From Stuart. Lynn and I have continued with our daily walks this past week and on some days even needed an umbrella! But, of course we did need the rain.
Well we have had another unusual mayfly event or perhaps it is these unusual times that is making us take more notice of what could be very common events – I will let you decide. So to continue….
Our smallest UK mayfly is Caenis rivulorum, with a fore wing of around 3mm in length. As larvae they live in the silty areas of rivers and when they emerge to the adult stage it is often in huge numbers and at this time of year. This generally takes place around an hour into darkness which means it is often missed by most people.
Like many mayflies they are not strong fliers so it was quite a surprise to find hundreds had tried to egg-lay on my van roof one night last week (we are good ½ mile away from the River Don at its nearest point and not in line of sight).
Having noticed this I then checked other cars (and vans) as we set off on our morning walk, almost all had egg bound females stuck on them, again in the hundreds.
This is a modern phenomenon with mayflies because bright shiny car roofs are very new to an insect that has been around for 300 million years.
And, of course it is a problem because every one of those egg-laying females has in effect failed to complete its life cycle at this very last point – all that effort wasted.
The reason they get it so very wrong is that they use horizontally polarised light to “detect” the surface of the river and by pure coincidence shiny dark flat surfaces, as seen on a car roof, reflect light in the same way. Sometimes nature just cannot win! Stuart & Lynn.
From Kent. Doug and I walked over the area of Gypsy Marsh on Monday, where we heard Willow Warbler and Chiff Chaff.
The ground was covered with Orchids and Ragged Robin and large clumps of Deschampsia grass and the odd plant of Crested Dogs tail, Cocks foot and Common Bent. Reed Mace, Greater Spearwort and Skullcap were there amongst others.
Doug found (and I collected) two moth caterpillars, one feeding on Bramble and the other on Ribwort Plantain . We also found some insect eggs on Bramble.
All specimens are now being reared at home! Perhaps someone will be able to recognize and identify these. Might be a Vapourer or Tussock.
RSPB site manager Heather Bennett visited the day afterwards and was impressed with what she found …
From David S. My long-suffering other half Esther has really missed going camping this year, so last weekend with the weather being so fine (seems like a distant memory now), we decided to spend it camping in the garden.
With the tent set up, fire-pit in place, camping chairs ready, a good book and a beer to hand we spent the next two days in the glorious British countryside (imagination required at this point). Thankfully our garden has high fences around it and I keep the borders full of lovely flowers to attract my beloved bees, so it does feel away from the world and you soon forget you are surrounded by other houses.
Esther was comfy with her nose buried in a book and I was scampering around the garden with an ID book, hand lens and capture pot on a bug hunt.
There was a good number of common bumblebee species on the flowers and a selection of solitary bees which I had no hope of identifying apart from two, an Ashy Mining Bee and a Red Mason Bee. The only other thing of note was a cluster of Black Bean Aphids being farmed by some Common Black Ants for the sticky honeydew that they produce. I got a blade of grass and tried to move an aphid to see how the ants would react and I was not disappointed, in a flash a gang of ants were savaging the grass blade.
Later in the afternoon we saw something very unusual, there was a Kestrel doing its trademark hovering right above us at about 60/70 feet, checking out the garden. Not seeing anything it fancied it moved on, and I watched as it systematically worked down the street doing the same thing over each garden before peeling off. In all the years we have lived here we have never seen this before and it made me wonder what had forced it to look for new hunting opportunities.
Finally, I had wrestled into my sleeping bag, got comfy and was just dropping off when we were both brought sharply back to awake by the shrill yelping alarm call of a Little Owl, which sounded really loud in the dead of night. This too was a first for us, we have never heard an owl of any species before in the garden – strange times indeed. Happy camping everyone. Regards, David.
From Adam. Last week I was out walking around Silkstone Common/ Hood Green.
The highlights were spotting a clump of Common Bistort (Bistorta officinalis on the road verge of House Carr Lane, (although I have read that sometimes the more vigorous cultivated version Suberba can escape nearby gardens) and coming across Pignut (Conopodium majus) for the first time this year in the fields below Hood Green
On the topic of insects I have attached a couple of pictures of something that caught my eye in my garden today. After a scan of my insect book it looks to me like Arge pagana – it has an obvious orange abdomen and black stripes on leading edges of wings. I wondered whether anybody in the group had any thoughts?
From Stuart and Lynn. The warm weather of spring appears to have left us for a while here in Penistone and we are back to the normal British mix of wind and rain. But, of course we would probably all agree that we did need some of the wet stuff if only to give the gardens a drink.
With the last of the warm weather I had a walk to look around Wigan Spring near Hartcliffe (on open access land). [It’s in Brockholes Local Wildlife Site]
I was on the hunt for adult stoneflies and caddis however the long dry spell has all but dried the area out. Eventually I did find some water and it was long before I netted some stoneflies and the odd caddis. The adult stoneflies were Leuctra nigra and the adult caddis were Wormaldia occipitalis (archive photo attached). Both would be expected from that habitat but it is always nice to find them.
’Twas the Glorious First of June. I decided to take up David Allen’s kind invitation and had a most enjoyable afternoon in the fresh air, pottering and looking around to see the beautiful wildlife at Highstone Farm. Sunny, warm, 25 degC, no breeze -ideal!
Notable sightings included Azure, Blue-tailed and Large Red Damselflies, 4-Spotted Chasers and Broad-bodied Chasers galore!
The Broad-bodied Chasers kept landing close to me, one almost perched on my foot as I sat by the pond – a thrilling and memorable encounter. I wasn’t able to photograph the Emperor Dragonfly (recently emerged that afternoon) and 4-spotted Chasers that were about around the large pond.
However I photographed a mating pair of Hoverfly, Helophilus pendulus (one of the ‘footballers’) – not witnessed this before.
Small Tortoiseshells, Speckled Woods and Small Whites were about. Lots of Bees everywhere.
The Early Purple Orchids skirted by daisies were also a joy to see. In fact there were lots of flowers in bloom everywhere, both horticultural and wild.
Surprisingly no photographs of birds but many seen and heard: Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Goldfinch, Grey Heron,Magpie, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Swallow, Canada Geese with 3 young and more were all present.
There was however a lovely specimen of Dryad’s Saddle Bracket Fungus Cerioporus squamosus- sometimes known as Pheasant’s Back mushroom.
Rearing Orange Tip butterflies. This week, I have started rearing four Orange Tip caterpillars, found on the seed pods of the Garlic Mustard plants in my garden.
The caterpillars are now indoors, in the gauze cage that I had used originally to rear my Painted Ladies a few years ago. They are still on the same plants (in a small vase) and they are munching away, day and night, at the long seed pods and are hopefully free from parasitic flies, birds etc.
Currently about 12mm long, they will develop (hopefully) to about 3.5cm.
Difficult to see and photograph because of their very small size (short and thin). They are well camouflaged, mimicking the seed pods along which they are resting.
You might notice the presence of small clear beads of liquid topping the black hairs on each caterpillar’s back. No one really knows their purpose, perhaps a guard against predators?
The caterpillars will eventually pupate at the 5th (and final) Instar into a Gondola boat-shaped Chrysalis, fastened to a stem with a silken girdle around its waist and a silk pad at its tail end.
Then it’s a long wait until next Spring when they will metamorphose into beautiful adult (Imago) butterflies.
These caterpillars are cannibalistic and the female Orange Tip usually only lays one egg per plant.
I’m hoping to photo-document their progress if I can, that is if they don’t eat each other! Lots of fun! Alwyn.
From Pete Wall. What a start to @30DaysWild*! A Lesser Stag Beetle popped in to see me at home! Beyond excited! A regular at our house. A bit wet as I was watering!! Cheers Pete. [*A Wildlife Trusts’ initiative for the 30 days in June.]
The unusual record was a mayfly called Ecdyonurus torrentis, this individual was trying to lay eggs on our wet patio (see photo BUT this is not the actual insect I saw, this one is a male of the species).
How it got to our garden I can only guess, the river is only about half a mile away as the mayfly flies but it is certainly not in line of sight and mayflies are not the strongest of flyers. Having said that who am I to try and second guess one the most successful types of flying insect that this planet has ever seen, having been around for over 300 million years. Bye for now, Lynn and Stuart
A request for help with the Barnsley Butterfly Atlas …
Following a suggestion from Alwyn, a trustee of the Barnsley Biodiversity Trust, the Barnsley Butterfly Atlas project was launched in May 2017 by Sorby Natural History Society and Barnsley Biological Record Centre, with support from the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership. The project aims to map the distribution of all the butterfly species found across the area of the borough of Barnsley in the 20 year period from 2000 to 2020. [Perhaps with the lockdown we need an extra year?]
So now we are asked to contribute our records of butterfly sightings … from our usual patch or perhaps somewhere different that has not been recorded so much before.
To get the ball rolling, here are some butterfly records from Peter and Annefie’s walk on Saturday … Date: Saturday 2 May 2020 Location: Falthwaite & Lowe Wood LWS Comment: On Wild Garlic and other flowering plants near Stainborough Dike Grid Reference: 4-figure /1km square: SE3103 [Six-figure reference: from SE318039 to SE314039] Observer: Peter and Annefie Roberts Species: Brimstone (2), Comma (1), Holly Blue (1), Orange-tip (Males & Females, numerous), Small White (numerous), Speckled wood (1).
We will send them to Barnsley Biological Record Centre (BBRC): firstname.lastname@example.org. [Note the change of email address during the lockdown]
Barnsley Nats posts on both twitter [and more occasionally facebook]. You can see what we post, ‘retweet’ and ‘like’ on our social media page.
A twitter post tagged @Barnsley_Nats with an image to identify recently had us thinking. Kent and Doug agreed it was a type of ichneumon wasp. However these are notoriously difficult to id at species level without using a microscope …
We regret that the meetings on the Barnsley Nats programme for Wednesday 18 March, 1 April and 22 April will not take place; and field visits are suspended. In the meantime look out for shared news and information. It’s a result of the escalation in the Covid-19 virus situation and government advice.