Friday, 29 July 2016

Spoonbills, Burton Mere Wetlands

It's been a good year for spoonbills, I've had a few sightings of small flocks of several individuals at a number of places including Leighton Moss, Saltholme and Titchwell, but nine at Burton Mere Wetlands today was a new high. Also today ok views of a juvenile spotted crake and a green sandpiper.

Year: 240 (Spotted crake)

Thursday, 28 July 2016


A nice selection of waders at Cemlyn bay on Anglesey today, 3 whimbrel, 2 greenshank, common sandpiper, 20 redshank, 2 curlew, 2 black tailed godwits, turnstone and oystercatchers. Almost ternless but still 1 or 2 Arctic and sandwich.

Meanwhile at Bull Bay a decent passage of Manx shearwaters this evening and one or two gannets, but no porpoises.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Inverts and plants from Foulshaw Moss

Yesterday we spent virtually the whole day at Foulshaw Moss in Cumbria looking at inverts and plants. It was a slow process, and it took us five and a half hours to do two laps of the board walk! We did also visit nearby Meathop Moss for an hour, and some photos are from there as indicated in the text. It's amazing what's around when you look and below is a small selection of what we found (and I managed to photograph!). Thanks to Ray Banks for helping with the identification of many of the species, plus also the Facebook groups UK Hoverflies and Insects of Britain and Northern Europe.

Butterflies and moths

Beautiful yellow underwing

Green-veined white on creeping thistle Cirsium arvense

Large skipper on tufted vetch Vicia cracca


Helophilus trivittatus

Helophilus trivittatus

Sericomyia silentis

Probably Helophilus hybridus

Probably Eristalis horticola on meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria

Xylota segnis

Volucella pellucens (Great pied hoverfly) on meadowsweet.

Dragonflies and damselflies

Four-spot chaser on purple moorgrass Molinia caerulea

Azure damselfly 

Black darter. We eventually managed to rescue it with the help of a long stick!

Black darter

Blue-tailed damselfly

Emerald damselfly on purple moorgrass

Large red damselfly.

Flies, bees, scorpionflies and longhorn beetles

Mesembrina meridiana on soft rush Juncus effusus

Tachina grossa possibly on wild angelica Angelica sylvestris (I can't be sure from the photo).

Tachina grossa

As yet unknown

Megachile sp. a leaf cutter bee.

As yet unknown on marsh thistle Cirsium palustre

Four-banded longhorn beetles Leptura quadrifasciata on meadowsweet

Four-banded longhorn on wild angelica

Scorpionfly sp.

Adult and nymph common pond skater Gerris lacustris. This next series of photos including the green tiger beetle were taken in the Goyt Valley in Derbyshire today. They probably also occur on Foulshaw moss, but I can't be sure.

Green tiger beetle Cicindela campestris

We're now back to the Cumbrian mosses, all photos from Foulshaw moss unless otherwise stated.

Bog asphodel Narthecium ossifragum - Meathop moss

Bog-rosemary  Andromeda polifolia - Meathop moss. I was made up with this, I don't think I've ever seen this plant in flower before.

Cranberry Vaccinium oxycoccos growing in a nice patch of Sphagnum magellenicum.

Round-leaved sundew Drosera rotundifolia

White beak-sedge Rhynchospora alba

Yellow loosestrife Lysimachia vulgaris

Creeping-jenny Lysimachia nummularia


There were loads of common lizards on the boardwalk at Foulshaw moss, including many babies such as this.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Ten beltin' six-belted clearwings

At the third attempt today I finally caught up with that most unlikely moth, the six-belted clearwing, a day flying wasp mimic. I'd heard from a friend that they were on the wing at Neumans Flash near Northwich on Sunday and I've spent the past two lunch breaks looking for them to no avail. They can be very difficult to spot, especially since they fly more like hoverflies than moths, and there are plenty of hoverflies and wasps on the wing at the moment to confuse matters.

However today I had the afternoon off and could therefore be more patient and move more slowly. I spent my time searching along the bund footpath, specifically in areas where the caterpillars preferred foodplant grows, common bird's-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus. I walked slowly up and down the path several times for nearly an hour and a half before I finally spotted one, a brief view but at least I knew they were still about and I was in the right area. Once I'd seen one I now started to see others, and in the end I saw about 10.

It was easy to see why they had been so elusive. Fast flying and hard to follow, landing either very briefly or  disappearing immediately into thick vegetation, virtually the only chance of locating one was in flight, but blink and I'd lost it. Photography therefore was next to impossible. Typically I'd follow one, see it land, raise the camera, spend a second trying to locate it in the view finder, by which time it had flown again and I couldn't re-locate it. Like most clearwings one of the easiest ways to see them is to lure them to pheromones as I have done in the past with currant clearwings. But that's kind of cheating!

How many of these are overlooked as wasps? Although it's generally acknowledged that most clearwings are easier to see with pheromones, they're certainly not impossible to see without them, and all three of the species I have seen I have initially found without pheromones, simply by looking in the correct habitat.

The other two species from this family that I have seen are currant clearwing, once in Newton-le-Willows and once in St Helens, and thrift clearwing, an unexpected bonus on Bardsey Island whilst twitching the Cretzchmar's bunting in 2015.

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