Friday, 24 April 2009

Drumboe insects

Drumboe has a very rich insect population: I find some of my most interesting species here. This is Nomada leucophthalma, which is parasitic on the mining bee Andrena clarkiella. This is yet another prime example of dependency timing: A. clarkiella uses only the pollen of willows to feed its young, and willow pollen is only available for perhaps 6 weeks of the year. So the Nomada must locate an available Andrena nest and lay its own eggs there in a very short timeframe. Nomada sp. are known as kleptoparasites: they use the pollen the Andrenas have collected for their own offspring.

This specimen was flying along the vertical earth bank looking for Andrena nests. They fly facing the bank and move sideways as they search. This behaviour can be seen for only 4 weeks of the year. Shot was manual focus!

This is an Andrena, but not the one parasitised by the above Nomada. Andrena haemorrhoa, about 15 mm long:

Smaller hoverflies are making an appearance at last. This is a male Melanostoma scalare:

The larger Eristalis pertinax has been around for a couple of weeks. This is a female:

A single Speckled Wood was the first of the year for me. I also saw one Orange tip male and a Green-veined White, both of which I showed the other day.

St. Marks Flies are so-called because they usually start to appear around St. Marks day - April 25th. They're usually pretty accurate.

I have never found a convincing identification for this one, but it should be Bibio marci.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Drumboe cornucopia

Drumboe is always very productive. I got too many shots today, so the question is: plants or insects first? Flowers it is.

Wood Speedwell is always tricky to photograph. It usually likes shade, but a few specimens were in a clearing where an ancient Beech was removed last year:

Bugle seems a little early this year, but I suppose it's almost May.

I really like the pale green leaves of Beech when they're brand new:

Two clumps of Marsh Marigolds were well advanced in the drainage channel that flows into the Finn:

Yellow Pimpernel certainly likes shade:

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


We had two glorious days of sunshine and suddenly the butterflies were out in decent numbers.

Orange Tip males emerge before the females and set up territories along hedgerows and sunny banks. I'm always surprised by just how bright those wingtips are.

The underside is a mosaic of black and yellow scales that resemble moss or lichen. Good camouflage:

And here's the underside of a Green-veined White that also emerged on the same day:

Monday, 20 April 2009

Hunter hunted

I watched this red ant walking over the Dandelion flowerhead:

Then it suddenly nose-dived deeper into the flowers.

After a few seconds a tiny Ichneumonid appeared, with the ant holding onto its rear leg. A brief struggle ensued and the wasp made off, apparently none the worse for its experience.

The Ichneumonid was probably looking for moth larvae deep in the petals, but the parasite got more than it bargained for. No matter what you are in wildlife terms, you're either food for something or feeding on something else.

Friday, 17 April 2009

River Deele

The River Deele is always good for some interesting shots. This is one of the Nemouridae - a Stonefly. These are rarely seen, since they spend the bulk of their lives as nymphs under stones in rivers. The adults are short-lived, generally having no mouthparts.

Butterbur has put up its flower spikes all the way along the river bank:

This is the last stages of the Coprinid Bolbitius vitellinus. You have to be up early to see these ones in pristine condition: they generally only last a day or two at most.

I always think that the early, uncurling, fronds of ferns have a distinctly animal look about them. Scaly Male Fern:

Hartstongue Fern:

Ramsons, or Wild Garlic, is just about to flower. The flowerheads come pre-packed in a protective sheath:

There's a very interesting story behind this fungal rust on the Ramsons. Many rusts have two hosts - 'alternate hosts'. The two hosts don't have to be remotely related, and the alternate host for this Puccinia sessilis is Reed Canary Grass - Phalaris arundinacea. So the rust spends the summer months on Ramsons and the winter months on Reed Canary Grass. That's all very well, but I haven't found Reed Canary Grass within 25 miles of this spot. Spores are airborne, so I presume the spores travel quite some distance to travel between their summer and winter homes.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Smaller items

As soon as leaves appear, their dependent species are quick to follow. This leaf miner is Phytomyza ranunculi which mines Ranunculus species, such as Buttercups and Celandine, as the specific name would suggest.

This close-up of another leaf shows at least three larvae mining the leaves. Larvae shown are about 2mm long.

Germander Speedwell has started to flower. This area will be blue with them shortly. This flower changes colour once it has been fertilised and becomes more violet. I wonder if this is some kind of signal to bees that it doesn't need their services.

I spotted what looked like a gall on the leaves of Cow Parsley:

When I flipped it over to check the underside I saw characteristic signs of a fungal rust. This is Puccinia chaerophylli. Fungal rusts have a tendency to twist, expand and contort leaves and stems in order to increase the available sporing area.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

7-spot Ladybird

This will keep you going until I finish some identifications.

A lovely shot of the 7-spot Ladybird - Coccinella 7-punctata - on Germander Speedwell - Veronica chamaedrys. The twin rows of hairs on the Speedwell are diagnostic.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Drumboe Wood is that strangest of creatures: an ancient urban woodland. It lies no further than 100m from the main shopping centre, separated from the main road only by the river Finn. Its great age leads to a huge biodiversity, with some very rare species. Indeed, it is the only known location in Ireland for Cerodontha sylvatica, which I added to the Irish list in 2006.

The Bluebells seem to be quite early this year:

These are the first flowers of Cuckoo Flower - Cardamine pratensis. My local specimens haven't flowered yet, so I suspect Orange Tip butterflies are still about 2-3 weeks away.

This moss is Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. It's supposed to prefer calcareous soil, but I find it in acidic woodlands and in heath. One common name is 'electrified cat's tail moss'. I can see why.

My first hoverfly of the year: Eristalis pertinax. this one was smaller than most, and I had to eliminate E. nemorum and E. arbustorum based on the pale legs.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

How many species?

As I was cropping this shot of a Common Carder Bumblebee - Bombus pascuorum - I spotted something that led to the above question. So how many species can you see in this shot? Answer at the bottom of the page (don't cheat!). Helpful hint: all the leaves belong to the flower.

Greater Stitchwort - Stellaria holostea - sneaks up stealthily due to the fact that the leaves look like grass:

Common Dog Violet - Viola riviniana - is about two weeks later than usual this year.

I counted 4 species:-

Carder Bumble Bee.
Lesser Celandine.
Puccinia ranunculi (fungal rust on leaf)
A parasitic bug on the bee (shown below).

Friday, 3 April 2009

Legacy Anemone

Wood Anemone is usually found in older deciduous woodland, and that's typically where I find it. High in the Spruce plantation, however, a single tiny clump continues to grow - almost certainly an indication of the original habitat that was removed to plant the conifers. This little act of defiance always makes me smile.

Yet another new moth to light: Common Quaker - Orthosia cerasi. Male.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

And still they come

Another new singleton moth to light last night. It's Early Tooth-striped - Trichopteryx carpinata, but a rather unusual colour form.

Thanks to Angus for the id on this one.