Blog Postings

The postings will be introductions to each of my life lists. The lists themselves will appear in the side margin. I shall do some postings about particular localities and there will also be postings to provide updates every time I add a new species.
Please note that I am not qualified in any aspect of natural history - there will therefore be occasional (or, apparently, in the case of the hoverflies, a lot of) errors.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Painted Lady


I have been lamenting the paucity of butterflies - both in numbers and variety - this summer. However, when I looked down the lists at the side of this blog I realised that the eleven species seen at The Willows didn't include the Painted Lady, a migrant which has been in the garden this summer. So the number of species seen in the garden since we moved in five years ago has risen to twelve.


Monday, 14 September 2009

The Great Yellow Bumble Bee - perhaps!

This bee appeared in the garden the other day. For a moment I thought it was a Carder Bee but then I realised it looked quite different. Much brighter and bigger. I think, repeat, think, it is Bombus distinguendus, the Great Yellow Bumble Bee. But I wouldn't bet on it. Comments welcome!

P.. S. (If anyone commenting is well qualified to say what it is can they please indicate their qualifications.  Not that I am 'knocking' those who have commented so far like Louise and Anon - all comments welcome!)

Monday, 20 July 2009

Atherix ibis


I'm not very good at identifying flies and I'm not sure how many dozens of unidentified or uncertain photos I've got - but it's a lot. I think this is one I have photographed before - Atherix ibis.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Bombus jonellus


GB's garden provided me with my first photos of Bombus jonellus - the Heath Bumblebee, also known as the Small Heath Bumblebee - 17th July 2009.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Ichneumon Wasp


An Ichneumon Wasp.

Also known as Ichneumon flies these are relatives of the Bees and Wasps. I haven’t seen this species before. Unfortunately I cannot identify it as there is no comprehensive guide to British Ichneumons. This species has a distinctive hind leg.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Mason Wasp


A new species of potter or mason wasp to add to my collection of insect photos - Odynerus species (possibly the Spiny Mason Wasp - Odynerus spinipes).

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Otter footprint


An Otter footprint at Cricklepit Mill.

And the Otter's spraints in the same place.

Ancistoceros antilope


This may be the potter or mason wasp Ancistoceros antilope but there are a few very similar species so I cannot be certain. It was photographed by the River Exe.

Water Speedwell


So far as I can recall without having my list to hand Water Speedwell - found by the River Exe - was a new species for me.

I have yet to identify this plant - a clover species?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Yellow-barred Brindle


As Friend-who-loves-Otters was driving away from the house to take Daughter-who-takes-Photos on holiday my mind was only half on waving them goodbye. The other half was focussing the camera on a moth which was sat upon the wall of Frog End.

For me, a moth-lover, there is nothing more infuriating than a moth I cannot identify. I don't mind having to look it up if it's a new species for me but I really get worked up if I cannot find it. I think that's a sign of a happy retirement when it's just things like this that get to you.

Unfortunately I only managed to take it from the one angle before it flew off and its wing scales were so new and shiny that the pattern was not as clear as it could be in a duller light or from a different angle. Not having my moth books with me I turned to the UK moths site. This is a brilliant site from which to identify species so long as you have a basic knowledge of the subject.

My immediate reaction was to hope it was some form of Small Seraphim - if only because I love its scientific name of Pterapherapteryx sexalata.

It turned out to be the Yellow-barred Brindle (Acasis viretata).

This is a new species for me and brings my total number of macro-moths to 263.

The name refers to the colour form normally found in the wild but when freshly emerged - as this so obviously was - it usually has a greenish colour that fades rapidly. The adult moth is found in May and June and, in the southern part of its range, again in August and September.

The Yellow-barred Brindle is widely distributed but rarely common in woodland, suburban habitats and scrubland, and in northern England and southern Scotland it is scarce. The caterpillars feed on the flowers and leaves of a variety of foodplants, including holly and Ivy.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Annual Knawel


It is fairly rare nowadays for me to add a new flower to my species list. With a few exceptions anything new I see is likely to be one of a group of difficult to distinguish species (which I am too lazy to identify). There are, however, a number of species of which I do not have decent photos. Some of these are very common and have simply been ignored because I've assumed I have already taken them. This was the case with Annual Knawel (Scleranthus annuus) until Daughter-who-takes-photos asked me to identify it in her garden. Reaching up to 10cm high, it is common on dry, bare places throughout Britain and Ireland and can be an abundant garden weed. The narrow, pointed leaves are borne in opposite pairs along the stems. The flowers comprise close-knit heads of greenish white sepals with no petals and appear from May to August.

It is also known as German Moss or German Knotgrass and few of the photos on the web look like mine but I reckon I’ve identified it correctly. One that does look like mine is at Wild Plants in Netherlands and Belgium.

Calocoris quadripunctatus


This very active little bug ran up and down my hand and arm, refusing to slow for its portrait. As a result the photo is poor. This, combined with the difficulty of identifying many closely related species of Mirid Bug, makes me hesitate to be categorical but it does seem to be Calocoris quadripunctatus. If so, it is a new species for me.

Pfeiffer's Amber Snail


I'm sure some of my readers think it sad when I get excited by things like snails but that's what happened in Otter Nurseries. I do not claim to be a molluscologist (or whatever the appropriate word may be) but I decided this was a Pfeiffer's Amber Snail (Oxyloma elegans ).

I have photographed an Amber Snail before but I've never seen a Pfeiffer's Amber Snail even though they are equally common and found throughout Europe. I am assured it is pronounced Fifer's - something I should apparently have known if I watched films! Perhaps I should call this little specimen Michelle.

So, it has been added to my list of species seen. Small things (literally - it’s tiny) amuse small minds.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Oak Apple Gall and Fig Gall

I enjoy spotting and identifying galls.

I have photos of many species but have not listed them as yet. At Stover Country park on 2nd May I added this splendid young Oak Apple Gall, caused by the gall wasp Biorhiza pallida , to my photos.

This Gall on an Elm leaf was taken at the bottom of Helen and Ian's garden. It is caused by the aphid Teraneura ulmi. It is sometimes called a Fig Gall.

Common Groundhopper

At Chudleigh Knighton Heath on 2nd May I added the Common Groundhopper (Tetrix undulata) to my list of Orthoptera.

Raft Spider

I haven't kept my life list of spiders very up to date so I'm not sure this is complete but I have seen and photographed the following:-
Araneus diadematus Garden Spider
Araniella cucurbitina
Arctosa perita
Argiope bruennichi
Wasp Spider
Clubonia corticalis
Clubonia Sp.
Enoplagnatha ovata
Hyposinga albovittata
Larinoides cornutus
Lepthyphantes minutus
Meta sp.
Misumena vatia
Nuctenea umbratica
Pachygnatha degeeri
Pardosa amentata
Pardosa pullata
Philodromus sp.
Pirata latitans
Pisaura mirabilis
Salticus senicus
Zebra Spider
Scotophaeus blackwalli
Segestria senoculata
Steatoda bipunctata
Tegenaria domestica
House Spider
Tegenaria duellica
Theridion pallens
Theridion sisyphium
Theridion varians
Xysticus cristatus
Zelotes Sp.
Zygiella x-notata

At Chudleigh Knighton Heath on 2nd May 2009 I added the Raft Spider Dolomedes fimriatus. This is the same place I saw Argiope bruennichi - the Wasp Spider - in 2007 so it has proved a good spot for spiders.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Birds in the Garden

The total number of birds seen in the garden is a bit of a grey area since I have never recorded them until today. I sat down and did a list from memory but there may be species I have missed. One thing for certain is that the male Siskin that was on the Niger seed feeder today was a first. Well spotted, Jo. We saw plenty of them at the caravan but we have not seen one here before.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Ainsdale National Nature Reserve

Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR forms part of the Sefton Coast - the finest dune system on the north-west coast of England. The area is part of a Ramsar site and part of the Sefton Coast Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The dunes are home to over 450 plant species including 33 that are locally or regionally rare like petalwort, seaside centaury, yellow bartsia, round-leaved wintergreen, dune helleborine and pendulous flowered helleborine. Sand lizards and great-crested newts are found here together with a large population of natterjack toads. Inland, areas of pine woodland are home to red squirrels.

In the early 1980s I was fortunate enough to be a voluntary warden at Ainsdale National Nature Reserve. The job entailed wandering the Reserve for a day each fortnight (or more frequently for those who could spare the time) and making sure that the public kept to the pathways and anyone off the beaten track was in possession of a valid licence to study there. We also kept our eyes open for fire hazards and other problems. The volunteer wardens were in touch with the full-time warden by means of a short wave radio but it only worked sporadically as there were a number of dead spots on the reserve.

The job occasionally proved hazardous; a couple of times I was a lone volunteer telling a gang of poachers with lurchers and guns to go away - not an enviable task but I survived OK and the compensations were enormous.

To have a whole nature reserve virtually to oneself is a wonderful experience - whatever the weather.

The sand is bound together by the long-rooted Marram Grass.

Occasionally a storm would bring a whole dune flowing inland, burying everything in its track. When a ‘blow-out’ like that occurred is was as well to be nowhere near it.

There is also woodland - mainly pines but also some Birch and mixed woodland.

As one goes inland the dunes give way to slacks and areas of standing water.

The opportunity to be there all year round gave me scope for pictures in the snow and ice. (The tracks are those of my friend the fox.)

And in the summer sun.

There were, of course, days when I got soaked through but even those were something special and a joy to be remembered (in hindsight).

The flora of the area is very varied as is the wildlife. I have already blogged about a Fox which befriended me. One day I’ll show some more of the wildlife I found there.