Author Archives: muscateer

Hedgehog near Alder Pond

Hedgehog

Some members of Fairfield Association and North Lancashire Wildlife Group met yesterday evening for a Lichen, Moss and Invertebrate Walk. It was a warm and still evening – perfect for being out and enjoying the wildlife. Although not a lichen, moss or an invertebrate one of the highlights was seeing a hedgehog right next to Alder Pond. It was quite aware of us but was not inclined to rush off so we took a few photos.

 

Orchard Bee-fly

In the Orchard area today (05.05.2017) and so many animals flying around now, despite being a windy day. Seeing several old favourites for the first time this year which is always a good feeling but the highlight must be seeing the Dark-edged Bee-fly here for the first time at Fairfield.

Fly of the Day – Bombylius major
One of 11 species that we have in the Bombyliidae family of flies and a fairly common one seen in a variety of habitats including gardens occasionally. It looks like a smallish chestnut bumblebee with a long proboscis which might look a bit like a stinger but this fly is totally harmless to humans. The proboscis is able to get the deep nectar from primroses, etc. It is looking to lay its eggs by the nests of solitary bees so that its larvae can attack them although it often doesn’t ‘lay’ but rather fires its eggs using rapid back and forth flying motions. The female has a special ‘sand chamber’ in which it can mix sand and dust with the eggs to give them more weight so that it can fire them more effectively! This photo was taken at the start of the orchard at the Sunnyside Lane end.

bombilius-major

Hoverflies in the Orchard

Lovely sunny day so visited the Orchard this afternoon (23.04.2017) to enjoy the wildlife. So much buzzing about! I like the top path – the path is mown but the vegetation around is allowed to grow. Lots of interesting flies, bees and wasps make use of this. Lots of Speckled Wood butterflies and male Orange-tip Butterflies. Saw over a dozen of the latter but no females with their black tipped wings.

Spent some time watching which insects were visiting the apple blossom. Most numerous were the honey bees, these being followed by several species of hoverflies and other flies, with finally just a few solitary bees. There are many factors influencing numbers such as time of day, weather and, not least, the influence of the observer (me). Social and solitary bees are fairly tolerant of human proximity but flies are much more ready to fly or stay away at any sign of human movement.

Hoverflies are called the gardener’s friend because not only are they valuable pollinators but in their larval stage (the caterpillar stage) many are voracious aphid carnivores. I took a photo of two species of hoverfly on the apple blossom – a Syrphus (black and yellow wasp-mimic) and a Platycheirus albimanus. It is just possible to see that the Syrphus is a male (the eyes meet at the top of the head) and the P. albimanus is a female (the eyes are separated at the top of the head).

Two hoverflies

Two hoverflies

Fly of the Day – Platycheirus albimanus
A widespread and familiar hoverfly that likes woodland margins, hedgerows and gardens and that is especially conspicuous in May. The larval stages are predaceous on aphids on various plants and bushes including on apple trees so they, and other hoverfly larvae, will be important contributors to Orchard health.

Platycheirus albimanus

Platycheirus albimanus

Dung

Lovely sunny day (27.03.17) so made a brief visit to the Lucy Brook area in Upper Sowerholme. Things are starting to hot up in terms of insect activity – very exciting to think about all the interesting small animals to be seen as this new year progresses! As the flowers develop we will see dozens of attractive hoverfly species and many more insects drawn to the nectar and pollen on offer – but there are other things on offer.

The Common Yellow Dung Fly, Scathophaga stercoraria, is everywhere and will be all year, It is one of the most abundant and ubiquitous of British flies and is named after the furry, golden-yellow males (the females are greenish and not furry). The cows on Fairfield provide suitable resources for a range of species and no-one who has walked past fresh cow pats will have failed to notice the large (up to 1 cm) yellow flies that are disturbed by your approach… one of the many animals performing a vital function, helping us avoid being knee-deep in waste matter!

Fly of the Day – Sepsis punctum
Many of these wing-wavers around at the moment. One of 29 species in the Sepsidae family, most of which are also coprophagous animals. Fairfield has at least 4 species that look the same without microscopic identification and that all use dung (at different stages in its freshness) in their life cycle. They are often quite visible and unmistakeable in their behaviour. About 3-5 mm in size, looking ant-like with constricted waists and glossy, mostly black bodies, their wings have a black spot at the end and they walk about on vegetation waving their wings up and down in a very distinctive and noticeable manner. No-one has yet given a definitive explanation for why they do this!

Wing-waver

Wing-waver

East side of Fauna

Visited the east side of Fauna around Upper Sowerholme last Monday (06.03.2017) around midday to see what Diptera might be about.

[ Diptera? There are over 7000 species of true flies (as opposed to butterflies, mayflies, etc.) in Britain and they are a vitally important group of insects – as indicators of the health and biodiversity of an area, as pollinators that can be of equal or even greater importance than bees, as crucial agents of the disposal of organic matter, and far more. ]

Still early in the year and not much flying about… a few groups of non-biting midges dancing low down near the water and the occasional small fly flitting away near the ground. As is often the case, a range of species is most easily visible on the fence panels along the path – saw species from the bluebottle family, dungfly family and more.

Fly of the Day – Geomyza tripunctata
One of 16 species that we have in the Opomyzidae family of flies. Widespread across Britain and found in grassy habitats. Swept fair numbers from grasses and saw one on a fence panel. There will be many thousands across Fairfield. Only 3-4 mm long but with distinctive wing markings that give it its name. Adults from March to November, peaking in April so do look out for this attractive animal sitting on grasses or leaves (or fences!).
Photo: H. Baas, courtesy ‘free nature images’

Three-spot Geomyza

Three-spot Geomyza

Also saw about 20 jackdaws wheeling low over the Hay Meadow and later saw half a dozen or so hanging about on the path fences and the ground nearby.