Monday, 23 May 2011

Still raining

The weather has continued to be very wet, with rain every day of May and an associated slowing-down of sightings. I have managed to sneak out in the less wet spells, however, and made the best of the bad light.

Lady's Mantle tends to sneak up and surprise you. One day it's invisible, and the next the flowers are out. The large folded leaves are ideal for insects such as micromoths to make their larval 'spinnings' for their shelter.

Lady's Mantle

The fronds of Male Fern have only just unfurled and the spore-bearing sori are already in place (although they will remain empty for quite some time, yet).)
Sori of Male Fern
The hedgerow has at least five species of Potentilla (and also the hybrid P. x mixta) in various places along its length. Silverweed is one of the easiest to identify, with its downy silver leaves:

The striking Marsh Cinquefoil is currently in bud, so I'll show pictures of that very soon, weather permitting.

The Orange Tip larva that I showed the other day is now about 4mm long. Note the damage to the seedpod, which the larva has caused by eating it. This is the only foodstuff that the larva will ever eat, moving from one pod to another as it finishes each one off.
Orange Tip larva showing pod damage

Bumblebee workers are busy in the gaps in the rain. They're still very small, so I suspect the rain has limited their pollen-gathering ability to quite an extent.

Bumblebee worker landing on Raspberry flower

Ichneumonids have started to appear in large numbers, which is no great surprise: their target moth and butterfly larvae are fattening up nicely, now.

Ichneumonid on Cow Parsley

Ichneumonid (left) and the hoverfly Syritta pipiens
The second shot also includes a rear view of a male Syritta pipiens hoverfly.

The next shot took me a couple of hours to tie down to species. It's a Lesser Dungfly which keys out to Cordilura rufimana. The Cordilura family is quite large, with some 22 species on the BI list. Most are dung-feeders as larvae, but C. rufimana appears to feed on the rootstock of various plants.
The Lesser Dungfly Cordilura rufimana
Surprisingly similar, but totally unrelated, is the Stilt Fly Neria cibaria. These have a strange habit of lowering their mouth to the upper surface of leaves and then rocking backwards and forwards on those long legs, shaving the upper surface of the leaf, presumably for food.

Neria cibaria - a Stilt Fly
A couple of sawflies next:

The first is on Broad Buckler fern:
Sawfly on Broad Buckler fern
And this is one of the Tenthredo sp.:
Tenthredo sp. Sawfly 

The Hoverfly Cheilosia albitarsis is an associate of Creeping Buttercup. The extremely similar (and only very recently segregated) Cheilosia ranunculi is thought to associate with Bulbous Buttercup.
The hoverfly Cheilosia albitarsis

Two shots of very small (6mm) soldier beetles from the Rhagonycha family: 

First, Rhagonycha limbata: 
Rhagonycha limbata
And secondly, Rhagonycha lignosa, which is associated with Hawthorn flowers during the early part of its season, and can be separated from the species above by the all-dark thorax:
Rhagonycha lignosa
Rhagonycha lignosa is a new species for my list.

A couple of weeks ago, I showed one of the pollen-stealing cuckoo bees. This one looks to be another member of the same family: Nomada flava.

The kleptoparasitic cuckoo bee Nomada flava

Rhagonycha section of this page has been updated to correct the identification of Rhagonycha lignosa.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Could you send some of that rain over here Stuart - we are desperately short of rain on the Eastern side of the country - our grass is just at a standstill.
I love Lady's Mantle, both the garden and the wild varieties - both are out around here too.

the mountain fox said...

Wow! Such amazing pictures. There is so much to see if you are looking in the right places!

Caroline Gill said...

Some lovely images here, Stuart. We've had rain, too, and very blustery winds. However, we were cheered to see a male and female Beautiful Demoiselle at the w/e here.

Emma Springfield said...

We are having a nice bout with the rain today too. Personally I like it. You pictures are all so outstanding. I can't choose which to comment on. Can I just tell you that I enjoyed them?

Stuart said...

Weaver, you'd be very welcome to as much of my rain as you'd like. The 'wonderful vegetable plot' that I started in April has done nothing.

Caroline, those are nice pics of the demoiselles. The only place I've seen them is in France. A muddy pool was a glittering cloud of green, blue and purple. I wonder what the French for demoiselle is....;)

MF, keep looking. It's out there.

Emma, I'm glad you're enjoying my blog. That's what keeps me going.

Stuart said...

I have updated this post with a correction to the identification of Rhagonycha lignata.

oxycera said...

Very good site; this is the sort of thing I do around Barnsley, S.Yorks. Do you do your ids from the photos or actual specimens?

Stuart said...

Oxycera: thanks for your kind comment. Identifications can be seriously problematic in some cases. When I find a species for the first time I will photograph it from as many angles as possible. What happens next largely depends on what type of specimen it is.

For fungi, the answer is to get it back to base, do a spore print, and get it under a microscope. Mosses are virtually the same process.

For larvae, these can be grown on in tanks on the host foodplant and then wait until we see what emerges.

Most leaf-miners can be done by host plant and the shape of the mine. In other cases we need to grow through as above.

Beetles, hoverflies, bugs, bees and wasps can sometimes be done from photographs. At other times I would need a specimen.

For creatures like ichneumonids, then you'll notice that I very rarely make an identification to species because these cannot be done from photographs.

I always try to identify as far as I can with a 'reasonable' amount of work. Some specimens have to be sent to specialists. 'Reasonable' can vary from 10 minutes to 18 months.