Saturday, 17 June 2017

Highest butterfly count of the year at Cranford Park

I spent an hour this morning looking for the Little Owls in the oaks by the Information Centre. I heard an adult calling several times, but could not locate it. However thanks to Lynne and Lorraine I was able to briefly see a juvenile fairly deep inside the nest hole. The tree I have always suspected as being the nest tree, and is now confirmed, is a short distance from the oaks and both Lynne and Lorraine have seen an adult at the nest hole several times recently. I suspect the owlets will be outside within the next week.
With temperatures set to soar this afternoon I decided to do an early UKBMS butterfly transect.
It paid off as I wasn't too hot and I made sure I had plenty of water with me.
The count was a huge success. I spotted 84 butterflies in 95 minutes, plus one rather beautiful moth.
So todays tally.....
84 butterflies / 8 species
Small Skipper x 1 (first of the year)
Large Skipper x 2
Green-veined White x 5
Red Admiral x 1
Comma x 4
Speckled Wood x 9
Small Heath x 7
and todays success story...
Meadow Brown x 55 !!!!!
Yup, 55 Meadow Browns and 51 of them were just seen by walking along the grass paths in the large meadow area. These fairly large brown butterflies are nearly always seen flying low and slow through the long grasses.
Meadow Brown

Small Heath

Red Admiral - front view

Red Admiral - back view


Large Skipper - female

Small Skipper
plus this beautiful Magpie Moth below.
No my photo is not upside down, it was settled under a leaf.....
Not too many ladybirds were about. I counted just five Harlequins and three 7-spots

7-spot ladybird
And if you ever wondered what a Harlequin ladybird looks like when it first emerges from its pupa shell, here's one I had in my possession last week. They are bright yellow at first, and it can take hours for them to colour up (sorry about the photo quality - picture taken with my iPhone)....
and yes, I did name it Sian. I had collected three pupae and named them after work colleagues. Two emerged as Harlequins and one sadly 'leaked' yellow liquid after a few days and failed to emerge.
I now have another three pupae in a breathable pot at home, and I'm fairly confident two are 7-spots and one is a Harlequin.
Although butterflies like the hot dry weather we had today, hoverflies don't like too much heat. Therefore I only saw three species today. All IDs under the photos...
Epistrophe grossulariae
Epistrophe grossulariae in flight
Myathropa florea - note the 'batman' symbol on the thorax

Scaeva pyrastri - white strips instead of yellow

Scaeva pyrastri
The heat also meant most birds were sheltering. The Common Whitethroats in the Headland area have fledged their young. There was a lot of calling and birds flying around, but none were settling for a photo call. The sounds of Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers could be heard in Cranford Woods but again, none wanted to pose for a photo. Two distant Common Buzzards flew over the woods 'mewing'. Several Swifts also soared over. There were lots of Chiffchaffs, Wrens, Blackbirds, Robins and Blackcaps singing all over the park but most were tucked deep in the shadier areas.
Absolutely no bird photos today at all.
So I had to make do with photographing yet another obliging Black and Yellow Longhorn (Rutpela maculate) that was very handily at my eye level.....

Sadly todays blog post ends with the upsetting news that my friends dog, Jasper, passed away earlier today.
He was a good companion to Sue, and often accompanied Sue and I on little bird watching trips to Cranford Park and Lake Farm. He earned his nickname 'the bird-dog' as he always stayed on the paths, never disturbing the wildlife, and only occasionally become impatient with us if we were taking too long watching or photographing birds.

Sue and Jasper - June 2014
RIP Jasper. You will be sorely missed.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Visits to Mum's garden and Cranford Park this weekend

Yesterday I popped over to Mums and had a wander around her very lush garden.
I found a Speckled Bush Cricket nymph.....

a young possible 3rd instar Green Shieldbug.....

but the only hoverflies I could find were all Eupeodes species.....

The high-light of my visit was this beautiful Stock Dove that came down to the feeders,
a possible garden patch tick....

As I was away last weekend in Rhyl my good friend Nathalie covered the Cranford Park butterfly transect for me. Although the sun was shining for most of it the wind was quite strong and gusty.
Her tally for the 3rd June - 12 butterflies / 5 species
Holly Blue x 1
Red Admiral x 3
Comma x 2
Speckled Wood x 3
Small Heath x 3
I completed the transect this morning while the sun was shining and the wind was fairly light.
My tally today - 33 butterflies / 7 species
Large Skipper x 3
Green-veined White x 2
Red Admiral x 4
Small Tortoiseshell x 1
Comma x 2
Speckled Wood x 11
Meadow Brown (first of the year) x 10
Meadow Brown

Meadow Brown

Large Skipper

Large Skipper

very fresh Comma

tatty and older Comma

Comma face
By the orchard I could hear a lot of young birds squeaking and after shuffling about a bit and peering in to the ivy I could see at least three very young fledgling Wrens....

Plenty of ladybirds around today but they were all 7-spot and Harlequins. There were also a lot of larvae around too of both species.
adult 7-spot

larva 7-spot

larva Harlequin
 I counted over 10 Black and Yellow Longhorn beetle (Rutpela maculate), the first ones I've seen this year...

All of the wild honeybee hives are still active, with the one in the bricked up archway being the most viewable.....

Although the first buddleia along the M4 wall is in flower there were no critters on there except honeybees. All of the hoverflies I found today were on the flowering brambles or nettles.
Heliophilus pendulus

Episyrphus balteatus

tentative ID and awaiting confirmation - Cheilosia illustrate
edit - confirmed correct

Syrpus species
Other wildlife seen today at Cranford Park:-
Red Kite
Common Buzzard
Common Whitethroat
I had hoped for a sighting of the Little Owls. The young owlets should now be visible but the park was very busy today, and I'm wondering if they were hiding from public view. Next weekend I need to do an early start at the park when it's a bit quieter.

Monday, 5 June 2017

In just one little corner of the a walk along Rhyl beach

I was on babysitting duties for my cousins in Rhyl this weekend, and therefore a little restricted as to where I could go with the camera. Luckily I didn't have to go far. I just visited this one corner of my cousins garden, and clocked up an impressive number of critters as the next load of photos will show.
Six species of Ladybird
Five species of Hoverfly
Two harmless wasp species
plus a few ladybird and sawfly larvae
Are you sitting comfortably ?
7-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)
2-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata)

Harlequin ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis)

14-spot ladybird (Propylea quattuordecimpunctata)

10-spot ladybird (Adalia decempunctata)

Pine ladybird (Exochomus quadripustulatus)

and there were several ladybird larva. They look to all be 2-spot ladybird late-instar larva...

Other delightful eye catching critters included this Potter wasp (Odynerus sp)

Potter wasps are medium to large sized wasps measuring between 9 to 20 millimetres in length. They are black with white, yellow, orange, or red markings. The adults feed on flower nectar and collect small caterpillars to feed their young. The caterpillars are paralyzed with the wasp’s sting and piled into the brood cell (which is the compartment in which the wasp larvae develops).
The female wasp then lays an egg on the stored caterpillars. The Potter wasp larvae consumes from 1 to 12 caterpillars as it grows. Potter wasps are important in the natural control of caterpillars.
As to be expected in a sheltered sunny garden there were a good selection of harmless hoverflies....
Episyrphus balteatus
Myathropa florea

Eupeodes luniger

Eristalis pertinax

Other wiggly critters included these sawfly larva....

and this beauty below is a type of Ichneumon wasp, another harmless species. With help from Stu Hasjcore Wolfe on the Insects of Britain and Northern Europe Facebook group, it has been narrowed down to Syrphophilus tricinctorius.....
But the most exciting find for me was a 'hoverfly first'. A stunning bumblebee mimic  called Merodon equestris....



So I was very happy with what I found in just one corner of my cousins garden.
My 'charges' for the day and night were my cousins youngest kids, Jack and Brandon..... 

 and Buster....

 We went on the beach on Saturday and walked back along the prom where this beautiful male Stonechat let us get quite close...

Looking over the sea wall to the beach we then watched House Martins gathering damp sand to build their nests...

So even though I didn't go out and about alone like I would normally do, it was great to find so much wildlife right under my nose.
Maybe next time I'll do a mini bioblitz of the whole garden instead of just one corner......