Thursday, 27 September 2018

Willow Emerald Damselfly

Thursday was a good day. Not only was the weather perfect but I also had two life ticks. Insects unfortunately, rather than birds but I still came home with a smile on my face.

We had started off the day on Cissbury Ring looking for an early Ring Ouzel. No luck with that but we did have a secondary target, caeruleopunctata, aberrations of the Small Copper butterfly with a row of blue spots on its hind wings.

Aberrations giving variations in colour and markings are quite common in the Small Copper. In the wild these can be genetically inherited or the result of extreme conditions during the pupation stage. In previous years we had noted the caeruleopunctata aberation on Cissbury Hill, in late year third broods. I am not sure if this is just a result of when we end up looking for them or whether there is an underlying cause for it.

There were hundreds of Small Coppers flying, so if we searched long enough we were likely to be successful. We did eventually see a couple of examples although none were in really good condition.

Small Copper with just a hint of blue spots.

caeruleopunctata aberration although unfortunately in worn condition.

and one from a previous year in slightly better condition


Whilst searching for Small Coppers I  also managed to find a new Shieldbug, Coreus marginatus, more commonly known as a Dock Bug and a life tick for me.

Dock Bug  -  Coreus marginatus

Late, but still welcome, the Clouded Yellows have started to arrived over the past week. I was beginning to think they wouldn't appear in any numbers this year but I have seen five or six in the past few days. This being the first one that stayed still long enough for a picture.

Clouded Yellow

By far the best sighting of the week were the Willow Emerald Damselflies at Warnham Nature Reserve. This species, common in southern Europe, is relatively new to the UK. The first specimen was collected in Kent in 1992 but was not identified until 2003. Then in 2009 a substantial population of 400 was identified in Suffolk and adjacent counties probably from an unrecorded influx from the Continent.

Since then they have spread rapidly and can now be seen in Sussex, both at Warnham and Woods Mills, although it is likely that they are far more widespread than this.

Willow Emerald Damselfly  -  Lestes viridis

Willow Emerald Damselfly  -  Lestes viridis

Willow Emerald Damselfly  -  Lestes viridis

A rewarding day in what has been a less than spectacular Autumn around Sussex. Long may it continue.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Red-backed Shrike

Only one bird in today's blog, a juvenile Red-backed Shrike at Farlington Marsh. It has suddenly become the place to visit, Pectoral Sandpiper, Bluethroat, and now the Shrike all in the space of a week. Just a pity some of them couldn't have come over the border into Sussex.

We spent a few minutes looking at the Pec Sand which was again feeding on the mud in the same spot as earlier in the week. I had hoped for some better pictures but with the sun behind it and glare off the water, there was no chance of an improved shot. We may have been able to get a better angle but there was a risk of spooking the bird and we could see other birders approaching in the distance.

We then went off in search of the Red-backed Shrike, in the shrub area to the north west of the stream. Initially it didn't look promising with very little flying in the strong winds. However, Dave soon picked it up in flight and with the bird seeming indifferent to our presence we had some good close up views.

It would have been nice to have longer with the bird, all to ourselves, but with a number of other birders in the area we were soon developing a twitch. Flushed with our success of two good birds before ten o'clock we headed off down to Selsey in search of other goodies.

And the absence of any more pictures in the blog speaks volumes of our success for the rest of the day. We should have stayed in Hampshire.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Flies, Bees and Wasps

You get days when there seems to be nothing about, no birds, no butterflies and no dragonflies. However, if you look hard enough there is always something flying, even if it's usually the Cleggies out to drink your blood.

Below are a few of the Flies, Hoverflies, and Bees encountered this year. I have tied to identify them all but its hard work. There are so many that look similar and without killing and pinning them you cannot confirm the identifying features.  If you spot any errors please let me know. There are no pictures of cleggies, they don't usually survive long enough.

First the Flies. Some of them can be really beautiful.

Green Bottle Fly - Lucilia sericata

Blue Bottle  -   Calliphora  sp. probably vicina

Fly - Graphomya maculata Female

Fly - Musca autumnalis

Fly - Tachina magnicornis

Fly - Phasia hemiptera

Sarcophaga sp. probably bercaea


Tapered Drone Fly (Hoverfly) - Eristalis pertinax   

Dronefly (Hoverfly) -  Eristalis tenax

Hoverfly - Chrysotoxum bicinctum

Hoverfly - Myathropa florea

Helophilus pendulus

Hornet Mimic Hoverfly  -  Volucella zonaria

The Bees

Wool Carder Bee  -  Anthidium manicatum

White-tailed Bumblebee  -  Bombus lucorum

Common Carder Bee - Bombus pascuorum

Ivy Bee  -  Colletes Hederae

Large Carpenter Bee - Xylocopa violacea   (Croatia)

Two Wasp

Field digger wasp  -  Mellinus arvensis

Ichneumon Wasp - Amblyteles armatorius

a couple of shots of a Scorpion Fly

Scorpion Fly -  Panorpa communis

Scorpion Fly -  Panorpa communis

a couple of Mayflies - I think, but it may be safer to refer to them as Ephemeroptera


Mayfly  -  Ephemera danica ?

and a Hornet

European Hornet  -  Vespa crabro

Nothing really unusual here but quite interesting once you get into it. Identification of the Mayflies was certainly beyond my abilities at the moment. I have a lot to learn.

Bugs and Beetles

Time is always short and photographs of insects usually need a good bit of research to enable names to be put to them. Hence they tend to get dumped into a folder to be looked at later. A recent dull and windy afternoon, the folder finally gets opened and the first one I look at is a Hawthorn Shieldbug. A bit of a coincidence as I had just been looking at on-line Atlas of Sussex Shieldbugs. What a great resource, lots of data and a clear demonstration that the information that you add is actually being used.

Thought I would add my Shieldbug but then realised that I hadn't made a note of where I saw it. I need to be a bit more focused next time.

Hawthorn Shieldbug -  Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale

Insects are a fascinating subject when it comes to photography. I have an aversion to netting them and sticking pins in them but getting a decent picture in their natural environment is always a great challenge. Perhaps, if I ever tire of taking pictures of the same old birds over and over again, I will find the time to get more involved.

Until then here are just a few shots from around the Sussex area.

Spotted Longhorn Beetle  -  Rutpela maculata

Four banded Longhorn Beetle  -  Leptura quadrifasciata

Rhopalidae Corizus hyoscyami

Cardinal Beetle  -  Pyrochroa serraticornis

Black-headed Cardinal Beetle  -  Pyrochroa coccinea

Red Lily Beetle  -  Lilioceris lilii

Green Rose Chaffer - Cetonia aurata     (Not Sussex)

Green Rose Chaffer - Cetonia aurata    (Not Sussex)

Mating Bloody-nosed Beetles  -  Timarcha tenebricosa     (this one I have blogged before)

Green Tiger Beetle  -  Cicindela campestris

Thick-legged Flower Beetle  -  Oedemera nobilis

Harlequin Ladybird Larvae  -  Harmonia axyridis

As always, if I have made any mistakes in identification, please let me know. Flies Hoverflies and Bees to follow.

Painted Ladies

I have been hanging on to this blog with the intention of adding a Clouded Yellow, as a way to finish off the butterflies for the year. Sadly they don't seem to be arriving in the usual numbers. I have only seen one and that was on turbo power disappearing into the distance.

The pictures are now starting to look a little dated with most of the insects coming to the end of their flight periods. So published now with, hopefully, a Clouded Yellow still to come.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

Common Blue

Common Blue

Small Copper

Keeled Skimmer

Migrant Hawker

Broad-bodied Chaser

Black Darter

There are still a few Butterflies and Dragonflies around but this is really the end of another season. Time seems to go by ever more quickly.