. A quite small but striking hoverfly

Hoverfly - Eupeodes sp
Damned hoverflies! I had this down as Eupeodes Luniger until 5 minutes ago and now I'm not so sure. It could be Eupeodes corrollae? Anyway a nice hoverfly and lots of them about at the moment.

Ichneumon wasp
I have a bunch of Nasturtians which have become infested with aphids and they seem  to attract all sorts of wasps and hoverflies. Most of them don't seem to be specifically targeting the aphids , but this one does.