Monday, 29 May 2017

Lough Beg, Church Island to Paddy's Dubh

I've long held the opinion that Lough Beg is one of the finest birdwatching sites in Ireland. I always seem to do well here, and so with a bit of free time late afternoon I decided to have a walk to the south west corner which along with the adjacent Mullagh is the part I know best.

I was delighted to find this osprey fishing near Church Island, whilst at Paddy's Dubh a pair of garganey flew past, and waders included two summer plumage ruff and seven dunlin.

Access is always difficult when visiting this Lough, my book tells me to park at Annagh farm and walk out to the banks of the Lough, then north along the shoreline to Coney Island and Church Island. Sounds easy, but last time I was here in winter 2015 the water was nearly up to the point I was standing when I took this photo! It has receded considerably since then and it is now almost a mile walk across very boggy ground to the shore of the lake.

However this is a normal occurance in summer, because the Lough is actually a flood plain, and it leaves behind some wonderful water meadows with breeding redshank and lapwings, and drumming snipe.

I was surprised to find at least 25 whooper swans still present at this time of year.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Invertebrates, May 2017

Here are a few of my favourite inverts from May 2017, almost all taken locally and likely to be mainly hoverflies but also anything else which takes my fancy, starting with a non-hoverfly contender for the invert of the year award....

Dark-edged Bee fly Bombylius major Pennington Park 8th May 2017. What an amazing creature, my first was at Penington Flash but this was a much better view.

Chrysotoxum festivum is a largely southern species of hoverfly which is spreading north. This individual was photographed at Pennington Flash.

This is the hoverfly Microdon myrmicae / mutabilis photographed at Torbarrow Quarry near Leighton Moss. These are a pair of hoverflies which are not seperable at the adult stage even from specimens, and identification can only be confirmed at the larval stage. However Ball and Morris in "Britains Hoverflies" state that the only confirmed records of M.mutabilis are from Northern Scotland (Mull and Inverness), whereas M.myrmicae is scarce but widespread. Therefore I was going to say it's most likely M.myrmicae due to locality, but then I noticed that Alan Stubbs states that a larvae of M.mutabilis was found at nearby Gaitbarrows and is in the Liverpool museum. Stubbs also states that the ecology of the 2 species are "very different", with M.mutabilis prefering "dry well drained sites, including limestone pavement" whereas M.myrmicae occurs on "wet heaths and poor wet grassland". Both Gaitbarrows and Trowbarrow are limestone, though the latter is a disused quarry. I realise that this doesn't prove it either way, and we'll bever know for sure from an adult specimen, but surely it sways the arguement more towards M.mutabilis?

Microdon myrmicae / mutabilis

Microdon myrmicae / mutabilis

The hoverfly Anasimyia lineata 11th May 2017. This was one of the highlights of the early part of the season, we found a decent size colony of these hoverflies on bramble and buttercups at the side of Pennington Flash, adjacent to Sorrowcow Pond.

The long snout of Anasimyia lineata stands out well in this photo.

These hoverflies can easily be picked up where they occur by their comical and interesting courtship behavoiur. The male searches for a perched female, which when found he buzzes around for a while before dropping down suddenly and taping her abdomen as if to let her know he is there. Then he rises up and buzzes around again whilst the female repositions herself to allow the male to drop down and mate. It's all over in a second, though the male usually continues to buzz around the female and often drops down to mate again over a period of a few minutes.

This male Anasimyia lineata looks yellow because it is covered in pollen.

Rhingia campestris, a hoverfly with an even longer snout! I've been trying to find one of these for a while, and finally managed it in a glade on the south side of Pennington Flash.

Although it will probably visit a varierty of flowers of all colours, this species seems to prefer pink flowers.

Rhingia campestris.

Leucozona lucorum. Another new species for me, a very easy insect to identify, until you see an individual which has a completely dark abdomen, like the male in the following photo.

Male Leucozona lucorum at Pennington Hall Park.

Myathropa florea on wild garlic.

The hoverfly Merodon equestris, a bee mimic, Burton Mere Wetlands 2017.

Merodon equestris

This is also Merodon equestris but probably of the variety narcissi. Amazing that the same species of hoverfly can mimic several differnt species of bee.

Here's another bee mimic, the not so convincing Eristalis intricaria.

Epistrophe eligans

The metallic green hoverfly Lejogaster metallina at Burton Mere Wetlands

Lejogaster metallina

Eristalinus sepulchralis another new species of hoverfly for me in May, and another species from Sorrowcow pond at Pennington Flash. It's one of only two species with pale eyes with dark spots.

The hoverfly Tropidia scita. One of the main identification features of this hoverfly is the small  tooth on the rear edge of the hind femora. Although it occurs on many wetland plants, it seems to particularly like the flowers of yellow iris. This individual was at Leighton Moss, but they are a widespread species and also occur at Pennington Flash.

Swollen-thighed beetle Oedemera nobilis

Water lily leaf beetle on the Leeds/Liverpool canal at Pennington Flash.

Xysticus cristatus sitting in wait for any unwary insect which might visit its flower. 

Tree bumblebee.

Picture-winged fly sp. at Pennington Flash.

Banded demoiselles. This is the first time I have managd to photograph a pair mating.

This male banded demoiselle was guarding a female while she egg layed. He flicked his wings like this to partially ward off other males, but also to encourage the female to lay.

Female banded demoiselle egg laying. The reason for the colouration of the female is obvious when you see one egg laying.

Male broad-bodied chaser.

Azure damselfly at Sorrowcow pond, Pennington Flash.

Blue-tailed damselfly

Anania funebris, white spotted sable, one of the most beautiful of all moths, photographed here at Gait barrows. This is one of the pyralid moths.

The moth Pseudopanthera macularia Speckled yellow at Gait barrows.

Battered it may be, and this red-necked footman Atolmis rubricollis. may never fly again, but it was a first for me. This is a migrant species of moth, probably brought into the north west, in this case Trowbarrow, by the recent hot weather and south easterly winds.

Small pearl-bordered fritillary.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Gannets at Bempton Cliffs

It's always great to see the gannets at Bempton Cliffs, and today a small group performed particularly well at close range on a great day for photography. Meanwhile another group collected nesting material from the top of the cliff, where it was great to see them in amongst the masses of flowering red campion.

Whilst it's true that the UK has internationally important numbers of breeding northern gannets, with some of the largest colonies in the world and holding a significant percentage of the entire world population, Bempton Cliffs is by far the most accessible and is the only mainland gannet colony in the UK and the only English gannet colony.

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