Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Feeling Blue

My last fieldwork of note in September was an end of season flora group bash in the New Forest. We split into four teams and each covered a 1km square within the same tetrad. As usual I learnt loads but when the teams reconvened I heard that one of the groups had seen lots of Greater Broomrape. I'm a big fan of broomrapes so I couldn't resist going and having a look before I joined the rest in the pub. Ok, so it was long-dead but I was still impressed and I'll definitely be putting a return visit into my diary for next summer. I can't help wondering why a parasite of Common Gorse is so rare?

On to the matter in hand. Perhaps the wildlife event of this autumn has been the large number of British-born Long-tailed Blues that there have been. I don't normally twitch butterflies, hence the fact that there are still a number of resident species which I haven't seen (including one that breeds within a few miles of my house). But when there is an 'event' like this, you feel that you ought to make the most of the opportunity. It was the same in the 'Yellow-winged Darter year' when I went to Dungeness to see them, even though I don't really 'do' dragonflies.

So on a Saturday in early October I travelled to the cement factory at Shoreham where Long-tailed Blues had been seen a couple of days previously. As was to be expected, the forecast was completely wrong and the sun never came out all day! It was warm enough for some insects to be active and I occupied myself with watching various species visiting the ivy blossom.

There were lots of Colletes hederae - this one obviously feeling as sick as I did! This species was first recorded in Britain in 2001 but it has rapidly spread throughout the south and is now a common visitor to ivy, especially near the coast. There were also lots of Eristalis hoverflies, mainly pertinax and tenax.

Eristalis sp. This one is probably pertinax.
There was a brief visit to the ivy by the impressive hoverfly Volucella zonaria - another species which is spreading rapidly at the moment.

A few other things that caught my eye were leaf mines caused by the fly Amauromyza verbasci

Galls caused by the aphid Cryptosiphum artemisiae

Larval cases of the micro-moth Coleophora argentula were common on the Yarrow seedheads.

On the way home I stopped in at Climping and found a larva of the Yarrow Pug which was new for me so I did get a Lepidopteran tick that day after all. Somehow it wasn't really compensation.

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