Archive for May 11th, 2008

11th May 2008, Sunday

Out early in Atlasland

This week I have mostly been getting my feet wet in the dew while wading through TQ81 landscapes perfumed with Bluebells, Garlic, Gorse and (lately) Hawthorn, screwing my ears up to differentiate the dozens of songs curling out of the greenery before the traffic noise predominates. Crowded tallies of Wren, Robin, Blackbird and Chaffinch were dealt a near-death by dissolution when I dropped my note-book into the selfsame dew – my own fault for writing in pen rather than the pencil proper bird-watchers are meant to use. Read the rest of this entry »

11th May 2008, Sunday

Devil’s Claws

… is just one of the 70+ common names for Lotus corniculatus, a very common flower of the RX area that is now in flower and should continue into September. It is an important foodplant for many insects, including the Common Blue butterfly.


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11th May 2008, Sunday

The lesser diving beetles

As their English name suggests these insects are smaller than the great diving beetles, but are still moderately large water beetles. There are two British species in this family. Acilius sulcatus is the larger of the two (measuring 16-18mm, by 10mm wide) and by far the more common insect. Acilius canaliculatus is slightly smaller (14-16mm) and until the 1980’s was not recorded in the RX area. There were old records of this Red Data Book insect in Surrey, but it was mostly recorded from peaty pools in northern Britain. During the past twenty years the beetle has been turning up in shaded ponds at Hamstreet, near Powdermill Reservoir, Peasmarsh and on Friday I took both species in a pond at Wittersham. Are they getting more common, or were they missed before? Are they an indicator that our woodland ponds are getting shadier due to an absence of woodland management?

Acilius sulcatus ventral surfaceAcilius canaliculatus ventral surface

The two species are fairly easy to tell apart. Read the rest of this entry »

11th May 2008, Sunday

Pannel Valley NR

At 09.50 a Red Kite floated over the reserve. The bird was immediately attacked by a male Marsh Harrier which allowed stunning views of both birds.

11th May 2008, Sunday

More bees on Echium pininana

This morning while checking these plants for bees I spotted not just the early nesting bumblebee gathering pollen on the plants, which now loom triffid-like in our back garden, but also the longer tongued common carder bee Bombus pascuorum. This bee is separated from its rarer locally occuring ginger relatives, by the presence of black hairs on the body, particularly the abdomen. Bombus humilis and Bombus muscorum have entirely ginger abdomens (and thorax in the case of muscorum) with humilis having a very small number of black hairs on the thorax above the point where the wings emerge.

Queen bombus pascuorum on Echium pininana

Bombus pascuorum queen. Read the rest of this entry »