Friday, August 24, 2007

Urban Fox

When we moved down to South Wales after a life in the North of England and Scotland, one of the things that struck me was the prevalence of wildlife I had rarely seen previously. Badgers were everywhere, although sadly mostly roadside casualties. Buzzards, a relatively rare bird for me prior to that, were ten a penny - 12 in one field our first winter. I can remember a time in South Yorkshire listening to a birder enthusiastically telling his mate on his mobile about a buzzard on the skyline. Down here they are like sparrows.

Foxes are another I hadn't seen much of in the past - and certainly never this close up .......

You know when you have a good scratch - how nice it can feel? Here's the foxy reaction

It'd be nice to pretend these shots were the result of SAS style camouflage techniques, and patient hours, but the truth is they were taken on my way into work where the local fox pack have taken to lying on cars in the sun - or on a cold day on the warm bonnet of newly arrived commuters. I didn't even take my new camera - partly due to worry about having it lying around at work, but also because my sole lens - 300mm- might have meant I had to stand too far back!

Kinda cute, eh?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gasteruption jaculator

Yeah, I know. Bizarre name, bizarre insect. I'd never heard of it until I came across Brian Stone's pictures on his blog in July - 24th

Under the circumstances it seemed a bit spooky a couple of weeks later that I found one in my greenhouse. Don't know a lot about them, but they use that long ovipositor to lay their eggs in the nests of solitary bees. One of the creepiest bugs I've yet seen, especially in flight with those long dangling legs - sorry about the standard of my pictures - real struggle to reach it and focus in the crowded greenhouse!

Friday, August 17, 2007


Quick follow up to post of July 22nd. I'm now pretty confident the unknown insect was a sawfly - just not sure which one!

The Birds and the Bees

Finally back online after major ISP problem. Then again it's so quiet at the moment it hasn't really mattered.

To start with the birds, the easy thing to say is there aren't any. Or at least those there are have been hiding from or lazing in the sun like the rest of us - didn't think I'd mention the sun in 2 successive posts this year!

So it was time to look for smaller things again.

The white-lipped snails were ............................ being snails

Also at the wetlands the common blue damsels were common and at it all over the place .........

but the black-tailed skimmer was a first for me - even if it wouldn't settle - hence the rubbish shot

The cinnabar moth caterpillars looked great in the bright light

The peacock was strutting it's stuff

and this wasp was browsing on a wild parsnip (I think). You can't really see in this shot, but this was a wasp with a long thin waist, called Mellinus arvensis - looked better in the flesh!

It preys on hover flies so this Eristalis horticola would be on the lookout ...

A crab spider was also on the hunt.

Back at home the Eurydema bug was around again, but unfortunately you can't really see the bulging red eyes at this resolution - try clicking on the picture for a bigger view.In the greenhouse a greenbottle contrasted nicely with an astilbebut my foray into entomolgy this month was about the bees which were everywhere in the garden. Again apologies if I get some wrong - just let me know:

Bombus terrestrisBombus pratorum (?)

Honey bees (on the best Helenium going - Sahin's Early Flowerer - if you like Heleniums get one!)

Red-shanked bumblebee - at first I thought it was a red tailed, never having heard of a red-shanked, but check out the red hairs on the back legs.

Then there were several types of carder bee (or maybe just 3 forms of 1. There are so many bees, complicated by the fact there are males, females and workers which all look different even within the one species). One shot (it's obvious which) reminds of the drawing in a Winnie the Pooh book where Pooh gets stuck in the honey jar. I'm not sure the last of these is a carder bee, but it might be - bit more research required.And finally the bee that became my favourite. It's a male wool carder bee - easily recognised by the gold spots on the abdomen, and also it's yellow wasp like face.
My book says the male is significantly bigger than the female (the female combs hairy plants for nest material - hence the name) and is territorial. It was. It kept going back to the same leaf shown in the top picture, resting for a minute or so and then off on a little patrol of it's patch. If it found another bee it bounced it - literally bouncing on it's back and chasing it off. I thought it was great!