Sunday, 24 June 2018

Mayesbrook Park

A few hours this morning in the sunshine was a pleasant experience at Mayesbrook Park. Among other things I was pleased to find a Red-tipped Clearwing moth and hear then see my first Whitethroat for the year.
Red-tipped Clearwing

Red-tipped Clearwing
Red-tipped Clearwing
The Red-tipped Clearwing Synanthedon formicaeformis was not easy to photograph as it was continually moving and feeding low down about a foot above the ground. With a wingspan 17-19 mm, this moth derives its English name from the reddish patches at the tips of the forewings.

It can be found locally throughout much of England, southern Scotland, south Wales, and scarcely in parts of Ireland, and flies between May and July.

The species inhabits fens, marshes and other damp localities, and feeds as a larvae inside the stems of various species of Salix, especially osier (S. viminalis). See more at UK Moths

Helophilus hybridus 
 As well as a number of hoverflies there were lots of butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies.
Holly Blue

Essex Skipper

Small Skipper

Emperor Dragonfly

Friday, 22 June 2018

Mayesbrook Park

20th June - Spent a couple of hours looking for inverts, the first hour the sun was out and I walked the southern path beside the railway line. It was along here that most species were seen. 

Xyphosia miliaria
Xyphosia miliaria
Xyphosia miliaria is a species of tephritid or fruit flies in the family Tephritidae.
Length: 4-6 mm. This fruit fly is mostly orange with black patterned wings, typical of this family. Found on thistles where it causes galls to form on the host plant. Can be seen May – September. Common and widespread over much of Britain.

Large Skipper Butterfly
female Green-veined White Butterfly
Helophilus hybridus male
Helophilus hybridus has a wing length 8.5 to 11.25 mm. In size and general appearance this species is similar to H. pendulus. The male is usually distinctive in having continuously broad yellow sides to tergites 2 and 3, whereas there is a dividing black bar near the posterior edge of tergite 2 in the female, and in both sexes of H. pendulus. The hind tibia of H. hybridus normally has the distal 2/3 black. Around pond and ditch margins where the water is shallow, and submerged grass grows on the blackish mud. Can be seen April to October with a peak in July and August. Larvae have been observed feeding in the decaying rhizomes of Bulrush. Widespread but sometimes local in Britain.

Blue-tailed Damselfly
Thick-thighed Flower Beetle - Oedemera nobilis
The Thick-thighed Flower Beetle is 8 to 10mm in length. The green elytra (wing covers) are pointed and gape apart. The male and female of this beetle can easily be told apart, as the male has large green bulges on its femora or thighs, while the female does not. The male is unmistakable, but the female could be confused with other Oedemera species, however its size, gaping wing cases and iridescence distinguish it. Flower meadows, gardens and waste ground where they visit flowers between April to September. This beetle is a pollen feeder. Widespread from southern England northwards to the Wash and north Wales, but less common further north than that.

Ringlet butterfly

Monday, 18 June 2018

Mayesbrook Park

Mid-morning walk in the hope of photographing some invertebrates. Annoyingly it was overcast with light drizzle to start with. It did dry up and the sun shone briefly while the temperature rose a little. I did manage a few images.
Anthophora bimaculata the green eyed flower bee
Our smallest Anthophora with a frenetic character, bright green eyes and a high-pitched, hovering flight that often attracts attention. It is one of two smaller, banded Anthophora species. Females can be separated from females of the other species (A. quadrimaculata) by the more conspicuous hair bands of the abdomen and the partially-yellow face with two large black marks below the antennae (face all-black in female quadrimaculata). Males have a yellow face and lack the pair of large black marks below the antennae found in male quadrimaculata. Like the female, they also have conspicuous and intense abdominal bands.

A. bimaculata is a southern species associated with very sandy habitats such as heathland, coastal dunes, soft-rock cliffs, sandpits and sandy brownfield sites. Most records are south of the Severn-Wash line but a few sites occur in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. 

Nesting occurs in sandy ground, both flat areas and sand faces. Colonies can be large and conspicuous, especially on warm, sunny days when the bees emit their high-pitched hum. The cuckoo-bee Coelioxys rufescens can sometimes be recorded around nesting colonies or on flowers nearby. Adults fly from June until September and visit a wide variety of flowers, including brambles, lamiates like Black Horehound, Viper's Bugloss and Asteraceae like Cat's-ear and ragworts.

Anthophora bimaculata the green eyed flower bee

female Common Blue Damselfly

female Common Blue Damselfly

One of eight young Egyptian Geese

Hoverfly Eupeodes sp male

Helophilus pendulus male
The hoverfly Helophilus pendulus is a common find, particularly around water or damp habitats. The black stripes on the thorax give it the common name 'The Footballer'. However, there are other hoverflies in the genus all with a stripy thorax.

Not sure on the ID of this bee

Poecilobothrus nobilitatus
This is an attractive fly with a lime green thorax. The male has conspicuous white wing tips and is easy to identify. The hairs on top of the thorax are in two neat rows.

It lives in damp places with lush vegetation and is often seen resting on mud or on the water surface. And can be seen May to August. A mating dance precedes copulation.

Quite common and widespread in England and Wales, fewer records from Scotland.

female Thick-thighed Beetle - Oedemera nobilis

Volucella zonaria male

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Minsmere Saturday June 2nd

All on board and off we go, first stop a short break at the Ipswich services for the 'call of nature' and to sell the tickets for the coach raffle.

Next stop Minsmere reserve, what is the weather to be today, things are looking a bit grey and the forecast for the area was mist and possible showers. We arrived safely at the reserve in good time and after a brief introduction from RSPB staff we all divided into our groups and began our venture.

First sightings were of the sand martins at their nest site, back and fro collecting food for the young. Something like a hundred birds spiralling in the sky and over the reed-beds catching flying insects for their brood.

Chiffchaff and blackcaps calling on the way to the north hide where some of our members who were coming out of the hide commented that a bittern had been seen briefly close to the hide. Into position and eyes peeled, especially for the bittern and without too much delay there it was, right in front of us looking a bit cautious as they do, an excellent sight it seemed to be posing for the cameras, which could be heard firing off - what a good start.

A slight shower of rain as we continued our walk and at the open fields we tried to find a sighting of a stone curlew which had been seen earlier, but with no luck. We continued across the vast open reed-beds along the north wall towards the dunes. Stationed on top of a distant bush was a marsh harrier and passing visitors enjoyed views through our scopes as they passed by. Several sedge and reed warblers were seen along this stretch with swifts and martins flying low over the reeds.

We were now at the dunes and with a quick look out to sea, a huge raft of common scoter at some distance with a veil of mist towards the horizon, we did not see any other birds out on the sea and continued to the north hide.

With a lot of visitors in the hide we managed to get a seat and began viewing the birds on the scrapes. Shelduck, shoveler, teal, gadwall, lapwing, knot, oystercatcher, avocet, ring plover, black-tailed godwits and kittiwakes. After a bit of lunch we continued our walk and visited the hides around the scrapes where we spotted curlew, whimbrel, redshank, water rail, med gull, little gull, sandwich and common tern and many more.

Now off towards the island mere hide, first stop was the bittern hide, again full of visitors eagerly viewing the reed-beds for any sign of bittern, water rail, etc. A couple of hobby's were busily feeding on the wing and after a brief stop we continued through the woodland where we spotted a treecreeper, long-tailed tits, great and blue tits, goldcrest and willow warbler. Nearing the island mere hide and alongside the pathway were southern marsh orchids, which were lovely to see, also some of our members had reported seeing a common eel in the water at the side of the entrance boardwalk.

Southern Marsh Orchid
Settled in the hide, views of two buzzards soaring above the distant trees. A couple of marsh harriers scouring the reedbeds for food, no doubt for their young. Suddenly all eyes were averted to a bittern flying quickly across our view. Reed buntings calling from the top of the reeds and bearded tits, pinging and speeding across the reedbeds.

Our time at Minsmere was shortly coming to an end so we made our way back to the centre, where we said our goodbyes and thanks to the staff. With us all back on the coach, we drew the raffle prizes and then began our homeward journey.

With 92 species recorded and the weather has been kind to us, we have had a great days birding - another successful coach outing.

Beautifully written by Mike Hughes RSPB Havering Local Group Leader
Brown Argus

Hairy Dragonfly



Donacia vulgaris

Silpha obscura

Small Heath


Yesterday evening I walked along the seawall, but spent probably more time walk up and over the landfill site. A lot has already been said about Veolia's mowing regime and the disasterous impact it has had on many breeding species.

It was a pleasant walk with next to no one else around, except a few cyclists.
QE2 bridge in the distance

Thanks to H, this is Tufted Vetch

Tufted Vetch is a scrambling plant with 10-40 blue violet flowers in a one sided cluster. Leaves pinnate with 6-10 pairs of leaflets and branched tendrils at leaf tip.  Distribution - Common throughout UK apart from the Scottish Highlands. Habitat - Grassy places, bushes, meadows and hedgerows. Best time to see - Flowers June to August.

View along the river Thames towards the QE2 bridge

View of the river Thames

There was a pair of Stonechats with two fledged young, this is the male

Meadow Pipit hopefully looking to nest again

male Stonechat

female Stonechat

Skylark one of many still singing above the newly mown area

I'd like to think there is time for them to have another go at breeding

Meadow Pipit

One of at least a 100 Stock Doves feeding on the mown area, but not at all approachable

Friday, 18 May 2018

It's been a while....

But I visited Mayesbrook Park today, and had a pleasant walk around for three hours until midday. My first sighting was quite interesting, immediately opposite Lodge Avenue is a line of short trees/bushes with in the park. Many had these silken cocoons, some full of caterpillars the others tiny black eggs.
This was just a small section of the number of bushes with silken cocoons
 Well after a bit of googling I think I have identified them as Spindle Ermine Yponomeuta cagnagella a small and quite elegant looking black and white moth.
There must have been thousands of these moth caterpillars and their eggs!
It is fairly common throughout Britain except in the far north, occupying chalk or limestone districts.

The foodplant, as the vernacular name suggests, is spindle (Euonymus europaeus), the larvae feeding gregariously in a silken web. Occasionally entire bushes or sections of hedgerows are taken over by the larvae and their web, causing defoliation. And I'm pretty sure the line of  bushes are Common Spindle Euonymus europaeus which ties it all together nicely.

Anyway yippee I added two new bird species to my year list for the site Swift and Reed Warbler which takes me to 68 species. I was pleased with the Reed Warbler as one pair bred last year possibly for the first time ever. Today I had not one but three singing males, looks promising!

Very few butterflies about I recorded just 2 Speckled Wood, 4 Holly Blue and a few each of Large & Small Whites
Speckled Wood
Odanata were non existent, perhaps it's still a little earlier. There were a few hoverflies about. With a number of plants now in bloom, the pollinators were busy.
this smelt of mint, a bed of Cat Mint?
First species found was a fly Empis tessellata. This large, drab green-brown bristly fly with brown-tinged wings is distinguished from the very similar Empis opaca by its black thighs (E. Opaca has red thighs). It frequents hedges, woodland edges, gardens and shrubby habitats. Particularly common on Hogweed and other umbellifer flowers. Common and widespread between April to August, though it feeds on nectar it is also a predator and catches other insects using its long pointed proboscis to pierce their bodies. Males of E. opaca and E. tessellata present a 'gift' to the female, in the form of a dead insect, before mating takes place. Females will not mate with males who do not present a gift.
Empis tessellata Fabricius
This large, drab green-brown bristly fly with brown-tinged wings is distinguished from the very similar Empis opaca by its black thighs (E. Opaca has red thighs). It frequents hedges, woodland edges, gardens and shrubby habitats. Particularly common on Hogweed and other umbellifer flowers. Seen between April-August. Though it feeds on nectar it is also a predator and catches other insects using its long pointed proboscis to pierce their bodies. Males of E. opaca and E. tessellata present a 'gift' to the female, in the form of a dead insect, before mating takes place. Females will not mate with males who do not present a gift. Common and widespread in Britain.

A few hoverflies were out doing their thin, names to follow hopefully

Myathropa florea

Helophilus pendulus

Syrphus sp

Melanostoma scalare 

female Tetanocera (genus of Marsh Flies)

Spotted this large dog and thought it looked a bit like a brown bear, it was an Alsation
Gorse looking good

part of the Mayes Brook
Cricket preparing the outfield