Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Croft Hill 13/04/2014

I nipped over to Croft Hill for a couple of hours late yesterday afternoon to enjoy the last of the warm sunshine. Turned out to be pretty productive with a couple of PSL ticks and one pending ID. The visit was also notable for a couple of things present en masse.

Firstly there are lots of dry open patches, quite likely caused by rabbits, plus dry well-walked paths. It was immediately noticeable that these areas were very busy with these ...

Ashy Mining Bee - male

Ashy Mining Bee - female

These bees were absolutely everywhere on site, 100s of them. Lots of interraction between individuals, a lot of it appearing to be aggressive behaviour, and small nesting holes were all over the place.

Typical area used by nesting Ashy Mining Bees

There were odd individuals of other solitary bee spp. around, including Early Mining Bee, but most noticeable were several Nomada spp. I've kept one to check out (and so far can't resolve it with either of the keys I've acquired) but Nomada lathburiana has to be a strong contended as it is the cleptoparasite of Ashy Mining Bee.

Nomada sp. - male

The other notable massed presence was around the oaks, with loads of these flying about or settled on trunks and fallen logs ...

Eriocrania subpurpurella

Pair in-cop

It always interesting when you look at something you've looked at 100s times before and see something new. Whilst browsing around the gorse bushes looking for Gorse Shieldbug (which I didn't find) I noticed a tiny weevil, only c2mm long. Further searching revealed that there were quite a few of them around, generally perched on the flowers and probing in. It is Exapion ulicis - a common weevil associated with gorse. How have I not seen it before?

Also new for me was this groundbug, which was a completely lucky find as it happened to crawl into view whilst I was watching the bees coming and going. Turns out to be scarce in VC55, the county recorder has no previous records but there appear to be a couple of dots on the NBN Gateway maps for Rutland.

Peritrechus lundii

I also found a couple of other beetles, Bembidion quadrimaculatum and this Badister bullatus ...

... and finally, the whole site was awash with Spring Beauty again.

Rutland Water 11/04/2014

A county tick Pied-billed Grebe had been knocking about at Rutland Water (found on Wednesday), but last news on Thursday was not ideal as it was last reported drifting off toward Lyndon. I fully expected that news on Friday morning would be -ve and that it would take a while to re-find, and so I made a concious decision to spend the day at Ketton picking up PSL lifers and enjoying myself rather than trudging around Rutland Water.

As expected, no news early on and then the 'no sign' news, but I decided to drop in the way home from Ketton just in case it had been hiding away in the willows. By then it was nice and sunny; Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were in full song and Swallows were over the water so all very pleasant.

I had a good walk westwards, well past Berrybut Spinny and the golf course, checking the water constantly and particularly in-shore near any overhanging willows. I didn't see another birder all the time I was walking, and of course I didn't see the grebe. Looking for a small bird on your todd at a place the size of Rutland Water is pretty ridiculous. In fact I was almost back at the car a good couple of hours after arriving before I saw any other birders - a car load that had come from Suffolk in the vain hope of ticking the grebe (they should've gone to Flamborough for Carg Martin!).

Quite likely that the grebe had been knocking about for a while unseen, and possible it is still around there somewhere though after a weekend with no news it's not looking promising. Still, it's just a county tick and having missed so many over the years (mainly due to them turning up on week days whilst I'm at work) then I won't lose any sleep! Unlikely there'll be another any time soon, but the Glossy Ibis that briefly appeared on Tuesday and the possible White Stork that flew over Melton whilst I was at RW will both appear on my list in due course.

Whilst the grebe was lost cause, I still gained from the visit with a couple of unexpected PSL ticks. First up, a quick stop to splash me boots in the spinny lead to a chance find of a slime mould on damp rotting wood ...

Wolf's Milk Lycogala terrestre

And bold as brass, slowing shuffling across the sun-baked pathway was this beetle ...

Pill Beetle

I'd about had enough for the day, and seeing the local inhabitants was only making me hungry.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Ketton Quarry 11/04/2014

As I mentioned in the last post, on Friday I spent most of the day pottering about at Ketton Quarry. I was hoping for some warm sunshine from early morning to bring out the reptiles, but after I'd battled my way through the rush-hour traffic and across the A47 it was still a bit overcast at c9am. No sign of any reptiles despite several searches throughout my time there. The sun did eventually come out and warm everything up, though not for any prolonged spells until late morning.

Ketton Quarry has featured several times on this blog as it is without doubt one of my favourite sites in VC55. The reserve is not exactly huge, but there is good diversity with open grassy areas, scrub and woodland, with tracks and rides both through and between these areas. Plus of course there is the adjacent huge open working quarry.

Aside from the reptiles which refused to come out, my main interest for the day was always going to be inverts. Plenty of the commoner butterflies were on the wing, including my first Holly Blue and Speckled Wood of the year, but no sign of any Green Hairstreaks, Grizzled Skippers or Dingy Skippers as yet. The only moth flying about was Common Heath, which despite the name is distinctly uncommon in VC55 - in fact this is the only known current site for it.

Common Heath

Plenty of Diptera on the wing too including lots of the smaller hoverlifies such as Melanostoma scalare, but the most obvious flies were Bee Fly - 100s of them all over the site.

Bee Fly

Beetles were the main interest though, and aside from the superb Green Tiger Beetle I picked up a couple of interesting ones. First up, a speculative search under loose bark on one of many log piles produced what I initially thought was an odd/brown Scarce Fungus Weevil. This was perpetuated for a few seconds as I noticed that there were also three other Scarce Fungus Weevils on the same log.

Scarce Fungus Weevil

Having seen this for the first time last year, I wasn't really sure on how variable they could be aside from the pale 'face' and rear end varying from buff to whitish. I also wasn't sure if there were any similar species, but then I noticed that the browner individual had obvious white spots on the elytra and white bands on longer antenna. I then found yet another odd individual - much smaller, darker and with even longer white-marked antennae and legs. I figured that these were indeed another species and I was right - they are both a male and a female Platystomos albinus. Better still, new for me and new for VC55.

Platystomos albinus - female

Platystomos albinus - male

Whilst searching, I found a random piece of rabbit leg perched on top of one of the logs. How it got there I have no idea, but once I'd moved it I noticed another interesting beetle. Like the two preceding species, this one also had some funky white markings on the underside but otherwise it just looked dark to the naked eye. Under the eyeglass though it looked pretty smart with pale grey-blue hairs and tufts of golden hairs on the pronotum. After a false start, I've identified it as Dermestes murinus - another new one for me.

Dermestes murinus

Also found under bark/around logs were Pterostichus madidus and Loricera pilicornis, along with typical woodlice, millipedes and centipedes.

Sweeping around the grasses was not as productive as it will be later in the season, though I did find the leafhopper Mocydia crocea which I've recorded from here before. Other Hemiptera noted during the day were Pied Shieldbug and Scolopostethus thomsoni.

Aside from searching logs, I also had a good look over the various rocks and stones and also a brick pile. This brick pile has been present for as long as I've been visiting the site (well over a decade) and the bricks are quite heavy and large compared to normal house bricks. Not sure what used to be built there, maybe some remnant of a quarrying building I suppose.

The bricks yielded a few molluscs, notably Discus Snail, Common Chrysalis Snail and Two-toothed Door Snail. I also found a cracking little harvestman which was new for me, and once I'd noticed it I started to find several of them on various rocks.

Megabunus diadema

I took an hour out from poking about to grab some early lunch in nearby Stamford. When I got back to Ketton, I tried out my recently acquired sieve - more out of curiosity than expectation. Not having used it before, I had a go at sieving various clumps of moss, dried grasses and a bit of leaf-litter. Apart from inadvertently finding lots of ants on a couple of occasions, it was pretty productive. Lots of very tiny stuff including Collembola (none of which looked new or particularly interesting under the eyeglass), but I was pleased to sieve out some very small jumping spiders. I like jumping spiders! One was identifiable, the other not (by me at least) although they were all very small and presumably immature.

Heliophanus flavipes - another one I've seen here before

Unidentified jumper
Thanks to Matt Prince for highlighting that this is a male Heliophanus flavipes

Also sieved from dried grass, a few click beetles that I've keyed out ...

Agriotes sputator

... and a weevil that I need to key out to confirm (when the key I've just ordered arrives)

Possible Otiorhynchus rugosostriatus

All in all an excellent few hours at Ketton. I left mid-afternoon and dropped in to Rutland Water on the way home which I'll save for another (shorter) post.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Green

Had a great day out on me todd yesterday, peace and quiet at Ketton Quarry with pretty much the whole reserve to myself. Quite a few bits to blog about but whilst I compile all that, here's the stand-out highlight for me. One I've been longing to see since I started widening my interests and looking at beetles in particular - Green Tiger Beetle, and it's a stunner. Click for big!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Hovering around the edge

I had a bit of time off of work this morning as I had a couple of things that needed doing, but I did get about and hour or so in the morning sunshine in between tasks.

Before all that, I'd run the garden traps overnight but they were pretty quiet with the temperature drop after dusk. Two new for the year species were Brindled Pug and White-shouldered House-moth. Biggest surprise in the trap though was this ...

Amazing how quickly Tree Bumblebee has spread around the county and become so common, but this is the first one I've had in the garden moth traps.

Not too far from home in the village we have a pathways along parts of what used the Great Central Railway running south from Leicester down to Whetstone and on to Ashby Magna, Lutterworth and then Rugby. Part of the old line is also accessible in Cosby. Today I walked along a short section that looks like this ...

I had an ulterior motive. I was trying to find a fungi, Semifree Morel, which had been recorded from here on Monday this week. Despite a throrough search in the area I didn't find it - I suppose it's either completely withered away, been kicked to death by kids or quite possibly it was actually collected to confirm ID.

These walkways are not bad for general inverts, though nothing too exciting found today. I think that if you were studying dog shit though this would be nirvana. Most notable today, apart from loads of 7-spot Ladybirds on every bush, was a good number of hoverflies. I managed to point the camera at a couple.

Syritta pipiens

Eupeodes luniger

Tomorrow I am off work for a proper day out, though the Pied-billed Grebe at Rutland Water is likely to be my first port of call.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Overdue - Carpatolechia proximella

Time for another in the occasional series where I bemoan the continued absence of a species from my garden records after a long period since the last/only appearance. I'm picking out a micro for a change ...

Carpatolechia proximella - 8th May 2003

This species is pretty common around most of the UK, and the larvae feed on birch and alder - seems a very good candidate for something that you should be able to find pretty much anywhere. And yet one I jointly recorded at Pickworth Great Wood on 25th May 2001 was the first for VC55 for almost 100 years since the VCH was published. Since then it has been recorded pretty widely and regularly around the vice-county, and I've recorded it from 11 sites. But the individual above remains the only record from my garden. No idea why it's not re-appeared - there is plenty of birch around here and alder not too far away. I like the Gelechiidae and I'm 100% sure I wouldn't miss one the in the trap.

Ironically I've recorded more of the related but much more scarce Carpatolechia decorella from my garden (okay, two) a species I added to the VC55 list from Enderby Quarry on 5th July 2003 and as far as I know this has only been recorded by me from this site and my garden.

So - Carpatolechia proximella is definitely overdue!