Sunday, 11 June 2017

Birds and Bees

We're reaching the peak time of the year for wildlife so I've got quite a backlog of things to share with you.

First up, I spotted these harlequin ladybirds on a leaf near the River Itchen.

These are of course an invasive species which predate on our native ladybirds. What's interesting in this photo is the fact these two ladybirds look completely different but are actually exactly the same species. This one of the most variable species in the world and in my experience they are even highly varied in local populations, as above. 

Sometimes I spot something out of the corner of my eye and then have to try and work out where it went. One of these recent moments was on the edge of a field where I eventually managed to spot this cinnabar moth in the grass. 

This was likely a newly emerged moth. In the UK cinnabar caterpillars generally live on ragwort, a poisonous plant which is often removed from fields so that horses don't eat it. The bright colours on the moth serve as a warning to predators, as red often does in the natural world, as thanks to their diet these moths are unpalatable. 

Another lepidoptera sighting recently was this meadow brown.

As the name suggests, the larvae of this butterfly feed on grasses. I think this is probably a female because it has a very bright orange section- the male's have reduced orange areas. You can see two very small "eyes" on the underside of this butterfly- these are actually variable with between zero and six on each wing. 

I've also been enjoying watching bees going about their business at the moment. We are fortunate locally to have a sizeable population of honey bees. How many of these are wild and not from hives is impossible to know but either way, it means lots of pollination is going on.

There's plenty of other species of bees around too. 

This is a tree bumblebee. The amazing thing about this bee is that it was first found in the UK in only 2001 but is now widespread throughout England and Wales. Older ID book don't even list this species. They like to nest above ground and often inhabit bird boxes. 

The other most common species I've been seeing are buff-tailed bumblebees

There are several species of bee which look very similar with a white tail. However, this species has a subtle buff line separating the tail from the abdomen. You can download the Great British Bee Count App for a great ID guide and to help Friends of the Earth survey bees. 

At first glance there are plenty of other species which look like bees but actually aren't. These are usually hoverflies such as this one which I think is Volucela pellucens

This appearance is a clever disguise to make predators think it has a defensive sting like bees and wasps. It's not the only way this species is devious too- it lays its eggs in wasp nests where the larvae then feed on young wasps and dead adults. Despite the nests being well-guarded the wasps don't notice these hoverflies, perhaps because they can't distinguish them from wasps. 

Time for some birds now! Last week I visited Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve. It's relatively quiet there at the moment now that all the winter migrants have gone but there were plenty of common terns around. 

Nicknamed 'sea swallows' due to their long tails, these are graceful fliers which can hover over water before plunging down to catch a fish. They come to the UK to breed and their eggs will have been hatching over the last few weeks. There's a fairly sizeable colony at Blashford Lakes right now. 

Another magnificent bird I saw at the reserve was this buzzard

Buzzards, like most birds of prey, look best when they are in the air doing what they do best. 

I haven't shared an update on the Bournemouth peregrine falcons for a few weeks now. The chicks were ringed on the 16th May where it was discovered there were two males and one female, the same as in 2016. I think the three chicks have now left the nest but here are a few shots from the last few weeks showing that they now look like adult birds. The birds become very active towards the end of their time in the nest which is why you can't see all three of them in all of these shots.

I'm pleased to be able to share another local peregrine falcon nest with you. We're a bit spoilt locally with the peregrines in Bournemouth College Clock Tower, Salisbury Cathedral (as being shown on this year's Springwatch) and for the first time there are now peregrines nesting on a water tower in New Milton. And there's a camera thanks to Bournemouth Water. 

Here's the three young being fed by a parent on the 7th June:

And here they are today in front of the nest, a little obscured by sunlight. 

You can watch this camera here, but you have to log in first- the username is water and the password is wat3r. There's more information on Bournemouth Water's website here.

That's all for today, thanks for reading as always.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely shots! The cinnabar moth is one of my favourite moths, they're stunning.