Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Early autumn macro

All too quickly summer is gradually fading into autumn, most of the birds have fallen silent and the nights are noticeably drawing in. I've even seen the first of the Christmas decorations appearing for sale!  Exceptions to the quiet bird rule have been the local Robins, birds in which both sexes sing, and they also do so right through the winter. After an absence through much of August it is a joy to see these charismatic birds back again, singing and scolding in turn.
After a cool and largely cloudy couple of weeks, yesterday was a day of glorious sunshine, and not being in work the obvious thing to do was head out with the camera to make the most of the dwindling days (for this year at least), of being able to enjoy insect macro photography. I headed over to the Quinta arboretum and Wildlife Trust reserve of the same name in the small Cheshire village of Swettenham. My impression has been that this summer has been fairly poor for butterflies generally, however today, late in the butterfly season, my spirits were lifted to see a number of different species. A male Brimstone with his vibrant lemon yellow wings enjoyed lavender, Large, Small and Green-veined whites visited the last flowers of Green Alkanet, as did a surprisingly late Holly Blue. A rather old and faded Red Admiral lazed on nettle leaves, and a beautiful Small Tortoiseshell enjoyed the late flowering hydrangea and Colutea plant. Speckled Wood butterflies flew along rides of dappled sunlight, one which caught my attention was an individual with a large chunk of one forewing missing, though still flew surprisingly well.

Male Brimstone

Small Tortoiseshell

Small White butterfly
Speckled Wood butterfly (nearly half of the furthest forewing is missing)

Hoverflies were plentiful too, mostly they looked to be Eristalis species, but amongst the flowers of a selection of Hebes I watched the distinctive large and beautiful hoverfly that is Volucella pellucens, also known as the Great Pied hoverfly due to their markings and large size (also one of the few hoverflies where I can be confident of the ID without needing to look them up!). 

Volucella pellucens (female)

Clambering through pine needles was an adult Forest bug, a type of large shield bug.
Forest bug (Pentatoma rufipes)

The rich bounty of autumn was everywhere I looked with Rowan berries ripening on the trees, and the deepest purple of blackberries ready to be picked. (Something I love at this time of year is a few berries along the way of my walks, though at the risk of stating the obvious, only take ones which are out of the range of peeing dogs (or humans for that matter!!!!).) Acorns were ripening on oak trees, but as well as the regular acorns were acorns with Knopper galls, caused by the developing larvae of the Andricus quercuscalicis wasp. 

Knopper gall (and an out of focus Spangle gall)

A pleasure to watch was this solitary bee, about the size of a honey bee and with a pollen 'brush' on her abdomen, I think this is a type of leaf cutter bee (I'm always interested to hear if anyone can confirm or correct my ID attempts). Visiting each flower entailed some contortions and back arching as the photo below hopefully shows, to reach the nectar within. 
Solitary bee, perhaps a leaf-cutter?

Other solitary bees I noticed were considerably smaller, the one here on Hebe flowers being barely one centimetre in length, which I think is Lasioglossum leucozonium.   

Lasioglossum leucozonium?


  1. Another really interesting blog Jan. Great to see that you still have so many butterflies and other interesting insects around. It's amazing what a little sunshine brings out!

    1. Thanks Dougie there really haven't been enough warm sunny days this summer, I can't believe it's already autumn (and that thoughts are starting to turn to Christmas......!).