Thursday
Dec012016

A winter's day

A bright, cold, clear winter's day at Bosherston Lily Ponds.  Some areas of water were still covered with ice at lunchtime, and many birds seemed somewhat bemused at landing on something solid.  

Tuesday
Nov012016

Broad-leaved Dock

Docks always seem a bit daunting to ID at any stage, but the seeds can be helpful at this time of year.

This particular plant probably had a second lease of life after being mown earlier in the summer.  Plants in nearby fields were brown and dried up, but this one on the roadside looked fairly fresh.  There were even some flowers at the top of the stem.

These individual fruits are spiky, with a single rounded wart, which will turn reddish later as it ripens.

Those two characteristics narrow it down to broad-leaved dock Rumex obtusifolius here in Pembrokeshire. Fiddle dock has spiky fruits with three warts, while the overall plant structure and distribution was wrong for marsh dock.

It usually has long heart-shaped basal leaves, but on this plant they were smaller - probably again from it having been cut back at some time.  But then again, this species hybridises with curled dock, which has much small basal leaves, and untoothed seeds.

Monday
Oct312016

Landshipping sunset

Hard to believe it's the end of October. But once the clocks go back, and it's getting dark in the afternoon, it starts to hit home.  

The weather has been glorious, one of the dryest Octobers on record.  The sun has been shining all day, so getting out and enjoying the end of it was better than nothing.  A late wheatear landed on the sea wall, panicked at the sight of a human and flew off again, only to be confronted by a cat, so it moved on again.

There was no wind, and the only water movement seemed to come from fish, unseen below the surface.  Wigeon and Teal moved from one side of the quay to the other, as people occasionally walked along the shore.  A small group of dunlin harboured a single curlew sandpiper.  Redshank and greenshank called above the noise of traffic.  There shouldn't be much noise of traffic here - but it was carrying far on the still air.  A peregrine caused a flurry of activity as it chased a black-tailed godwit - and a flock of lapwing moved out of the way.  Then it all calmed down again, and the traffic noise abated somewhat as distant tractors left the fields and returned to the farmyards.

Tuesday
Oct042016

Oxybellus uniglumis

I encountered this little fellow - well, two of them actually - on Skokholm Island, while I was looking for bees.  I thought it was a bee, until today when I looked at the specimen through a microscope.  It didn't key out properly.  Even working backwards from what I thought it was didn't help.  So, bring in the experts on the Facebook UK Bees, Wasps and Ants Group.  Within minutes, I had an answer - Thanks Stephen and Matt.

So, it is a wasp called Oxybellus uniglumis - no common name.  I needed to know more. The only book I had that referenced it told me very little.  It nests in sand, and carries its prey back to the nest by impaling in on its sting.  But see below.

Google to the rescue now. The first few results gave me a few photos and taxonomic listings.  The next result was Nature Conservation Imaging - Jeremy Early's photography site.  And he's obviously done some research into wasps and other critters in sandpits and heathland. What follows is a small section from one page - it's worth looking at for the fascinating information as well as his photos.

If prizes were awarded to Hymenoptera, Oxybelus uniglumis would be a prime candidate for top honours. They are among the fastest hunters in the business, with an observer decades ago timing six flies caught in five minutes. The wasp in the first two images alongside caught five in six minutes at the sandpit. By expert observation elsewhere, the burrow of up to 12cm can be dug in two hours or so with two or three cells and up to 16 flies then placed in each cell. 

A female can dig and complete more than one nest each day, this despite the time added on by taking the trouble to cover the entrance whenever the wasp goes hunting. 

Clearly this exponent of life in the fast lane shows remarkable efficiency and strength, along with a phenomenal ability to generate sufficient poison for the job in hand – even though the flies are paralysed with only one sting, there are still an awful lot of stings required for each nest. 

Moreover, the prey, after being carried back to within a metre or so of the burrow by the female, uniquely is then deposited briefly and impaled on the sting before being carted into the nest forwards. 

Perhaps the prize for astonishing carriage goes to the second Oxybelus uniglumis pictured, with a greenbottle. Unsurprisingly she found it hard work flying with such bulk beneath, tending to keep low, but managed it all the same for some quite some distance. This perhaps confirmed that aerodynamically, invertebrates are among the most intriguing of all creatures, with wasps and their prey in pole position. If they are not studied closely by humans in the military or civilian spheres, they should be.

Formatting has a life of its own here - I have no idea how to make this look the way it should.

Sunday
Jul172016

Poland species lists: Vertebrates

Amphibians:
Fire salamander Salamandra salamandra
Great crested newt Triturus cristatus
Yellow-bellied Toad Bombina variegata
Common Toad Bufo bufo
Common Frog Rana temporaria
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Reptiles:
Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis
Viviparous Lizard Zootoca vivipara
Grass Snake Natrix natrix
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Mammals:
Wolf Canis lupus scats
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra spraint
Wild Boar Sus scrofa tracks, signs, trail camera
Red Deer Cervus elaphus tracks and signs
European Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus
European Beaver Castor fiber
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Birds
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus
Lesser Spotted Eagle Clanga pomarina
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Corn Crake Crex crex
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
Common Swift Apus apus
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor
Great Spotted Woodpecker  Dendrocopos major
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius
European Green Woodpecker Picus viridis
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes
Northern Raven   Corvus corax
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris
Willow Tit Poecile montanus
Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit Parus major
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Common House Martin Delichon urbicum
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris
Eurasian Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Goldcrest Regulus regulus
Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Common Blackbird Turdus merula
Fieldfare Turdus pilaris
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
European Robin  Erithacus rubecula
Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Dunnock Prunella modularis
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula
European Greenfinch Chloris chloris
Common Linnet Linaria cannabina
Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
European Serin Serinus serinus
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
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