Insects were very definitely the theme of my lunchtime walk today, but not quite in the way that I had hoped.
Buoyed by the reports from our guides over the weekend, I set myself the task of tracking down some of our more interesting butterflies. Here, for starters, are the full butterfly and dragonfly lists from last week's butterfly transect, with thnks to our guides Phil and Derek for sharing the lists.
Small skipper - 5
Essex skipper - 3
Small or Essex skipper - 3 (these two species are best separated by the colour of the underside of the antennae, which is not always possible)
Large skipper - 3
Brimstone - 3
Large white - 12
Small white - 3
Green-veined white - 1
Small copper - 28
Brown argus - 2
White admiral - 4
Red admiral - 10
Painted lady - 44
Comma - 13
Silver-washed fritillary - 4
Speckled wood - 11
Meadow brown - 210
Ringlet - 163
Small heath - 38
Azure damselfly - 18
Variable damselfly - 6
Common blue damselfly - 14
Blue-tailed damselfly 14
Hairy dragonfly - 3
Southern hawker - 4
Norfolk hawker - 102
Emperor dragonfly - 2
Four-spotted chaser - 36
Black-tailed skimmer - 30
Common darter - 65
Ruddy darter - 40
Although white admirals and silver-washed fritillaries are now on the wing along the Woodland Trail, I set off along the North Wall and dunes in pursuit of some of our grassland species, with skippers being the particular target. But not before Matt had pointed out a purple hairstreak that was on the Buddleia just outside the visitor centre.
Before reaching the North Wall I paused briefly in Digger Alley to watch several ruby-tailed wasps checking out the burrows of the ornate-tailed and sand-tailed wasps. Pantaloon bees and beewolves have also been seen here today, but my targets lay elsewhere.
My next distraction came among the bird's-foot-trefoil along North Wall. While looking for six-belted clearwing moths I spotted several tiny green-eyed flower-bees - living up to their alternative name of little flower-bees. You can easily pick these tiny bees up by their loud high-pitched buzz, but there was another similar bee alongside them too. This was a bit larger with a distinctive way of feeding as it lifted its tail high (much like a wren). It was generally too quick for any good photos, though I had a bit more luck among the restharrow on the beach. If anyone can identify this bee, please let me know. [Thanks to Steven Falk, author of The field guide to british bees, who has identified this bee (via Twitter) as a silver leafcutter bee - the two silver spots at the end of the abdomen are unique to this species - ed.]
I'm pretty sure that both of the above photos were of the same bee. This one, however, looks like a green-eyed flower-bee taking a rare rest. You can just make out the green eyes.
I couldn't grab any photos of any of the other bees that I saw, or of the sand wasps that were looking for prey in the dunes, but on walking back through the reserve I spotted a few larger green-eyed monsters - Norfolk hawker dragonflies.
I also interrupted this tender moment between two harlequin ladybirds which nicely illustrates the variability in this recently arrived invasive species.
Of course there was birdlife around too, but today I wasn't really looking too hard at the birds. I was rarely out of earshot of screaming gulls and terns - very fitting as it's National Seabird Day. Common and Sandwich terns dashed across the dunes between feeding grounds offshore and their nests on the Scrape. Little tern chicks rested under their wooden shelters. Kittiwakes sat on their favourite perches, while black-headed and Mediterranean gulls were everywhere. Sadly I missed the gorgeous white-winged tern that graced the Scrape over the weekend. I glimpsed avocets, black-tailed godwits, oystercatchers and spotted redshanks,and heard a passing whimbrel calling overhead - much as a few lucky visitors had heard a bee-eater on Saturday.
At Whin Hill last night (while broadcasting with BBC Radio Suffolk) I was treated to great, if distant, views of hunting barn owl, fledgling marsh harriers and a flypast bittern, as well as the grebes, ducks, swans and cormorants that are regular on Island Mere, but it was the family of green woodpeckers that stole the show. You can see three of them on the telegraph pole int his picture.
Finally, no walk around the Scrape in summer is complete without watching the swallows at the sluice, and this one was really posing nicely today as it sang from the top of the signpost.
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