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June 2019  wildlife, from the Somerset Levels

June 27th 2019. We met at Waldegrave Pool, on the top of Mendip, for another of our invertebratre get-togethers. It is a popular location at this time of year, with numbers of dragonflies expected. As a result, a number of us turned up. Present were Nigel M, John M, Margaretha E, Chris H, Ron W, Peter B and his wife, Jane, complete with Murphy the greyhound. The day was amazing, not at all what one might normally come across up here; all day sunshine, albeit with a strong easterly breeze - and that was my undoing for I had a distinctly poor photographic day, given the many opportunities there were. Nevertheless everyone enjoyed themselves. The place looked quite absurdly tranquil and beautiful, the greens of the bushes and trees still differing from each other and the greens of the horsetails Equisetum spp., in the water. We had to disabuse Peter and Jane that his was normal up here; rain and overcast being much more likely. But it was superb, for a start the water level in the pond was far higher than it has been in recent years. This led to a very different picture than there has been in recent years. Dragonfly numbers were up, that was quite clear, illustrated by a later find. The higher water levels showed particularly in areas of open water appearing between the reeds, giving the ideal conditions for dragonfly and damselfly emergences.

Azure damselfies, mating flight, Coenagrion puella

A strong wind was blowing from the east which changed the potential of certain areas of the pond for photography. We decided to walk across the dam to make our way to a particular small bay which had always had good results in the past, but the wind was not in our favour. My particular interest was always going to be the Downy emerald dragonflies for wich the pond has long been notable, but this was not the place to find them. I sat for a long while in the little bay surrounded with bushes but only one Downy emerald appeared, a flash of green eyes driving past at high speed. The wind was not in our favour. instead I decided to rejoin Nigel back where we had started, which looked more hopeful. Walking back along the path leading over the dam, there were numbers of insects, but the wind made photography very much hit and miss, which was a pity as this is usually a rich area to scan. The other side was much more productive. Nigel was standing by a little inlet through the reeds and suggested I sat down there. Apart from periodic Emperor dragonflies Anas imperator, Downy emeralds were flying in and turning round very close to the edge. The wind was perfect and I could watch the insects flying in, up-close. But, they were not hovering at all and my session ended in failure to get a good picture. I show here one taken a few years ago that did lock focus, to show those brilliant green eyes really do exist.

Downy emerald Cordulea aenea

After that, we looked around the surrounding vegetation, always a good area. Most pleasing was to find numbers of newly-emerged Emerald damselflies clinging to grass stalks. They used to be numerous here many years ago but I have not seen any for a long while.

Emerald damselfly Lestes sponsa imm. male

After lunch, spent under some old Scots pine trees, cool and sheltered, I decided to leave the others and return home as my neck was starting to ache again. The rest went off into Stockhill Woods. I have decided to cheat here, as I also visited Stockhill, but on the following day, in very similar conditions, very hot and windy but sheltered among the trees. I had a succesful visit and managed the sort of photographs I would have taken if I had joined the others. There were no signs of any solitary bees, which I might have expected, but solitary wasps were much in evidence. I was particularly pleased to come across Argogorytes mystaceus, which had only seen once before; but also to identify and photograph Nysson spinosus. I had never come across this species before, yet they appeared quite common on the umbels round the pond. They are both dark and yet distinctive.

digger wasp Argogorytes mystaceus

digger wasp Nysson spinosus

digger wasp Nysson spinosus

The most unusual creature was a large and colourful, black and orange cranefly, which I think I have identified correctly from three possibles. It is so large and colourful that at first I did not think I was looking at a crane-fly.

crane-fly Ctenophora pectinicornis m

A numbere of umbels held Tenthredo sawflies. They are so typical of this time of year, brightly-coloured, generally slow-moving creatures lacking a wasp-waist.

sawfly Tenthredo schaefferi

There are always masses of flies on umbels at this time of year, but most areunable to be identified for certain. I thought this particular fly was so distinctive I ought to be able to find its name. I am pretty certain it is a fruit-fly and hope that it is the Phaeonia I have come up with. One many of these same umbels there were numbers of the splendid hoverfly Cheilosia illustrata, a highly variable insect. The picture shows a very dark specimen. Over the years, we have always found numbers of these hoverflies in Stockhill, indeed it was the place I first identified the species. Finally, I show a picture of a moth found on numbers of plants, again new to me. A fine ending to the day.

fruit-fly Phaeonia pallida

hoverfly Cheilosia illustrata

Red-necked footman Atolmis rubricollis

June 22nd 2019. Rather a long break because of illness, hopefully in recovery now. As part of that process, I drove round the moors to see what was going on. A pair of buzzards caught my eye over the very western edge of Tealham Moor. I stopped the car and was able to photograph them as they circled, such beautiful birds!

 Common buzzard Buteo buteo

Common buzzard Buteo buteo

Common buzzard Buteo buteo

Common buzzard Buteo buteo

Common buzzard Buteo buteo

Common buzzard Buteo buteo

June 6th 2019. Ham Wall was looking at its finest this afternoon and I had an unexpectedly fascinating visit. Unfortunately, this did not include any Bitterns, who should have been flying all over the place. For some reason I just am not having any luck with these birds this season, though there are said to be many present - the luck of the draw I suppose! A female harrier appeared for a while and provided some fine if rather distant views.  

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus f

However I had a wonderful time in the Tor View hide watching a grebe fishing over a long period. As a result, I have added quite a few pictures showing techniques and varieties of fish. The bird was exraordinarily successful and I just could not stop pushing the button, providing a permanet record of a superb afternoon. 

Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus

 Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus

Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus

Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus 

 Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus

Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus 

Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus 

Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus

June 3rd 2019. A quick visit to Catcott Lows found that the pond was still responsible for keeping the reserve busy during these usually fallow summer days, whch is good news both for the birds and watchers. The Greylags are still present, though many of their young are now much larger. 

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Greylag geese Anser anser

Greylag geese Anser anser

June 1st 2019. After yesterday's experience, there was no excuse for not taking another look at Catcott, hoping the godwits were still there. I reached there at around 10-30 in the morning, the only time I could really manage. This was a poor choice, with a harsh backlight making photography tricky. What a change from the perfect light of the previous day, bringing out the full feather texture and colouring of the birds! Nevetheless, it was not wasted. There were far fewer birds in front but on a couple of occasions some unseen bird-of-prey brought them all into the air, then more appeared from where they were feeding out of sight. These flights brought some splendid photographic opportunities.

Black-tailed godwits Limosa limosa

Black-tailed godwits Limosa limosa

Black-tailed godwits Limosa limosa

 Black-tailed godwits Limosa limosa

Black-tailed godwits Limosa limosa

 


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