insectsandflight.com

all pictures © robin williams

September 2023 - wildlife: from the Somerset Levels

September 30th 2023. I got up rather late this morning and sunshine filled the garden in spite of being near-dark at seven-o-clock. As the blind went up, a couple of Roe deer looked up, looked right through me, or so it seemed, and slipped away to the side, so colourful, clearly just being careful rather than properly disturbed. 

September 29th 2023. Insects continue to appear on the terraTachinidce and pots; a surprising number of species for this time of year. 

 

bumblebee, Bombus pascuorum m

bumblebee, Bombus pascuorum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum fratellum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum fratellum m

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

tachinid fly, Siphona spp. m

tachinid fly, Siphona spp. m

hoverfly, Helophilus pendulus m

hoverfly, Helophilus pendulus m

 September 23rd 2023. This unseasonably hot weather - 24 degrees - has brought a further influx of Cattle egrets showing many still in colourful breeding plumage. They do not appear to be busy, just lazing around the cattle but it is good to find them widely out of the moors, here on Tadham.

Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

 

Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis 

 

Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

September 22nd 2023. Still here!. I spent much of the morning photographing a single hoverfly at a geraneum. It could not have been more co-operative, while the camera gave of its best.

hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta m

hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta m

tachinid fly, Siphona spp. m

September 18th 2023. It's still continuing to surprise, even though there has been plenty of rain and it is noticeably colder. The flush of insects out on the terrace is far more than could have been imagined at this time of year. More hoverflies but few tiny bees, but there is a constant movement as they take advantage of sunshine bringing on the flowers on the geraneum and other plants.  

Perhaps I might outline a few thoughts on identification of these tiny flies and bees, often as small as 4 or so millimetres in length. More particularly, how is this possible through photographs? Not always of course; some remain will remain mysteries, though most all are usually identifiable through the microscope. If keys are available then it should be possible to identify the species, though only when the insect is dead. I am not willing for that nowadays. I prefer to see the insects photographed in life and then see how they may be recognized. If they cannot, then go as far as possible towards identification and label the picture as such.

While some of the identifications indicated by captions may not be exact, they are truly close to the correct ID. But there is method in the madness. Take the case of identifying Lasioglossum bees, one opf my special subjects. The secret is to cut the list of possibles down. Keys make you look at the whole list of species in detail, though you can only have certain species where you are located. The first stage is to make a list of those species likely to be in the area; not difficult, reducing the possibilities considerably. Geography, type of soil, foliage visited and general location being important. A spreadsheet is prepared, with male and female separated. Column headings are: flight periods, length mm, body colour (black, brown or metallic). labrum colour, colour of tarsi, antennal length (long, short, medium), antennal colour (are they all black, or coloured beneath), abdominal bands (none, tomentose, or bold and striking). An example of reducing possibilities, is if the insect has even the faintest touch of metallic colouring. This immediately reduces the number of species to six (increasing or decreasing the brightness on the screen will achieve this). The table is the first thing to look as the photographs go up on the screen. It is not infallible, the descriptions are modified with experience. But, it does reduce the time spent on identification considerably and becomes more accurate with time. Previously, it could take a day or more with one bee, now it is a matter of minutes. A final note concerns size. It is difficult to remember what they looked like at the time, just a shadow in the viewfinder. Our insects have been visiting two different asters and a geraneum. Measurements were taken from these. The asters gave the diameters of the flower and of the coloured center. The geraneum yielded the diameter of the flower and the center, plus the length of a petal and it's width. Armed with this, it becomes easier to guess at a size and be reasonably certain it reflects reality. 

 

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus m

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus m

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus f

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus f

 

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus f

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus f

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus f

 hoverfly, Platycheirus albimanus f

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

 

hoverfly, Rhingia rostrata m

hoverfly, Rhingia rostrata m

hoverfly, Sphegina siberica f

September 15th 2023. In spite of changes to the weather, there still remain plenty of insects out on the terrace. Temperatures have dropped from 30 degrees to 24, with plenty of rain around. This is a small selection of those remaining subjects. I could have increased this considerably searching on other plants with populations of larger hoverflies but I was still hoping to feature bees in particular, and the thread-like smallest hoverflies. 

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

 

bumblebee, Bombus pascuorum m

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus m

hoverfly, Platycheirus peltatus m

 hoverfly, Eristalis arbustorum f

September 13th 2023. We were about to have a meal when a large bird dropped down onto the other side of a smll, overgrown pond outside the kitchen. The picture shows the bird from an upstairs window.

Common buzzard, Buteo buteo

September 11th 2023. The temperature still holding up and our terrace is full of a considerable variety of insects, though the great majority are still males.

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 laevigatum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum leucopus f

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum zonulum m 

Later that afternoon I visited Catcott Lows just to see if it was still there, after rather a gap! It is definitely not the usual time for seeing many birds of any sort, except perhaps for the various egrets which are pretty much egregious at present. But I was lucky in sptting a Marsh harrier, though the weather had changed somewhat by the end.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f, and Glastonbury Tor

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

September 4th 2023. A busy terrace still. I hold my breath, before we come across a more autumnal chill, which will finally see the end of our Lasioglossum fest.

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

 

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Halictus tumulorum m

mining bee, Halictus tumulorum m

digger wasp, Crossocerus elongatulus f

hoverfly, Platycheirus clypeatus f

hoverfy, Helophilus pendulus f

September 3rd 2023. 30 degrees greeted midday, bringing a multitude of insects onto the terrace and its surrounding pots, particularly the geraneum. The day's shooting was singular for the number and variety of tiny mining bees. 

mining bee, Lasioglossum calceatum m

 

mining bee, Lasioglossum calceatum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum calceatum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum calceatum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum morio m

mining bee, Lasioglossum minutissimum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum zonulum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum villosulum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum villosulum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum parvulum m

mining bee, Lasioglossum albipes m

mining bee, Lasioglossum albipes m

mining bee, Halictus confusus f

 

yellow-faced bee, Hylaeus communis f

The day was not finished though, for once the lflats had a few insects exploring the nest-holes for their potential, after a long period when absolutely nothing was observed. Most exciting was the presence of a dark bee, a very unusual visitor I have not seen for many years. The body gives a distinct metallic impression and the rounded head is unlike others in the purity of its shape. This was followed by a Crossocerus elongatulus bringing in some form of larval prey into its nest. A couple more Crossocerus were unidentified.

dark bee, Stelis breviuscula f

dark bee, Stelis breviuscula f

digger wasp, Crossocerus elongatulus f

  digger wasp, Crossocerus elongatulus f

September 1st 2023. We have had a complete change weather. August was said to be the wettest ever. while we have now moved into a complete heatwave, at record levels for this time of year. various hoverflies have appeared once more, where we had worried about whether they would be seen at all this year.

hoverfly, Syritta pipiens f

hoverfly, Volucella pellucens f