Sunday, 16 July 2017

Grassy Greats

This weekend I spent a lot of time crouching down in patches of long grass looking at invertebrates. With the breeding season coming to a close for birds and the high temperature meaning most creatures are spending little time out in the open, this is the time of year to go looking for minibeasts.

I've managed to spot another three butterfly species to add to my year list this week. The first of these is a common blue, seen here feeding on a thistle.

This is a female as it has the brown edges and orange spots on it's wings. Common blues apparently have two broods a year, the first flying in May and June, the second in August and September. But I saw this butterfly today, on 16th July which is between broods. Perhaps this year the second brood has come early thanks to the warm weather and maybe we could get a third brood too. 

Next up, a gorgeous gatekeeper

These butterflies prefer the warmer weather and so tend to stick to the South of the UK, though I suspect they may have travelled a little further North this year. The brown in the middle of the orange in this individual means it's a male. These butterflies are fairly similar to meadow browns, especially when their wings are closed, though gatekeepers tend to rest with their wings open unlike the meadow brown. 

My final new butterfly of the day is this somewhat darker species, the ringlet

This specimen is really faded- ringlets are usually dark all over with that dark colour in the centre of this butterfly usually going all over the wings. 

I've seen lots of speckled woods this year but I just thought this was an unusual angle for a photo:

I also saw a moth this week, a blood vein moth.

Although a little obscured by the grass it is an easy one to identify from the redish line that gives it its name. This is a night-flying moth so I did well to spot it during the day.

Onto some other invertebrates now. Perhaps the most underrated is the the simple fly so here are a couple I took photos of yesterday. 

The first is obviously a bluebottle and the second, rather scary looking one is a flesh fly, so called as it is known to lay eggs in the wounds of mammals. What an unpleasant life cycle that is!

Last week I shared photos of banded demoiselle damselflies but this week I saw a similar but less common species, the beautiful demoiselle

This is a female and is a different shade of green to the banded demoiselle. The beautiful demoiselles prefer fast-flowing water whilst the banded prefer slow. 

Apologies to any arachnophobes reading but this is a magnificent labyrinth spider

These spiders build a tunnel instead of a web to catch prey. They are really shy and usually disappear down their tunnels when humans come near so I was really lucky to get a photo of this one. 

Interestingly this next species is not a spider despite looking like one.

This is a harvestman, specifically Leiobunum rotundum. Like spiders, harvestmen are arachnids but they are not closely related to spiders. They don't produce silk nor have venom and unlike spiders their bodies are entirely one section. Harvestmen fossils were found in 400 million-year old rocks and they have changed very little since then. 

Also lurking the grass were loads of meadow grasshoppers

This is a female; males are entirely brown. It's the males that rub their legs against their wings to make the chirping 'song' to attract females- the grass was alive with this sound yesterday. 

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