Thursday, June 21, 2012

A change of county...

I've just returned from a week in Devon and was hoping that this blog entry would be crammed with all the finds from my week in the west country. Sadly, as is becoming the norm this year, expectations eclipsed reality.

Our little terrier 'Herbie' came too and was in seventh heaven, spending most of his time watching the chicken and sheep on the farm where we were staying.

Here he is looking like butter wouldn't melt! Although looking at this photo, it could have been taken anywhere-it was actually at Ham Hill in Somerset where we stopped off en route. Here's a photo of the ham stone that is quarried there, I've messed around with this shot a little and given it a bit of an HDR treatment...

Anyhow, to return to Herbie the terrier (or as a chum likes to call him "Herbie The Love Dog") for a moment. He may look all sweetness and light in the picture: but he brought us back an unwelcome present from Devon, that we didn't discover until we'd been home for 2 days!

This is what I found and only then by accident when stroking him...

Looks horrendous doesn't it. This is 'Ixodes scapularis' a Deer Tick. Judging by the size of its abdomen it had already had quite a good feed too. I've not seen these before but we did spot quite a number of deer closeby and I'm sure that's where he picked this one up. I managed to remove it and despite a thorough search, found no more.

Enough of the gruesome stuff...
Keen to see what was about on the first day of our stay, I scouted round the immediate area but only managed to find this little bee hiding in a flower head of a pot of chives. I think it may have made itself at home there as it was still in the same spot the next morning...

It wasn't that there were no invertebrates at all, but just that I was hoping a change of location and habitat would reward me with some unusual finds.As I'd already witnessed in Kent prior to a change of county, the cantharis species of beetle were everywhere. Even so, it was impossible to resist completely and I have to confess to taking a few shots.

Click on any photo for an even larger view

I think this one pictured above is probably 'Cantharis rustica' but once again, there are several similar species-anyhow, it's a natural light shot taken early one morning.

Monday looked like being a decent day and so we all headed off for Putsborough Sands, close to Croyde and Woolacombe...

After exploring the sands we climbed the hillside above the bay. I was half-hoping that I'd see some fritillary butterflies but the only flutterby I spotted was a speckled wood. I did however find this rather fine chafer beetle...

Aside from the lack of invert finds in Devon, there was still quite a bit happening. For instance,driving through a pine forest on a country lane I spotted a grey squirrel that must have just been hit by a car? It was right in the middle of the opposite side of the road and would be certain to get hit again by the next vehicle.
I reversed back, shoved on the trafficators and jumped out of the car.I managed to encourage it to the verge which it arrived at by wobbling along like it was drunk and then promptly seemed to shake itself and hurtled off into the undergrowth. I assume it must have just been dazed?

Next up was this casualty.....

This little one was sitting in the road close to where we were staying one evening. I'm not even sure of exactly which birdie this will become (if you know, please do tell) but, although we could find no nest nearby, we could hear an adult calling to it just the other side of the hedge bordering the lane.

We decided the best course of action would be to place it close to where we heard the adult, it would at least be safe from traffic there. Even so, it looked a little young to be out of the nest and I wasn't sure if we'd done the right thing.

And so now we're down to a few things that whilst they are still nice finds, are nothing that you wouldn't perhaps expect to see at this time of year...

 An Acorn Weevil

Andrena species of Bee (I think)

My final find of the week couldn't really be included as a holiday-find, as it wasn't until we stopped for a break travelling home, but had already reached Kent that I came across it: even so, these are fabulous beasts and always a real treat to see and photograph.
What am I talking about? The magnificent Green Tiger Beetle! What a stunning creature...

Just look at those powerful jaws-almost antler-like in design. It must be the stuff of nightmares if you happen to be another insect?

That then comprises my total week's worth of bug-hunting. Actually, bug-hunting was secondary to the main purpose of our break. That being to chill for a while and that we did.No noisy neighbours, no traffic noise, no light pollution, plenty to eat and drink and beautiful surroundings-bliss!

More updates soon.

Until the next time then...

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Cuckoo spit and fly **** (apologies, couldn't resist)

I wanted to begin this blog entry with the photograph you see below to prove a point more than anything else.
I added the picture to my  flickr photostream recently and was disappointed with how the image looked. I have read complaints of how some images once loaded to flickr look over-sharpened and that's what happened to mine. I've compared the two, side by side and the photo reproduced here is much nicer and truer to the original.

Besides all that, I thought perhaps the folks that don't get to see my flickr photos might enjoy seeing this strange beast?

A Horned Tree Hopper
Having got that off my chest, I'll get down to the business of updating you on what's been happening of late.

This year, as last, we have had Blue Tits nesting in the garden, Also replicating last year, when the time came to fledge, one little runt got left behind.

As you can see from the photo, this tiny thing was way behind the others and didn't even have it's flight feathers.
Last year we managed to get the casualty to the local wildlife rescue home-this time we had a problem though, we wouldn't be able to get to the home (around a 16 mile drive) on the same day.

What to do? This little one looked to be quite a bit less developed than last year's too. We phoned the home and explained and they suggested we try and keep it overnight, and then take it to them the following day.

As for food-we were to feed it on scrambled egg, made with water and feed every half and hour until about 9pm, then begin again at first light.

We hurriedly made-up some food and did manage to persuade it to eat a little, but it needed to be convinced, it wasn't asking as perhaps you'd have expected.
Before its next feed was due we began to worry about its condition-it seemed to be fading away and so resolved to change our plans and make the journey to the wildlife rescue centre after all.

Sadly nature took its course even before we'd readied ourselves for the journey and the little bird passed away. We were so upset but being realistic, it probably didn't have much of a chance.

On a brighter note, there's a happy ending to the next story...

At one of our local ponds I spotted a cat that I've seen hanging around previously (in fact I feel this same cat may have been responsible for the demise of the ducklings from a few weeks ago?) and it was pawing at the ground. As I got closer I thought it might have a small frog or toad.
Once the cat had beaten a hasty retreat, I could see that it was in fact a dragonfly nymph that must have climbed from the water very recently, as it was still quite wet.

A Dragonfly nymph
I wasn't sure if the cat had injured the nymph but resolved to find a quiet spot to re-locate it and hope all would be well-I'd check an hour later.

On my return I found the cat had also made a return visit and there out in the open, upside down, was the nymph.

This time I took it home. We have an old water-filled,butler's sink it the garden and I put the nymph on one of the reeds at its edge.
I wasn't at all convinced that it would survive the cat-battering but at least it would be safe for now.

I kept a watch on it for any signs of the adult dragonfly emerging. I've seen and photographed damselflys emerging and they have done so very shortly after leaving the water-perhaps dragonflies are different in this respect because a full 4 hours passed with nothing to see.

Maybe it was not going to happen and the cat had interrupted the process?
I'd have like to photograph the emergence but we had to go out, and would'nt be back for around 3 hours.

On our return, I was a little shocked to see that it had indeed emerged and was starting to dry its wings and expand the abdomen prior to being able to fly.

It didn't seem to be damaged in any way and continued to get ready to enjoy it's brief, hectic life. By dusk it was just about ready for lift-off. By now though the temperature had dropped and it decided to spend its first night with us.

The following morning it was looking great and I knew that it would be leaving as soon as the sun had warmed it. 

That was exactly what happened as this beautiful, male, Broad Bodied Chaser took to the skies.
A great relief to me and I still marvel at how something as dull and frankly, unattractive as the nymph, can morph into this spectacular insect.


We once lived in a hundred year old, ham-stone built cottage in Somerset, these days however we have a more modern house that boasts the kind of garden most newer properties seem to be afflicted with! A very small-compact-bijou, call it what you will area that limits the possibilities for wildlife.
We've been doing our utmost each year to improve things and encourage nature and at this time of year, we're starting to get more and more creatures either take up residence, or pass through.

Philaenus spumaris-The Common Froghopper may not 'float your boat' but for me, it represents a really nice sight. These little hoppers are now appearing in ever increasing numbers in the garden and with the adults being so variable, with many varied colour forms, they do make interesting subjects to observe.

Add to which, these juveniles or 'nymphs' are responsible for what we all used to call 'cuckoo spit' as kids.

I also found a green tortoise beetle in the garden for the first time this year.
Although this is a somewhat unconventional view of the little critter-it did make me smile and although I did manage shots showing the other side, decided I preferred this one on this occasion.

Lastly for this update I wanted to share this next bit of insect behaviour with you-I'm not sure if it is a reflection on my blog in general but here goes.....

It's a fly taking a dump! Te,he!

By the way, if you're thinking this looks more like a bee than a fly? It is in fact one of the bee-mimicking hoverflies.

Until the next time then...