With some beautiful weather over the Easter holidays, it has been wonderful to see the local environment transforming, with ever more wildflowers blooming such as wild primrose, wood anemone and forget-me-not to name a few, trees gradually coming into leaf, and accordingly insects emerging from their long winter slumbers. Having taken a few days off work over the Easter holidays and with the good fortune of some wonderful weather coinciding, this and the next few posts will be a catch up on several visits made to local spots where I enjoy watching wildlife in the past week (in between also trying to repaint a garden summerhouse!), starting with the Quinta arboretum and also the Quinta wildlife trust reserve in Swettenham which is accessed from it.
I headed over to the arboretum on Easter Sunday and Monday with the hope that the fine warm weather would bring out the butterflies. I certainly wasn’t disappointed, and in these visits saw a 'full house' of the UK butterflies that overwinter as adults. A beautifully brightly coloured male Brimstone I only saw in flight – they are strong fliers and I couldn’t follow him to wherever he might have landed. Commas, Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks were present, not in huge numbers, but wonderful to see again. Also, enjoying the flowers of a Pieris was a Red Admiral. These butterflies are generally considered to be migrants to our shores, with large numbers arriving from central Europe in May and June, however there is increasing evidence that some are managing to survive hibernation through our milder winters - it may be that being here in early April means that this was one of them.
|Red Admiral on Pieris flowers|
Willow catkins are magnets to insects at this time of year, so I spent a while watching and photographing the visitors at a couple of willow trees where the catkins were full of pollen, and also many branches were low enough to get close to some of their insect visitors. This was where I saw Comma and Peacock butterflies, also enjoying the catkins were a selection of flies including prettily coloured greenbottles and various hoverflies.
On a previous recent visit to the arboretum, of the bumblebees, I had just seen Tree and Buff-tailed, this time in addition there were Early and White-tailed bumblebees. Lots of tiny solitary bees of different Andrena species were also making the most of this pollen bounty.
|High rise living - Grove snail 10 feet up!|
|Solitary bee (Andrena haemorrhoa?)|
Insects love to bask in the sun, and a smooth warm surface like a bench, post, tree trunk etc, is a great place to find interesting insects. Sharing a bench with a load of flies might not be everyone's idea of fun but armed with a macro lens on the camera I was kept amused for a [worrying?] length of time. Before getting a macro lens, I hadn't paid much attention to hoverflies, but many of them are really quite beautiful, and in some cases (like Rhingia species) interestingly shaped. I'm still very much a novice when it comes to attempts at identifying hoverflies, but for anyone interested in learning more, an excellent book on the subject is 'Britain's Hoverflies, an introduction to the hoverflies of Britain' by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris. Reports can also be submitted to the Hoverfly Recording scheme which is administered by the authors.
|Male hoverfly - Syrphus torvus|
|Eristalis pertinax hoverflies, male left, female right|
Checking back at the Pieris again on my way out, I found a tiny ladybird I didn't recognise, about 3-4 mm long. From looking at the UK ladybird survey website, I think this is another colour variation of a 10-spot ladybird, quite different from the 10-spot seen previously which had a ground colour of orange and more clearly defined black spots - these colour variations all adding to the fun of trying to identify these tiny creatures I find on my forays into their micro worlds!