Sunday, 14 June 2015

Butterfly day at Sheskinmore

The annual Donegal Butterfly Day was led by Bob Aldwell, co-author (with Frank Smyth) of "The butterflies of Donegal":

This excellent new book has species descriptions and images of all of the Donegal butterflies plus habitat descriptions. It also includes aberrations. It also includes several of my images.

The day started off dull and cold and the first hour yielded no butterflies, but I did find a Cinnabar moth:

Cinnabar moth
And a new gall on Blackthorn - Taphrina pruni:

Taphrina pruni on Blackthorn
This fungal gall infects the fruit, converting its growth pattern to maximise the area for spore dispersal.

New to my Species List.

There were also many specimens of Northern Marsh Orchid and the more scarce Early Marsh Orchid - Dactylorhiza incarnata, which appears in many colours:

Early Marsh Orchid
Just as we arrived at a known hot spot for butterflies, the clouds parted and we found ourselves surrounded by Marsh Fritillaries, Small Blues, Small Copper, Speckled Wood and Dingy Skippers. The Marsh Fritillary is under severe pressure in Europe due to extensive harvesting of peat bogs, and Ireland is really the last hope for this wonderful species:

Marsh Fritillary
This is a female currently in cop (you can just see the male at the bottom of the image).

Bioblitz workshop in Merlin Woods

On Tuesday, I ran a workshop on Bioblitzing in Merlin Woods, Galway. A dozen or so of us surveyed two areas of woodland and associated meadows, recording plants, insects, birds and lichens. The woodland is clearly ancient, and sits on limestone with areas of limestone pavement, leading to a wide biodiversity.

The workshop was arranged by the Friends of Merlin Woods, who are working very hard to reverse years of encroachment, and are preserving this wonderful resource for the future.

My personal list for the day reached around 200 species and this post shows some of the highlights.

I entrusted my net to two lads who were happy to chase down particular specimens on request, and we were able to photograph two specimens of the 4-spotted Chaser:

4-spotted Chaser

Since the woodland is on limestone and is a good deal further south than the area I usually survey, I had hoped to find species new to my list. One welcome addition is the Gorse Shieldbug. These are rather skittish and quickly run out of sight. You really need to wait until they think you're gone in order to get a decent shot:

Gorse Shieldbug. On Gorse.
New to my species list.

Oak trees are host to hundreds of species of insect and fungi, so are always worth a look. I spotted a new miner, which has now been identified and confirmed as the micromoth Acrocercops brongniardella which is rather scarce with just a handful of records in the country:
Mines of the micromoth Acrocercops brongniardella on oak
New to my species list.

At first I thought this was the common jumping spider Salticus scenicus, but when the images were blown up I realised that it was quite different. The dayglow yellow palps and striped legs leads us to Heliophana cupreus. About 6mm long.
The jumping Spider Heliophanus cupreus
New to my species list.

A dark area of woodland contained countless specimens of Birds-nest Orchid:

Birds Nest Orchid
New to my species list.

The woodland has some unusual trees, with interesting specimens cropping up in unexpected places. One Whitebeam had leaf galls which immediately attracted my attention, since the tree is scarce and galls are largely overlooked. It keys straight to the mite Eriophyes arianus, and I can find no previous records for Ireland.

Eriophyes arianus, top view

Eriophyes arianus, underside
New to my species list, and probably first Irish record.