insectsandflight.com

all pictures © robin williams

October 2023 - wildlife: from the Somerset Levels

October 29th 2023. Insects are still to be found on the terrace and it's pots. It seems extraordinarily late by normal standards, but what is normal nowadays? Geranium flowers look more and more tattered but they still produce pollen - look at the centre of the flower and see how healthy they look. Mining bees are present in variety, as are various hoverflies, particularly the large ones. The small thread-like ones seem to have vanished at last.

bumblebee, Bombus pascuorum m

 

mining bee, Lasioglossum fratellum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum fratellum m

tachinid fly, Siphona spp. 

tachinid fly, Siphona spp.

mining bee, Lasioglossum punctatissimum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum punctatissimum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum punctatissimum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

hoverfly, Helophilus pendulus m

hoverfly, Helophilus pendulus m 

 October 22nd 2023. I drove round the edge of the moors during the morning and was delighted to photograph a buzzard we have been watching during recent weeks. When first seen, it was a youngster, with typical colouring and thickening round its beak. But, contrary to normal practice, it has remained in the area, frequently seen sitting on a gate post and not easily disturbed. It had not apparently come to terms with trusting humans or going the other way, learning its outlook. Here, it is very close, the picture little enlarged. 

Common buzzard, Buteo buteo

It was a wonderful day, with a splendid insect catching my eye and lens. This male hoverfly was extremely absorbed in its quest and allowed me really close. There is nothing I enjoy more than photographing insects in flight; anticipating where it will be at a particular time. Of course, the marvellous equipment available in standard packages, makes it all possible. This shows off my main kit and demonstrates how well it picks up action. This was taken by a Nikon D7200, through A Nikon 105mm lens with a Nikon close up lens. Importantly, it has a Rogue Safari flash modifier fitted over the camera's built-in flash, producing reliable, accurate exposure, freezing the action perfectly. The results, when printed out, are breath-taking, as is the rather less stringent on-line result seen here. Every hair is shown piercingly sharp when the plane of focus is correct. This particular male hoverfly is around 7mm long.

 hoverfly, Sphaeraphoria scripta m

 

hoverfly, Sphaeraphoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaeraphoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaeraphoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaeraphoria scripta m 

hoverfly, Sphaeraphoria scripta m 

hoverfly, Sphaeraphoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaeraphoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaeraphoria scripta m

 

hoverfly, Sphaeraphoria scripta m

I got carried away today, away from my usual subjects. The light on the subjects was so glorious as to prompt trying to record it in detail. I am not even certain as to their identification, but appreciated the colour, shape and detail.

tachinid fly, Siphona spp. m

Later, during the afternoon I visited the moors and was astonished to find Cattle egrets still in their breeding plumage. There have been many Cattle egrets all over the various moors recently, so pleasing to see their numbers still increasing.

 

Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

October 20th 2023. Spent an hour in the hide at Catcott Lows. Not a very nice day, with poor light, but delighted to see a Marsh harrier hunting its way across the herbage. Is it my immagination, or are the predators keeping further away fom the hides nowadays? Have they detected general movement or paid attention to people showing themselves outside the blinds? 

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

This last-minute shot of a Great white egret was a final bonus. This elegant bird was fishing in the shallows. The fish took some time to swallow but was appreciated eventually.

Great white egret, Egretta alba - with fish

 October 18th 2023. 'Our' little buzzard photographed really close. We keep on spotting this predator as it perches round Tealham and Tadham Moors, where it has lived since it was a fledgling. It is not completely impervious to the noisy car but sits tight if the approach is slow and smooth. It provides many opportunities but often frustrates. Such beautiful birds.

Common buzzard, Buteo buteo

After that, it was a time spent on the terrace and its pots, photographing whatever turns up but hoping for more small hoverflies and mining bees in particular. 

 

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus f

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus f

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus f

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus m

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hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus f

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus m

       

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus f

Whereas the hoverfly above is relatively large, probably around 7 to 8mm, the mining bee below is only around 4mm long. Many of these bees look like tiny black threads until a close-up lens spells out the true colours, shapes and sizes. Magnifying the smallest creatures can be so rewarding.

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

The picture of the hoverfly is not quite what it appears. Rhingia campestris is a very common hhoverfly, however this is the much less usual Rhingia rostrata which has started to spread more widely in recent years. It has a much shorter head projection and other characteristics. This was only discovered on the computer, not at the time. 

hoverfly, Rhingia rostrata m

hoverfly, Rhingia rostrata m

The next picture, Sphegina siberica, was good to take. I have never seen one of the quite common hoverflies before. Apart from its intriguing name, I will be keeping a lookout for it.

hoverfly, Sphegina siberica f

 

hoverfly, Platycheirus albostriatus f

October 17th 2023. A few nigh-time shots to remind us that life goes on regardless during the dark hours.

Roebuck, Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

Fox, Vulpes vulpes

October 15th 2023. A perfect morning saw the camera trained on the geranium pot on the terrace. The rather gaudy flowers provide a complete contract to the mainly black or metallic bees. Most of these are very small, from 4mm upwards. They move extremely quickly but are well worth the effort. At this stage, they all appear to be males.

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

bumblebee, Bombus pascuorum m

hoverfly, Eristalis arbustorum f, 

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus

 

October 11th 2023. This batch of pictures is fascinating, with various species appearing unexpectedly. Identification is always difficult but helped by measuring the width and depth of flowers - they are reasonably consistent. Not super accurate but good enough to allow help in identification. The first step with Lasioglossum is to separate them between metallic tones or straight dark skin.

mining bee, Lasioglossum cupromicans m

mining bee, Lasioglossum cupromicans m

mining bee, Lasioglossum albipes m

mining bee, Lasioglossum albipes m

mining bee, Lasioglossum albipes m

mining bee, Lasioglossum smeathmanellum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum smeathmanellum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum laevigatum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum laevigatum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum laevigatum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum leucopus m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum zonulum m

In the afternoon we drove round the edge of Tealham Moor, as you do to go anywhere in a southern direction. Driving back we stopped the car beside the road, a kestrel was hovering alongside, concentrating so much he ignored us completely. This was too good an opportunity to be missed. The pictures of this little male demonstrate the bird's concentration. In all except one picture the head is in the same position, regardless of where the wings are in their cycle. The markings are shown quite perfectly

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus m

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus m

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus m

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus m

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus m

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus m

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus m

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus m

October 10th 2023. I diverted from my usual models this morning. A fly appeared on a flower and I could not but want to comment on its structure and subtle colouring. It was a joy to photograph, even if I was not certain of its identification.  

tachinid fly, Siphona spp.

tachinid fly, Siphona spp.

tachinid fly, Siphona spp.

tachinid fly, Siphona spp.

October 9th 2023. The time is coming when the long lens is brought out from its summer sleep. Insects must surely be nearly finished for the year. Birds will be the new focus of attention, whether sailing overhead at home, on the moors or nearby reserves. The weather will make these more difficult subjects but that is the challenge of wintertime.

Common buzzard, Buteo buteo

Common buzzard, Buteo buteo

Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

 Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

October 6th 2023. This morning brought with it a collection of splendid pictures on the trail camera. It included daylight pictures in the early morning, a curious zlivery set of images taken in that strange period known locally as th dimpsy-dark, and the full dark. The qualities of resolution and sharpnea were such that the settings were at their optimum. I must now endeavour to find what those critical settings were -  and use them in the future.

Roebuck, Capreolus capreolus

  

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

 

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

Badger, Meles meles

Badger, Meles meles 

October 3rd 2023It was a busy time out on the terrace this norning. Many little Lasioglossums were present on a varity of flowers, but the favourite was our bog-standard geranium, favoured in particular by the most common, L. morio. 

mining bee, Lasioglossum calceatum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum minutissimum m

 mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

 mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum villosulum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum villosulum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum calceatum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum parvulum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum albipes m

yellow-face bee, Hylaeus communis f

yellow-face bee, Hylaeus communis f

mining bee, Lasioglossum calceatum m

Lasioglossum calceatum m

mining bee, Halictus confusus f 

mining bee, Lasioglossum albipes m 

mason bee, Osmia leaiana m

 

digger wasp, Crossocerus elongatulus f

digger wasp, Crossocerus elongatulus f

 October 1st 2023. A reasonable, sunny day. It did not seem likely that insects would continue this late, but they were present. If any, I would have imagined it would only be flies. These were present, but so were some solitary bees. An amazing year, fine for insect photographers and observers. 

hoverfly, Syritta pipiens f

hoverfly, Syritta pipiens f

hoverfly, Volucella pellucens f

mining bee, Lasioglossum smeathmanellum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum smeathmanellum f

mining bee, Lasioglossum smeathmanellum f

mining bee, Lasioglossum zonulum f

Speckled wood, Pararge aegeria