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.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Drummin & buzzin

I've decided to adopt one of the reserves that I used to manage and carry out as much surveying there as I can find the time to do. It's nice to have something to focus on but as the owners are now planning to start grazing the site and have no resources (or inclination) to carry out baseline surveys, it will hopefully also be of some use.

I spent a few hours there on Saturday in gorgeous sunshine. The first hour or so was pleasant enough and produced a few inverts that will probably be new to the site when I get round to identifying them. I walked through the woodland alongside the stream and came across a patch of Moschatel which I'd not seen there before, although it is on the site list. I heard some distant drumming which sounded like Lesser Spotted Woodpecker so headed over to the area and after a while got good views. There have been a few records from the site over the years but always outside the breeding season. I spent some time watching it, wondering whether it had a mate when suddenly another starts drumming a short distance away. For the next few minutes they drummed and called at each other until the second bird seemed to move away.

The next day my brother went to see them and got this cracking photo and also saw the first male apparently excavating a nest hole about 45ft up in a willow.

I wanted to find some flowering sallow as it is always excellent for invertebrates. Although the sallow is flowering elsewhere, this site is always quite cool and it took quite a while before I found a couple of small trees in flower. Over the next hour I saw Peacocks, Commas, a Red Admiral, six species of hoverfly and a couple of solitary bees. Not quite as active as I'd expected but I expect it'll be better in a week or so.

Eristalis tenax
Wandering back I came across the impressive cranefly Tipula vittata which seems to be quite common this spring.

Further up the track I noticed a Nomada bee patrolling the path edge. I really like Nomadas although they can be quite tricky to identify. They are cleptoparasites of solitary bees which can help with identification if you can find the host.

This one keyed out as Nomada leucophthalma although there was one discrepancy with the supposed features. It was hanging about round the nest holes of Andrena clarkella which is a known host so I'm fairly confident of the ID.

Andrena clarkella
 Whilst trying to photograph the Nomada my attention was drawn to a small ant-like creature scurrying through the sparse vegetation. Closer examination revealed that it was actually a spider. I know nothing about spiders but I reckon this one is Steatoda phalerata which is apparently quite scarce. The habitat fits and it is said to be ant-like but I've sent the photo to a friend who knows what he's talking about when it comes to spiders, in case there are lookalikes.

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