Sunday, 20 July 2014

Dacres Wood Pond

I was working yesterday at Dacres Wood Nature Reserve's 'Open Day'. The open day was part of the Sydenham Arts Festival Artists Trail, and was the perfect opportunity for Froglife's London Dragon Finder Project to hold a Dragon Day to celebrate the pond restoration work undertaken here. The nature reserve is a hidden gem within the London Borough of Lewisham and sits beside the railway line between Forest Hill and Sydenham.

Its main feature is a large pond, which was restored last winter with funds raised by the Friends Of Dacres Wood and matched by Froglife we also provided expertise and advice for the restoration work. As well as clearing the pond of debris and excess vegetation, a pond-dipping platform was installed and a wooden footbridge refurbished. The dipping platform is regularly used by local schools and the buildings have become a field centre.

We had a fantastic day and with excellent help from Pria a Froglife volunteer we ran three pond-dipping sessions from the new platform, while back at the field centre local artists displayed some of their fantastic artwork. Outside beneath our gazebo we had Amphibian & reptile information, as well as our 'Paint A Frog' activity which proved popular with adults as well as children.

After the pond dipping we all had a go at raft racing. First you scavenged a few pieces from around the reserve, pieces of bark, fallen leaves, which made great sails, bird feathers, twigs etc. Then, create your masterpiece that will sail further than anyone else, or stay afloat the longest, mine sank immediately, no surprise there! They were launched from the pond dipping platform with string attached so they could be hauled back in.

The pond is looking superb and both Frogs & Toads obviously love it, as there were lots of Frog and Toadlets around the site. The pond has a good population of Smooth Newts too. Other wildlife noted today were butterflies; Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and a pristine Red Admiral. Pond-dipping produced a fantastic array of species, with both Lesser & Greater Waterboatmen, Pond Skaters, Beetle Larvae, Diving beetles, Whirligig Beetles and many others.


A really successful day, I met some wonderful local people, who are so passionate and enthusiastic about their hidden gem of a nature reserve, and rightly so. While we never had a huge turnout of visitors, those that did come along had a quality experience and all went away happy, clutching their brightly coloured plaster cast frog! If you have not visited this wonderful reserve, I can fully recommend that you do. The reserve is open on the last Saturday of each month April - October.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

RSPB Rye Meads

Friday I spent a very enjoyable day at the RSPB's Rye Meads Nature Reserve. The weather could not have been better, clear blue sky, warm sunshine with a slight breeze....lovely.

From the gadwall hide the pair of Black-necked Grebes and their two chicks showed very well.

The male Kingfisher showed very well, regularly feeding the chicks in one nest hole and occasionally visiting the female who I would guess is incubating their third clutch of eggs in a second nest hole.

 I tried to get some flight shots with varying degrees of success. He was quick and I found it difficult holding focus on him. My best efforts are below!

 After catching a fish, he would give it a good batter before carrying it back to feed to the chicks!

Black-tailed Skimmer

Broad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Common Soldier Beetle

Common Soldier Beetle

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Friday, 4 July 2014

Lygus pratensis - Tarnished Plant Bug

Apparently this genus is one of the most problematic mirid groups to identify. The five UK species can overlap considerably in colour, markings and size; some specimens cannot be determined. The most reliable identification features concern the fine detail of the corium, and are visible only at high resolution.
L. pratensis is extremely similar to L. wagneri, although on average it is slightly larger, with a longer membrane.

Previously scarce and confined to southern heaths, this bug has recently undergone a dramatic range expansion. It is now widespread throughout much of southern Britain and is much commoner than its RDB3 status suggests. L. wagneri is primarily a western and upland species, but also seems to be extending its range eastwards. Separation of these two species now requires even more caution in the light of potential range overlap.

So, I am not 100% certain that this one is Lygus pratensis, but it is a high possibility. It is only small less than 10mm but has a big heart!

Sphaerophoria scripta - Long Hoverfly

The Long Hoverfly has a wingspan of 7 to 12 mm. It is a migratory species, so UK populations are probably boosted in some years. Flight period is long April to November with a peak in July-August.

The female of Sphaerophoria scripta has the body of the typical hover fly: long, broadened somewhere near the middle and ending conically. The markings, yellow stripes on a black background, are typical of hover flies. It is very difficult to tell apart females of the various species in the genus Sphaerophoria. The male looks very different: they have a long, slim, stick like body, ending suddenly without tipped end, their body is longer than their wings.

An impressive fact - They can complete a full life cycle in as little as sixteen days (egg to egg-laying adult), and have a maximum of nine generations in a single year!
male Sphaerophoria scripta

male Sphaerophoria scripta

male Sphaerophoria scripta