insectsandflight.com

all pictures © robin williams

click on the links below to bring up further periods:

HOME

DIARY - link to all periods

January 2020

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

June 2020

July 2020

August 2020: wildlife, from the Somerset Levels

August 31st 2020. The last day of the month once again! It comes quicker and quicker as the summer changes into autumn. I decided to spend it sitting by the drilled logs of the flats. It was quite busy but the majority of these insects were Pemphredon digger wasps - friendly, hairy and black-brown, one of my favourite species during the later part of the season.

digger wasp Pemphredon lugubris

While enjoying these, my eye was caught by a wasp with an unusual configeration. Trypoxlon is another digger, but with a greatly extended body, sticking out for several segments beyond the folded wings. As always, I thought how much smaller they were than the impression given by illustrations. Your normal view of one of these insects is those last few segments disappearing in to a nest-hole.

digger wasp Trypoxylon attenuatum

It is not often that I catch a glimpse of a wasp bringing in its prey. Often the prey is so well pressed beneath, that you first realise that there are two pairs of wings where there should be one. On this occasion it was a Crossocerus digger wasp which had stopped and gave a good view of the prey held beneath, an orthopteran bug I could not determine. I show two different views, very similar, to provide better coverage of the prey.


digger wasp Crossocerus annulipes


digger wasp Crossocerus annulipes

Finally, my eye went to a social wasp burrowing into a particularly rotten part of one of the logs. I suspect it was seeking wood for nest maintenence rather than prey.


social wasp Vespula vulgaris w

August 29th 2020. What an amazing thing to wake up, open the bathroom shade and see a Roebuck sitting on the bank opposite, slowly looking around the area in front, as if lit by a searchlight in the morning sun. Romey spotted him and called me over to look. I am certain he was the buck we have watched from when he was really small to his present splendid presence, in red summer coat with polished antlers.

Roebuck Capreolus capreolus


Roebuck Capreolus capreolus


Roebuck Capreolus capreolus


Roebuck Capreolus capreolus

Yesterday morning, I was sitting in my study when two deer wafted past like ghosts, moving slowly, limbs flowing like wind-blown silk. I now know that one was our male but the leader was an altogether bulkier female. Coming back to this morning's visit, it was interesting to watch him searching round, though already settled on the grouund, then relax, completely at ease; his skin quite clearly settling further into itself. It  is amazing to see such relatively large animals in the garden, treating it as their own territory, relaxed. Later in the morning I drove over to Catcott Lows, finding the place quite empty of people, so I decided to venture into the hide, after opening the shutters, taking a chance maybe, but why not? We have to start living our life again. I was disappointed later on when a couple came in, looked at me in my mask, saying,'Oh, we forgot to bring ours', but still settling down at the other end. The  stars of the morning were Cattle egrets. At first nothing moved, bullocks and horses way out of sight, then a few white dots appeared, flying low over the heath. They settled some way off, barely visible above the herbage then, at some unkown signal, all took off at once, being joined by others from nearby locations until there must have been a nearly a hundred in the air. A wonderful welcome back to the area.


Cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis


Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis

August 26th 2020. I walked up London Drove through Westhay Moor reserve, determined to have a walk even if rain threatened. In fact ithe fist few drops fell when I reached the car again. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and ended up by the tower hide at the top. After some thought, I went in, finding it quite empty. For some while, there was little to see, but it ended well. A Bittern appeared at the side and flew along the treeline. There was only a distant, indistinct shot, but it was assuring to see this iconic bird was still where it ought to be.

Bittern Botaurus stellaris

August 24th 2020. Nothing ventured, I decided to take a look at Catcott Lows for the first time since lockdown. I did not go into the hide - still unsure about the wisdom of that, but went and stood by the pierced fencing on the end of the building. There were others inside, but I was well clear. It was one of those in-between days, low cloud clearing every so often. Within minutes, two or three dozen duck leapt into the air, deep in the distance, accompanied by a Marsh harrier which did not appear much interested in them. To my joy, the harrier worked its way towards me and I gained a number of useful shots.


Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus f


Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus f


Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus f

After it vanished back over towards Glastonbury Tor, a few Cattle egrets appeared on the other side of the pond - none in breeding colours though.


Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis

The final appearance, before rain stopped play, was a fine Mute swan flying towards me. A surprisingly fruitful visit.


Mute swan Cygnus olor

August 22nd 2020. NIGHT-TIME GOINGS-ON. It has been appalling weather for the past week or so, little chance of photographing anything. So I have decided to put in a few pictures taken from a trail camera set up by a path running through the garden. This trail was here when we came here over fifty years ago and is till used as actively as at any time. It is a made by animals, running north and south, and has probably been in existence for centuries. My trail camera shows it is like a motorway, in constant use by deer, foxes, badgers and others at night. In the lighter summer months, deer are seen on it during daylight, early in the morning or later in the evening.

Roebuck Capreolus capreolus

Roebuck Capreolus capreolus

Roebuck Capreolus capreolus

Fox & prey Vulpes vulpes

Fox & prey Vulpes vulpes

Fox Vulpes vulpes

Fox Vulpes vulpes

Badger Meles meles

Badger Meles meles

AN HOUR WITH THE BUMBLEBEES: In the afternoon, wonderfully warm and balmy, I sat down in front of the Catmint bush on the terrace, to see what might be going on. One major change from recent years has been the revival of the bumblebee population. All were Bombus pascuorum on this occasion, common but unfailingly beautifully coloured. I sat there for over an hour and enjoyed every moment, before realising I was in danger of falling asleep, calmed by the soporific sounds of the bees. Our particular Catmint is of a deep blue, extremley attractive to the bumbles. It was fascinating to see the extraordinary twists and turns they made to make their way into the flowers.


bumblebee Bombus pascuorum m


bumblebee Bombus pascuorum m


bumblebee Bombus pascuorum m


bumblebee Bombus pascuorum


bumblebee Bombus pascuorum

August 13th 2020. Time for another snatched visit to the logs, a gap in the atrocious weather we have been enjoying this month; high winds, cold spells marking much of the time, leaving the log nests without any visible inhabitants. But this was a happier visit. A small ichneumon was busy exploring the logs, methodically visiting, testing each in turn. Unlike other species which split their ovipositor covers to insert the proboscis seprately, this one puts the whole thickness of the ovipositor into the nest-hole.


My hairy Pemphredon digger wasps were obvious once again. Clealy they are later than the bulk of diggers. They seem to coincide with an invasion of Greenbottles Luculia caesar that hang around like teen-agers on the edge of a grown-up party.

digger wasp Pemphredon lugubris

Greenbottle Lucilia caesar

The final insect I came across was a tiny mystery, perhaps only three or so mm in length. My guess is that it was a Braconid, a group about which I know very little, closely related to ichneumons.


braconid f

August 8th 2020. It must be extremely unusual to have two sets of puzzles follow each other over the course of a couple of days. To try and miss some of the heat of the day I decided to visit Loxley Wood in the morning. When I left at lunchtime it was already 28°, by the end of the day, the hottest part of the country reached over 38° - not very British! Along the main, sunny drove running through the wood, I was surprised to see that there were practically no flowers to be seen. In the end, all the pictures I took were from just four umbels I found, or beside them. These produced numbers of insects, but they were not what I had expected during this August's fine weather, usually a peak for solitary bees and hoverflies. The puzzle was an unusually bright, dark solitary wasp. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that it might be one new to this country, though apparently not unexpected. Information on Dolichovespula adulterina is sparse on-line. One piece said that this was a cuckoo on Dolichovespula saxonica, another on Dolichovespula norwegica. What made me think it was this species? The face mark divides the face in two horizontally, as well as vertically. The black on the abdomen is dominent, while the yellow bands between are narrow and parallel. The final point is that the hairs on the side of the throax are pale clouded yellow - described on line as 'blonde'. I am sticking to this at present, but will try and seek expert opinion. I have a reasonable number of pictures. Incidentally, I realise now that I have seen this wasp previously in this wood. 

social wasp Dolichovespula adulterina m

social wasp Dolichovespula adulterina m

social wasp Dolichovespula adulterina m

social wasp Dolichovespula adulterina m

Later, on another umbel, I came across another male social bee and took several pictures as comparisons. Similar, but the new one was altogether glossier and had quite different markings on its face.

social wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris m

mason wasp Ancistrocerus trifasciatus f

hoverfly Cheilosia scutellata f

Common darter Sympetrum striolatum f

August 7th 2020. I had a fascinating hour in front of the logs over lunchtime. There were a few small black Crossocerus digger wasps, but my eye was caught immediately by what appeared to be a female Osmia mason bee, very busy on one particular log, though concentrating equally on several holes on the cut face. She was smaller than the usual Osmia and, more unusual, had what appeared to be a really pale pollen brush beneath the abdomen. She had a jet black integument (cuticle), heavily pock-marked head and thorax. The abdomen was glossy and unmarked, except for faint traces of much-worn interrupted hair bands on the corners of the end segments. The pollen brush has been described by other works as creamy or very pale grey, This bee fitted that description exactly, especially as it was noted that the larger hairbands were said to be 'easily abraded'. By this time I was persuaded that it was a Hoplitis claviventris, now known as one of the lesser mason bees. I am sure this the right identification even though one or two of my photographs have a character that, at first glance, mitigates against it. These pictures showed red-golden, full-length pollen brushes beneath the abdomen. I thought about it, could I have been mistaken in all the other pictures? These showed creamy hairs just as described in identification guides. Then it came to me. Pollen stains really heavily, as anyone can testify who has got some on a handkerchief. I was looking at the remnants of the pollen, not the hair colour. Closer examination showed some pale hairs among them.

lesser mason bee Hoplitis claviventris f

lesser mason bee Hoplitis claviventris f

lesser mason bee Hoplitis claviventris f

lesser mason bee Hoplitis claviventris f

August 3rd 2020. I frequently drive past the Hawk Trust reserve on Shapwick Moor, ostensibly dull but gradually being altered by the Trust to provide better wildlife habitat, a process that will take years. I confine my visits to the drove running west from the fine car park. Dull yes, but the seasons bring a variety of insects. I try and choose a time when there are not too many cars, then I find it as peaceful as you could want. Various bumblebees disported themselves on a number of thistle flowers still partially in bloom. Bombus jonellus was there in some numbers - an indication that scrubby heath was nearby.

bumblebee  Bombus jonellus m

The other main species was B. terrestris, of which all were males. The bumblebees were all on thistles or another favourite plant, Lesser burdock Arctium minus. A small mining bee with very long antennae caught my eye. Lasioglossum fulvicorne and L. fratellum have extremely similar males, but fulvicorne is more frequent on limestone districts, our soil type.

mining bee  Lasioglossum fulvicorne m

mining bee  Lasioglossum fulvicorne m

Strangalia beetles seem to be eveywhere at this time, while the first Southern hawker dragonflies have started appearing; always a welcome sight. 

Southern hawker  Aeshna cyanea

As I was photographing in a comparatively new area, I must record the only damselfly I saw. It is also the first I have see this year, anywhere. I am sure I will see many more everywhere soon though.

Common blue damselfy  Enallagma cyathigerum m

August 2nd 2020. It was a bit windy this afternoon, and the sun came and went, but I had a most refreshing walk at Loxley Wood on the Poldens. A couple of families and their dogs passed by, but it was extraordinarily tranquil. Flowers and blossom were largely missing, with few insects, but that did not really matter. There is always something to report, but the masses were no longer present. Curiously, the one fairly prominent set of flowers, Brambles Rubus spp., had no insects whatsoever - they are so often the great attractants.

longhorn beetle Strangalia maculata

longhorn beetle Strangalia maculata

longhorn beetle Strangalia maculata

digger wasp Ectemnius lituratus f

digger wasp Ectemnius lituratus f

 





Roebuck Capreolus capreolus

Visitors Counter

337861