Seventy at Seventy

Life Begins at 70


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[17] Walk into my Parlour

[17] Walk into my Parlour – A Blog about Flies

(This post mainly covers Diptera but also includes Spiders and other small invertebrates that are not insects.)

This is one of three blogs about insects. See also [15] Lepidoptera (and Odonata) and [16] Hymenoptera (and Hemiptera and Coleoptera). Blog [15] also has a general introduction to the world of insects.

I have taken pictures of insects over the spring and summer in many locations. I won’t say much about where each picture is taken and I will more or less stick to a sort of taxonomic order.

DIPTERA

The insect order Diptera are flies but sometimes we have to call them ‘true flies’ to exclude many other insects that use the word ‘fly’ (such as damselflies, mayflies, scorpion flies …) The word ‘diptera’ comes from the Greek for ‘two wings’ because these insects use just one pair of wings to fly. The hindwings have become ‘halteres,’ tiny stubs that can help the insect to perform some advanced aerobatic manoeuvres.

It’s a large order with about a million species (only about 125 000 formally described) in dozens of families. To a non-expert most of the ones that are large enough to be seen more or less look like flies – although crane-flies with their elongated bodies are not so typical and some hover flies try to look like bees or wasps (or other insects.)

Flies have a mobile head, with a pair of large compound eyes, and mouthparts designed for piercing and sucking or for lapping and sucking. They have great manoeuvrability in flight, and claws and pads on their feet enable them to cling to smooth surfaces (including ceilings.) They undergo complete metamorphosis. The eggs are laid on the larval food-source and the larvae, which lack true limbs, develop in a protected environment, often inside their source of food. The pupa is a tough capsule from which the adult emerges when ready. Flies mostly have short lives as adults.

Hoverflies

Syrphidae, normally called Hoverflies, are the most obvious flies throughout summer with about six thousand species. They vary in size and are generally seen either feeding on nectar from flowers or hovering nearby. (The larvae may feed on decaying plants and animals or other small insects.) Many of them are brightly coloured and mimic more dangerous bees and wasps.

[I won’t attempt to explain the difference in usage between ‘Hoverflies’, ‘Hover-flies’ and ‘Hover Flies’ etc. and I may not even be consistent in my own usage!]

There are several anatomical differences that distinguish hoverflies from other flies. Apart from the colourful bodies there are usually two identifying features in the wing veins. Hoverflies have a false rear edge to the wings and a spurious longitudinal vein. I find that the best ways to tell hoverflies from other flies and identify them is to post pictures on Facebook where UK Hoverflies and UK Diptera both have excellent groups. I normally get species identification within hours although some male insects can only be identified to genus without a detailed microscopic examination.

Here is a typical hoverfly, Syrphus Sp (male.) Males are generally recognized by larger eyes that almost touch at the centre.

I have cropped and enlarged the picture above to show one wing and I have marked the key features – the spurious vein (RED) and false rear edge (BLUE.)

Most hoverflies just have a scientific name. Common names when they exist are not standardized. In no particular order here are another Syrphus (S Torvus,) a Parasyrphus (P punctulatus) and an Episyrphus (E balteatus, sometimes called a Marmalade Fly,) then Eristalis Pertinax and E Tenax, Epistrophe eligans, Melanostoma scalare (two pictures) and Syritta pipiens.

I won’t attempt to identify the differences in these flies, which are basically yellow and black in appearance. Next we have Chrysogaster solstitalis, Meliscaeva auricollis, Helophilus pendulus (sometimes called a Sun Fly), Parhelophilus Sp., Cheilosia illustrata and Myathropa florea.

Sphaerophoria scripta, Xanthogramma pedissequum, and Merodon Equestris (Narcissus Fly) will be immediately recognizable for you.

I have left some of the large prettier ones until last. Here are Leucozona glaucia, L laternaria, L lucorum (two pictures), Volucella pellucens and V zonaria (two pictures.)

This last fly, known as the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly is the largest of those found in England.

Crane-flies

Tipulidae – called ‘Daddy Longlegs’ in Britain, but not elsewhere – have elongated bodies. Most of them do not feed once adult. We have about 300 species, generally very small. The larger ones are species of Tipula or Nephrotoma.

A closely related family is the Ptychopteridae, Phantom Crane-flies. Here is Ptychoptera contaminata.

Other Flies

We have about 5000 species of flies in Britain from many different families. Without a microscopic examination of a pinned dead specimen you can generally get to the family and sometimes the genus. I have about twenty more families to show you. I will do them by family (briefly!) in alphabetical order.

Here are representatives of the families Bombyliidae (Bombilius Major, the Bee Fly); Bibionidae (Bibio sp, a St Mark’s Fly); Calliphoridae (Calliphora vicina a blue bottle); Chironomidae; Chloropidae (Thaumatomyia notata a tiny grass fly); Dolichopodidae (Poecilobothrus nobilitatus the Semaphore Fly) and Empididae (Empis livida a Dance Fly or Dagger Fly with its long mouth.)

Next we have Micropezidae; Muscidae (Mesembrina meridiana, the colourful Noon Fly); Psychodidae (Pericoma sp, the Moth Fly or Drain Fly); Rhagonidae (Chrysopilus asiliformis, the common Snipe Fly); Rhinophoridae, woodlouse parasites (Rhinophora lepida); and two from Sarcophagidae (a female and male Sarcophaga sp.)

Now we have Sepsidae (Sepsis Fulgens, an ant mimic fly); Stratiomyidae, Soldier Flies (Chloromyia Formosa, the Broad Centurion, two pictures); Tabanidae, Horse Flies (Tabanus sp); Tachinidae (Estheria cristata and Tachina fera) and Tephritidae (Terellia tussilaginis.)

I didn’t want to leave out the next four but I haven’t been able to identify them even to family level.

Spiders

We have seen that Insects are included in Arthropods, the phylum that also includes lobsters and shrimps. If we go down another branch via Chelicerates and Arachnids we get to the order Araneae or Spiders, terrestrial animals with an exoskeleton but having eight legs unlike the six of an insect.

There are other differences. In spiders the head and thorax are fused into a cephalothorax. They do not have antennae but have a pair of pedipalps (much larger in males) a pair of chelicerae and spinnerets producing silk. They have eight eyes and the patterns of the eyes often identify the family. Almost all spiders are predators eating insects and other spiders. [Sometimes the males are much smaller than the females and they have to be careful to avoid being eaten.]

I don’t like large spiders indoors. I normally trap them and release them outside. Just for you I photographed this Giant House Spider, Eratigena atrica before taking it to the garden.

Cellar Spiders, Pholchus phalangioides, are not so bad. They are bigger if you count the very thin elongated legs but the body is much smaller. Here is a close-up.

All of my other spiders were seen outside. Here are Agelena labyrinthica; Amaurobius ferox Black Lace Weaver; Araniella cucurbitina Cucumber Spider; Diaea dorsata a Crab Spider; the Garden Spider Araneus diadematus; Philodromus dispar a Running Crab Spider; Pirata Sp a Wolf Spider and Salticus scenicus a Zebra Spider, one of the jumping spiders.

[As for all animals the scientific name is more standardized than common names.]

Other Arachnids, Arthropods and Others

All Arachnids have eight legs (with pedipalps and chelicerae sometimes almost acting as legs.) Harvestmen (Opiliones) differ from spiders in having a single body that combines the cephalothorax and abdomen. They have just two eyes and quite poor eyesight. I see them sometimes just waiting on a leaf. (They do not make silk.)

Here are Platybunus triangularis and Leiobunum rotundum.

Because of their very long thin legs Harvestmen are sometimes called ‘Daddy Longlegs,’ a name also given to crane-flies and cellar spiders.

Like harvestmen, this tiny Velvet Mite, Trombidium sp, is quite loosely related to spiders and has eight legs. Gardeners call these tiny pests ‘red spiders.’

I just have a few more small animals to include. Here are two woodlice, Armadillium vulgare and A depressum.

Finally a pair of Grove Snails, Cepaea nemoralis.

[Of course snails are hermaphrodites so the word ‘pair’ just means that there were two of them.]

The woodlice just about come in as arthropods but entomology sometimes loosely includes all small invertebrates like these snails.

 

I have to admit that I put spiders and flies together to fit my title ….

Mary Howitt published a poem called The Spider and the Fly in 1829. It tells the story of a cunning spider who ensnares a naïve fly through the use of seduction and flattery. It’s a cautionary tale against those who use flattery and disguise their true evil intentions.

The opening line, ‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ is one of the most recognized and quoted first lines in all of English verse. Often misquoted as “Step into my parlour” or “Come into my parlour”, it has become an aphorism used to indicate a false offer of help or friendship that is a trap. The line has been used and parodied numerous times in various works of fiction.

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,

‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;

The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,

And I’ve a many curious things to show when you are there.”

 

“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,

For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

“I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;

Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the Spider to the Fly.

“There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,

And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in!”

 

“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,

They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!”

 

Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, “Dear friend what can I do,

To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?

I have within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;

I’m sure you’re very welcome — will you please to take a slice?”

 

“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind Sir, that cannot be,

I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”

 

“Sweet creature!” said the Spider, “you’re witty and you’re wise,

How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!

I’ve a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,

If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”

 

“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you’re pleased to say,

And bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.”

 

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,

For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:

So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,

And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.

 

Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,

“Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;

Your robes are green and purple — there’s a crest upon your head;

Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!”

 

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,

Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;

With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,

Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue —

Thinking only of her crested head — poor foolish thing!

At last,

Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.

He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,

Within his little parlour — but she ne’er came out again!

 

And now dear little children, who may this story read,

To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:

Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,

And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

 

 

[When Lewis Carroll was finishing Alice’s Adventures Under Ground for publication he replaced a parody he had made of a negro minstrel song with a parody of Howitt’s poem. “The Mock Turtle’s Song”, in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is a parody of The Spider and the Fly. It mimics the metre and rhyme scheme, and parodies the first line, but not the subject matter.

“Will you walk a little faster?” said a whiting to a snail,

“There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my tail …]

 


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[19] Some are More Equal

[19] Some are More Equal – A Blog about Animals

Well it’s about all the other animals. I’ve done Farm Animals and Zoo Animals and a few posts about Birds and Insects. This is the rest, so it’s more or less wild animals and pets. And the border between farm animals and wild animals is a bit vague.

I start with this Buffalo that isn’t wild but probably isn’t a farm animal either. It was on the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve near Cardigan.

I’m not sure about Donkeys either. I found these at two locations on farmland but I don’t think the animals are farmed or even used as farm animals. Maybe they have been rescued from employment elsewhere and given sanctuary.

And these fish, probably Koi Carp – in ornamental ponds – are not exactly wild. One pond had some very large ones and the other pond had much smaller goldfish.

Of course the trouble with really wild animals is that they are wild. You have to be lucky to see them and even luckier to get them near enough and still enough for pictures. I’ve seen a few Rabbits in unexpected places, generally scuttling away at speed, but this one at Slimbridge almost seemed to sit and pose for me.

I suppose the wild animal I see most often is the Squirrel – in parks and gardens and at home. It’s the Grey version, which has replaced our native Red Squirrel over most of Britain.

My next one is the Brown Rat, not normally loved quite as much as squirrels (although there are those who view squirrels with equal contempt.) I often see rats near bird feeders. Sadly, in some places the feeders are taken down because of the rats.

You can probably guess by now that I don’t have any stunning pictures of wild elephant or crocodiles or even deer, foxes or badgers. I’ve done all the mammals I’ve seen this year. I’m going to include some very small animals with the insects but I just have one or two more here.

Here’s a Toad spotted in the streets of Cirencester.

And some Lizards from Croatia.

Pets

Of course when I say ‘Pets’ I mean well-loved family members who just happen not to be human. In no particular order here are Doug, Simba, Tilly, Lola, Cidu, Chester, Baileys and Newcastle and an unnamed Siamese cat.

Eric Arthur Blair, better known by the name of George Orwell, was most famous for the novels Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, both of which were satirical allegories of the communist states of the time. Animal Farm alluded to the rise of communism in the USSR with a story of a farm being taken over by its animals. At first they were well meaning and started with rules like ‘All animals are equal.’ But by the end the pigs ruled as dictators and the rule had changed to ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’

 


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[16] What a Wonderful Thing

[16] What a Wonderful Thing – A Blog about Bees

(It actually covers all Hymenoptera, Hemiptera and Coleoptera and maybe some other odds and ends.)

This is one of three blogs about insects. See also [15] Lepidoptera (and Odonata) and [17] Diptera (and Arachnids). Blog [15] also has a general introduction to the world of insects.

I have taken my pictures of insects from many locations. Many are from my garden or my regular walks along the Honeybourne Path in Cheltenham; some are from walks along the Thames Path through and beyond Oxfordshire and travels in all directions to birdwatching sites. I won’t say where each picture is taken and I will more or less stick to a sort of taxonomic order. I have far too many pictures to say much more than the names of some of them.

HYMENOPTERA

You can think of the order of Hymenoptera as covering Bees, Wasps and Ants but it does include a lot of other species such as Sawflies and Ichneumons. It’s not clear how the word ‘hymenoptera’ is derived because the Greek ‘hymen’ is ambiguous. ‘Ptera’ of course means ‘wings.’ They could be described as having ‘membranous wings,’ or ‘married wings.’ Forewings and hindwings are connected to each other by a series of hooks. [Yes, I know, ants don’t usually have wings.]

These insects have evolved a blade-like ovipositor modified for piercing. In some the ovipositor has become a stinger. (Hence for some only the females can sting.)

They go through complete metamorphosis. For some the caterpillar-like larvae feed on leaves. Others have larvae that are parasites.

They are divided into Symphyta, a complex division with many different types and Apocrita, with a waist-like petiole. I will look first at the more familiar Apocrita, the bees, wasps and ants.

Bees

I can’t go into the anatomical differences or the complex taxonomy within hymenoptera but is worth saying here that wasps vastly outnumber bees in terms of their variety and number of species. The three most important things identifying bees from wasps are: (1) They have hairier bodies; (2) They feed on nectar and pollen; (3) Their stings are different. Some but not all bees (and wasps) are social, living in colonies.

Honey Bees

The common bee known to most of us is the Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, looked after by beekeepers and producing crops of honey for domestic use. It is typical of social insects with a hive containing one queen and many drones (sexless females.) This bee fertilizes most of our flowers and can be seen on flowers throughout the year.

Bumble Bees

Until recently I thought there were two types of bee – Honey Bee and Bumble Bee! But it’s a bit more complicated than that. I have seen six different species of Bumble Bee this year in Cheltenham, five of them in my back garden. You have to look at the colours of the stripes and tails to work out the species. Bumble Bees form much smaller colonies than honey bees but you are more likely to see the queens, which are much larger than the drones.

Here are Early Bumble Bee, Bombus pratorum; Red-tailed Bumble Bee, B lapidarius; Garden Bumble Bee, B hortorum; Tree Bumble Bee, B hypnorum; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee, B terrestris and Common Carder Bee, B pascuorum.

Some of the pictures above are queens. Here is a pair of Buff-tailed Bumblebees, Bombus terrestris, (queen and male.)

Other Bees

We have over 250 species of bees in Britain mostly smaller or even much smaller than Honey Bees. You can identify them with detailed flowcharts of instructions by closely checking abdominal segments and sections of each leg, looking for colour and the degree of hairiness. There are separate identification keys for male and female bees. I just take several close-up pictures and put them on Facebook where there are very helpful identification Groups.

The largest genus is Andrena, Mining Bees, with 67 species. I had never heard of them until this year but I have now seen seven species including six in my back garden. Each female makes a hole in the ground where she lays an egg with a store of pollen to feed the growing young bee. (So only the female has pollen baskets on her legs.) I won’t give you their individual common names but here are: Andrena cineraria (two pictures,) A bicolor, A Chrysosceles, A fulva (female and male,) A haemorrhoa, A nitida and A scotica.

But life is not easy in the insect world. There are ‘cuckoo bees’ like the genus Nomada, which is a kleptoparasite to Andrena. They find the Andrena nests and add their eggs in the same hole. The Nomada hatches and destroys the host egg or larva, then feeds on the stored pollen.

Lathbury’s Nomad Bee, Nomada lathburiana has two yellow dots and a red section on its abdomen. Gooden’s Nomada has the yellow dots but no red section. Without the dots the last picture can’t be narrowed down to species without further miscroscopic inspection.

Other species include mason bees and some species not much bigger than ants. Here are the Red Mason Bee, Osmia bicornis; Blue Mason Bee, O caerulescens; Hairy Footed Flower Bee, Anthophora plumipes; Colletes daviesanus; Bronze Furrow Bee, Halictus tumulorum; a Yellow-faced Bee, Hylaeus sp and Lasioglossum sp.

Wasps

There are many more species of wasp than bee. Wikipedia notes rather conveniently that a wasp is defined as any insect in the Apocrita sub-order of Hymenoptera that is not a bee or an ant! I am not sure whether this definition is universally accepted but all such taxonomic rules may change over time!

The ones we know well are from the family Vespidae, the only social wasps. (It has 5000 species but there are over 100 000 wasp species.) We have Common Wasps, Vespula vulgaris, and German Wasps, V germanica, almost identical apart from the colouration of the face. You may see queens, which differ only in being significantly larger. They are not easy to photograph. I see them often flying round flowers but they don’t keep still!

Three of the following four are queens and three out of four are common wasps. I will let you work out which is which.

Many of the other species of wasps are parasites and these are often very small. Here are two of the larger ones. This is Ectemnius sp, found at home.

A Potter Wasp, Symmorphus gracilis.

My last wasp, Gasteruption sp, is a smaller parasitic wasp with a long ovipositor used to lay eggs in the bodies of solitary bees and wasps.

Ants

Ants are very small and they rush around so they are not usually what I pick to photograph.

Every year they pick one very hot day in summer to release the new queens and males. (Sometimes they may pick two or more days.) These briefly winged insects mate and then soon lose their wings. The males die and those queens that survive can start new colonies.

As they emerged in my garden I had a chance to take lots of pictures of the flying queens.

In the next two pictures you can compare a queen with a worker and with a male.

Those were Common Black Ants, Lasius niger. The next picture is a male Red Wood Ant, Formica rufa spotted at Poole Harbour.

Sawflies and Others

I said above that hymenoptera have developed long or piercing ovipositors. Sawflies are a group named after their saw shaped ovipositors – but without a microscope this is not a good aid to identification. If you see them on flowers they may look like small flies at first glance.

Here we have Arge pagana, Athalia rosae and Strongylogaster multifasciata.

 

If you see sawfly larvae you may confuse them with caterpillars. You may find hundreds on one bush.

I can add three little Ichneumons that I have seen. (Technically they may be Ichneumon Wasps but I have put them separately.) The trouble with these little things is that you may recognize it as an Ichneumon by its shape and long ovipositor but getting much further is difficult. A brief description and photograph may narrow it down to – about 7000 species!

One of these three is Perrithous scurra; one is Lissonata sp and one is some type of unidentified Ichneumon. You can have hours of fun deciding which is which.

COLEOPTERA

The largest order of insects is Coleoptera or Beetles. The name comes from the Greek ‘sheath wings.’ The front pair of wings have become hardened wing-cases (elytra.)It is probably the largest of animal orders in terms of number of species, perhaps forming a quarter of the World’s known species. Many are agricultural pests but others help agriculture by eating other pest species!

They undergo complete metamorphosis and are usually only seen as adults.

I may have the opportunity to see lots of beetles on my safaris but I am a fairly passive entomologist. I look on flowers and leaves and photograph what I see. I don’t root around the dead leaves on the ground or turn over logs. Perhaps that is why I see more bees than beetle. There are almost a hundred different families of beetles that you might see in Britain but so far I have seen about a dozen of these.

Oedemera

I start with a small family, Oedemeridae, because for a few weeks in May and June I saw many of these regularly on my walk along the Honeybourne Path and in my back garden, resting on flower heads. The family are called false blister beetles but they are more recently sometimes called pollen-feeding beetles.

The ones I saw were almost all Oedemera nobilis, the Thick-legged Flower Beetle or Swollen-thighed Beetle. Most are bright green but only the male has the enormous thighs – to impress the females!

The next two pictures show both male and female. The bright green males and smaller brown females both have a distinctive gap in the elytra, which don’t completely cover the wings.

O lurida, usually brown, does not have this gap and the males do not have the enlarged thighs.

Soldier Beetles

Soldier Beetles, Cantharidae, are named from their colourful appearance reminiscent of military uniforms. A few weeks after the Oedemera disappeared I used to see Common Red Soldier Beetles, Rhagonycha fulva in similar locations, perhaps in larger numbers.

Here are two other soldier beetles – Cantharis flavilabis (C nigra) and C pellucida.

Long-horned Beetles

Of course Cerambycidae don’t actually have horns, they have long antennae.

Here are Pachytodes cerambyciformis (formerly Judolia cerambyciformis) seen at Lake Vyrnwy and Leptura quadrifasciata from Cannop in the Forest of Dean.

Leaf Beetles

Chrysomelidae are small beetles found on leaves. Here are Altica sp from Pittville Park; Chrysolina americana from the Cotswold Water Park; Gastrophysa viridula (The female is pregnant!) from Coombe Hill; Oulema melanopus/ rufocyanea at home in Cheltenham and Plagiodera versicolora at Goring on the Thames Path.

Ladybirds

Coccinelidae are known as ladybirds in the UK and ladybugs in the US. The familiar little round red spotted beetles derive their name from mediaeval associations with the Virgin Mary. (There is a modern trend to call them ‘lady beetles.’)

Until about twenty years ago we had a few British species all clearly marked by the number of spots on their backs. But now we have the Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis. Is was originally found in Asia but it has been introduced to Britain (and Europe and the USA) to control aphids and other insect pests. This beetle is now much more common than our other ladybirds and it comes in about twenty varieties with different main colours, spot colours and spot numbers.

I have seen quite a few of these and also quite a few of their larval stage.

My only other ladybird sightings have been a Cream-streaked Ladybird (with no good quality pictures) and this Seven-spot Ladybird, Coccinella septempunctata.

Other Beetles

Lagria hirta is a hairy looking beetle from the Tenebrionidae family. Poecilus sp is a from the Carabidae family. The Bramble Chafer, Phyllopertha horticila is another hairy beetle, from Scarabaeidae and Sitona lineatus is the Pea Leaf Weevil.

HEMIPTERA

This is a diverse order of mostly very small insects that we call bugs. Entomologists call them ‘true bugs’ to distinguish them from many other insects colloquially called bugs. Most of them feed on plants by extracting the sap. Some are parasitic or feed on other small insects.

They go through incomplete metamorphosis. The young go through a series of changes as they moult between instars, gradually changing to an adult without a pupal stage.

The ones most well-known to us are the Aphids – greenfly or blackfly (which are not, of course, flies.) These have many different species and lots of different forms, some with wings but most without. The plant you find them on is a better clue for identification than the colour or anything else visible!

I won’t show you all of the bugs I have seen, just two families, and only the ones with good quality pictures.

Pentatomidae

These are shield bugs and they look as if they have shields on their backs. The shape is fairly distinctive. (The name is effectively cognate with their pentagonal outline.) Here are Forest Shield Bug, Pentatoma rufipes, final instar and adult; Green Shield Bug, Palomena prasina, final instar and adult; Hairy Shield Bug, Dolycoris baccarum and Bronze Shield Bug, Troilus luridus.

Miridae

This is the largest family of bugs with over 10 000 species. Most bugs have hemelytra where only half of the wing is thickened (so they are half way towards looking like beetles!) Most mirids have a clearly visible triangular end to the thickened part.

Here are Phylus coryli, Leptoterna dolobrata, Plagiognathus arbustorum, Grypocoris stysi and Deraeocoris flavilinea with a nymph.

I saw a lot of Nettle bug, Liocoris tripustulatus, in June. It’s a small bug, difficult to photograph but here it is – adult and nymph.

Others

There are so many insect types and I couldn’t leave out the last two.

Bush-crickets (Katydids in the US) are long-horned grasshoppers. Here are two Speckled Bush-Crickets, Leptophyes punctatissima, a late nymph and an adult.

Finally here are some Scorpion Flies. They have an order to themselves but we only have a few British species. These are Panorpa sp. (The species differences are microscopic.) They have beautiful wings. Only the male has the curved ‘tail’ that makes it look like a scorpion

You won’t remember Arthur Askey. He was almost before my time. He was a comedian and actor, born in 1900, seen on television in the Fifties and Sixties. Before radio and television performers had very fixed routines and his performance always included him singing the Bee Song.

Oh, what a wonderful thing to be, A healthy grown up busy busy bee; Whiling away all the passing hours Pinching all the pollen from the cauliflowers. I’d like to be a busy little bee, Being as busy as a bee can be. Flying around the garden brightest ever seen, Taking back the honey to the dear old queen.

[Chorus] Buzz buzz buzz buzz, honey bee, honey bee, Buzz if you like but don’t sting me, Buzz buzz buzz buzz, honey bee, honey bee, Buzz if you like, but don’t sting me!

…..

 

Notes. (1) There is a universal standard with scientific (Latin) names that the genus has a capital letter but the species does not. The scientific name is generally italicized. (2) When a species comes from the same genus as the previous one the genus is abbreviated – so ‘Andrena fulva and A scotica’ means ‘Andrena fulva and Andrena scotica. (3) The abbreviation ‘sp’ for species indicates that we know the genus but cannot identify the actual species.


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[10] Old Macdonald

[10] Old Macdonald – A Blog about Farm Animals

As I am sure you know, ‘Old Macdonald had a Farm …’

I am not sure what this says about the need to catalogue and codify our knowledge – but Wikipedia has quite a lot to say about the song. Each verse adds the sounds made by another farm animal and verses are generally cumulative. If you don’t know the words you can see Wikipedia, which also discusses other versions and many translations into different languages.

Farming in Britain

With Wikipedia as my source of information, I will say just a little about agriculture in the United Kingdom. Any statistics I give will be approximate and probably out-of-date. [I will consider agriculture in Britain as more or less equivalent to agriculture in England. Wikipedia points out that the available agricultural land in Scotland and Wales is generally of lower quality.]

About a third of the agricultural area of is used for arable crops with the rest mostly grassland. About half of the arable land is used for cereal of which two-thirds is wheat. We have about 30 million sheep, ten million cattle, ten million poultry and five million pigs. Farming is highly intensive and mechanised but the UK still only produces 60% of the food needed. The country annually exports food and drink to the value of £15 000 million, with imports at £30 000 million. Almost all this trade is with Western Europe.

You might like to guess the top agricultural products by value. You could probably get the top ten or twelve, perhaps not in exact order. Here they are, listed by value – milk, cattle meat, chicken meat, pig meat, wheat, sheep meat, potatoes, rapeseed, eggs, sugar beet, turkey meat, barley, carrots and turnips …

I won’t go any further but this leads into my pictures of farm animals. With this list you might expect to see cattle, chickens, pigs, sheep and turkeys – but you won’t! This is not the place to discuss farming methods but intensive methods mean that chickens and turkeys are not normally see outside. Pigs and cattle are also sometimes farmed inside buildings. I can only show you what I have seen.

Horses

I know. We don’t farm horses but you see them outside in fields and I have decided to include them in this blog. We used to have farm horses before the mechanization with tractors but now horses are for riding or racing.

Cattle

English is such a strange language that we don’t have a word for one of these beasts. You can skip this bit if you are not interested in the linguistic issues.

The word ‘cattle’ did not originally refer just to these animals. It derives from the Latin ‘caput’ (head) and originally it meant movable personal property, especially livestock of any kind, as opposed to the ‘real property’ or land. It’s a variant of ‘chattels’ and is cognate with ‘capital’ in the economic sense. In the King James Bible, ‘cattle’ means ‘livestock’ and ‘deer’ means ‘wildlife.’

The Anglo-Saxon word which became ‘cow’ had the old plural ‘kine’ now occasionally used as an archaic plural form.

In the UK, the USA and British influenced countries of the Commonwealth we have several terms.

  • The adult male animal is a bull.
  • A castrated male is a ‘bullock’ or a ‘steer’ (US). Sometimes a bullock used as a working draft animal is called an ox. (Yes, the plural is oxen.) Of course in some circumstances ‘ox’ is a more general reference to the meat or carcass of the animal, for example ‘ox-tail.’
  • An adult female, after having one or two calves is a ‘cow.’
  • A young female is a ‘heifer.’ (To those unfamiliar with farming there is no distinction. A cow is any female older than a calf.)
  • A young animal before weaning is a ‘calf.’

There are other terms used in farming and outside the UK.

In general we call them cattle and they may be beef cattle or dairy cattle.

Sheep

We think of sheep as white and generally they are white. (In a field of fresh white snow they look a very dirty white or even light brown!)

Sometimes some or all of the wool may be dark brown or black by a perfectly normal process of genetic variation. But we have the idiomatic expression ‘black sheep’ with its pejorative connotations. The black sheep of the family is the person who didn’t quite fit into the family’s expectations. You can read about this in Wikipedia. Traditionally the black sheep was an obvious prominent anomaly and its coloured wool was less valuable. It is a term found in many languages although some illustrate the concept differently as a ‘white crow.’

Now the value of the wool is insignificant and farmers generally don’t attempt to control the wool colour. We see sheep and lambs with black wool more often. Some breeds are all brown.

Goats

As I noted above we have a large dairy industry based on dairy cattle. In many other countries cheese derived from sheep or goats is more common than in the UK. Here are some goats from Croatia – from the zoo on Brijuni.

Pigs

We see cattle in the fields in summer and more hardy sheep may be seen in the winter but pigs are rarely seen. I think most pig production is intensive and indoors. You may sometimes see them in large numbers in their corrugated iron arcs or just two or three in a field, perhaps rare breeds for show.

Precise terminology in farming for these animals is as complicated as for cattle but most of the time they are just pigs. Swine is an archaic term and originally the word ‘pig’ was used for a young swine, what we would now call a piglet!

The adult male is a ‘boar,’ a word now generally associated with the expression ‘wild boar’ for the non-domesticated (or feral) animal. The adult female is a ‘sow.’ The word ‘hog’ generally refers to a mature, fully grown animal but can be synonymous with pig.

Shetland Ponies

I included horses because I felt like it and I will end with some Shetland Ponies.

(Donkeys will come in another blog.)

 


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[15] Bright Elusive Butterfly of Love

[15] Bright Elusive Butterfly of Love – a Blog about Butterflies

I always had the general category of Animal Life split in my mind into Birds, Animals (meaning other vertebrates) and Insects (to include little invertebrates) but I had to wait until March and April to get an idea of numbers and decide the divisions required. I have gone for a taxonomic split into three blogs. This one will cover the Orders of Lepidoptera and Odonata. I will start this one with some overall comments about Entomology.

INSECTS

I need to say something about taxonomy. It’s not an agreed science and it’s a changing science. When I was young we had the Animal Kingdom and the Plant Kingdom divided them into the taxonomic levels of Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. (Plants use Division instead of Phylum.) Now we have suborders, infraorders, super-families, tribes, subspecies and lots more.

With all the definitions and divisions there is no universal agreement and there is constant change. But within the Animal Kingdom we still have the Phylum of Arthropods and within this we have the Class of Insects. Arthropods are invertebrates with segmented bodies and an exoskeleton. They include Crustaceans (lobsters, crabs, shrimps,) Myriapods (centipedes and millipedes,) Chelicerates (spiders, scorpions etc.) and Insects. Broadly speaking insects have six legs, chelicerates have eight, crustaceans have ten and myriapods have lots.

In general all insects have:

  • A jointed, segmented body with an exoskeleton.
  • Three main body sections – head, thorax and abdomen.
  • Three pair of legs attached to the thorax.
  • One pair of antennae.
  • Two pairs of wings.
  • Partial or complete metamorphosis.

There are approximately five to ten million species of insects with about 20 000 found in Britain.

The main Orders that you will probably recognize are as follows.

  • Diptera – Flies (about 1 000 000 species with 5 000 in the UK) have one pair of wings with balancing halteres replacing the other pair. See Blog [17].
  • Coleoptera – Beetles (400 000 species with about 4 000 in the UK) have an outer pair of wings that have become hardened elytra or wing covers. See Blog [16].
  • Lepidoptera – Butterflies and Moths (about 200 000 species, mostly moths.) In Britain we have a small number of Butterfly species and thousands of moth types, most of which are micro-moths about as small as ants. [See Below.]
  • Hymenoptera – Bees, Wasps and Ants and some others (about 150 000 species.) Some of these are social insects with queens and stings. See Blog [16].
  • Hemiptera – true Bugs (about 80 000 species of which about 1 500 are seen in the UK) are mostly little and found on plants or animals, often as parasites. See Blog [16].
  • Odonata – Dragonflies and Damselflies, with long, slender bodies and a pair of wings that can’t be folded. [See Below.]
  • Orthoptera – Grasshoppers and Crickets, usually with hind legs modified for jumping.

There are also orders for Earwigs, Lacewings, Mayflies, Caddis Flies, Fleas, Cockroaches and many others.

There are exceptions to almost all the rules of taxonomy and many insects do not have any wings. Some have wings for less than a day of their life. Silverfish are completely wingless but taxonomists can’t agree whether these are insects or not. As noted above Spiders, Centipedes and Millipedes are not insects; Woodlice are crustaceans and snails are molluscs – but all of these little beasts tend to get included by entomologists.

This is one of three blogs about insects. See also [16] Hymenoptera and [17] Diptera.

I will include pictures of insects taken over the spring and summer in many locations. Many are from my Cheltenham garden or my regular walks along the Honeybourne Path. I have also walked along the Thames Path through and beyond Oxfordshire and have travelled in all directions to birdwatching sites. I generally will not say where each picture is taken and I will more or less stick to a sort of taxonomic order with some entomological notes.

LEPIDOPTERA – Butterflies and Moths

The word Lepidoptera means scale-wings and these minute scales give the familiar coloured patterns to the wings of Butterflies and Moths. Most have a long tubular proboscis and feed mainly on nectar. There are less than a hundred types of butterfly likely to be seen in the UK and they can more or less be recognized by sight. Moths are more difficult – there are thousands of species, they are smaller, they generally fly at night, and almost all are various forms of mottled brown.

Butterflies

Male and female butterflies are usually very similar but there are some exceptions! It’s also important to realize that the upper and lower wing patterns may be very different to each other – and you may need to see both sides for identification.

They are very seasonal. You may see dozens one day and none of the same type the next week. They can generally manage two or three generations in a year.

The Nymphalidae are the large spectacular butterflies.

  • Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta

One of our most colourful butterflies but so far my only photo-opportunity has been of one sleeping overnight in our conservatory with its wings closed.

  • Comma Polygonis c-album

The easiest distinguishing feature of this butterfly is the shape of the wings. You may not see the underside but there is a small white mark looking a little like a comma (,) that give this one its name.

  • Small Tortoiseshell Aglaias urticae

You can leave out ‘Small’ and call it a Tortoiseshell because the Large Tortoiseshell is now probably extinct in Britain.

  • Peacock Inachis io

The ‘eyes’ on the wings identify this butterfly. Here is a closer view.

  • Speckled Wood Pararge aegeric

  • Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus

This is the least plain of our three similar plain brown species, with its double dots. The male is shown here.

  • Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus

Probably our dullest butterfly.

  • Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina

This butterfly looks somewhat between a Gatekeeper and a Ringlet. The larger female is a little more colourful.

Pieridae are white and yellow.

  • Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines

In flight these can look similar to other whites. Upper and lower sides of the wings are different but they are easily recognizable from the lower view. Males don’t have the orange tip on the upper wing surface – they are similar to other whites but have the same mottled wing pattern as the females underneath.

  • Green-veined White Pieris napi

The veins on the underside are obvious but you may not see them. You may have to look at identification pictures to tell this one from the other whites. [I have no pictures this year of our other three white species.]

  • Brimstone Gonopteryx rhamni

The male is a slighter brighter yellow colour but both are distinctly recognizable in flight. It normally rests with its wings closed unlike the similar but smaller Brimstone Moth.

Lycaenidae are smaller, blue or copper coloured butterflies.

You will have to look carefully at both sides of the wings for some similar butterflies.

  • Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus

Hesperiidae

  • Large Skipper Ochlodes sylvana

You can see some more butterflies in [18] Croatian Wildlife.

Moths

There is no easy way to define the differences between butterflies and moths and taxonomists disagree among themselves. (As my Field Guide to Insects puts it, the division has no scientific basis!) There are seven families considered to be butterflies – and moths cover everything else among Lepidoptera, well over a hundred families! As a general rule butterflies have thin antennae with small clubs at the end of their antennae. Moth antennae are quite varied, mostly hair-like or feathery.

Although there are many more moths than butterflies they are smaller and generally (but not all) nocturnal so they are not seen so much – unless you have a moth trap. Here is the only one I managed to photograph for you.

It’s not my best picture as it was taken through the thick window of a cruise ship on the way home from a short cruise to Antwerp and France. It’s a Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba, the most common species for the family Noctuidae, and it migrates to Britain in large numbers every summer. This one stopped very briefly on the ship as we made our way towards the Bristol Channel.

You may wonder why it is called a yellow underwing. Its hindwings are bright orange but it doesn’t normally rest in a way that shows them!

There are some colourful day-flying moths but none of them posed for me. I did find some tiny dirty brown micro-moths.

Micro-moths

Most lepidopterists consider that micro-moths form a distinct subdivision of moths and you can buy books to help you identify either ‘Moths’ or ‘Micro-moths.’ But there are no clear lines between then and no agreement as to which families to include. Size is not the only factor affecting this division and some micro-moths can be relatively large. Of the thousands of micro-moth species, almost all are indistinctly mottled dirty brown but the experts can tell them apart!

Moth aficionados have moth traps. With a suitable light overnight to attract these beasts you can capture them throughout the year. Your catch will change week by week and you may expect to find thousands every year covering hundreds of species. I haven’t succumbed yet to the moth trap temptation but occasionally I find one indoors overnight attracted by the house lights.

These are Bittersweet Smudge Acrolepia autumnitella; Brown House Moth Hofmannophila pseudospretalla and Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana.

Bee Moth Aphomia sociella and Common Swift Korscheltellus lupulina, both found at Aldbury.

The Swift group sometimes counts as macro-moths but the border is not that clearly defined anyway!

The next group were some tiny moths spotted outside the house – Dark Strawberry Tortrix Celepha lacunana; Red-clover Case-bearer Coleophora deauratella, Straw Dot Rivula sericealis not strictly a micro-moth but small; and an unidentified one.

 

There are three more micro-moths that I am beginning to recognize.

Nettle Tap Anthophila fabriciana

These are fairly easy to spot at the right time of year as they tend to like nettles!

But they are small!

Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner Cameraria ohridella

This tiny moth seems to have come from the Balkans and has spread rapidly. It reached Britain in 2002 and now covers virtually all of England. It causes significant damage to horse-chestnut trees with widespread late summer browning of leaves. Trees survive repeated infestations and re-flush normally in the following year.

The larva feeds in a mine in the leaves of the tree, damaging the leaves and stunting growth. The cycle can repeat itself several times in one season. You may see lots of tiny flying moths if you can catch the right dates. They are surprisingly colourful under magnification.

Mint Moth Pyrausta aurata

You may see a trend emerging. You can find Nettle Tap on Nettle and Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner on Horse Chestnut. Well, you can find the Mint Moth on mint or catmint. Through the summer I can regularly find two or three in our garden. I think they start out a nice bright purple and gradually wear towards a dark brown.

ODONATA Damselflies and Dragonflies

These insects characteristically have large rounded heads with well-developed, compound eyes; legs that facilitate catching other insects in flight; two pairs of long, transparent wings that move independently; and elongated abdomens.

[In the mid-Eighteenth Century Johan Christian Fabricius coined the term Odonata from the Greek odontos (tooth) apparently because they have teeth on their mandibles, even though most insects also have toothed mandibles.] They are one of the few orders of insects not named –optera from their wings but they split conveniently into Zygoptera (Damselflies) and Anisoptera (Dragonflies.)

Most have a structure on the leading edge near the tip of the wing called the pterostigma, a thickened, often colourful area bounded by veins. They are aquatic or semi-aquatic as juveniles. So the adults are most often seen near bodies of water and they may be described as aquatic. They are carnivorous throughout their life, mostly feeding on smaller insects.

There are about twenty damselflies and twenty dragonflies seen in Britain but you need to look closely to identify the common ones.

Damselflies

The suborder Zygoptera means ‘even wings,’ and damselflies tend to have similar front and hind wings. They are relatively small and slim and generally fold the wings along the body when at rest. In damselflies, there is typically a gap in between the eyes.

We have two very similar species – Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella and Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum. The first two pictures below are Azure, the next three are Common Blue

I am sure you spotted the difference in the third abdominal segments.

Recognition can be complicated as females have various different colourations and newly emerged insects start almost colourless.

The mature male Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans has a black body with a light blue mark towards the end of the abdomen but again females and newly emerged males show variation.

My last relatively common damselfly is the Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens with its very obvious blue band. The female is less resplendent.

Dragonflies

Anisoptera means ‘uneven wings,’ as the hind wings of dragonflies tend to be broader than the front ones. They are larger than damselflies, with fairly robust bodies and at rest they hold their wings out to the side. Dragonfly eyes occupy much of the animal’s head, touching (or nearly touching) each other across the face.

Here are some Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum. Before the veins fill the wings are completely transparent.

They are well worth looking at in close-up.

Elusive Butterfly” is a popular song written by Bob Lind, released in 1965. In the song the narrator sees himself as a butterfly hunter, looking for romance, but he finds it as elusive as a butterfly.

You might wake up some morning; To the sound of something moving past your window in the wind;

And if you’re quick enough to rise; You’ll catch a fleeting glimpse of someone’s fading shadow;

Out on the new horizon; You may see the floating motion of a distant pair of wings;

And if the sleep has left your ears; You might hear footsteps running through an open meadow.

Don’t be concerned, it will not harm you; It’s only me pursuing something I’m not sure of;

Across my dreams with nets of wonder; I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love.


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[14] A Bird in a Gilded Cage – A Blog About Birds

[14] A Bird in a Gilded Cage – A Blog About Birds

I have so many pictures of animals. Before I get on with Insects I will do the last blog about Birds. I have done Water Birds and some Common Birds so this will cover all the others. Pictures come from various locations.

Gulls, Crows and Pigeons

I will start with some that might have slipped into the Common Birds blog. I promised you a Black-headed Gull in summer plumage when it has a brown hood – no, not a black head!

I also saved one from the Crow family – the Magpie, Pica pica.

At its best you can see the shiny blue it its wings.

It’s almost never seen on bird feeders because of its size but it can show initiative with two feeders placed together.

I also showed you some Woodpigeon. Here is an unusual one, seen a couple of times at Slimbridge, with more white markings on its feathers.

Here are our other two common Gulls. First the Herring Gull, Larus argentatus, with a lighter grey back and pink legs.

The picture above is bird in winter plumage. Below are some stages of the juvenile plumages.

[You can see from this picture, above, that the Herring Gull is significantly larger than its Black-headed relatives. These two are starting the transition from a winter black smudge to a summer full hood.]

The Lesser Black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus, has a darker grey back (not really black) and yellow legs. It too has various markings on the juvenile stages.

At seaside towns you generally see either Herring Gulls or Lesser Black-backed. They tend not to mix. In towns such as Cheltenham they are less discriminate. We have both.

Water Birds

I have one goose to add to Waterfowl, this Egyptian Goose, Alopochen aegyptiaca. It’s really more like a shelduck than a goose.

And this Water Rail, Rallus aquaticus, is a relative of Coots and Moorhens – but much less common!

There are many shore birds and waders of various sizes that don’t often come close for good portrait pictures. The two relatively large ones are Lapwing and Oystercatcher, Haemotopus haemotopus.

The bird above (after what looks like an accident with fishing net wire) hopped about on one leg. I have seen birds from about ten species manage without two legs.

My last two waders are the Avocet, Recurvirostra avosetta, now widespread after almost disappearing from Britain, and a Snipe, Gallinago gallinago, difficult to spot because of its excellent camouflage.

Blackbirds and Robins

Not everything works to plan. The Thrush family has two fairly common birds – Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush – and two winter visitors – Fieldfare and Redwing – that might have appeared here. Without suitable pictures of them I do at least have some shots of the very common Blackbird, Turdus merula. Only the male is black, the female is a well camouflaged brown.

As we have seen above with the Woodpigeon, sometimes birds’ plumage is not quite as expected. We have already seen albino Pigeons. Occasionally you may see an all-white or half-white Blackbird. This female just had a few white feathers, more obvious when she turned round.

While the Blackbird is closely related to our thrushes, the smaller Robin, Erithacus rubecula, is also less closely related but is in the Thrush family. It is one of many birds with an interesting history to its name. It used to be a Redbreast, from the much older use of the word ‘red’ to include orange or brown tones. Then it became a Robin Redbreast in the same anthropomorphic way that Wrens became Jenny Wren. Then the ‘Redbreast’ bit disappeared.

Tits and Finches

I won’t say much about our smaller birds. They do at least come to bird feeders – a great help in taking pictures!

Just one picture of each of these – Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch and Chaffinch.

Other Little Birds

A few more small birds, mostly from bird feeders. The best places for Starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, are Motorway services. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, and Pied Wagtail, Motacilla alba, are common and widespread.

The Nuthatch, Sitta europaea, is a woodland bird but it will visit bird feeders in woods. The Reed Bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, is a bird of reed-land areas but it migrates to others areas in winter and is now well-known to survive from bird feeders. As with many birds the male bunting has to be good-looking to attract the mottled brown female.

Other Birds

I start this final section with two raptors, always difficult to photograph. The Buzzard, Buteo buteo, was perched on a fence at Slimbridge and the poor quality pictures of Red Kite, Milvus milvus, are just about recognizable.

I have to admit that the better pictures of Cormorant, Phalocrocorax carbo, come from Croatia.

The Common Crane, Grus grus, is just beginning to be seen in the wild after a reintroduction scheme. They are now not an uncommon sight at Slimbridge.

I suppose I have mixed feelings about Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus. It is with us so that it can be hunted but many survive and breed.

I’m not quite sure of the status of peacocks either. (Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus) These ones on Brownsea Island looked wild to me.

You can see a few more birds in my blog about Croatian Wildlife – Yellow-legged Gulls, Hooded Crows, Green Woodpecker, Jay and others.

A Bird in a Gilded Cage is a sentimental ballad composed by Arthur Lamb and Harry von Tilzer that became one of the most popular songs of 1900. It describes the sad life of a beautiful woman who has married for money instead of love. Here is the chorus.

She’s only a bird in a gilded cage; a beautiful sight to see;

You may think she’s happy and free from care; she’s not, though she seems to be;

‘Tis sad when you think of her wasted life; for youth cannot mate with age;

And her beauty was sold; For an old man’s gold;

She’s a bird in a gilded cage.

 


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[18] Prvo je zaštićeno područje u Istarskoj županiji

[18] Prvo je zaštićeno područje u Istarskoj županiji – A Blog about Croatian Wildlife

Golden Cape Forest Park (Zlatni Rt – Punta Corrente) is the ‘First Protected Area in the Istrian Region,’ so the Croatian version is my title. (You try Googling something like ‘Quotations about animals in Croatia!’ It’s not easy.)

The Park

Here is one of many informative notices about the park. Like everything in the area it is in Croatian and Italian but the Park adds some other languages – including English.

There are cycle paths around the area.

We spent the first two weeks of May in this area and I have cropped out the main area of our walks from the map above. The hotel area lies between the town of Rovinj to the North and the Park to the South.

Here are the impressive gates between our hotel and the Park.

This takes you to a walk through the pine forest but we usually went slightly to the right for a coastal walk.

I looked at the flowers, often resting places for insects. Rock Rose (Cistus) were coming out and their flowers often attracted several insects.

There were also White Campion and Dandelion.

I should have looked more closely when I photographed this orchid. There’s a bug trying to pose for me!

I won’t list the animal life chronologically or geographically but more or less by taxonomic order. Most pictures come from the Forest Park or from Rovinj including the shoreline and hotel areas but some come from wider trips.

Birds

I normally start my lists of birds with [1] Waterfowl and then [2] Waders (including birds like herons, cranes, storks and rails.) Well I didn’t see any of those so we move swiftly on to [3] Sea Birds.

Gulls are not as common in the Mediterranean as in Britain but we were on the coast. There were always gulls overhead making their plaintiff calls.

Gulls in this area are all Yellow-legged Gulls. Here is an adult in close-up and two shots in full view showing the yellow legs.

Apart from the legs they look identical to our Herring Gulls and until about ten years ago they were a subspecies. Growing up for these gulls is a two-year process as the mottled appearance changes.

I don’t attempt to identify juvenile gulls from the leg colour. For the Yellow-legged version it seems to vary from orange to pink.

Cormorants are not easy to photograph on the water. They dive and come up twenty seconds later a long way away.

I saw these by Miramar Castle near Trieste.

These were taken at a little colony on Katarina Island where the birds knew that they were safe when we were quite close.

That’s it for sea birds. With a zero count for [4] Raptors and Owls I have to mention in passing the Scops Owl. I have never actually seen one but their call is repetitive and easy to spot – a single note again and again. Like most people we thought at first that the sound was some kind of alarm but we heard it every evening at our hotel just about all evening and through the night – but, sadly, no pictures.

In the [5] Game Birds and Doves category we only have Doves. There were a few Pigeon at some places as almost everywhere. Doves are difficult to photograph because they keep nodding up and down and pecking the ground.

We heard Collared Dove often but only saw a pair once.

Woodpigeon were even rarer. I did manage a couple of pictures but not good enough quality for display here.

Under [6] Others only two birds get a mention. Groups of Swift were seen, mostly in the first week, and we heard their familiar screeching sound. As their name suggests these birds are too quick for photography.

Green Woodpecker were often heard in the forest and around the hotel. This is another bird with a familiar easily recognizable call.

All of my remaining bird pictures will be [7] Passerine, starting with the Crow family. In this area of Europe there are no Rooks and the Carrion Crow is replaced by the Hooded Crow, seen more often flying overhead than on the ground.

I saw a few Magpie but by far the most common corvid bird was the Jay

The most common relatively tame species of our garden birds was the Blackbird. They didn’t mind me getting close but didn’t stop and pose. This young one was even less wary of human contact.

The Great Tit was another bird heard more often than seen and as always White Wagtail turned up at the sea edge.

(We have the Pied Wagtail, which is our subspecies of White Wagtail. The shades of grey are a little different.)

I heard Greenfinch a few times but only saw them at the tops of very tall trees.

Serin seemed to arrive in the second week, making their high pitched twittering calls. I did catch a pair almost camouflaged in a field.

There were others that I did not manage to photograph – Goldfinch, Starling, House Sparrow and Swallow. My last pictures of birds are a pair of Wheatear seen at the sea edge, presumably in transit on migration.

Insects

I have said above that the place to look for insects is in flowers. Whether you will find any depends on the weather, the location and time of year. I am not an expert and I get most of my identification from posting pictures in various Facebook groups. These are very good for UK sightings but more limited abroad so some of my labels may involve some guesswork.

I will start with Lepidoptera and, in particular, Butterflies, which seemed much more common on the first few days. This may be a seasonal thing or it may have been because of a few days of nice sunny weather.

The male Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni, is bright yellow (not as dull as its picture here) and the female is greenish white. There were many of both.

Much smaller are two brown butterflies I saw only once each – Brown Argus, Aricia agestis, and Wall Brown, Lasiommata megera.

Just before publishing this blog I saw this one, probably Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina.

I missed some other photo-opportunities including at least three Red Admiral and some small Blues.

To complete Lepidoptera we have to look at Moths. There were some tiny Moths that eluded me. This one was so well camouflaged that I only spotted it as it flew and landed. It’s a Loxostege (one of over fifty species.)

My other one was bigger, more moth-like – and I recognized it! It’s a Silver-Y, Autographa gamma.

The next group Hymenoptera includes bees, wasps and ants. I have no pictures of wasps or ants to show you but not surprisingly lots of Bees are found on flowers. I will start with the Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, and Bumble Bees. Note that the Italian race of Honey Bee has a large orange section.

(Bumble bees are what they call Bombus sp. I won’t guess at species without local knowledge but the last one was definitely a queen.)

The next one is Lasioglossum sp. Wikipedia tells me rather unhelpfully that this is the largest bee genus with over 1700 species.

There were lots of these tiny bees with large bright orange pollen baskets (corbiculae.) In my book the obvious candidate was Dasypoda altercator but they may be Andrena sp.

The one above is unidentified but my last bee is a Long-Horned Bee. I think it could be Eucera longicornis. Only the males have these long antennae. Wikipedia just says that the 32 genera of Eucerini, with over 500 species, mostly have long horns.

I have to include one other from Hymenoptera, an Ichneumon. My Collins Pocket Guide to insects calls them Ichneumon Flies and Wikipedia calls them Ichneumon Wasps. There are about 50 000 species so I won’t venture a guess for this one.

We move on to Coleoptera, Beetles. Suprisingly, these were also apparently quite seasonal. I will start with a picture showing two beetles.

The larger one is a White Spotted Rose Beetle, Oxythyrea fenestra, common in the first week wherever the Rock Rose were in flower – but disappearing by the second week.

Also within the flowers of Rock Rose were smaller beetles, Oedemera Sp., like this one that I persuaded to pose on my finger to show its size.

I found one flower with about a dozen (possibly O. flavipes) crawling over each other, perhaps in a lekking display. Those with thick legs are male.

Here is my only good picture of a female.

To complete Coleoptera here are an even smaller flower beetle, Malachius bipustulatus (as seen peeking over the top of my first beetle picture,) and a tiny weevil possibly Bruchidius Sp.

Hemiptera are what Entomologists call true bugs.

Here are the Mirid bugs Closterotomus biclavatus and Pachyxyphus lineellus.

Under Diptera, Flies, my best find was a small crane-fly Nephrotoma appendiculata.

Apart from that there were some small insignificant flies and a few hover-flies. This one was large and identified as Eristalis Tenax, one I have seen at home!

I know they are not insects but here are three spiders. The first two knew that inside a flower was a good place to lurk. The third one has lost two legs and looks quite ant-like.

Number one is unidentified; two could be a Napoleon Spider, Synema globosum; three looks like Asagena phalerata.

Other Animals

If you have been waiting patiently for lions, herds of wildebeest or elephants you could be disappointed. I have just two more quite small animals to mention.

I might have hoped for more animal life by the sea but I saw little. After a single distant Crab scuttling away I found a couple hiding by the shore on Katarina Island. They may be Marbled Rock Crab, Pachygrapsus marmoratus, or possibly some other species.

My final offering is a small green lizard. I thought it would be easy to identify a lizard. I found the European Green Lizard, which sounded good. I soon saw that ‘There are three very similar species living in Croatia and all three are protected: Lacerta bilineata, Lacerta trilineata and Lacerta viridis.’ They were green but none of them looked right. I found the Italian Wall Lizard or Ruin Lizard and the Dalmatian Wall Lizard both found in Croatia.

From their descriptions I think these are Italian Wall Lizard, Podarcis sicula.

It hasn’t really been a comprehensive survey of Croatian wildlife, just a few notes about the animals I have photographed, mostly birds and insects.

There will be one or two other blogs from Croatia.