Saturday, September 20, 2014

In which 'JJ' rescues a field vole...

Lots of things happening over the past couple of weeks and so I am hoping it'll make for an interesting blog update.

Just before I make a start on the photographs, there seem to be no signs of my Death's Head Hawkmoth larvae emerging yet and so I guess they will now over-winter, then I shall have to keep an eye on them come spring/early summer for signs of movement.

A couple of mystery objects for starters then....



This one was in long grass beside a lake, a damp meadow I guess would be a better description. I only found the one cocoon, assuming that's what it is, but have no idea what might have made it. ~20mm





And this one as you can see was on common stinging nettle. It was I guess about 12-15mm and looked like honeycomb with all of the holes that I assume must be flight holes? Exit holes? Again, not sure what this would be as I haven't seen one before-maybe a wasp of some sort?

Whilst I was checking out the nettles, I came across a number of what I think are Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars that had been parasitised...




I am not sure if this is the tiny fly 'Stumia bella' that was responsible for the last decline in the South East of the country.
 I then spotted this ladybird that had also picked up a parasite, I think this one is the work of 'Dinocampus cocccinellae' a braconid wasp. Apparently, this ladybird is still alive and some even survive the ordeal but it's not known if they are able to feed etc.









Next is this teneral bug that I am pretty sure is a Birch Catkin bug (Kleidocerys resedae) but being so pale, I can't see the three rows of puncture marks on the clavus that would confirm the identity...  


     





I have also been seeing a number of teneral Dock bug nymphs as well...







My moth trap has been a bit of a disaster this year. I have no idea why as yet but catches have been very sparse regards numbers and even then, only the usual suspects. Other folk have been getting large numbers locally and so I am thinking it may well be something that needs improving with the trap itself. The last time I set it up, I had more insects on the white ground sheet underneath the trap than actually in it; they were mostly the ever-present crane flies. I guess it will be a winter job now to try and improve it for next season. I might have another try yet though if conditions are right. It could really do with an increase in size as well and so maybe an overhaul is required.





This next find was something that made my day. But then a couple of days later, in a totally different area, it got even better! The first of my discoveries was this rather smart looking, late instar Iron Prominent moth larva...


At least, this is what I believe it to be having searched for a close match. Caterpillars as so tricky because they can change so much with each moult.

Imagine my surprise then when I was a few miles away and looking for dragonflies, and saw this mature individual...

Iron Prominent~Notodonta dromedarius


Iron Prominent~Notodonta dromedarius

I have found prominent moth caterpillars before and they are always striking in appearance, this was a real beauty though. Here are a couple of the previous prominent larvae finds as a comparison...


A Pale Prominent larva



A Pebble Prominent larva

The caterpillar that is on my hit list for next year, actually is on the list every year as they are not easy to find, is this one...

Lobster Moth Caterpillar
This isn't one of my photos and I can't remember now where it came from and so if you are the owner, please get in touch and I will be happy to add a credit.




I've been saying for a while now that although 2014 has generally been a good year for invertebrates, there has been a real drop in the numbers of true bugs, miridae etc. Whilst I was searching an alder tree for bugs recently I was pleased then to find this little nymph...

Pantilius tunicatus
This one is Pantilius tunicatus, a mirid bug (Plant bug) and is one of the late season bugs that don't usually appear until September. Commonly found on hazel, alder and birch trees. Here is an adult insect that I found on the same tree...

Pantilius tunicatus (adult)

Pantilius tunicatus (adult)


These strange looking sawfly larvae always make me smile. I find them quite often on alder trees but they are usually clamped down with the head retracted and so this time I was lucky and managed a head shot too.

Platycampus luridiventris

Platycampus luridiventris


Last inline for this update is not an invertebrate at all but a mammal that I rescued from a local cat that was terrorising it just as I happened by. You can see that the cat had been biting its back but I am fairly sure there was no real damage and it was just shocked. I made sure it could escape to somewhere safe and then ensured the cat was well away from the area. I stayed around for a while too...just in case it returned...

A Field Vole


Until the next time....

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A sluggish slug that isn't even a slug...

When I go out looking for extreme macro photo opportunities, I tend to take the whole shooting match in terms of kit. I'll usually have the DSLR with hand-grip and off camera flash unit, with a fairly large home-made diffuser attached. I'll probably have my second camera in the bag as well with a separate macro lens for slightly larger subjects.

All this can deliver great quality images but is cumbersome and can also be restricting in some ways too. That's why I recently decided to ditch it all and take just one camera and lens for the day. The 100mm macro can be challenging to use with just natural light at 1:1 mag as there is not much light working that close and of course depth of field is limited too, there's no IS on my old version of this lens and so I need to keep the speed up at 100+ to be sure of sharp(ish) images.

Anyhow, excuses over...time to share some results of my day....



These carabid beetles were the first thing I encountered and as they seemed....distracted, I was able to spend a little time photographing them. I am not sure of species here but it was unusual for me to see them up on the seed head like this, they were quite large too.


Next up was this female Common Snout-Hoverfly, or 'Heineken' fly as I have heard it called.  

Rhingia rostrata


Rhingia rostrata


These are quite easily recognised amongst the hoverflies by the orange abdomen and long snout. As I can't see any back margin to the abdomen on this one, I think it is the less common Rhingia rostrata. R.campestris being the other possibility. The plant it's feeding on is scabious.



A Speckled Bush Cricket

This bush cricket seemed to have a deformed back leg. I have seen many crickets and grasshoppers with injuries to their legs and even missing limbs. They seem to survive okay, although it will slow them down of course and that can mean less food.




A Meadow Grasshopper

The grasshopper pictured above was sitting right on the edge of a spider's web. As you can see we had a shower of rain around the time of this photo. I think the ID is right with that broad brown stripe but I am always willing to be corrected.
It does serve as a good example of the differences between crickets and grasshoppers though, with the much shorter antennae on the grasshopper.



It also links in nicely with this next image...



Another meadow grasshopper but this time, I got a bit adventurous and so this is comprised of 17 separate images stacked together. The idea being to give more detail and have a better depth of field. 

Here's a crop from the same image...




I was quite pleased with how the stacking software dealt with these images as they were not at all well aligned being hand-held. Here's a little sequence showing the movement between shots...


You might also have noticed that this individual actually does have a missing limb. Well, if you're going to be stupid enough to attempt these stacked images, at least choose a subject that is less lightly to hop off immediately.



I'll tempt you with this next photo of a pretty bug before I introduce 'the slug' then?

Corizus hyoscyami
Corizus hyoscyami is a rhopalid bug that I usually find in the garden each year, although this one was in local woodland. About 9mm in length.



              Are you ready for the slug then? If it helps any, it isn't a real slug...

A Pear Slug Sawfly larva (Caliroa cerasi)

This is actually the larva of a sawfly and they cover themselves in this dark green slime to become unpalatable to predators. When the larva are fully grown, they drop off the plant they have been feeding on and pupate in the soil.




Elasmostethus interstinctus

This little birch shieldbug instar dropped onto my hand when I was turning over birch leaves to see what I could find. There's another shieldbug nymph in this next photo if you look hard enough...






 Close-by I came across this dock bug that had freshly moulted and was still very red looking...


Coreus marginatus nymph



Coreus marginatus nymph


The final challenge I set myself on this particular day was to try and photograph some brimstone butterflies in flight. I failed miserably with the macro lens but enjoyed trying. I think next time I'll try again with a different lens, maybe a longer one to give me a better chance of keeping the butterfly in frame long enough to get a picture...





I'll leave you with a shot of the great early morning light from the same day...




Until the next time...


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Boxing clever...

Just a quick update on my Death's Head Hawk-Moth larvae. They have now all pupated successfully and they are quite an impressive size, as you would imagine; they also move around quite a bit at times...



This video will need to be viewed directly on my blog as it won't appear in the email version


They are now safely buried in soil and I will be watching to see whether the adult moths emerge this year or overwinter.


 A couple of interesting flies? Yes....flies is what I said!


This robber-fly was snacking on an unfortunate moth. I am not sure of the species but it was quite a large fly.



Coremacera marginata (Sciomyzridae)
This one pictured above isn't the best of shots I know but, I only had the little camera with me and I am not as good with it as some of my photographer friends  are (Maria). It's quite a common fly in damp, grassy areas and visits flowers. The larvae however, predate on snails.

It has wonderful wing patterns though for such a small fly and it was great to see it, even if it was briefly.



I recently paid a return visit to Hothfield Common Nature Reserve...



I was hoping to find some Gorse Shieldbugs in their winter colours, but there were none to be seen on the day, at least I didn't find any. I did have one nice find of something else I was hoping to see though...

Anarta  myrtilli caterpillar
This is the caterpillar of the Beautiful Yellow Underwing moth that feeds on heather, of which there is plenty on the heathlands.




Even though it was a wet start to the day at Hothfield, there were a number of critters about and I got to photo both an adult and nymph of the Hairy Shieldbug.

A few harvestman were running around on the fence posts...




A few more sightings from Hothfield...



Sometimes I only see where something has been rather than finding it on the day. For instance, I spotted this example of where a moron had been earlier!




There was also plenty of cotton grass...





You know how it is? There you are thinking to yourself that there seem to be more Coreus marginatus in all instars about than you can ever remember, when you do a double take, because one looks...'a bit funny' and on closer examination it dawns on you that it isn't a Dock Bug at all.

That's what happened in the old orchard just behind the house when I was checking the bramble the other day. 'This could only be Gonocerus acuteangulatus?' Was my next thought; well okay, maybe I wasn't able to call the Latin name to mind, but the thought that it must be a Box Bug was what was going through my mind, even though I had not discovered one locally before in all the years of bug-hunting...





I decided to have a thorough search to see if there might be a breeding colony here. It wasn't too long before I found a late instar nymph as well..



Then a teneral adult...


And so it does look as though there is a little group of these bugs locally. Once described as very rare (RBD1) and really only found at Box Hill in Surrey, from where they get their name and feed on box trees, it is now found across the south-east of England and beyond. Quite how long they have been so close to home and why if it is sometime, I have failed to see any until this year, I'm not sure.






At last the dragonflies are staring to get about here in reasonable numbers-mostly Common Darters I would have to say, but also a few big Hawkers. I have only managed to photograph a couple thus far but given the opportunity, I'm sure there will be many more.







Until the next time...