Monday, 11 July 2011

1400 species milestone

The weather has been very wet with some torrential downpours, but there have been a few opportunities for quick forays in the bad light.

During the long periods spent indoors, I got on with a bit more watercolour painting and updated my Species Index. I was delighted to click my tally over the 1400 mark.

Just to put the 1400 species into context, the vast majority of the photographs are taken within a 2-3 kilometre radius of my house. I have made a few forays further afield to ancient woodland, beach and limestone habitats, but the 1400 species should be regarded as our 'local' wildlife. If I spent more time travelling to e.g. coastal areas, then the species list would be much higher. 

I'll start with a few moths:
Coxcomb Prominent Moth
The Coxcomb Prominent - Ptilodon capucina - feeds on a wide range of deciduous trees, and would be much better camouflaged if it was found on a branch or on leaves.

The Riband Wave has two main colour forms, but all my specimens have been f. remutata, which are missing the grey central band on the wings:
Riband Wave f. remutata
The Riband Wave feeds on many low-level herbaceous plants.

The White Ermine is a very common moth at this time of year. I saw this male specimen and decided to get a shot of those wonderful antennae:

Male White Ermine, showing antennae
White Ermine also feeds on low-lying herbaceous plants such as Docks.

Some of our tiniest moths are also the most beautiful. This Micropterix aruncella is only about 3-4 mm long:

Micromoth Micropterix aruncella
The larval stages of Micropterix aruncella are not known from the wild, but they are thought to feed at the base of plants.

Hoverflies are now becoming more numerous, despite the bad weather.

Here are a couple of shots of Episyrphus balteatus, which is very recognisable due to the paired black stripes on the abdomen:

Episyrphus balteatus hoverfly

Episyrphus balteatus hoverfly
These shots are of two different specimens, but I note that in each case the rear left leg is the one that is used to grab the first anchoring point.

One of my favourite hoverflies is Leucozona lucorum:

The hoverfly Leucozona lucorum

It's a mid-summer species, and will soon be joined by the closely-related Leucozona glaucia, and if I'm lucky Leucozona laternaria.

Last week I showed an Ichneumonid in the process of laying eggs. This week, I managed to get a shot at the moment when the ovipositor is being released from its protective sheath:

Ichneumonid deploying ovipositor
A couple of points are worth noting here: the ovipositor is bowed towards the sheath, showing that some force is required to spring it forward. This force is released very suddenly, swinging the ovipositor very quickly towards the target. I estimate that the whole process of release to target is approximately 0.3 of a second.

Although I can't identify Ichneumonids to species (a fact that annoys me more than you will ever know), I know when I see one that is new to me, and I haven't seen this wine-coloured specimen before:

The very long antennae and lack of ovipositor suggest that this might be a male. I suppose it's worth pointing out that male Ichneumonids are quite rare, since they are an 'optional extra' in their reproductive process.

At this time of year, most of the grasses are in flower, making large swathes of colour in the hedgerows. This is Yorkshire Fog - Holcus lanatus:

Yorkshire Fog - Holcus lanatus

This, on the other hand, is the fungal infection Epichloe typhina, which actually stops the plant from flowering:  there is no flowering shoot above the fungus, just a single leaf.
Grass Choke - Epichloe typhina


Gill said...

1400 and counting - that's fantastic! Well done. What a superb shot of the white ermine. (And that tiny micromoth.). I've been seeing the riband wave as well - sometimes paler than yours, possibly old, faded specimens?

Good shots of the hovering hovers too - I wonder how many you had to take to get those?

The Leucozona lucorum you have looks very like the Cheilosia illustrata you had a couple of days back to me, but with a slightly brighter white midriff - is there an easy way to tell them apart? I'm seeing similar looking hovers here in Yorkshire.

Stuart said...

Gill: The Riband Wave has a couple of confusion species, depending on colour forms. Check Plain Wave for the unbanded Riband Wave f. remutata and Portland Ribbon Wave for the banded version.

Leucozona lucorum is much brighter, with 3 very distinct colour bands of copper, white and black from front to back. Wings are usually held at 45 degrees. Cheilosia illustrata is a rounder fly with less distinct tawny, cream, tawny bands. Wings overlapping along the body.

Waste on the hovering shots about 5:1, which isn't bad.

Emma Springfield said...

Congratulations on 1400. I have enjoyed seeing every one of the ones you posted. It is even more amazing that most of them are so close to your home. I look forward to the next 1400.

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