A few photos taken in July and August of swallows in Dorset. Our recently installed upgraded electricity cables are ridiculously large, but at least they provide a solid perch for the birds. The adult swallows shown are followed by a young trainee swallow nabbing a passing insect; and some cute fledglings including one (penultimate) who decides to call for its food the easy way – and the compliant parent…
I’ve been waiting for these tiny butterflies to appear, but this is the only one I have seen this year, and then for only a minute or two. Then Hurricane Bertha’s tail-end arrived and the butterflies have all but disappeared except for the occasional large white fluttering round. The flowers this one was visiting are tiny; and the butterfly looks small, even on them.
RECENT BUTTERFLY POSTS
I photographed this bird yesterday in Warwickshire. It was hanging out with several ‘normal’ white geese on the banks of the Avon at Bidford, yet it was not like them. I’ve had a look online for a goose breed with blue eyes, orange eye liner, an orange beak speckled with black and a bulbous forehead. I’ve found nothing like this. The answer may be that it the age or seasonal stage of a particular goose species. Or a strange swan-cross: a swoose or gwan? The last photo shows the whole creature. I’d welcome a definitive ID (it may be completely obvious, but my mind has gone blank on this one… ).
Speckled Woods have just started to appear. Unlike most of the other species in the garden, they are eschewing the flowerbeds in favour of the hedgerows. I saw my first one a couple of days ago in the vegetable garden, but it was by the hedge there and not on the flower side. So maybe its name – and its unshowy dappled colouring – says something about its preferred habitat.
Planting hyssop and other bee- / butterfly- / moth-friendly plants in a resurrected border last summer is paying dividends this year. Butterflies and moths that I have never seen (noticed) in the garden before have taken to the new arrangements in a big way. This is the only painted lady I have seen this year, and she didn’t stay long – but I’m glad she paused briefly when I was right there with a camera…
It doesn’t take much to stump me in the natural world, even with online resources. But what the heck is this little bugger I photographed today? It’s probably obvious; maybe it’s an insect in an intermediate state of metamorphosis. Or something. But I’ve never seen one before. Or if I have, I didn’t notice it. The last time I found a mystery insect (not in the UK), it turned out to be a spider or pepsis wasp, also known as a tarantula hawk, which has the second most painful sting of any insect. I posted about this creature in my main blog HERE, but here is an excerpt dealing with the sting and the ‘pain scale’. The sting of these wasps is among the most painful of any insect, though the most intense pain lasts on a few minutes. Entomologist Justin Schmidt bravely submitted himself to the stings of various insects and described this pain as “…immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations.” Schmidt produced his SCHMIDT STING PAIN INDEX The pain scale, based on 78 species, runs from 0 to 4, with 4 given for the most intense pain. Spider Wasps of the species Pepsis – i.e. Tarantula Hawks – have a sting rating of 4.0, described as “blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath” Only the bite of the Bullet Ant (not found on Abaco!) is ranked higher, with a 4.0+ rating, vividly described as “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel”
ADDENDUM (within 2 hours of posting!)
I knew someone would ride to the rescue. Jessica Winder of the excellent blog http://natureinfocus.wordpress.com has come up with the answer – see Comments for details. Suffice it to say that this creature has the Monty Pythonesque name Gasteruption Jaculator (there are other… no. Im not going down that road). It is a parasitic wasp. WIKI says “The head and thorax are completely black. The head is strongly rounded, the thorax is elongated in a sort of long neck, which separates the head from the body. The abdomen is strongly stretched, broader at the posterior end and placed on the upper chest. The colour of the abdomen is black, with reddish-orange rings. The tibiae of the hind legs are club shaped. In the female the ovipositor is usually very long with a white tip. In resting position, these wasps slowly and rhythmically raise and lower the abdomen. The females of this parasitic wasp lays its eggs by its long ovipositor on the body of larvae of solitary bees or wasps. On hatching its young larvae will devour grubs and supplies of pollen and nectar of its victim. The adults grow up to 10–17 millimetres (0.39–0.67 in) long and can mostly be encountered from May through September feeding on Apiaceae species.”