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A local diaryi


Autumn 2014

November 30th 2014. Another perfect day once the early morning mist cleared. Warm, sunny and with barely a whisp of breeze, it could not be improved. Sitting in the hide at Catcott Lows, it was incredibly peaceful, though there was less water than I had expected and most of the birds were a long way off. However, what an exciting morning it turned out to be. Four swans flew towards us, emerging from lines of distant mist. A burst of bugling calls cheered us up as the Bewick's swans landed and briefly chattted to each other before settling down to feed like any other swans. That very morning I received a missive from Slimbridge telling us that they were becoming endangered. In recent winters we have seen few of these birds, Whoopers Cygnus cygnus having apparently taken their place.

November 29th 2014. A fantastic, unexpected day with day-long sunshine and no wind at all; a day for walking without a coat. Catcott Lows was beautiful although numbers of ducks ere less than normal. The star bird was a Great white egret slowly fishing its way along the main body of water - a lovely sight against the dark surface.

The biggest surprise was a flock of waders suddenly flushing out and circling several times before settling in much the same place. They were snipe, up to now only seen in ones and twos.

November 27th 2014. I had some wonderful views of a Kestrel on Tealham Moor this morning, digesting on the top of the slenderest of branches and unworried by the car.

November 26th 2014. After one or two false starts, the bird-feeders outside the kitchen window are starting to show signs of life. Grey squirrels Neosciurus carolinensis turned up as soon as the nut-feeder was filled up, followed by the ubiquitous Collared doves Streptopelia decaocto. Now chaffinches Fringilla coelebs, sparrows Passer domesticus and various tits are appearing, in spite of a much warmer day. The most surprising has been a Coal tit, common for many people but a real rarity round here. It is always good to see a new face outside.

November 23rd 2014. There has and will be a slight hiatus in this diary for two reasons, one much stronger than the other. A week back, I went into hospital for an operation for a hernia. In and out the same afternoon and driven home quite happily, the cut clean and excellently done. So, no problems I thought. But the aftermath has been far from happy, not because of infection or anything like that, but the sheer discomfort of the wound affecting sleep and sitting. Indeed, I have just been out today for my first drive and dog walk. The other reason has been the rotten weather, with rain and overcast every day. So entries are unlikely at present, but I am taking the opportunity of selecting and inserting 2014's crop of insect flight pictures. This is a slow process but I will notify everyone when they are in place. It looks like a hundred or so will be added eventually.

November 12th 2014. A drive round the moors showed that all the recent rain had started to bring more life back. A fine adult Grey heron was quite confiding, showing the subtle colouring and long breast feathers. In recent months they have not been around very much but the colder, wetter weather should bring back more of them fishing the rhynes.

But perhaps the most satisfying moment came with a Kestrel hovering over the road. They have hardly been spotted over the summer, until very recently. I don't know where they go, or indeed if they are reduced in numbers? I have seen several recently, single birds on each occasion, but at least we have a glimpse. They are among the most attractive of birds and would be sorely missed. Twenty years or so ago, it was possible to see three or four hovering at the same time.

November 10th 2014. Although I have been out on the moors virtually every day since the last entry, there has been little to report. Wet, windy weather seems to have kept the local wildlife in abeyance, while I am sure that the insect activity of the flats has stopped completley until next Spring. The logs look dark and sodden and there is no sign of movement even when the sun comes out. The moors are showing signs of the wet, with runnels of water spreading out on some of th fields but the only life has appeared in the last day or so, with ever-increasing flocks of Starlings rolling out like carpets ahead of any disturbing humans.

Catcott Fen makes for great walks but so far there is little bird-life. Work is still going on around the new tower hide and this may well be the reason for no signs of duck on the more open waters. Catcott Lows is starting to come to life as the water rises and spreads across, slowly but surely. More and more Wigeon and Lapwings Vanellus vanellus are crammed along the small areas of open waters and erupt into the air periodically, sometimes when helicopters fly particularly low overhead. The pictures indicate the gloom of damp days, typical of duck-watching at this time.

It is fun to watch the little herd of Exmoor ponies feeding out on the reserve. I suspect they may have to be moved off when the area floods much more extensively, but for now they splash along the shallows to reach better areas of grazing. The field does not seem to have been topped this year, so presumably they are the non-mechanical version of that, or has it been left too late for the full treatment? They certainly add to the attraction.

November 5th 2104. Off to the Catcott complex again with Maddie. At last Catcott Lows is starting to come to life, with small numbers of Wigeon Anas penelope, Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, and Teal Anas crecca appearing on the small pools that are forming gradually. It was pleasing to see largish numbers of Lapwings huddled in together and then taking off as something disturbed them - possibly a distant bird of prey. In recent years they have been present in far smaller numbers than previously.

On the way back over Tealham Moor, a heron was sitting on a gate and allowed me quite close. It is quite unusual to find them perched rather awkwardly like this, seeming to prefer the ground to most perches.

November 4th 2014. I met Nigel at the main car-park at the new Steart Marshes reserve of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, on the coast west of Bridgwater. This huge project, costing many millions of pounds, has just been opened and has recently been greeted by the presence of a Pallid harrier, one of the rarest of British birds. The nationally-funded scheme involves breaching a seawall and allowing considerable amounts of farmland to to be inundated to form a large saltmarsh. On the face of it this sounds dreadful but it is designed to relieve pressures of flooding in larger areas of local coastland - part of dealing with the expected rise in sea-level and the costs of dealing with coastal erosion. WWT took over the engineering of the area to provide shelter and feeding grounds for wildfowl and other wildlife, as well as opportunities for people to enjoy it all. It is a huge area, currently around 3 square kilometres with more to come and has been wonderfully planned and executed.

The day was wild and windy, with periods of brilliant sunshine alternating with rain and storm. The views over the patchwork of scrapes, creeks and grassland looked really spectacular against a dark background with towering white clouds. We walked down to Mendip hide in a rainshower to find numbers of people looking over a rather distant sheet of water but sadly there was nothing to be seen. Clearly it will take time to build the population of invertebrates to attract the wader hordes they hope will be seen eventually. From here, we drove to Steart Gate car-park and walked out to the site of the breach, passing above wetlands refreshed regulalrly from the outside waters. There was very little present but we did spot a Great white egret Egretta alba, as well as some Mute swans Cygnus olor, which seems to take over every water habitat. It is amazing the way this egret has spread from its seed area at Shapwick Heath in such a short period.

It was rather bleak and windswept at the end of the path looking over the breach but it was interesting to see how the area was developing round the creek that had formed from the inundation. At this point, the reserve area was shut off from the River Parrett by sheep fencing but parties of waders were seen in the distance flighting up stream, too far off for identification. High tide was at the end of the afternoon and the tide was pouring in with great vigour.

Back at the car-park we ate our sandwiches and drank some welcome coffee leaning on a fence looking at a flock of Starlings Sturnus vulgaris and a few Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, when we spotted a couple of Golden plover among them. But the real excitement came when flights of many more Golden plover circled and circled overhead, before landing - estimated at over 400 birds.

Eventually they took off again but kept us entertained for some while as they flew backwards and forwards high overhead. The final view was when they were chased off by a Sparrowhawk and surged up and away at last, the perfect finale to a splendid day out in a place which will undoubtedly develop into one of Somerset's finest wildlife attractions. It was good to meet Tim McGrath, the WWT chap who is in charge of the development, and share the fence with a fellow enthusiast.

October 31st 2014. Spent a short time in the main hide at Catcott Lows - still hoping for the sight of sheets of water and ducks! Sadly, it was as before. However people drew my attention to the far side where several birds were wheeling and landing on a patch of mud. It was difficult to see for certain what they all were, but people with binoculars said there were three Marsh harriers or perhaps four, almost certainly juveniles. Eventually one flew closer. They certainly looked as if they were having fun with each other.

October 31st 2014. Maddy and I went for a long tour of Catcott Fen today, round the southern perimeter, ending at a new bridge giving access to the hide from that direction. We walked on to take a look at the hide and its surrounds in perfect peace. I left her outside on her lead and had a good look inside, as it is now fully open. It is rather splendid, although it creaked ominously when walking round upstairs. Sadly, there was not a bird in sight but eventuaslly it should be a great place to visit. Access is from the south and through Catcott Heath in the north east, with good paths and boardwalks.

October 29th 2014. Peter, Harold and Norman drove over from the Gower this morning on one of their periodic visits to the Levels and we met at Ashcott Corner car park at 10.3. In spite of the dark, overcast weather, we had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, seeing a suprisingly wide selection of creatures. There was little wind and it was warm - surprisingly so in view of the date. Before starting, we talked about the state of wildlife this year. It seems that the famous Gower has been as unproductive as here in Somerset. Currently, there are extremely few small birds in the area and waders are distinctly absent. It is all rather sad and worrying.

During the morning we walked along the old railway track to Ham Wall NNR. It was difficult to see much from the track, as there had been very heavy growth of reeds, obscuring the open water. However, there were many Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, Shoveler Anas clypeata, Gadwall Anas strepera and some Common teal Anas crecca; so there are signs that the autumn influx has started, even if belatedly. There were a few flights of smaller birds crossing over the reserve, including numbers of Redwings Turdus iliacus,  while Water rails Rallus aquaticus could be heard in the depths of the reeds.

Our main objective was to have look at the new hide which is set in the middle of the reserve. My friends had not seen this before; it is really a viewing platform rather than a hide, as there are windows all round, none of which have shutters, so the birds can see in at all times. Only time will show whether this is a practical set-up - depending on the wildlife becoming used to our presence. Not a great deal was present; Coots Fulica atra, Moorhens Gallinula chloropus, Shoveler Anas clypeata, Great-crested grebe Podiceps christatus, and Dabchicks Tachybaptus ruficollis were swimming near the hide but little else. It was good to see that the reeds had been cut back round the hide. Earlier in the summer they had grown so much it was almost impossible to see out. On the way to the hide, you pass through head-high reeds and clouds of what at first we thought were moths, rose up as you walked past. These turned out to be a species of Caddis fly Trichoptera, smaller than those that used to come to the outside lights at home.

After eating our sandwiches in the car-park, we pushed off westwards through Shapwick Heath NNR. A digger was working on the main rhyne, close by the scrape, so there were few birds there, apart from a small flight of Common snipe Gallinago gallinago over the far side. We walked on and round to Noah's hide, a raised building on stilts, with views over the large area of Noah's lake. In the last few yards, a Great white egret Egretta alba took off from somewhere beneath the hide, uttering an inappropriately harsh series of cries. Inside, we found two photographers clicking away like machine guns, concentrating on the ditch below the window opening. A startlingly white Little egret Egretta garzetta was just beneath us, wading in the shallow water, framed in autumnal leaves. It remained there all the time we were there, even during a rain-shower, and must be one of the most photographed birds of recent days. It was not stationary, as it was busy fishing the whole time, though rooted around one spot. A fitting end to a fine day out.

October 28th 2014. I went down to Catcott Lows to see how the rain had affected the fields. The first minor pools of water were starting to spread across but there were no serious signs of ducks, or indeed of any other water birds. I drove back down the drove and could not believe my eyes - three roe deer were trotting slowly down towards the road, so dainty with their incredibly slender hooves clicking away like high heels. I managed to take a few pictures and then saw them turn back into the reserve from the road. The next shot shows a couple of the Exmoor ponies grazing the reserve gazing at them with great interest. Indeed at one time there was a row of a half dozen peering down. It is so good to see Roe again after a very empty period. It is believed they have been poached out of existence in all except the wildest places.

October 23rd 2014. It is another very warm, muggy day, with sunshine catching the top of the logs for an hour or so, so it seemed worth sitting outside to see if anything was going on in the flats. In spite of the late date, some insects were on the move. Yet another yellow and black Ichneumon stramentarius was busy searching the open nest holes for potential hosts for its eggs, while a couple of digger wasps were actively researching holes for their own nests.The female went in and out while the male hung around (protecting her or simply waiting for the right moment to leap on her?)

October 21st 2014. We are suffering very high winds, in an aftermath fom hurricane Gonzalo, as it makes its way across the Atlantic from Bermuda, where it caused much damage over the past day or so. Imagine my surprise to look out of the window and see a male Migrant hawker hunting back and forth, apparently unworried by the sharp gusts. This date is a day or so later than recorded here previously.

October 19th 2014. After yesterday's cold, wet weather, we woke to a cloudless blue sky which lasted much of the morning and early afternoon. It was windy but warm, really warm, astonishingly so in view of the date. Even more surprising, the logs were sufficiently warmed to bring out the insects once again. I spent an hour or so watching the logs after I spotted the first movements.

The appearance of digger wasps at this date is far later than previously recorded, as are the activities of the two ichneumons, one of which was actually egg-laying while I watched.

A flywas busy exploring a couple of nest holes with great diligence. After an online search, I realised it was a very common species, a cluster fly Pollenia rudis. It seems it was not searching to lay in the hole but taking shelter for an expected change in weather. The chequered abdomen is common in a number of species but I was thrown by the rather featureless and furry thorax. It is good to learn in the course of seeing something unfamiliar both in colour and behaviour.

After lunch, a visit to the ivy flowers Hedera helix in the orchard revealed the majority in full flower, pollen showering  over the leaves below, even though most flowers were by now in the shade. A few hoverflies were busy, including the two shown below, and a few of common Eristalis, together with one or two honeybees.

October 17th 2014. Another unseasonably muggy day, warm enough to wear just a T-shirt outside. The ivy on the broken apple tree was in open sunshine and full of insect life, mostly muscid flies and honeybees Apus apus but a sprinkling of others among them. No signs of life in the the logs and insect flats though.

The Mahonia flowers in the garden also attracted a few honeybees, almost the last real nectar producers at this time of year.

October 7th 2014. A blustery day but with a great deal of sunshine between infrequent heavy showers. It is the last meeting of SIG's more formal outings, this one run by Bill at Ham Hill. We were due to meet at 10, parking near the Prince of Wales pub incongruously set next to the quarry in this splendi country park. I was late by some twenty minutes and found what I believe was Una's car, but no sign of anyone else. I suspect Robert was also around, as he might well have walked up from his home in the village below. However, although I walked round much of one path, I saw no-one from our group - perhaps the weather has been a factor. There were a few flowers around, unlike our moors where they have now vanished completely, and I spotted a solitary hoverfly in a sunbeam on a patch of brambles. A few muscid flies completed the count for the day.

I had been hoping to see Roesel's bush-cricket Metrioptera roeselii, as Robert and Martin had been finding them here for some while, but clearly I was not in the right area. The final lighter moment was watching a Raven Corvus corax being mobbed by a number of Carrion crows Corvus corone corone, seeming to find them as irritating as buzzards Buteo buteo. Ham Hill is a splendid place for all sorts of wildlife, particularly insects, with masses of scrub, open areas and stone-fragment paths. The last time we came, some years ago, we found some really interesting creatures including some real rarities. so today has been rather a disappointment.

October 6th 2014. Ivy Hedera helix was less full of activity this morning, fewer muscids and no hoverflies but a worker Tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris was looking for the last traces of late nectar, still as smart as paint but probably in its last days of life. Some parts of the country have reported good numbers of social wasps, but they have been virtually absent round here. Indeed this has been the third autumn where they have not  been present in any numbers worth reporting. I recall only seeing two or three in the whole of this year in our garden. In some ways this has been a relief when sitting outside but they do play an important part as predators during the summer.

October 5th 2014. A walk on the moors today convinced me that the end of our insect season has at last arrived. It has been building up to this for a few days but the somewhat cooler weather has aided this. Common darters are always at their most numerous at the end of September and early October.

The last to go were numbers of greenbottles and muscids - the hoverflies have been scarce recently and disappeared some days ago.

October 2nd 2014. Spent much of the morning in the garden but there was little to be seen except for this Pyrophaena (recently renamed Platycheirus) female. I have seen males previously, but never a female. Later, the logs were nearly as empty but for a very late digger wasp busy excavating its nest hole. Sadly, I suspect this is likely to be the last sign of activity on much colder logs.

October 1st 2014. Friends have been reporting signs of great activity on ivy flowers Hedera helix, with exotic hoverflies and others appearing as the flowers open up. Our ivy has been much more hit and miss, the flowers going over much quicker than usual, as has been true for many flowers this year. However, muscid flies are still in evidence. Mesembrina is so colourful it cannot be missed and is present in some numbers. The other fly shown below is one I have not seen before and cannot determine an exact species, but is of unusual colouring.

September 30th 2014. I spent a fascinating time watching an ichneumon searching for inhabited nest holes in the logs and then inserting her ovipositor searching for the exact point to lay her egg. It is a delicate and precise process and clearly does not always work. It was interesting to note that the whole ovipositor and its surrounding sheaths, were being inserted, where other species fold back the two halves of the sheath and only use the extremeley thin and insubstantial ovipositor itself to enter the hole.

September 28th 2014. Pemphredon lugubris has been a late-comer this year. Up to recently, I had not thought they were going to appear, but in the last week or so they have been extremely busy on the flats. They are readly recognised by the dense silver hairs around the head and tail

The next picture is of an unexpected visitor, which is in its own right also not common. This extrordinary-looking weevil has visited the logs previously. It is shown here actively exploring one of the holes. When immobile it looks like a bird-dropping

 September 23rd 2014. A rather sad day as it was the last of this year's informal SIG field meetings, but what an enjoyable and succesful one. Our visit was to Thurlbear Woods, near West Hatch. Six people turned up; Una and Margaret from Devon; Dave from just over the water in Cornwall; Robert, Martin and I from Somerset. The walk through the heart of the woods was very beautiful, specially where the path widened into broad close-cut lawns, which would have been covered in flowers in Spring, but there was little insect or wildlife to be seen in spite of a warm, sunny day (our summer seems to have gone on for ever this year, including continuing hay-fever). This colourful squash-bug was virtually the only creature worth photographing.

We reached the far end and made our way back to a path leading outside the woods to a large area of scrubby grassland. Quarrylands is remarkable for many plants still in flower, in contrast to the Levels where most have stopped flowering. It was a wonderful patchwork of colour and we were  soon finding much to occupy our interest. I had seen few shield bugs this summer yet here we found both Green shield-bugs Palomena prasena and this colourful Forest bug, neither of which are uncommon normally but were welcomed here.

Beetles have also been notable for their absence his summer, so I was delighted to photograph this colourful leaf-beetle, new to me. Normally, many beetles are seen crossing paths or among the vegetaion at the edges but this summer has shown few of these.

Some of our most intersting finds took place while we ate our sandwiches, sitting on some convenient ant nests. It is surprising how much more you see when stationary. For me, the most pleasing insects on this patch were mining bees. It was only when i got home and looked more closely at the many pictures that I realised there were several species, all from the closely-related Halictus/Lasioglossum grouping. The males have very long antennae and are slender. These were small creatures which only revealed their details on blowing up the picture on the computer. Most were found by sitting by a patch of umbels or clumps of yellow flowers - always attractive to insects.

Last, but not least, were numbers of banded hoverflies. The Syrphus below is a particularly bright, clear yellow specimen, as I have noticed with a number of other species during the last week or so. So much so that they give the impression of being new and unusual species.

We have been lucky this year, the perfect weather yielding warm, sunny meetings for much of the time and we have seen many different and fascinating species. But, there is no doubt that both the numbers of species and the volumes of insects have been unusually low, not helped by the much-reduced flowering periods of many plants. I suspect that flowers and insects have rather got out of kilter after our unseasonally wet winter and very warm summer.

September 20th 2014. It has been a great day at the logs outside the study. It has not been much of a year for their usual inhabitants, but the prolonged warm autumn seems to be keeping them going longer than normal. Several of these wasps were busy drilling out the old tunnels, quite clearly preparing them for last-minute nesting. My pictures show some of the more unusual insects but others were also active including the much commoner digger wasp, Crossocerus megacephalus. It is really good to see so much activity and the weather, warm and muggy, makes it comfortable to sit outside and watch them so busy.

September 18th 2014. A large apple tree was split in last winter's high winds and has now almost completely disappeared under ivy Hedera helix. People have been telling me how productive these late flowers have been when the sun shines so I went up for a look, armed with the camera. While not so prolific as others have described, there were numbers of hoverflies feeding away.

A number of Honeybees were tucking in, pollen baskets filling up before they went off to their hives. In spite of all the dire warnings about disease hitting the British population, large numbers have been visiting the garden this season so, hopefully, perhaps they are recovering. All I know is that honey remains an expensive item.

September 15th 2014. The usual small hoverflies, mostly Platycheirus species, have only appeared very late this year. Normally this species is extremely common during August but has been largely absent this year. One or two have started appearing though in the middle of this month.

September 10th 2014. Nearly all the Purple loosestrife Lythrum salicaria, late pollinator for many insects, has gone over, but there was one striking plant on Jack's Drove on Tadham Moor.

September 9th 2014. Another SIG field meeting, this time at Castle Neroche, a Forestry Commission site welcoming all-comers. Ten of us met, coming from many different locations. Francis, Bill, Robert, Martin, John and I from Somerset; Una and Toddy from Devon; Tony from Gloucestershire; and Dave Allan from distant Cornwall. It was a glorious, windless, sunny day, in wonderful countryside. Everyone voted it one of our most succesful and enjoyable, even though the number of species was not as high as we had hoped. Castle Neroche is based around an Iron Age hill-fort which later became a Norman castle, though nothing of this later phase appears to have survided. The forest is splendid, with huge trees widely separated from each other, clearly ancient woodland in origin. From our point of view, it has plenty of scrub along the edges of the paths and has considerable potential for entomologists and others interested in wildlife.

As soon as we reached the carpark, we started with a couple of the less-usual hoverflies to kick off our visit. The first was Ferdinandia cuprea. This hoverfly varies so much in appearance, it always seems to baffle. I have one or two brilliantly-colourful pictures, whereas this one shows the anonymous colouring which is often found. Nearby was a hoverfly often associated with Ferdinandia. Clearly the conditions suit both equally. Leucozona glaucia has a lovely blue tinge on the abdomen.

Walking over the mound of the castle there are fantastic views to the north and east, today the distance was shrouded in heat-haze. Surprising to many of us, there is a deal of sandy soil and we found a colony of digger wasps, their raised tower nests hidden under the grasses. Mellinus arvensis has small males and larger females. The males were flying round the nest holes everywhere, while the industrious females flew in and out, each with a fly held underneath the thorax. Some of these were so heavy that the wasps had to stop for a rest on their way in, some completing their journey by walking themselves and their prey to the nest. I could have spent the whole day watching this example of a colony, not kept together by bonds between insects, but the suitability of the real estate for nest-building.

While there, we caught a bumblebee exploring some plants and decided it was a cuckoo, before releasing the creature. It was very obliging, just sitting on a leaf before flying off. Although its pale wings did not seem right for a cuckoo, normally much darker brown, the rest fitted the description perfectly, with dull rear legs and rounded head, as well as the patterning on the body. The second picture shows some of the determining points in more detail, but this well illustrates just how difficult bumblebee identification can be.

After lunch, we decided to visit Staple Hill, a Forestry Commission site adjoining Neroche. This had been clear-felled and looked as though it had great potential, but lacked flowers. It was littered with large plates and logs of wood left on the ground and these proved of interest to our members, producing a few beetles, amongst them the amazing Violet ground beetle, as well as various fungi, including the extremely colourful example shown below.

Field Chorthippus brunneus and Meadow grasshoppers C. parallelus were there in some numbers, sunning themselves in the heat. To complete our day, we watched a sizeable ichneumon searching the dead stumps and eventually laying eggs, as its ovipositor disappeared into the bark and trunk.

From there, back to the car park, where discussion went on for a considerable time - one of the most enjoyable parts of the day.  

September 7th 2014. A long walk on the southern part of Chilton Moor brought few sightings other than a Raven Corvus corax high overhead, drifting north. Insect life was nearly as empty, with most of the flowers on the sides of the drove a mass of leftover debris. However, hidden away in the middle an occasional flower survived with the odd hoverfly trying its luck. I particularly liked this unsusal pose.

September 6th 2014. Tealham Moor in the morning, and the 'flats' in the afternoon, kept me pretty busy with the camera. Another lovely warm, humid day with next to no wind to spoil it. The common hoverfly Rhingia campestris has at last really come into its own, and I was interested to obtain shots of two views of its mouthparts. The rigid beak has two major components within it; a rigid, extendible proboscis and what appears to be a separate component which can only be described as an inflatable 'hoover' bag which sucks up liquids. My pictures show each phase. Years ago, I gave a talk to the Dipterists' Forum and showed a picture of the bag being inflated and was surprised that no-one seemed to be aware of all this. Perhaps it illustrates the value of photography in freezing a moment.

More species of hoverfly are gradually appearing in the droveside vegetation at last. It was particularly good to see a Sphaerophoria on Fleabane, Pulicaria dysinterica, always among the most popular of plants for insects of all types. 

In the afternoon, I sat down in front of the drilled logs and watched the various insects at work in the hot sunshine. It was good to see more variety among the little black digger wasps. I had wondered what had happpened to the usually very common Pemphredon lugubris and here at last they were appearing. Readily distinguished from the common Crossocerus species by the hair seen over much of the body and particularly in the form of a bushy moustache.

A second species from the long, slender Trypoxylon wasps was then identified. T. clavicerum is distinguished by its reddish-brown front tarsus and tibia. They are such busy, active little creatures.

Finally, I was fascinated  to watch an ichneumon searching nest holes for life below and then inserting its ovipositor and laying on the larva she has selected, The ovipositor is so slender, it is amazing that it has the rigidity to penetrate so deep into the nest. The part seen under normally is the ovipositor and its outside, protective sheaths, much thicker. The sheaths are folded aside when egg-laying through the ovipositor, but are hidden in the picture.

September 4th 2014. Mostly overcast, but warm and humid - should be good for insects, provided the flowers are around. The last few days have been like this and have brought the first signs of an emergence of hoverflies, much later than normal. Up to now the only hoverflies have been Eristalis drone-flies. The majority of hedgerow umbels have had greenbottle, flesh flies and other tachinids. These are still there, but the many Purple-flowering loosestrife Lythrum salicaria are now hosts to many Rhingia campestris, as are the Bindweed flowers Convolvulus arvensis that dot the brambles Rubus spp.

September 3rd 2014. A splendid example of Ectemnius cavifrons visited the logs this morning - the first sighting of this colourful wasp this year. It has been an infrequent visitor in previous years. He spent a great deal of time searching round existing nest holes, presumably looking for females, but apparently without luck.

September 2nd 2014. Numbers of Rhingia campestris were seen on the drove alongside Catcott Fen this morning. Apart from the numbers, it was noticeable that they looked quite different to the spring generation. Many had a curious greenish colouring to the thorax, seen to be a particular type of very sticky pollen.

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