Monthly Archives: March 2017

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

Solitary bees

We met a young couple on the Pads footpath today taking a close interest in the bank to the side of the path. We stopped for a chat and the young man was an entomologist studying for his PhD researching solitary bees. Apparently there are over two hundred species and most of the apple blossom pollinating in the Orchard is done by such creatures rather than the honey bees we assume do the work. They had been inspecting some bees nests in the bank and lo and behold a bee was at work apparently spring cleaning his / her nest.

I also spotted a brown hare yesterday in the field adjacent to West Field.

Ploughed field

On Saturday there were 4 white wagtail (the continental race of pied wagtail) with 22 pied wagtail + 3 stock dove in the freshly ploughed field, mid afternoon.
On Sunday, a pair of grey partridge were present. Still a few fieldfare and redwing in Pony Wood.

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.

More people than snipe?

A glorious sunny morning had brought out the walkers to enjoy the delights of the reserve. Unfortunately we were not able to entertain them with clouds of snipe rising into the air. A measly total of 31 (including  4 possible jacks). A far cry from the record 160 flushed at this time last year. For the season as a whole though, the count is much the same as for winter 2015/16. The breakdown was 1 in the Hay Meadow (presence of the cattle for the past couple of days may have disturbed the birds here), 7 in School Pond, 4 in Upper Sowerholme and 19 in Big Meadow. The teal are still in evidence on School Pond – 11 birds flew off as we plodded through. Also a moorhen in School Pond, heron and reed bunting in Big Meadow, a wren and a long tailed tit in the willows near Anna’s Pool.