Monday, 30 April 2012

Making the most of sunshine between showers ...

An Article by Heather Martin

A Brimstone butterfly Gonepteryx rhamni resting on a dead leaf.

An Orange-tip butterfly Anthocharis cardamines on the tip of a Birch branch.

Minute Micropterix calthella moths feeding on the pollen of Dog's Mercury flowers.

The hoverfly Leucozona lucorum perching on a Lady's Smock flower.

One of many Birch Leaf-roller Weevils Deporaus betulae just sitting in the sun on newly unfurled Birch leaves.

A Birch Shieldbug Elasmostethus interstinctus clambering through the foliage.

Up to no good! An Ichneumon wasp stalking through the undergrowth - these insects are parasitic.

And finally something that appreciates the rain - this 8cm long gelatinous fruiting body of Tremella foliacea a 'Jelly Fungus' growing on a rotting birch log.

All picutures by Heather Martin; 30th April 2012

Friday, 13 April 2012

Have you seen ........?

An article by Heather Martin

UPDATE 20/04/2012
I photographed this hairy fly sunning itself in our wood at the beginning of the week.
It is only the third sighting of Tachina ursina recorded in Sussex - East and West, probably a case of being overlooked and under-recorded rather than rare.
Like all members of the family Tachinidae the larvae are likely to be internal parasites of other insects, most probably butterfly and moth larvae but I was unable to find any definite details. Tachina ursina flies from late March to early May around woodland margins. Keep looking in Rother - we might be able to add a few more records !

Anemone Cup fungus (Dumontinia tuberosa). These chestnut-brown cups are classified as infrequent to rare but are probably often overlooked. This is the time of year to search for them as they are found on bare ground with Wood Anemone, arising on long dark stems from black, irregular structures attached to old tubers of Anemone. The cups are fairly small, measuring a maximum of only 3cm. across when they have become flattened with age. The pretty, white Wood Anemone blooms are possibly distracting the eye away from a rather well camouflaged, little fungus.

13-spot Ladybird (Hippodamia 13-punctata). This orange-red ladybird landed on a sheet hanging on my washing line in Herstmonceux. It has a more oval and flattened shape than many species and until recently had been thought to be extinct in England. To quote the UK Ladybird Survey, "A rare and noteworthy ladybird that dies out in Britain and then recolonises from Europe." Sightings in Cornwall, Devon, the New Forest and now East Sussex suggest that the 13-spot is in the process of re-establishing itself. Peter Hodge the Beetle and Plant Bug Recorder for Sussex told me that the insect had last been recorded in this county in the Hastings district in 1952. It requires a wetland habitat, so parts of the Rother area should be ideal.

Moth Fly (Pericoma sp). To quote Patrick Roper, 'Rather few of these have been recorded from Sussex though they are probably present.' The hairy, almost fluffy flies that breed in decaying matter are minute - about 2mm long, so it is not surprising that they are overlooked! This one was sitting on a gate post in our wood. Another common name is Owl Midge.

Rove Beetle (Bolitobius cingulata) . Rove beetles are notoriously difficult to positively identify and very fast moving! The insect landed on Rodney's leg in a clearing in our wood so it was quickly put in a pot to photograph. It has a very distinctive colouration and can be distinguished from a similar species by the orange terminal segments of its antennae.

So keep looking in the Rother area - you never know what you might see!

See the Buglife Website for more information on Invertebrates

All pictures by Heather Martin 13/04/2012

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Town Where I Live.

As I had spent all day in front of the computer by tea time the eye strain was getting too much. So I went for a little walk around Battle (East Sussex) to take in the evening air.

It’s a great little town is Battle, I didn’t grow up here but after thirty years I believe I have been around long enough to call it home.

It is surrounded by glorious countryside which is definitely a plus. These are the meadows adjacent to the Abby and a section of the 1066 Walk.

And a good spray of blackthorn in the fields near my house.

I don’t usually go out at this time of day so the surprising thing about this evening was the copious amount of birdsong. Virtually every gable-end had a Blackbird (Turdus merula) perched upon it singing away.

Blackbird song at RSPB Website

However this fellow won the Britain’s got Talent competition for me today. The Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) is aptly named. This evening he took the whole concept of adoration at the high alter of nature and made it his own. Then when he realised I was listening he took it up a couple of notches. Superb!

Song thrush at RSPB Website

One for the Sussex Botanists now; Early dog-violet, (Viola riechenbachiana). This was growing on the margin between someone’s garden and the footpath. Note the ‘rabbit ears’ of the top two petals and the spur as dark (violet) as the petals.

Another blackbird in silhouette;

A Turneresque sunset at the top of Caldbec Hill.

No butterflies this evening, but the information board at Kingsmead makes a promise for the summer to come.

Finally, two old friends.

PS; Please checkout the Bumblebee nectar pots in the post below, and finally, finally, an excellent Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) photo send to me by Katie Walker.

Friday, 6 April 2012

First Cuckoo (Bumblebee) of Spring?

Bumblebee Update:- 11/04/2012

Heather Martin kindly sent me this picture of a bumblebee nest she found in one of her woodland dormouse boxes. The young queen is possibly Bombus terrestris or Bombus lucorum. However it is the presence of the nectar pots that makes this photograph so nice.

Here too is another really good picture of a bumblebee. Most likely a Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) though I cannot see the crisp white tail to be absolutely sure. The Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum) would be another possible candidate.

 Pictures by Heather Martin 11/04/2012

Well, the first Cuckoo Bumblebee I have successfully identified, to be precise.
This is the Southern Cuckoo Bumblebee, Bombus vestalis, which as the name suggests, is a common bumblebee in the South of the UK. As this is not the most detailed of photographs (but believe me, its the best one I took) I have included a link to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's (BBCT) photo gallery.

Just to prove I do get a reasonable bee photo every now and again.
This is a queen White-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lucorum. One of the six most common bumblebees in the UK, she can be distinguished from a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee, B.terrestris in that her yellow bands are more "lemon yellow", where as B.terrestris tends to be a more orange-yellow. Also B.lucorum is more "bulb shaped". Its the sort of thing you notice when you get your eye in (or become overconfident and call it wrong!). The buff-tail of B.terrestis is the biggest clue of course, but it is not always that easy to see.

Again there are lots of good photographs on the BBCT website;

Whatever they are they are certainly enjoying the sunny weather.

My shed needs a coat of paint too.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Identifying White Butterflies

The BC National Web Site have some pages on how to distinguish between the white butterflies.
So well worth a visit, if like me, you have to relearn the differences again every year.

Here is the link; White Butterfly Guide