Why, How & What? philosophy of this site

THIS WEBSITE started from an idea based on its title, ‘Insects and Flight’, to provide a forum for a special interest in insects, and Hymenoptera in particular; while giving an opportunity to build a gallery of flight shots of insects – my particular passion. Since that start, it has developed considerably, growing like topsy, but those original concepts form a solid heart. Sections have been added on other subjects that are also interests of mine, such as how to attract insects into the garden; pollination; a diary of current events; and techniques for insect and bird photography. In particular, a gallery showing birds in flight has been added to that for insects. From the start, it had been planned that photographs would be used extensively both to illustrate daily happenings and technical or identification features. All share one common theme, wildlife, while the majority of pictures are taken, and events recorded, in Somerset.

THE SOMERSET LEVELS: are my home; with Mendip, the Poldens and the Quantocks visible in the distance. All are within easy reach and much of my time and effort is devoted to finding out about the insects and other wildlife in the county, as well as photographing them at rest and in movement. The Levels and Moors are only a few feet above mean sea-level in a part of the world where the tidal range is 35 feet or more. The sea is kept at bay by sea walls; while the rhynes and drains depend on sluices to let the natural fresh water out when the tide is at its lowest point. At the time of the highest spring tides, coinciding with periods of high rainfall on the Mendips above, brings heavy inland flooding. A thousand years ago, the monks of Glastonbury Abbey started the first drainage, to provide summer grazing for their cattle, and the process has gone on since, though much of the moors and levels still flood during most winters. The name Somerset derives from the term for summer grazing.


UNTIL THE 1800s, a huge bight out of Somerset (coloured pale green in the map) was flooded all winter, and much of the summer. At that time the land was first enclosed and steam-driven pumps were used, in conjunction with artificial rhynes, drains and ditches, to open up the summer pastures. Now, elecric pumps keep the water-level exactly as decided for much of the time - though periodically winter floods defeat even those efforts. Above all, though, it remains a water-bound land with wildlife attuned to that background. This is a very beautiful part of the world, flat but always with a rim of distant hills to give scale.

The Somerset Levels and Moors - ex Wikipedia

(Attribution: Contains Ordnance Survey data

  © Crown copyright and database right)

Tealham Moor in winter                     © robin williams

WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT: I am an amateur rather than professional entomologist. This is no apology. On the contrary, amateurs have long taken the lead in developing a practical approach to, and understanding of, natural history. Many of us start by appreciating the wildlife that surrounds our homes; then feel the need to discover more about what we see and how to identify the more obvious inhabitants. That is the route I have taken, spread over a great many years.

The RESOURCES contained within this website are far greater than may appear at first examination. The information contained within it represents years spent on research, leading to a great deal of information on the natural history of HYMENOPTERA, which is at the heart of the website. It provides details of families, sub-families and species, where to find further information as well as locating keys to their identification. It serves as an introduction to this part of the insect world; sufficient to take a newcomer into the field through a single search point. When starting to learn about insects, I was faced with little to guide me. The internet did not exist in the form it now takes. My most important, accurate and reliable source at that time was a book produced in 1899, Hymenoptera Aculeata by Edward Saunders. For all the information obtainable on the internet now, little is available from a single source to help people understand and identify what surrounds them. The Hymenoptera section of the site brings sufficient information together to take someone straight to the heart of the subject.

BUMBLEBEES have always been a passion of mine. When I started to find out about them, there was little to help the newcomer other than information passed on by those with long-term practical experience. Trying to find about these fascinating creatures ended up with a book, 'British bumblebees' - as much to aid my memory, as to help others avoid this same long gestation period. This has been distilled in the section on BUMBLEBEES IN SOMERSET. A study of OAK-GALLS AND THEIR INHABITANTS began in the same manner. Fascination with these remarkable growths, with their many insect inhabitants, held me in thrall for many years, culminating in the production of a two-volume book on the subject, 'Oak-galls in Britain'. Information from this has been used in the section on OAK & BEDEGUAR GALL INSECTS, illustrated with many photographs of the tiny, often colourful insects, living inside.

PHOTOGRAPHY; Photographing action has always seemed to me to be the pinnacle of wildlife photography, and insect flight shots the cream of the crop. Digital cameras have brought considerable advantages to this form. When I first started this branch of photography, using film, it was a real challenge, with few exponents; now more people are joining in, with spectacular results. What has emerged more recently, is a generation of people who use everyday cameras and simple flash to take their pictures in the wild. The sheer excitement of capturing such moments as an extended tongue about to enter a flower, is unforgettable. I have photographed wildlife since my early teens, though never as a professional. However, the subjects I most enjoy are the bee and wasp inhabitants of the drilled logs and bamboos set up in the garden. I most enjoy taking pictures of insects in flight, many of which are shown in galleries containing hundreds of images on the site.

Southern hawker                                © robin williams

DIARY is self-explanatory, an occasional but regular record of wildlife and events as they affect my life. It is important personally, providing the opportunity to see my photographs displayed permanently, a source of considerable enjoyment. Many people only glimpse their pictures occasionally as they search their hard-drive or old cards. In this case, it was a major reason for starting the website, as well as for its design; being one of the few ways open to a photographer to provide a permanent record of progress and prowess. The diary itself is a periodic account at the very heart of the site, concerning what is happening in my locality and during travels.

Finally, I must pay tribute to my friend Tim Vowles, without whom this site would never have existed. It was his original suggestion that we should undertake this enormous undertaking, his design and layout, together with a great deal of hard work in bringing it to life. My contribution lies in the content, evolving to meet new discoveries and demands, but always subject to Tim’s guiding hand, particularly in the technical field of presentation. I am truly grateful.

Robin Williams, 21st June 2016


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