Monday, May 27, 2013

Insects in the Sun

So three days of sun miraculously coincided exactly with a bank holiday weekend and there was an opportunity to check out the insect life. The moth trap produced a Poplar Hawk-moth and Swallow Prominent among a few others and these moths and mayfly were flying in the daytime.

Ephemera vulgata

The Cinnabar Tyria jacobaeae

Nettle-tap Anthophila fabriciana

Canon Powershot SX50 HS

The Weevil Platystomos albinus

A rather cool-looking weevil found on some dead wood at the Island in Elton today.

Platystomos albinus
Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Blue Tit Nesting In Life Ring

Spent a lot of the Bank Holiday weekend canoeing sections of the river Nene. Today we started at Cotterstock and canoed back to Elton. Grey Wagtails were at Cotterstock Mill, Perio Lock and Elton Mill, Kingfishers were around Perio lock and a pair of Mandarin flew by as we passed Bluebell Lakes.

During portage around Perio we noticed this little fella coming in and out of the life ring at the lock. Seen taking several caterpillars in and the odd fecal sac out of the nest.

Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus

Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Banded Demoiselle

These superb damselflies have just started emerging along the river nearby but they are very scarce in the garden. This male set up territory over our garden pond during the morning.

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens

Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spot Fly and Lily Beetle

Today started with a tour of the new roof work at Elton Church. Interesting but more important for me was the return of a Spotted Flycatcher to the traditional site of the graveyard. Unfortunately the bird was mainly singing from high in a tree in the adjacent field so photos were very distant.

Back at home raptors were finding thermals over the village and at one point there were 6 Buzzards, 3 Red Kites and a Sparrowhawk all in the same kettle. We also had a Hobby fly through. A less welcome visitor to the garden was the first Lily Beetle of the year. These adventive beetles are a major pest if you grow lilies.

The rest of the day was spent canoeing the Nene from Wansford back to Elton. The river was very quiet, apart from a noisy Kingfisher near Wansford lock, but in the warm sun we saw the first Banded Demoiselles of the year despite the still chilly northerlies.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata

Lily Beetle Lilioceris lilii

Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Garden insects

A bit thin on photos for this post but a bit of time with the insects in the garden has added a few common species to my knowledge. Another two Platycheirus hoverflies have given themselves up; scutatus and tarsalis are both very common but take a bit of closeup work to identify, fortunately these were possible from live specimens.

The moth trap also gave up a distinctive caddis fly: the wing notch is diagnostic for Glyphotaelius pellucidus.

And this was another moth trap addition for the year.

Hawthorn Shieldbug Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale

Here's the list for May so far. Day and night flyers together. Very slow for the time of year.

Monopis weaverella 1
Acrolepia autumnitella 1
Agonopterix arenella 1
Mompha epilobiella 1
Cochylis atricapitana 1
Argyrotaenia ljungiana 2
Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla) 1
Amblyptilia acanthadactyla 1
Emmelina monodactyla 1
Large White (Pieris brassicae) 2
Green-veined White (Pieris napi) 1
Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) 1
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) 2
Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata) 1
Red Twin-spot Carpet (Xanthorhoe spadicearia) 1
Oak-tree Pug (Eupithecia dodoneata) 2
Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata) 2
Yellow-barred Brindle (Acasis viretata) 1
Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica) 2
Heart & Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) 1
Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) 2
Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta) 1
Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) 3
Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) 1
Poplar Grey (Acronicta megacephala) 1
The Spectacle (Abrostola tripartita) 1
Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha) 1
Glyphotaelius pellucidus 1
Hawthorn Shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale) 1

Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Swimming Grass Snake

Things conspiring to ensure I miss most good local birds at the moment. I arrived at Maxey to discover the Temminck's Stints had left, which no-one had thought to mention. But this rather cool swimming snake was some compensation.

Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Škocjan Caves

On our way back to Italy from Croatia last weekend we decided to call in at this UNESCO World Heritage site in Slovenia, just a short drive from the borders. The region is famed for the karst geology, which takes the rivers underground through the limestone landscape and creates vast cave systems. It also leads to some dramatic surface features where these caves collapse creating large holes called dolines. This is a short clip taken across Velika dolina and Mala dolina with the Reka river thundering through the bottom dwarfing the visitors to the caves walking alongside.

The caves are home to some unique wildlife but on our flying visit we concentrated on the forested surroundings where Short-toed Treecreepers were abundant and Spotted Flycatchers hawked for insects. The dolines were home to Ravens and are a wintering site for Wallcreepers. Just a few photos from this very short visit.

Fire Bug Pyrrhocoris apterus

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio (prefer this over the other possibility A. picta)

Narrow-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia

Photos taken with Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Weekend in Istria

So where's Istria? Ok, so it is in Croatia but that doesn't tell you the whole story. It is a bit of a world apart; a peninsular jutting like a miniature India into the northern tip of the Adriatic Sea opposite Venice. The influence of that city state can be seen throughout and it often feels more like Italy than the Balkans. It is also a major holiday destination, especially for German and Austrian visitors, where naturism is a popular draw.

It sits at about the most northerly point of the Mediterranean and on the boundary between the distributions of many eastern and western bird species. That, and the dominant karst geology, which takes much of the area's water underground, means birdlife is not as diverse as elsewhere in Europe. But we were tempted by truly cheap flights to Trieste and a desire to experience the beautiful cities of Pula, Rovinj and Poreč. £30 per head return, only £60 for 3 days car hire and petrol at about £1.10 a litre. Accommodation was also reasonable and there were plenty of campsites if on a tighter budget. We stayed in an apartment in Rovinj, quite central and we thought the prettiest of the three towns with the best choice of food.

Driving is easy in Istria. The toll road running north-south is worth using as you can drive the whole thing in under an hour and the toll is under £4; shorter trips not much more than a pound. If coming from Trieste airport allow about an hour to get through Italy, Slovenia and into Istria. The Italy/Slovenia border is not manned but there can be delays at the Slovenia/Croatia border. We waited about 20 minutes leaving Croatia and I can imagine in high season this could take a lot longer.

The drive through Slovenia uses a short section of toll road and your car needs to display a vignette (sticker) to use this. They cost €15 for 7 days (longer periods are available) and are sold in plenty of places on the way. Before buying though, check your hire car doesn't already have one still valid from the previous driver. Look for the rectangular sticker(s) in the window on the driver's side. The punched holes on the sides are the date of issue and the year and number of days are printed in big letters. Ours did have a valid vignette, which unfortunately expired the day before our return journey.

It is possible to avoid the toll road to save the cost of the vignette. There are very good directions here. It only takes about 15 minutes and makes sense if you aren't driving anywhere else in Slovenia.

So on with the wildlife. The first surprise was the lack of raptors. A few Common Buzzards and Kestrels joined only by a single Honey Buzzard and a couple of Marsh Harriers (one hunting the airport in Italy). A tantalising view of an all dark falcon while driving strongly suggested Eleanora's Falcon but that was it. On the other hand it quickly became clear that one of the most conspicuous birds was to be Jay but otherwise birds seen casually from the road were few. We did manage a couple of Hoopoes and Turtle Doves though.

Our base at Rovinj had quite a few Scop's Owls, a Little Owl and the expected Common Swifts, Swallows, Starlings, Great Tits, Starlings, Magpies, Blackbirds, Collared Doves and Serins. Oddly no Black Redstarts here or elsewhere but one of the region's commonest bird, Nightingale, was singing near the apartment (as well as just about everywhere else). The garden was crawling with Wall Lizards as well:

Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis

Pula and Kap Kemenjak

So, Pula is a must see. The Roman Arena (6th largest in the world) is well preserved and also a haven for more wall lizards:

Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis

After that I fancied the southernmost tip of the Istrian peninsular and this proved a good move. The place was hopping with birds. Earlier rain had brought down a few migrants starting with flocks of Swifts and hirundines, including a couple of Red-rumped Swallows, a male Redstart, then small flocks of Bee-eaters overhead and a few Northern Wheatears on the shore. Probable breeders included a singing Subalpine Warbler, several Red-backed Shrikes, Melodious Warblers, a single Western Bonelli's Warbler, Blackcaps, Cirl and Corn Buntings.

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus

This was also a very flowery place with many orchids and some Wall butterflies (my orchid id skills are best described as shaky so treat with caution):

Bertoloni's Bee Orchid Ophrys bertolonii

Butterfly Orchid Anacamptis papilionacea

The Mirna River

This was the other really birdy place we visited. A long section of wet meadows alongside a tamed river course ending at some small lagoons. A small calidrid wader flying around at the coastal end failed to settle for an id but Little Egret and a showy Purple Heron were also here.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea

Red-backed Shrikes were scattered all along with Great Reed Warblers and Nightingales singing and the odd Fan-tailed Warbler.

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio

East of the motorway viaduct a female Marsh Harrier and a pair of Coypu (much more wary and wilder than the ones we saw last month in the Carmargue) showed then we came across 2 or 3 singing Black-headed Buntings along with Melodious Warbler and a singing Quail. The buntings were a bit of a surprise as this is the very extreme of the species range and I doubt there are any further north or west of these birds in Europe.

Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala

A short video compilation of Black-headed Bunting, Melodious Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and Hooded Crow:

Photos taken with Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Weekend Moths

Mothing still very slow here but a bit of daytime netting resulted in the first tiny but attractive species. Only the third record for the garden. The others have come to light and are quite regular/common.

Acrolepia autumnitella

Muslin Moth Diaphora mendica

Yellow-barred Brindle Acasis viretata

Monopis weaverella

Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Monday, May 06, 2013

Weekend Insects

Some nice warm weather for a change and the insects responded well. The small hoverfly is a very common species. The wasp-like bee is hovering around the entrance of a mining bee nest where it will lay it's eggs to be reared by the other bees just like a cuckoo.

Nomada goodeniana

Platycheirus albimanus

Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Building nesting Kittiwakes

In Scarborough to visit relatives and enjoyed the many Kittiwakes nesting on the mighty Grand Hotel and nearby buildings.

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla

Canon Powershot SX50 HS

Thursday, May 02, 2013


At Orton BP this morning. Look at that tongue!

Canon Powershot SX50 HS