Sunday, 23 June 2013

Ballyraine National School

Last week I gave a wildlife talk to pupils from Ballyraine NS in Letterkenny. After that, we went out for a walk around the school grounds to see what we could find and photograph. This page shows some of the interesting finds from that survey, and the text is intended for a school audience.

The first location we visited was the Butterfly Garden. This is packed full of flowers that attract butterflies and other insects.

Our first find was the hoverfly Helophilus pendulus. Hoverflies are important for pollinating flowers, trees and fruit.

The hoverfly Helophilus pendulus

Next we found a 2-spot Ladybird. These are much smaller than the more common 7-spot Ladybird, which we also saw.

2-spot Ladybird
Another part of the Butterfly garden contained Lupins, and these attracted workers of the White-tailed Bumblebee:

White-tailed Bumblebee
You can see the bright orange Lupin pollen in the pollen baskets on her legs. This pollen will be taken back to the nest to feed the growing grubs.

At first, I thought this was a little Sepsid Fly, but some research reveals that it's the much rarer Rivellia syngenesiae, which I haven't seen before (and there are no previous records in the National database!)

Rivellia syngenesiae
That little fly is only 3-4mm. long!

We then moved to the area of woodland at the edge of the School grounds, where we found a number of leaf-mining species. Leaf-miners live inside leaves, eating the middle layers of the leaf where they are protected from predators such as birds and other insects.

The mine of Phytomyza ranunculi on Creeping Buttercup

We also found the mine of Caloptilia syringella, which mines Lilac, Privet and Ash:
Mine of Caloptilia syringella on Lilac
Caloptilia syringella is the only leaf-miner on Ash, so it is fortunate that they also use other plants which will help them to survive if the Ash trees die in the next few years.

Most miners make their own mine, but some species make communal mines. This photograph shows two larvae of the leaf-mining fly Pegomya solennis on Dock:

Larvae of Pegomya solennis on Dock (heads to the left)

Some other species of flies also use leaves, but in a different way: Leaf galls are growths created by flies (and sometimes other insects) to make a shelter to live inside and feed on.

This is a Pontania gall on a Willow leaf:

Pontania leaf gall on a Willow leaf

And these galls are made by another species - Eriophyes sorbi - which is also new to me:

Eriophyes sorbi galls on Rowan

In the same location, we found this tiny fly:

Tiny Fly with iridescent wings

And also this Dung Fly, which was waiting to pounce on any passing insect:
Dung fly poised to leap out on any unsuspecting prey

Towards the end of the walk we found some Foxgloves:
Foxglove, a highly poisonous plant
And a single Herb Robert flower framed by the fencing:

Herb Robert
I have submitted records of all these species to the National Biodiversity Database which will help to build up a record of where our species are located.

The school website can be found here.

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