September 2017 - autumn, from the Somerset Levels

September 16th 2017. This morning I decided to have a look at The Hawk & Owl Trust's reserve, Shapwick Moor. It consists of 138 acres of flat moorland further south than the main Avalon marshes, roughish grassland farmed in accordance with their wishes. One area had just been cut and baled that day. There is a fine gravel car-park and a long drove runs westward along side the reserve and it was this that I followed. There are two hides on the reserve, looking out on opden grassland farmed as hay meadows. The weather was not promising for the insect life but it turned out more procuctive than could be expected, the worst problem being a gusty wind. There two species bee on the various umbels, one of which I had never seen before. Andrena trimmerana is striking in appearance seen close-to, with distinctive coloured tergite edges and some banding. We are within its area but it is far from common locally.

mining bee Andrena trimmerana f

mining bee Andrena trimmerana f

The Lasioglossum below is more frequently seen at this time of year.

mining bee Lasioglossum zonulum f

Perhaps the most noticable insect was the orange and black Turnip sawfly, present on almost every umbel. I have been surprised at how none of the larger common sawflies, such as Tenthredo spp., have been seen this early autumn and late summer. Normally they are everywhere.

sawfly Athalia rosae

There were numbers of the smaller, slender hoverflies on some of the flowers, a couple of which are illustrated below. Various very small ichneumons were nervously exploring umbels, presumably searching for tiny caterpillars beneath the flower heads, but identification is unlikely. My end conclusion is that this is an interesting site well worth more visits.

hoverfly Platycheirus scutatus m

mining bee Melanostoma scalare m

September 15th 2017. Very litle is going on at the logs outside the study. It is more likely that nothing is flying during a reasonable period sitting watching the logs. However, a short visit this morning brought a fine ichneumon exploring the holes. Though I am bound to say that during the time it was there it did not seem to find anything for which it was worth baring the ovipositor. I don't know whether it is significant, but this female seemed smaller than usual - poor nutrition when in the larval stage?

ichneumon Perithous scurra f

ichneumon Perithous scurra f

September 13th 2017. John and I met up at the car-park by the YHA hostel on Ivythorne Hill, above Street. Our aim was to walk along the edge from there to Marshall's Elm at the crossroads. This was the fianal meeting of the invertebrate group for the summer but others were found to be occupied elsewhere. It was a rather dank, damp moroning driving over but as we got there the sun started to appear, though the clouds were racing over in a high wind - we were well-sheltered though. This reasonably fine weather persisted until the moment we sat in the car for lunch, then cleared again as we started our quest again afterwards. The area turned out to be good for insects, though we did not see the Great green bush-cricket Tettigonia viridissima we had been hoping to find. There were Dark bush-crickets Pholidoptera griseoaptera, as well as Meadow grasshoppers Chorthippus parallelus.

Dark bush-cricket Pholidoptera griseoaptera m

Once again, as in the previous week, the tiny Lasioglossum mining bees were everywhere, so much time was devoted in the evening to idetifying them. It was good to find L. albipes and L. calceatum males to make comparisons.The head  shapes seen from the front differ while the tomentose markings are more obvious on L. albipes. L. pauxillum is the only male Lasioglossum found in our part of Britain that has all-yellow legs. These stand out so obviously in the field. A few years ago this bee was quite rare, but has stadily increased its range since.

mining bee Lasioglossum albipes m

mining bee Lasioglossum calceatum m

mining bee Lasioglossum pauxillum m

Hoverflies were also busy on many flowering plants. particularly the very small and slender Platycheirus.

hoverfly Helophilus pendulus 

hoverfly Cheilosia pagana

hoverfly Melanostoma mellinum m

hoverfly Melanostoma scalare f

It was good to see numbers of bumblebees, neary all Bombus pascuorum, though there were one or two B.terrestris visiting the surprising number of flowers to be seen.



bumblebee Bombus pascuorum m

ichneumon, unknown spp.

At the end of our walk, as we were about to turn round and go back to the car, we had a quite extraordinary experience, unlikely to be repeated again. A Hobby Falco subbuteo shot across our front, only a few yards away, tore round low-down, clearly searching for and catching darters and damselflies. Every so often it perched quite low down on a tree close to us, paying us little attention. I did manage a couple of pictures but a 150mm lens does not do it justice, so have put in a picture takena year or so ago. At times this elegant bird came within less than six feet and we could see the detail of the black moustache and barring quite clearly. What struck us was the sheer energy involved in twisting and turning though, unlike other birds of prey, the tortured feathers of the long, narrow wings uttered no obvious sounds. We watched it move from tree to tree, hunting so close to our heads, before giving in finally as the rain started in earnest. What an amazing experience!

Hobby Falco subbuteo

Comma Polygonia c-album

It is, perhaps, good to finish this entry with a flourish of butterfly tapestries found in the same area, on brambles in the hedgerow.

Red admiral Vanessa atalanta

September 4th 2017. 'Somerset Invertebrates' met at Thurlbear Woods near West Hatch this morning, quickly moving next door to the wonderful Thurlbear Quarrylands site. John, Chris and I were met later by Nigel after his dentist's appointment. As we got there, the weather cheered up as predicted and the rest of the day was largely bright, humid and warm - pretty ideal for insects and similar to the previous week's visit. We had a splendid time with plenty to see, the photographers among us clicking away.

hoverfly Sphaerophoria spp. f

hoverfly Cheilosia spp. m

 hoverfly Baccha elongata f

 hoverfly Ferdiandia cuprea f

hoverfly Rhingia rostrata f

hoverfly Syritta pipiens

hoverfly Melanostoma scalare m

hoverfly Eristalis nemorum m

hoverfly Eristalis nemorum

 mining bee Lasioglossum morio f

 mining bee Lasioglossum morio f

mining bee Lasioglossum leucopus m

 mining bee Lasioglossum calceatum m

 mining bee Lasioglossum xanthopus m

mining bee Lasioglossum fulvicorne m

 mining bee Lasioglossum zonulum m

ichneumon Amblyteles armatorius

ichneumon Apechthis compunctor f

ichneumon Apechthis compunctor f

Brown hairstreak Thecla betulae

September 2nd 2017. I took Martin, an artist friend of mine, to see Westhay Moor NNR this morning. The weather was superb, virtually without wind and a cloudless sky, showing the waters, reeds and landscape to perfection. The first stop was at the rebuilt tower hide down London drove. The sketchpad came out almost immdiately and Martin was a figure of concentration, perfectly happy. The final stop was at the Lake hide further back towards the car. Again, it looked at its best and Martin used an I-pad to produce superb panoramic shots of the whole sweep in front of the hide. All at once he said, 'what's that standing on a stump over there?' Opposite us, though some way off, was a Bittern, standing just like the illustrations in text books, bolt upright - unmoving. We had good views for a minute or so before it turned and moved back into the reeds behind. Marvellous!

Bittern Botaurus stellaris

Bittern Botaurus stellaris

Bittern Botaurus stellaris

Visitors Counter