Wednesday 24 June 2015

Garden Insects

23rd June 2015 - Topsham

As a break from work I set up my macro lens and had a wander around the garden, here's what I found on just one plant, a Greater Burdock Arctium lappa.

Rutpela maculata - 23/6/2015 Topsham

A common Spotted Longhorn Beetle (Cerambycidae), this one was resting on a Burdock leaf but they're most easily found feeding on the flower heads of umbellifers - often Hogweed at this time of year - the dust is pollen.

Propylea quatuordecimpunctata - 23/6/2015 Topsham

Also in yellow and black, here's a pair of 14 Spot Ladybirds (Coccinelidae) getting friendly (or 'in copula' as entomologists like to say) on the same Burdock. The scientific name is often spelled Propylea 14-punctata - in which I suppose (pointless digression alert!) you should pronounce '14' as 'kwatt-oo-or-dess-im', or should that be  'kwatt-oo-or-dek-im'?

Tephritis bardanae - 23/6/2015 Topsham

Tephritis bardanae is a gall fly of the family Tephritidae; also often called fruit flies (which usually refers to Drosophilidae) or peacock flies on account of their patterned wings. This species is common and Burdock is its usual host plant. The larvae feed and form galls in the flower heads.

Large Skipper Ochlodes venata male - 23/6/2015 Topsham

Another from the Burdock, a newly emerged Large Skipper. It's a male because it shows thick black lines in the middle of its fore wings - 'sex brands' - patches of specialised scales that give off a pheromone.

Sunday 21 June 2015

Bee Orchids and Marbled Whites

20th June 2015 - Exeter

Never one to pass up a visit to the supermarket(!) - especially since I didn't have to go in - I spent an entertaining 30 minutes wandering around the back of the Pyne's Hill Tesco car park with my macro lens and tripod. A steep bank at the north end of the site was clearly designed as a wild flower meadow, the current highlight being a profusion of Bee Orchids Ophrys apifera. While wife and daughter shopped, I took a few photos.

Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera - Exeter 20/6/2015

Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera - Exeter 20/6/2015

Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera - Exeter 20/6/2015

It was overcast but warm and a handful of Marbled Whites were patrolling the bank. This is a male, females are more yellowish on the hind underwing.

Marbled White Melanargia galathea - 20/6/2015

Marbled White Melanargia galathea - 20/6/2015

Thanks to Dave Hopkins for the tip off.

Monday 15 June 2015

A Nice Little Gull

15th June 2015 - Topsham


This time last year Topsham was hosting a Ross's Gull, a couple of Little Gulls and, on and off, three different Bonaparte's Gulls. So far this year on the micro Larid front we've only had one Bonaparte's - a 2cy so additional to last year's - and just this one Little Gull. It's been around a few days, mostly at Bowling Green Marsh where I saw it on Saturday, this morning I caught up with it at the Rec. It posed and flew for a few photos but never came that close.

Little Gull 2cy (with Black-headed Gull) - 15/6/2015 Topsham
Little Gull 2cy - 15/6/2015 Topsham
Little Gull 2cy - 15/6/2015 Topsham
Little Gull 2cy (with Little Egret) - 15/6/2015 Topsham
Little Gull 2cy - 15/6/2015 Topsham

Little Gull 2cy - 15/6/2015 Topsham

As would expected, it's in moult with P4-10 old retained juvenile feathers, P1&2 visible and growing, P3 not showing yet.

Edit: should have noticed this at the time but better late than never and it's worth mentioning; the tail is all white (and the feathers look fairly fresh) meaning all juvenile retrices have been replaced; this is unusual in Little Gull. T1-2 are sometimes replaced in late winter but about 10% have a fully white tail by mid June (Olsen & Larssen 2004).


Olsen, K.M. & Larsson, H. 2004. Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. A & C Black.

Rosemary Beetle - new to the garden

14th June 2015 - Topsham


As a change from counting Med Gulls and straining eyes to read colour rings on Blacke-headed Gulls and Sandwich Terns, I've been out and about with my macro lens. Here's a new beetle for the garden list - Chrysolina americana, commonly known as the Rosemary Beetle.

Chrysolina americana, on Bindweed Calystegia sp. - 12/6/2015 Topsham

Chrysolina americana, on Lavender Lavandula angustifolia - 14/6/2015 Topsham

I know neither of these are on Rosemary but they are right next to a Rosemary bush, these were just easier to photograph. With the name americana you might think this is a transatlantic import, in fact it comes from south and east Europe; the americana bit was attached by Linnaeus in 1758 and I can only guess he was mistaken as to the specimen's origin. It's pretty unmistakeable, up to 8mm long, a typical leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae) and very shiny with blue and purple/gold stripes; C.cerealis, the only similar native species, occurs only in Snowdonia.

The species was first found in Surrey in 1994, it's now all over south east England with a few records from the south west, it's also spread to Wales, Scotland and Ireland. It feeds on, not surprisingly, Rosemary and Lavender, but also related plants such as Sage and Thyme of the family Lamiaceae. The RHS class it as a pest so there's an argument for destroying it. On the other hand, if you're going to import and grow non-native plants you have to expect to deal with their associated fauna. There doesn't appear to be any evidence it will seriously affect native species. It's a beautiful thing and I think I'll just leave them be.

Friday 12 June 2015

I've been away...

...for a week or so. Lucky for me nothing spectacular turned up locally and, more to the point, nobody found that mega gull at Topsham Rec that I've been waiting for.

First a few photos of Great White Egrets and Bittern from Ham Wall, Somerset. A drive to Bath to collect offspring number two and her belongings from Bath Uni gave me the excuse for a morning's birding at the Avalon Marshes. This place gets better with each visit, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, four spp. of Heron (and I didn't see Little Bittern or Night Heron), even an amphibian tick in Marsh Frog - (noisy and everywhere right now). Photos weren't that great, bright sun mostly and I always seemed to be in the right place at the wrong time.

Great White Egret - 10/6/2015 Ham Wall, Somerset. Dark bill and reddish tibia of a breeding bird.

Great White Egret - 10/6/2015 Ham Wall, Somerset. Dark bill, reddish tibia and long back plumes/aigrettes of a breeding bird.

Bittern - 10/6/2015 Ham Wall, Somerset

Bittern - 10/6/2015 Ham Wall, Somerset

So that's one day accounted for, what about the previous week? Well, just a short cycle ride across the country. Known as the Way of the Roses or, as it turned out, a tour of the best pie shops between Morecambe Bay and Flamborough Head. Interesting to return to the old home county - some great scenery and fine food - but it definitely confirmed my original good sense in moving south all those years ago.

Little birding possible given all those miles to cover (190 with the requisite detours and faffing) but interesting to see/hear so many breeding Curlews in the Dales and numerous Corn Buntings in East Yorkshire. And Red Kites of course.

Red Kite - 6/6/2015 Haxby, Yorkshire

Red Kite - 6/6/2015 Haxby, Yorkshire

Not forgetting the holiday snaps:

The Start, already looking forward to second breakfast.

somewhere up north

even further north