Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Lip-licking Lizard

A lot of Common Lizards on logs and tree stumps in the SE corner of Rowney Warren today

Banded General - Stratiomys potamida

Seen at Sharpenhoe Clappers, it's been four years since I last saw one of these, long enough to have completely forgotten what it is, the Banded General soldierfly Stratiomys potamida, or that I'd even seen one before. I had to check my emails to find that Stephen Plummer had ID'd one for me in 2008! Senility progressing nicely!

Marbled White

My first Marbled White of the year, at Old Warden Tunnel

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Has it stopped yet?

An Ectemnius sp. of solitary wasp peering from its hole in a dead elm in Willington, checking to see if the rain has stopped.

Emperor Cat

It's always a delight to stumble across something spectacular. Today at Willington alongside the cycle track I spotted this Emperor Moth caterpillar munching on bramble.

 When a heavy shower came through it turned head down - I guess they don't like heavy raindrops in the face any more than we do.

Saturday, 23 June 2012


More often seen (by me anyway) as a larva than adult, Mullein caterpillars on Mullein plants. There were some very large specimens today on the old railway between Cardington and Old Warden Tunnel.

Kite flying weather

I don't normally bother photographing birds, but this Red Kite was just too tempting, soaring on the currents just above me on the Cardington to Old Warden NR disused railway, so I pointed my macro lens upwards for a change! 

Liquorice Piercer - Grapholita pallifrontana 2

Pleased to say that I found the species at another site today, the disused railway from Cardington to Old Warden Tunnel. It was found at two locations in different 10km squares, so that's three new 10km squares added in the last eight days.

There was one pair amongst them:

This shows what they look like in context. Easy to find sitting on top of foliage, usually near to wild liquorice rather than on it, as here. They seem to sit out much of the day like this.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Marston Thrift pond

A visit to Marston Thrift to look for Black Hairstreak (none seen) led to the ponds at about 16:30 where I counted through binoculars 19 Great Crested Newts swimming on the surface - I've never seen so many before.

Several four-spotted chasers were contending for the females, of which one was laying.

A water boatman drifted close enough to be snapped.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Liquorice Piercer - Grapholita pallifrontana

After three site visits for discovery, better photos and habitat checking, and numerous emails with David Manning we have settled on this being Grapholita pallifrontana, a UK BAP Priority Species. Confirmation was hampered by the photographs showing a characteristic that Bradley said was diagnostic of a very similar species G. internana. That species feeds on gorse, of which there is none on site (one of the visits was to check this) whereas G. pallifrontana feeds on wild liquorice, of which there is quite a bit. These photos are of one sitting on a bramble leaf alongside a liquorice patch. Another adult was also present there.

When approached too closely the moth does a weird rotational dance, following by a random run around the leaf, then either runs underneath or flies off! For a close look it's necessary to first back off a bit when it starts girating, then, once it's calmed down, move in slowly.

It's worth checking anywhere that has liquorice for this species.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Mowsbury Hill Revisited

A revisit to Mowsbury Hill LNR, only a little less windy, unearthed a different variety of things from yesterday. That's the wonderful thing about going out to look for wildlife - you never know what you'll get!

A very impressive sawfly, probably a male Abia sericea was warming in the old orchard at 10am.

A micro moth, a female Adela croesella or Nemophora degeerella, unconvincingly either:

My first Black-tailed Skimmer of the year, near the driving range:

A Speckled Wood holding a sunny glade:

Yellow Rattle in the meadow area, where there are around 500 spkies of Common-spotted Orchids.

One of about eight Bee Orchids in the grassland outside the LNR:

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Windy day on Mowsbury Hill

 An assortment of insects from Mowsbury Hill LNR today in extremely blustery conditions:

A Malachite beetle (Malachius bipustulatus) taking off:

Another sort of beetle (possibly an Elateridae of some sort?) also getting airborne

What I deduce to be a Red-legged Shieldbug nymph, but the pie-crust markings around the edge of the abdomen don't look like the reference photos on the web, so maybe I'm wrong?

My first Large Skipper (male) of the year:

A Volucella pellucens hoverfly waiting for better weather:

One of the Xylota species of hoverfly, but I'm not sure which yet.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Mottled Grasshoppers

Early instar Mottled Grasshoppers (Myrmeleotettix maculatus) are beginning to hop around Cooper's Hill now.  I'm guessing these are 1st and 2nd instars judging by the wing buds, but that's really just a guess.

I'm going in!

A Bombus terrestris or Bombus lucorum heading into the weird spotty world of a foxglove flower at Cooper's Hill...

Ammophila sabulosa

Ammophila sabulosa is amongst my favourite wasps and now active on our sandy soils. The females prepare a burrow in anticipation of catching caterpillars for their young to develop on. The burrow is then concealed by blocking the entrance, in this case (at Cooper's Hill today) with a stone weighing more than the wasp! Once found, the caterpillar is dragged across the ground to the burrow, the wasp showing an amazing sense of direction and feat of memory.

This species is a mass provisioner - all the food is placed into the burrow in one go, then an egg laid. There is another species (not present in Beds to my knowledge), Ammophila pubescens, which is a progressive provisioner, keeping several burrows on the go, opening them up periodically to see which young need more food.

Common Earwig

When did you last look at an earwig? (They do tend to be glossed-over). Here's an opportunity courtesy of a female (straight forceps) Common Earwig (Forficula auricularis) posing on a grass seed head at Cooper's Hill today. They have wings (actually hindwings) closed like a fan then folded twice and tucked under the forwings which are modified into hard cases (elytra) like a beetle's, protecting the wings when they burrow. Few people have ever seen them fly however.

It's fairly normal for antennal segments to break off and you'll note that the left antenna is shorter than the right.

Female earwigs are good mothers, laying 30-50 eggs in a chamber dug into the soil, then licking them to keep them clean, without this they apparently don't hatch.

There are four native species of earwigs, but this is the only one that I've ever seen.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Ovipositing Hairy Dragonfly

While walking our lunchtime circuit of Priory Country Park main lake Jackie spotted this Hairy dragonfly quartering the surface. It then oviposited into several floating plant stems, spending several minutes laying into this one in various places...

Monday, 4 June 2012

Gastrophysa viridula

What I presume to be the Green Dock Beetle Gastrophysa viridula at Willington late this afternoon. They were certainly on the right plant. Large clutches of yellow eggs can commonly be found on Dock at the moment which I presume to be from this species(?)

Sexually dimorphic flies?

When we found these flies mating at Flitwick Moor today they appeared so dissimilar as to be different species, but the wing venation is very similar, so it's probably just an extreme form of sexual dimorphism.

...Alan Outen has since determined these to be male and female Chrysopilus cristatus - thanks Alan!

Taken on Ricoh CX6.

Alabonia geoffrella

The rather attractive micro moth Alabonia geoffrella seen in Flitwick Moor car park today by the Bedfordshire Invertebrate Group.

Taken on my Ricoh CX6.