JERSEY TIGER MOTHS IN FRANCE & ENGLAND


Jersey Tiger Moths  Euplagia quadripunctaria, are widely distributed throughout Europe. Once rare in Britain, they are now increasingly found in the South of England. Recently we spotted one in the eastern Pyrenees one evening. It wasn’t very close and I had only a small camera with me so the results aren’t startling. However, the photos give a fair idea of this very pretty moth. 

Jersey Tiger Moth, Ceret, FranceJersey Tiger Moth, Ceret, France

I knew at once what sort of moth this was, because we had found one – the only one I’ve ever seen before – in our garden in Dorset last year, and I to go through the usual online process to ID it.

jersey-tiger-moth-dorset-3-copy

A more professional photo… (Wiki)ecaille_chinee_-_euplagia_quadripunctaria_havre_begique_3

The Wrong Sort of Tiger Moth… “CHOCKS AWAY”tiger-moth-1-copy

DARCY WITH BUTTERCUPS


Darcy & Buttercups 3Darcy & Buttercups 2Darcy & Buttercups 1Darcy & Buttercups-1Darcy & Buttercups-2

MEGACHILE CENTUNCULARIS: LEAF-CUTTER BEES IN DORSET


Bee box on a wall, Dorset

This is the first year that leaf-cutter bees have discovered the bee box placed invitingly on a south-facing wall – and only in the last month. Or maybe they had and didn’t like the box. Or the other occupants. Anyway, quite soon they had tenanted the remaining holes in the prestige penthouse log. Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

Last week, the LCBs were quite active, so from time to time I watched them. The first one was completing its work in the top-right log on the lower storey. Having packed in the leaves, it spent quite some time perfecting the job, leaving a smooth end to the bright green plug.

Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, DorsetBee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, DorsetBee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

Later on I saw a bee engaged in an earlier stage of construction. It chose the same log, and initially went for the middle hole, disappearing with a strip of leaf. It then revised its accommodation plans, reversed out with the leaf and took it to the adjacent hole.

Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, DorsetBee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, DorsetBee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

I found the bees surprisingly difficult to photograph. I had to change cameras to a ‘faster’ one, because a bee would zoom back to the hole with its leaf and dive straight in, dragging the leaf behind it; and emerge suddenly and fly off at speed. Sometimes there was a struggle to get the leaf into the hole, which helped take a shot; or I could see the bee pause in the dark but quite close to the entrance before flying off. But mostly, the comings and goings took me by surprise every time, even though I was ready for them…

Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, DorsetBee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

I checked the plants in the vicinity for the tell-tale semi-circles cut out of the leaves. They seem to have liked a nearby rose and another plant whose name I forget (if I ever knew). They use saliva to glue the cuttings together to build the cells for their larvae. The larvae have a safe place to hatch and develop. They pupate in the autumn and hibernate during the winter. Now that the leaf-cutters have found the box, we are hoping that next year the new generation will go through the whole process again. And that I will be more handy with the camera.

NOTE: I see that these bees are often called Leafcutter bees, or Leaf Cutter bees, whereas I have plumped for a hyphen. I’m going (having retrospectively checked) with the Natural History Museum’s version…

HOVERFLY IN DORSET (Helophilus trivittatus)


Hoverfly (Helophilus trivittatus) Dorset 15

While photographing bees last week I encountered a smartly marked hoverfly.  I was particularly impressed by its striped head. I have to admit that until I looked into it, I has assumed that there were maybe half a dozen different species in the UK. I’ve never really examined them closely until this one flew into my lens range.

Hoverfly (Helophilus trivittatus) Dorset 13

How wrong I was. Fortunately by googling ‘hoverfly ID’ my first hit was a wonderful site about the natural history of Rutland and Leicestershire called NATURESPOT.  The link will take you to their hoverfly page, from which you will learn that “There are over 280 species of hoverflies in Britain and around 140 of these have been recorded in Leicestershire and Rutland”.

Hoverfly (Helophilus trivittatus) Dorset 14

Additional useful information includes this lightly edited précis:

  • Many have black and yellow markings and are often confused with bees and wasps
  • Hoverflies are totally harmless and are definitely a gardener’s friend
  • The larvae of several common species have a voracious appetite for aphids
  • Very few hoverflies have common names
  • Those that exist (e.g. “The Footballer”) are not always widely known or agreed
  • However the Latin names of all the species are accepted

Hoverfly (Helophilus trivittatus) Dorset 18

This is the best (though somewhat average) in-flight shot, included to show the trailing back legsHoverfly (Helophilus trivittatus) Dorset 03

I had to scroll quite far down the hoverfly page to reach the striped-headed ones. Here’s a clip of the part that I used for a clear ID as Helophilus trivittatus. I highly recommend Naturespot not just for hoverflies, but for many different species. It may be local to a specific area, but it is a mine of information for the UK generally, and very well organised.

IMG_1478

Hoverfly weblink: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/taxonomy/term/19415

SPARROW CHICKS IN DORSET


Our house provides nesting opportunities for sparrows on all sides. Somewhat ramshackle, with plenty of holes in the thick walls and under the eaves, it is perfect for the communal sparrow lifestyle. Every year we think of filling the holes, and then to decide not to. The sparrows do no harm. We’d miss them. Here are some chicks in the most easily accessible hole for photography. It is used every year, usually twice. An iPhone is best for the purpose because the flash is right next to the lens.

Sparrow Chicks, Dorset 01 Sparrow Chicks, Dorset 02 Sparrow Chicks, Dorset 03 Sparrow Chicks, Dorset 04 Sparrow Chicks, Dorset 05 Sparrow Chicks, Dorset 06 Sparrow Chicks, Dorset 07 Sparrow Chicks, Dorset 10

Gable End Wall 2
Gable End date

ORANGE TIP BUTTERFLY, DORSET


There’s a time and place for resorting to an iPhone for close shots. The time is when your camera is not handy – possibly 3 or 4 counties away; the place is where you are right now, when an orange tip – so often a skittish species – decides to choose a plant to land on and to stay there for a while.Orange Tip Butterfly, Dorset 3

The technique for getting reasonably sharp pictures with an iPhone is this: take 20 – 30 rapid shots of the subject, holding the phone at varying distances from it until you get too close and the creature flies away. This specialist process is necessary because it is impossible to be sure what the camera has actually focused on and what the optimum distance for the shot actually is. This may be a question of distance, angle or lighting – or any combination. These were the best of them – but I also got some great detailed shots of the flowers and their stems, with the butterfly a smear of orange and white.

Orange Tip Butterfly, Dorset 4

These images are never going to make the grade in the aggressively contested photograph section of the village art and craft show (unless there’s a special iPhone group, perhaps). But they are better than I was expecting, with reasonably sharp ‘buds’, as I think the blobs on the end of the feelers are called. That’s the first thing I look at when deleting butterfly photos…
Orange Tip Butterfly, Dorset 1

BEES GOING ABOUT THEIR BUSINESS (1)


Dorset honey bee in flightDorset honey bee on HyssopDorset honey bee on HyssopDorset honey bee on HyssopDorset honey bee on HyssopDorset honey bee on HyssopDorset Honeybee on HyssopDorset Honey bee on runner bean flower

COMMON BLUE BUTTERFLY, DORSET


These exceptionally pretty little butterflies were prolific in the garden in late July and early August. However an autumnal chill arrived around the 18th. A few remained, but I saw only one or two last week. 

Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 1Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 2 Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 3 Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 4 Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 5 Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 6

SKIPPERS (NON-NAUTICAL) IN DORSET


Two skippers taken recently in Dorset, before the rains came. Then, as the rain has poured over the garden, so I have pored over my ‘Dummy’s Guide to Lepidoptera’ to work out what type of skipper this is. Or should I say, ‘these are’, because although the photos are not particularly good, these two creatures look different to me. But that could just be the angle of the “sun”, whatever that was.  Any hints from those kind enough to glance at this woefully under-curated ‘side-project’ blog would be welcome!

STOP PRESS Mike Kelly has been kind enough to leave this comment about these two skipper species:  the first one  “…COULD be Essex Skipper, the antenna tips are not clear enough to be certain. The 3 below are Small Skipper”.

Skipper Butterfly, Dorset Skipper Butterfly, Dorset Skipper Butterfly, Dorset

The same type of skipper? Or another, maybe? [PS A Small Skipper – see above]

Skipper Butterfly, DorsetSkipper Butterfly, Dorset Skipper Butterfly, Dorset

WHITE-TAILED BUMBLEBEES, DORSET


Whitchurch Canonicorum, Blandford Forum, Toller Porcorum and Bombus Lucorum – all very Dorset names.  Except the last of course. Here are a few of them, feasting on hyssop. The first one is launching himself on his way to the next stem.

White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), Dorset