Bugs For My Birthday

It was my birthday at the beginning of this week – not a big birthday, but a high enough number to make me realise that 30 is creeping closer. Although to be honest, I’m quite excited. They (the mysterious ‘They’!) say that your thirties are better than your twenties!

No matter my age, I was determined to have a nice nature-filled day. Originally I had planned to spend the day at RSPB Minsmere, but then Storm Katie arrived with howling winds and plenty of rain. Instead I had a relaxed morning at home, eating homemade cake (made my Matt) and drinking many cups of tea!

Once the weather had calmed itself down in the afternoon, a few friends and I visited a local nature reserve, Overhall Grove. It was a really sweet reserve, apparently both an Ancient Woodland and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and I look forward to returning there again over the coming seasons. Some of the friends accompanying me are also into nature, so we got stuck in with trying to find some good species. I’ve added a few more species to my pan-species list – including Cauliflower Fungus (Sparassis crispa), a new beetle species (Abax parallelepipedus) and Median Wasp (Dolichovespula media). Although I haven’t identified everything just yet, I am getting there gradually.

In addition to the new species, there were a number of 7-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella 7-punctata) about. I am always thrilled to see them as they are a sign that winter is over! Spring has started and summer is not too far away! There was even a butterfly – but it flew away from us and we couldn’t identify it. It was quite a funny sight, particularly for my friends that aren’t into nature – 4 adults running across the field after a butterfly! Bring on much more butterfly (and moth!) chasing this year.

There’s not so much else to add. I had hoped to hear a Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), which would’ve been my first of the year. But no luck, and I still haven’t heard one since. As I have said above, I look forward to returning there across the current seasons so I am sure I shall hear one there at some point!

Now this looks like a job for me

As the title suggests, I am no longer unemployed! However, before I get onto that good news, I would like to take a detour over to Kent where my parents and I headed out onto the river on their boat. Mind you, before even got onto the boat, I was distracted by a daisy! The sunlight was shining on it in particularly lovely way and I just had to take a couple of photographs! It was a stunning day, warm and blessed with sunshine – I could hear Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and Greenfinches (Carduelis chloris) on the riverbanks, and we saw plenty of waterfowl including Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) and a rather handsome Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata). There were huge swathes of blossom ladening the air with their sweet smell.

Naturally, I got a little distracted by insects – I managed to get a decent photo of a bee-fly (Bombyliidae) before we took to the water, and once on the water it seemed like the insects wanted some attention! A number of beetles landed on the boat, as did a wasp and an (as yet) unidentified creature.

Onto the job. Do you remember that I spent six months with Dorset Wildlife Trust last year before I was snapped up for a job at Radnorshire Wildlife Trust? I was a trainee, funded by the Heritage Lottery, based at their Chesil Beach Centre. Well, now they’ve taken me back as an employee for 6 months, based jointly at Chesil and Lorton Meadows. And I get to do what I love, talking about wildlife to people (and seeing wildlife at the same time of course)! What a thrilling summer it is set to be!

My first day back immediately set a high standard. Vicky and I were asked to find the Barrel Jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo) that had been reported on Hamm Beach – which we did. But being naturalists, we also took note of the other wildlife about! I was trying to remind myself of the specialist coastal plants about, and getting distracted by bees and butterflies!

I even found my first moths for Dorset this year – three hairy caterpillars! The first was an unknown to me initially, but using an educated guess, I went for Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa). The other two were both immediately recognisable – Garden Tiger (Arctia caja).

Now that I’m back in Dorset, I’m afraid you’re going to be seeing a lot of stunning landscape photos. I hope you can put up with that.

The evening of my first day back saw me heading up to the Isle of Portland on my first twitch of the year, a Hoopoe (Upupa epops) had been reported at one of the quarries. Meeting up with Sean, we made our way to the area in hope. Chatting away (quietly) as we approached where it was last seen, I suddenly said “Is that it there?” Just on the path in front, maybe 20m away, a Hoopoe! These birds fly up from Africa to southern Europe, and some always overshoot and end up in the UK, but I’d never seen one before. What a fantastic bird it is! Just look at that plumage!

And on a related note – I’ve completely now ticked off another of my 2015 Wildlife Resolutions: to go one at least one twitch!

I’m not always out and about looking for wildlife, sometimes I look for wildlife in the garden too. The species below were all seen in my landlady’s garden – the Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) and Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) butterflies were my first for the year! As was the Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria), which was rather amusing as I was on the phone to Matt when I saw it, causing me to put him on hold. Fortunately he understood and was ok with that, phew!

At the weekend, I went on a busman’s holiday and visited Butterfly Conservation‘s Lankham Bottom reserve (I still can’t help giggling at that name). That was exciting too – as well as being a stunning reserve, I saw a Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) and a Red Kite (Milvus milvus)!

The highlight however came in the form of (very) small butterfly, darting about in a blur among the grass. My initial thought (whilst it was still a blur) was perhaps a day-flying moth. However, as soon as it landed, I knew what it was – a very distinctive butterfly species, the Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae). My breath caught in my mouth, I almost froze in astonishment / excitement. My first new butterfly species of the year! And what a beauty it was! Much smaller than I thought it would be (it really is tiny!), and unfortunately a species whose distribution is declining. Such as treat to see it. Could I manage to get a photo? It was rather restless, but it did land every now and then. Luck (and perhaps a little bit of photography skill on my part?) was on my side and I got a few satisfactory shots. Crikey!

Wait a moment, that means that I’ve half-completed another wildlife resolution of 2015 – to see 2 new species of butterfly! And what with offers to help me see at least three more, it looks like I’ll be ticking off that resolution as completed soon!

Just before I sign off, I would like to direct you to over to the A Focus On Nature blog, where there are a series of posts being published in the run-up to the general election as members of the network discuss their Vision for Nature (also on Twitter using the hashtag: #VisionforNature). As well as pointing you in that direction because the posts make for very interesting reads, it’s also because I’m co-ordinating the publishing of these blogs (so a little bit of self-interest I won’t lie). I am partway through drafting my post, which shall be published in due course and will appear on my own blog of course.