Saturday, 26 February 2011

First Dog Violet of 2011

Sue and I spotted the first Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) of the year in flower this afternoon on a lane near Edern.

Early Common Lizard

Cycling back to Edern this afternoon on some minor lanes I very nearly ran over this female Common Lizard basking in the road. It was very slow moving obviously not having warmed up yet properly in the early spring sunshine. After taking a few photos we carefully placed it out of danger in a sunny spot near a Clawdd for it to retreat into. This is the earliest by far we have seen this species.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Oil Beetles

Meloe violaceus male found near Edern 21/2/11

Oil beetles are becoming increasingly rare in the UK due to habitat degredation etc. There are several species recorded in the UK of whcih some have not been recorded for many years and are now presumed extinct in the UK. The two commonest species in the UK occur on the Llyn Peninsula and appear during March and April in some numbers. The two species look very similar and need seperating by the use of a "key" which shows the key differances between the two species. The two species we have are Meloe violaceus and Meloe proscarabaeus. Sue and I found a very early example of a male M.violaceus wandering on a lane near Edern on Monday 21st Feburary this year. I would be grateful for any Oil Beetles with details of where they were found and will be happy to collect these. The beetles do not need to be killed to identify them.

This is the life cycle of Oil Beetles
The Oil beetle has one of the most extraordinary life cycles of any British insect. It is parasitic on various species of ground nesting Solitary bee and most usually the large adults will be encountered in early spring wandering around on paths in heathland, grassland and in open woodland near where they emerged.

The adults can live for up to 5 months. Female Oil beetles are considerably bigger than males and become much larger when gravid with eggs. The females will excavate a small burrow in sandy soil near the bee colonies in late spring and lay up to 1000 eggs. The eggs may remain in the burrow before hatching the following year to coincide with the emergence of the bee hosts.

The tiny larvae are known as tringulins and are extremely active, and will rapidly climb onto vegetation in search of flowers. On the flowerheads many larvae will congregate, waiting for a bee to come and pollinate the flower. Once the bee has landed the triungulins will rapidly attach themselves with specially adapted hook-like forelegs and if the bee is female and a solitary ground nesting species, then the larvae will be carried back to the bee's nest burrow. The female Oil beetle must therefore lay lots of eggs to ensure that at least some larvae will find a bee nest.

In the burrow

Once inside the bee's nest, the triungulin changes into an entirely different larval form, which more closely resembles a maggot. This change is necessary as it allows the larvae to feed on the bee's egg and pollen store without becoming entrapped within the pollen. The larvae grows rapidly on such a sugar-rich source of food and after undergoing 3 more moults it pupates and overwinters in the bee burrow before emerging the following year as an adult Oil beetle.

The adults feed on the leaves of various herbs such as buttercup and lesser celandine.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Another leaf mining moth; Stigmella aurella

If you look over any patch of Bramble/Blackberry at the moment you will almost certainly find the mine of this rather stunning little moth. The top photo shows the mine the larvae make in the leaves and the bottom photo shows the rather nice looking adult. Its probably one of the easiest leaf-mining moths you can find as it occurs at all altitudes from sea level to the highest hills as long as there is bramble growing.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Moth on Hart's Tongue Fern Psychoides verhuella

This is an interesting little moth to look for over the next few weeks. Its one of the so called "microlepidoptera" which as the name suggests are usually very small but nevertheless they can be very colourful as adults. My own personal favorite way of looking for moths is to try and find the larval stages on their food plants rather the usual practice of running a light or moth trap to attract the adults.

This particular species is one of the so called “leaf miners” which are a vary varied group of moths that develop in their larval stages in a leaf or grass blade before pupating and emerging as an adult moth when they have completed their devlopement. You can often identify these moths most easily from the type of mine they make in their chosen food plant. The adults are often dull little moths that look very much like each other. The mines can be found at all times of the year when the food plant is around either as active mines or vacated ones when the larvae leaves the mine to pupate and emerge.

The species shown can be found now as it’s starting to become active and feed again after resting over winter. Look over patches of Hart’s tongue ferns on the older leaves for small brown blotches on the leaf surface and then check underneath for the small cases made of fern spores in which the larvae live and feed. There is one other Psychoides species that feeds on Harts Tongue ferns and males a similar case, this species is called Psychoides filicivora.

Images of both species can be seen at these two excellant websites

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi)

I nipped round the back of the caravan this evening to try out my nightscope on a Tawny Owl I could hear calling. The Owl flew off but I did find a very early Common Quaker moth sitting on the tree the Owl had vacated.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Snouty meets Boss Hog !

This is the moment last summer when " Snouty" the usual garden hedghog met "Boss Hog" for the first time. Boss Hog is obviously not a sharing hedgehog :-)) They managed to tolerate each other for the rest of the summer and we have several videos of them feeding side by side wih no fighting.

Yellow Brain Fungus (Tremella mesenterica)

Sue and I have been finding this fungus growing on dead gorse all around the area this winter and at long last I managed to identify it as Yellow Brain Fungus (Tremella mesenterica).

Large Red Damselflies tandem

Even a small half-barrel pond in the garden can be a very attractive feature to both people and wildife. Our barrel pond is home to all sorts of interesting aquatic insects and it also makes a good drinking pond for birds in dry weather.

This video shows a pair of Large Red Damselflies egg laying in the pond in summer

GS Woodpecker young bird being fed by the male

Recently fledged young Great Spotted Woodpecker at the garden feeding station in Edern. The young bird is show feeding and then an adult male GS Woodpecker flies to the feeder and feeds the young bird. The male has a bright red cap/crown at the rear of his head, the young bird has a red cap at the front.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker Feb 16th 2011

We have a regular pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers coming to the garden feeding station. This is the female seen feeding today, she can be seperated from the male by the lack of a red crown on the head. The juveniles have a redcap at the front of the head and the males a red cap at the back of the head.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Buzzard Update 15 Feb 2011

We got some dead Magpies left by a local gamekeeper this morning and put them out on the buzzard "feeding station" and sure enough Bertie appeared and plucked and scoffed them despite being bombed by the local crow population. He eventually had enough of being mobbed and took the carcases to his favorite hidden perch further up the field to eat them.

Top photo shows him pucking one Magpie and bottom photo shows the 3 Magpies I threw out into the field for him.


As well as a bird feeding station here in our garden at Edern we also have a feeding station some 30 yards from the caravan where we put carcasses for Buzzards. We put our roast chicken carasses out alongside any "roadkill" or donated dead crows etc given us by shooters.We have a regular Buzzard we nicknamed Bertie who appears regularly perched in a tree right by the van waiting for some food putting out.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Spring on its way

Lovely walk down from Edern to the golf course and Ty Coch then back round through the fields home to Edern. The first flowers of Spring are now out with Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) flowering well on many Clawdds with numerous patches of Red campion (Silene dioica) pushing through and as always the ever present Umbilicus rupestris (Navelwort, Penny-pies, Wall Pennywort)is around in huge numbers

Sunday, 13 February 2011

First Butterfly of 2011

Sue and I found our first butterfly of 2011 on our cycle ride on Saturday 12th February. Bit of a cheat really as we found it in Plas Glyn-y-Weddw at Llanbedrog when we stopped for lunch in the café. It was flying at a window trying to get out after obviously hibernating in the gallery over winter. We set it free in the gardens.