It was early Tuesday morning and the landscape was muffled by a dense layer of fog but there was magic happening in the fields, amongst the plants, as the power of fog droplets illuminated the industrious efforts of the spider kingdom.
One of the side benefits of searching the scabious for rare bees (see yesterday’s piece, Searching the scabious, 1) is that my search also revealed how many other insects were enjoying the essential late summer-early autumn food supply provided by the beautiful wildflower, Devil’s-bit scabious. Amongst them were these five butterflies and a moth: Large white, Red admiral, Small copper, Small tortoiseshell, Small white and a Silver Y.
And also these five hoverflies: Eristalis intricarius, Helophilus trivittatus, Sericomyia silentis, Volucella pellucens and Volucella zonaria.
bees on scabious, Bombus pascuorum, Bombus terrestris, British bees, British wildflowers, Buff-tailed bumblebee, Bull-headed furrow bee, Common carder bee, Devil's-bit scabious, Lasioglossum leucozonium, Lasioglossum zonulum, Megachile ligniseca, White-zoned furrow bee, Wood-carving leafcutter bee
In recent weeks, when the weather has been fine and the air relatively still, I’ve been spending time searching the Devil’s-bit scabious for bees. Not just any bees, but four scarce and endangered bees. This is part of Buglife’s ‘Searching for Scabious’ project, which
aims to improve our understanding of the distribution and conservation status of some of Wales’ rarest and most threatened solitary bees – the Large Scabious Mining Bee (Andrena hattorfiana) and its associated cuckoo, the Armed nomad bee (Nomada armata), and Small Scabious Mining Bee (Andrena marginata) and its cuckoo, the Silver-sided nomad bee (Nomada argentata).
I wasn’t familiar with these bees and am not very good at bee identification in general but Liam Olds, Buglife’s local conservation officer, has put together an excellent explainer video, which can be accessed on YouTube, so I thought I’d join the search.
Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to find any of the scarce bees at the two local sites where Devil’s-bit scabious grows in abundance (and neither has Liam, which was reassuring for me re my search skills but bad news for the bees). The bees I did find most commonly were the appropriately named Common carder (Bombus pascuorum) (below, left) and the Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) (below, right).
Liam very kindly helped to identify the other small bees I found. These lovely little furrow bees are either the White-zoned furrow bee (Lasioglossum leucozonium) or the Bull-headed furrow bee (Lasioglossum zonulum) – the two species are too similar to tell them apart without closer examination.
I also found several of these more distinctive individuals, the Wood-carving leafcutter bee (Megachile ligniseca). You can find out more about them, and watch a little video of their nest-building skills, on the BWARS website. Meantime, I’m heading back to the scabious for another look.
Green woodpeckers are very skittish birds I find. Any sudden movement and, with a loud yaffle, they’re off. Luckily, with this bird, I was partially hidden by trees. Although it heard me coming and flitted up from the ground where it had been poking about for ants, at least it didn’t fly far so I was able to focus my shot between the branches and twigs.
My title says ‘inspection’ but I was tempted to invent a new word and write ‘insection’, as my inspection was really a personal challenge to see how many different insects I could find on the copious number of Common ragwort plants currently in bloom at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park. All except three of these photos were taken during one 45-minute period on Wednesday – the Small copper and two flies were seen the following day. The broad diversity of species just shows how important Ragwort is as a late summer food plant for insects.
‘Get up, sweet Slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangling herb and tree.’
‘… the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept.
Come, and receive them while the light
Hangs on the dew-locks of the night’
~ lines from the poem ‘Corinna’s Going a-Maying’, Robert Herrick, Hesperides
When I spotted this caterpillar yesterday, I didn’t think I’d seen one like it before but, when one of my Twitter pals later identified it for me, I realised I had seen one previously, though a younger model.
These are the larvae of the Knot grass moth (Acronicta rumicis), a moth I’ve never seen (you can see what the adult moth looks like and read more about it on the UK Moths website). I think the larva above, found munching on Dyer’s greenweed at Cosmeston on 4 June, is an early instar, whereas the larva below, found feeding on Common ragwort at Lavernock Nature Reserve on 10 September and a real stunner, is almost ready to pupate for the winter.
Yesterday I wrote about being reminded twice of the value of stillness – this was the second time. With a couple of fellow birders, I’d been enjoying a feast of migrant action all in one field – a Whinchat, a Spotted flycatcher, four Stonechats and these two Redstarts – though, as usual, the birds were a little too distant for my camera to get good photos.
Then, the unforecast rain came down in earnest, blowing across the field in vertical waves. The two chaps headed off but I figured I’d wait out the worst of the weather in the shelter of a large Oak tree growing along the hedgerow. Once again, my partial camouflage and my stillness – I waited 30 minutes or more – was rewarded, as one of the Redstarts came very near where I was standing. I couldn’t risk the camera being out in the rain for long but I was delighted with the couple of images I took and with being able to get such close views of this lovely bird.