After last week's unsettled weather it's been great to see spring return again this week, with unbroken blue skies and almost no wind bring the insects out in force. My walk to East Hide this afternoon took a little longer than expected as I was regularly distracted by insects.
First there was my first hairy dragonfly of the year hawking around the pond. When it did eventually settle, it did so in a position where I couldn't get a photograph, which was very frustrating. Luckily, my first large red damselfly of the spring was a bit more obliging as it rested on bramble leaves close to the East Hide gate.
In fact, this spot was a haven for insects today, many of which were attracted to single flowering hawthorn bushes that was clearly a bit of a sun trap. The star species here was green hairstreak, with at least four of these tiny iridescent butterflies proving very popular with visitors.
One of our volunteer guides was also lucky enough to watch a broad-bordered bee-hawkmoth feeding around the same bush. This is a scarce species here in spring, though it is more regular in June and July. At first glance it looks very similar to a hummingbird hawkmoth. Sadly it had moved on before I arrived.
I was, however, distracted with trying to photograph some of the many bee and flies that were nectaring in the same bush. If anyone knows the ID of any of the following species, please let me know. This is some sort of fly
I think this is one of the nomad bees
This is a hoverfly, but which?
Probably the same nomad bee as above?
These were from the only species present, but most refused to settle for my camera. Other insects that were spotted elsewhere today included peacock, comma, brown argus and small copper butterflies, cinnabar moths, four-spotted chaser butterflies and ashy mining-bees.
Of course, if you are looking for insects then warm, sunny weather is a bonus, but it also helps when there's a good variety of flowers out for them to feed on. Some of the species that are now beginning to flower around the reserve include common stork's-bill, sheep's sorrel, changing forget-me-not, red clover, common bird's-foot-trefoil, sea kale and this beautiful patch of thrift in the dunes between East Hide and the North Wall.
Having been distracted by insects and flowers, there was still time to spot some of the birds on the Scrape. This adult little was particularly obliging as it swam close to East Hide.
Later it settled on an island to preen, allowing an excellent comparison with other gulls and terns. in the photo below you can see, from left to right, common tern, common gull, little gull, black-headed gull, three Sandwich terns and another black-headed gull.
I even tried my hand at flight shots and was quite pleased with these two:
Sandwich tern (above) and hovering common tern (below)
Perhaps the star bird on the Scrape this week has been a little ringed plover that has been seen a couple of times. Other migrant waders have included greenshank, bar-tailed godwit, knot, dunlin, sanderling, a couple of little stints, several grey plovers and a few whimbrels. Other birds to look out for on the Scrape include little terns, kittiwakes, the nesting pair of bar-headed geese, barnacle geese, little egrets, teal, shovelers and shelducks, like this stunner.
Reedbed wildlife, by it's very nature, is usually more elusive, but this week many of our visitors have been treated to incredible views of otters, bitterns, hobbies, marsh harriers, cuckoos and bearded tits, with a family of the latter seen close to the North Wall this morning. The Savi's warbler is still singing intermittently at Island Mere, but it should be easier to hear, and perhaps even see, reed, sedge and Cetti's warblers. I was very pleased to see the reed warbler singing in full view.
Finally, don't forget to check the woodland and scrub areas for warblers, woodpeckers, tits and insects, or perhaps a turtle dove around Whin Hill.
Yes, quite right, sorry Ian. The scutellum is the clincher, of course.
I don't think the first hoverfly is V. pellucens as it was nowhere near big enough - I'm familiar with that species later in the summer. Two other people have identified it as Leucozona lucorum, which appears to match my photo. The flight season is typically much earlier too. Apparently this hoverfly is also known as the lesser Galloway hoverfly (as opposed to V. pellucens being the Galloway hoverfly) or the blotch-winged hoverfly.
C. cautum confirms the ID that I've had from others. It's English name is apparently the large wasp hoverfly, which certainly appears to fit well
1. Volucella pellucens2. Chrysotoxum cautum
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