Friday, 29 October 2010


The sawfly larva I showed here a couple of weeks ago has now been identified as Arge gracilicornis. This species feeds on Raspberry and Bramble leaves.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


Can anything in nature be more geometric than ferns?

At this time of year the spores are mature and the sporangia, or spore-bearing structures, are beginning to rupture and discharge their contents to start the life cycle one more time.

Each species of fern has its own way of maximising the space available for spore production. This is Lady Fern - Athyrium filix-femina - which has very delicate fronds with curved sporangia:

Scaly Male Fern - Dryopteris affinis - on the other hand, has very round sporangia in much straighter rows.

I'll try for shots of other ferns in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Slowing down

Things are definitely getting colder now, and the morning dew clearly shows how many spider webs there are on the Gorse:

I wonder what the spider thinks when it sees a host of water droplets in its web for the first time:

This close-up shows that the droplets have even more minute droplets in between them:

We appear to have quite a heavy crop of Haws this year:

Even though most insects have now gone for the year, Ivy continues to provide valuable autumn and winter nectar for the few hoverflies and bees that are still around. A sunny spell will make Ivy worth looking at just in case:
This curious fuzzy bobble on Germander Speedwell took me some considerable time to identify when I first spotted it a few years ago:
It's a gall caused by the plant louse Jaapiella veronicae. If you open the gall you'll find tiny larvae living inside it.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Cold moths

As I write, the first sub-zero temperatures of the season are about to arrive, but moths are still arriving at light. Some, like the Red-Green Carpet moth below, are nearing the end of their season; others are about to emerge for the first time this year, and still others are emerging for their second brood of the year.

The Red-green Carpet can often be more green than the Green Carpet: this specimen hasn't got the slightest trace of red anywhere, but the diagnostic white blotch at the outer edge of the wing is just enough to convince me of its identity:

The Spruce Carpet is bivoltine: it has two generations per year. I suppose two generations increase the chance of reproduction, but it makes the moth interesting in that it can tolerate heat and cold at all stages of its lifecycle:

The Feathered Thorn, on the other hand, is most certainly a cold-weather specialist. Thorn moths are generally seen later in the year - hence the 'fallen-leaf' appearance of the wings - and this male clearly shows where the 'feathered' comes from: those antennae look very much like feathers.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Light is our toy

Yet another day of wonderful light, so I went out several times during the day.

The patch of Phaeolepiota aurea has continued to expand (I think it might be a ring-forming fungus), and this mature specimen had dew on the cap surface:

A vertical close-up provides a nice abstract shot:

This Fenusa dohrnii sawfly larva was clearly visible as it mined the Alder leaf:

Yet another sawfly larva on Bramble:

This Autumn Hawkbit flower is just in the process of opening from the bud:

A couple of shots of the hoverfly Eristalis tenax on Smooth Hawksbeard:

Lovely eyes.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sunniest day of the year

After early mist lifted, we had a clear blue sky and 22 degrees: we might get 2 days like this a year. So off up to the forestry to see what was going on.

Eristalis Hoverflies are still in evidence, and the males were holding station on the pathway:

Manual focus on those!

This little Braconid wasp was one of many looking over and under Willow leaves. They're probably still looking for the last of the sawfly larvae to parasitise:

Those of you who have been following my travels will know exactly how I feel about Slender St. John's Wort. The specific name 'pulchrum' shows what the people who named this in the 1700's thought of it, too:

This tiny (3 mm) Chrysomelid beetle was posed adjacent to next year's Willow leaf bud:

And finally - just to convince ourselves that we actually are in October - a solitary specimen of the Deceiver, Laccaria laccata:

Saturday, 9 October 2010

More new species

This Green-brindled Crescent moth took me a while to identify, although it's rather distinctive once you know the main identification features. These boil down to the presence of green scales in the mid-wing area and the pale 'drawn crossbow' mark where the rear wing edges overlap.

The moth lives on larger shrubs, especially old Hawthorn.

As I was checking the various moths, I suddenly heard a very loud droning and this Necrodes littoralis Burying Beetle landed and proceeded to fold its (surprisingly large) wings:

Burying Beetles excavate beneath animal carcasses, effectively burying them for their larvae to feed on. Beetles, along with fungi, are our main recyclers.

That's two more new species for my list, which is currently standing at 1386 species. I suspect number 1400 will be found sometime in April/May next year.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Brief sun

We had an unexpected clear blue sky today (I say 'unexpected' because I pay little heed to weather forecasts due to their consistent inaccuracy) so I took an early trip to see what was around.

The heat had certainly brought out more insects than I had expected to see in October, starting with this Buff Ermine moth caterpillar, which is coincidentally basking on the vacated mine of the micromoth Stigmella aurella on Bramble:

The caterpillar will shortly pupate and then hibernate until summer.

The 'Noon Fly' Mesembrina meridiana is never too numerous, but I saw at least eight on this trip:

The larvae of Mesembrina meridiana live in cow-dung and are predatory on other dung-dwelling larvae, including those of the Scathophaga Dung-Fly below:

Scathophaga are dung feeders as larvae, but are voracious predators as adults, a complete reversal from the Mesembrina which only feeds on nectar as an adult.

It would be good to get a 'full-circle' photo of an adult Scathophaga with a Mesembrina as its prey, although the Mesembrina tends to be a little large for the normal prey-size of the Scathophaga.

Just as I was finishing my little survey, a Speckled Wood butterfly flew over my shoulder and landed behind me:

It's amazing what a little sun will bring out.

Continuing the excellent fungal year, I found these 'Lawyer's Wigs' - Coprinus comatus - on my lawn. These only last for a day or two at most.

The visible, reproductive, parts of fungi are the familiar, short-lived, mushrooms or toadstools, but the actual fungus (the mycelium) lies below the soil or inside some other substrate such as wood or animal debris. This mycelium will last as long as conditions are right, which is why fungi are often found in precisely the same place from year to year. This specimen of Phaeolepiota aurea was also on my lawn, and in exactly the same place as last year. This rare fungus is thought to be a nettle associate (and I have nettles within a few metres of this specimen), but there must also be some other requirement, since the vast majority of nettle patches don't have the fungus.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Still new

A visit to the woodland fringe to see what fungi were around turned up a lot more than just mushrooms:

This large (20 mm.) Pterostichus niger beetle ran quickly across the path. If you've ever tried panning a running beetle using a macro lens, you'll realise just how tricky this shot was:

Common Fumitory is making another push before the season is over:

Caddis Flies very often come to light and many of them are confused with moths. This is one of the Limnephilidae; the larvae make mobile cases from debris at the bottom of still water. Plenty of that around here.....

The leaf-mining fly Pegomya solennis makes mines in Dock leaves. This one is on Sorrel:

This close-up of the larva shows how complete the eating process is: only the top and bottom layers of cells are still in place, leaving a very thin layer that looks like frosted glass. The 'mouth' is to the left, at the interface between leaf and mine:

I did find a few fungi, including the always-bizarre Helvella crispa:

And a fine specimen of the large (15 cm. tall) puffball Handkea excipuliformis:

Liverworts are some of our most primitive plants: they're often found on the back walls of ditches or on woodland paths. This is a new one for me and I'm tentatively calling it Blasia pusilla, although that might change after consultation:
Size of the section shown? About 6 mm.