Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Flies and Hoverflies

As with the previous blog just a few shots taken during last year that I finally got round to identifying. Or perhaps it would be safer to say had a go at identifying. I spent a good few hours on putting names to the pictures but I am sure that I won't have got everything right. So, any corrections will be gratefully received and whatever you do, don't use my blog as an authoritative source for naming your finds.

First the Flies

Coenosia tigrina

Photographing copulating flies in the middle of the Wisley flower show. Far more interesting than looking at the flowers.

Still working on this one - life is too short - probably from the Muscidae family

Parasitic Fly  - Gymnosoma sp  possibly nudifrons

The parasitic fly looks like Gymnosoma nudifrons but reading up on the species it looks as though you need a detailed examination of the genitalia to be sure.

Looks like a Yellow Dung Fly - Scathophaga stercoraria

Brown Heath Robberfly - Machimus (Tolmerus) atricapillus

Fly - Tachina magnicornis

Now the Hoverflies

Drone Fly - Eristalis tenax

This is a female Drone Fly Eristalis tenax, the eyes would be touching if it were a male. I think the picture below also shows a female Drone Fly. Research suggests that the species can have quite variable markings on its body and that some specimens can be almost totally black. I did not see any males that day but they are a lighter colour and have more yellow on them. This suggests that the males could be mimicking wasps and similar, whilst the females are mimicking mining bees.

Probably the correct identification but there are very similar species in E. nemorum and E. abusivus.

Drone Fly - Eristalis tenax?

Hoverfly - Helophilus pendulus

I have seen a number of common names for Helophilus pendulus, Marsh Hoverfly, Sun Fly, Tiger Hoverfly and even The Footballer. This one getting in the way of my attempts to photograph the White-letter Hairstreak.

Hoverfly - Syrphus ribesii (or S.vitripennis)

Hornet Mimic Hoverfly - Volucella zonaria

Hoverfly possibly the Pellucid Fly - Volucella pellucens

I wish I had taken a few more pictures of this hoverfly. The ring around the middle looks to be an ivory colour which would make it Volucella pellucens, common names the Pellucid Fly or Large Pied Hoverfly. Just worried it might be a trick of the light.

Marmalade Hoverfly - Episyrphus balteatus

and to finish, an Ivy Bee.

Ivy Bee  -  Colletes hederae

I still have a lot to learn about insects!

Spiders, Beetles and Bugs

Not many of them, it's not my main area of interest but I always end up taking a few pictures during the year and then don't find the time to research and identify them. They usually wait until we get a wet and windy winters day when I have nothing better to do.

Three spiders, all easy to identify. An interesting area to explore but it's difficult to get decent photographs and the identification, once you get away from the more obvious ones, can be really time consuming. Perhaps I just need to have a "Big Spider Year".

Common Garden Spider - Araneus diadematus

Zebra Spider - Salticus scenicus

Green Orb-weaver - Araniella cucurbitina

Beetles and Shieldbugs next. These are really just a by-product of taking pictures of butterflies. It's just fascinating how much life exists in the vegetation but you just don't see it unless you stop and look.

Black and Yellow Longhorned beetle - Rutpela maculata

Cantharis rustica - one of the soldier beetles

Common Red Soldier Beetle - Rhagonycha fulva

Sulphur Beetle - Cteniopus sulphureus

Thick-legged Flower Beetle - Oedemera nobilis

Oedemeridae group of beetles probably Oedemera lurida

Shieldbugs I particularly like. They are relatively easy to identify and there are only around forty four species recorded in the UK. Just the right sort of number for a life list, challenging but achievable. Not sure that I want to go in for netting or hoovering though, so it would be difficult to find them all.

Hairy Shieldbug - Dloycoris Baccarum

Red-legged Shieldbug - Pentatoma rufipes

Red-legged Shieldbug - Pentatoma rufipes

Common Green Shieldbug - Palomena prasina

Came into the house on the Christmas tree and trying to get out through the double glazing

Common Green Shieldbug - Palomena prasina

Only one problem, you need to be careful not to confuse them with Squash Bugs, family Coreidae, that can look very similar. This one below the Dock Bug.

Dock Bug - Coreus marginatus

The last picture, a Harlequin Ladybird, an invasive and problematic species. It out competes our native ladybirds for food and also eats their larvae and eggs. I rarely see any other ladybirds these days.

Harlequin Ladybird -  Harmonia axyridis

More to follow with Flies and Hoverflies.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Red-breasted Mergansers

The beginning of a new birding year and I am off to a very slow start. We had family staying over New Year and for the first few days of January, then I was laid low by a stomach bug. Even the garden feeders let me down. The Sparrows, Goldfinches and Greenfinches that visit every day disappeared, Wood Pigeons gone, no Robin, no Dunnocks. I managed to entice a couple of Herring Gulls in with some festivity left overs but other than that it was a couple of Crows, one Starling and a few feral pigeons on the surrounding TV aerials.

I finally managed to get out for a couple of hours on the Monday and decided to target the Red-breasted Merganser at Widewater and the Purple Sandpipers at Shoreham Fort. Great idea but neither were showing, there was nothing on the sea, and very few other birds about. I ended up going home at the end of my two hours with my bird list barely reaching double figures.

Fortunately things picked up after that but with generally overcast and dull conditions picture opportunities have been limited. Still a return to Widewater on the Tuesday did give me the Merganser and also sight off the Purple Sandpipers, which were roosting in deep shadow under the pier.

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

It took yet another visit to get the Purple Sandpipers in half decent light. Not my best pictures of them but it was good to finally get the shots.

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

Next picture is a Water Pipit. This one taken on the tidal marsh at Appledram. Seen in isolation it is often a difficult call to tell it from a Rock Pipit. Fortunately in flight you can clearly see the white outer tail feathers that confirm the identification.

Water Pipit

The shot below is a Rock Pipit taken on very similar territory at Pagham North Wall. It was being mostly true to its name, hunting along the stones on the edge of the wall, whilst the Water Pipit was out amongst the puddles left by the retreating tide.

Rock Pipit

Also at Appledram a Greenshank in the fading light


A quick trip to the WWT at Arundel added a few more birds to the list. This Grey Wagtail was still foraging around the dried out duck feeding pool. The signs say that the area will be developed for a new bird pavilion. I guess that means Flamingos or Pelicans. I hope they are not making a mistake. I may not like captive birds but I always stopped to look for the Smew and to listen to the Eiders calling. Surely bringing the children to feed the ducks is (was) one of the biggest attractions of the site.

Grey Wagtail

You are never quite sure what you are going to get when you photograph Kingfishers. This one in good light at the Appledram outflow is OK but I have taken hundreds like it.

Kingfisher Appledram

I thought this one taken from the Scrape Hide at the WWT was a wasted effort, fading light, back-lit, high ISO, but it is always worth giving it a go. The "blue" feathers can give some odd effects.

Kingfisher WWT Arundel

So where does the blue streak come from? The orange plumage is the product of tiny pigment granules but its cyan and blue feathers contain no pigments.

These colours are ‘structural’. They are created by the intricate structural arrangement of a transparent feather material which, depending on its precise make-up and thickness compared to the wavelength of light, produces a range of colours from incident light – in other words from light shining on the feather with only certain wavelengths being reflected (or is it refracted?). Scientists describe this as semi-iridescent. Think of a soap bubble. It is formed from a colourless transparent liquid but when blown up into a very thin layered bubble it shows all the colours of the rainbow.

But then I struggle with this picture. The bird is silhouetted with its back in shadow, so where does the incident light come from to generate such a vivid blue streak?

For the record it wasn't Photoshop!