Thursday, 2 July 2015

Another birthday

Seventy-seven today! As a kid I'd have regarded that as old. And I'd have been right. I would also, as a kid, have assumed that life would be hard, a struggle.

Well, there I'd have been wrong. It was Byron who said:

                           There's not a joy the world can give
                           Like that it takes away.

Hmmm. I know what he means but the poem was written in. I believe, 1815. Now maths was never my strong point but that was about two hundred years ago and I'd guess that old age was a genuine burden in those days. Not so now. I say that with some unease, knowing that an old friend, a couple of years my junior, is presently gravely ill. I've been fortunate.

But away with these valedictory thoughts. Age and general decrepitude notwithstanding I went in the evening to Pitsford Water. This week is National Insect Week and, by coincidence or not, a Bioblitz is being held there today. It is extremely inconvenient for me but never let it be said...

I entered the area via the village of Old, and this took me to the north-east corner of the reservoir, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Honeysuckle scrambled through bushes.
Pitsford Water. 30 June, 2015

Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum. was scrambling through some bushes. It was just past its best but it is always good to see. The species remains in the Caprifoliaceae family although Elder has been hived off into the Adoxaceae.

Leaf margins bore mines formed by the larvae of
 Aulagromyza hendeliana. Pitsford Water.  30 June, 2015

Several of the leaves had been mined, the culprit being Aulagromyza hendeliana, a small fly in the Agromyzidae family. It is a widespread species, at least in the south of England, so its presence came as no surprise. 

I wandered on, bitten from time to time by clegs. I slapped one and found it was the usual Notch-horned Cleg. This insect, Haemotopota pluvialis, is the most widespread of the genus, the females of which require a blood meal prior to egg-laying - but I'd rather it wasn't mine, thank you.

Ringlet butterfly on hawthorn. Pitsford Water.
30 June, 2015

Most of the insects noted were common enough. Ringlets, Aphantopus hyperantus, were flitting around the hedgerows. They are often to be observed visiting bramble flowers but in this case they seemed more interested in aphid-infested leaves; perhaps the aphids were producing drops of honeydew. 

Dusk was gathering and I was seeking out those few areas still bathed in sunlight. I could hear the chatter of other 'blitzers' as they set up moth traps; for them the crepuscular conditions heralded an interesting night. But I took moths too. Or, at least, one. This larva was in my net after sweeping grass and it could be Lunar Underwing, Omphaloscelis lunosa - but I have no intention of recording it as such.

Certain moth larvae can be very difficult to identify with certainty and my usually-reliable copy of 'Caterpillars of the British Isles' by Jim Porter, though generally excellent, is unhelpful at this point. It could equally well be a Twin-spotted Wainscot so I don't intend to claim it in my report.

The internet can also be helpful with illustrations of moths, but often only in the imago stage.

While on the subject of larvae, this also found itself in my sweep-net. It is a hoverfly larva, keying out as (probably) Epistrophe grossulariae, but I cannot be certain as I had promptly returned the specimen to the thistle from which I swept it. But the hoverfly species is found in this area.

A frustrating evening, largely as a consequence of my late arrival. Nevertheless I gathered a large haul of flies and beetles, mostly from grass, to be sorted and identified at home. As I left I met my old friend Graham Warnes. Graham was there to record bats, meaning it was time to go.

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