Sunday, 21 March 2010

A few sunny days....

the first hoverfly of the year appears:

I would have expected Eristalis pertinax, since I usually find these are the first large hoverflies to appear, but this turned out to be Eristalis tenax, the Drone Fly (so called because it resembles the male honey bee). The front face shows a very wide black stripe which is virtually diagnostic at this time of year:

And the moth season continues with the Dotted Border - Agriopis marginaria (guess where its name comes from):

Now we're moving

I know my patch pretty well, so I went round the locations where I know I can find the earliest specimens.

First, I found Coltsfoot in flower:

Coltsfoot is particularly interesting: the flowers appear long before the leaves. The stem is also covered in fine, gossamer-like, hairs:

When the flower first opens, it faces vertically upwards. But later on, the stem curves, and the flowers point outwards, or even downwards. When the seedhead forms, the stem is upright once more. I'm not sure why this effect takes place, but I rather suspect the aim is to protect the developing seedhead, whilst maximising the eventual potential for seed dispersal. The mechanism involves the reduction in length of the white hairs (or more likely, a temporary hold on the hair lengthening), forcing the stem to curve. I'll show the various stages over the next few weeks.

South-facing specimens of Lesser Celandine are now fully open, so the early hoverflies will be around this week:

Another early flower is the Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage:

Although the flowers are minute, the bracts behind the flowers brighten up ditches and streams.

Lastly for today, Wood Sorrel has opened up:

This is a long-range shot of a couple of flowers on the far side of a very deep ditch.

Thursday, 18 March 2010


Three days ago I heard and saw several frogs in their courting displays. Today I went back to the spot and there were many more frogs - dozens if not scores.

There was also a single fresh batch of frogspawn, so spring is officially here:

Sunday, 14 March 2010


Today I first heard, and then saw, dozens of frogs in courtship. No spawn yet, but I'd bet on finding some by the weekend.

It's interesting to note that the Pale Brindled Beauty moth - Phigalia pilosaria - is at the end of its season (December- March), when most moths are still safely tucked away in their cocoons:

Still no Willow leaves, although the buds are most certainly getting larger. Again, I think bud break will be this week.

Given the sudden rise in daytime temperatures, I'd expect to see queen bumblebees and the earliest hoverflies out and about soon, too: I got buzzed by a Bluebottle earlier in the week.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


The daytime weather has been wonderful recently, although it's still -4 at night. I took a quick run up to the hedgerow and found Gorse in flower:

And also a single daisy:

There's hope, you know.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


Right on schedule, a male March Moth - Alsophila aescularia - came to light:

(It has to be a male: the female is wingless)

A quick check on a nearby chrysalis of the Large White butterfly shows that it has survived the attentions of both the parasitic wasp and hungry Great Tit. (Note the 'lassoo' of silk that it used to attach itself to the vertical wall, just about 1/3 of the way down from the top.)

Typha latifolia
has variously been known as Reedmace and Bulrush. Seemingly, Bulrush is gaining in favour again.

If you peel back the outer layers of last year's leaves you might well notice some entry/exit holes. These belong to the Bulrush Wainscot, a moth which lives inside the plant as a larva and pupa:

It almost goes without saying that if you don't have Typha, you won't have Bulrush Wainscot moths, so they are very dependent on marshy/boggy habitat.

As I walked away from the Typha plants, I spotted this Evernia prunastri lichen on a willow:

One of the things I love about the internet is the way things link to each other, leading to unexpected connections. In May 2008, I showed the excellent mining bee Andrena cineraria.

That image was picked up by an artist living in Florida, and the resultant artwork has been shown here:

Isn't that wonderful?

Monday, 1 March 2010

Still snowy

With fairly continuous cycles of snow, partial thaw then hard frost, higher areas are treacherous, with a very slippery top surface underfoot:

I did spot a badger trail, however, and took this shot of a footprint:

Very little new-season growth is to be seen, although there's just a hint of swelling on this Willow leaf bud:

So most of the visible wildlife is either perennial or last year's leftovers. This is the liverwort Frullania tamarisci growing on another willow twig:

Leaf-mines are very visible on last year's leaves of Bramble. These are shots of 3 specimens of Stigmella aurella, a micromoth:

Leaf-miners are always worth a look: the plant they live on can be a very strong clue to species, and it's interesting to see the strategies they use to avoid falling out of the leaf. Mines are made by some species of Flies, Sawflies, Micromoths and Weevils, and the shape of the mine can usually tell us to which family a particular mine belongs.