The pollen takers

Insects and pollen and nectar go hand in hand.Plants use insects to pollinate themselves as well as other means, many plants only use insects or use wind dispersal of pollen.Most flowering plants use insects of some sort to take pollen from one male plant or part of, to a female flower at another; this is how plants pro-create. If flowers are not pollinated then the plants will not usually bear fruit. All the fruit and veg we eat and other animals eat are from plants that have flowers that need to be pollinated.the main insects which do that are most types of insects and not just bees, but ants,butterflies,moths,beetles,bugs,spiders, in fact any invertebrate that visits flowers will pay a part in pollination.that is why insects are so important to us as humans and all other life on earth.Unfortunately the majority of humans do not understand this crucial part of nature.Many insects throughout the world are dying off in their trillions because of the use of pesticides and herbicides used on commercial plants for all manner of production; this has a devastating effect onus,wildlife and the environment.The knock-on effects of this are very serious and de-pleats bio-diversity.Here in Britain we have lost possibly half of all our pollinating insects as well as the plants they depend on. This must not be able to continue if we want a bio-diverse earth and if we as humans want to be healthy. One of the major problems in Britain is the silly damaging habits of the many.The cutting of grass along roadside verges is pointless, costly ,polluting,ugly and is wrong. we are obliged to create wildlife habitats not destroy them.It is bad enough most people destroying what they call weeds ! and mowing grass into lawns. There seems to be no place for wildlife in most gardens.The equation is simple. No wildlife means no humans ! Why do people not get it? Below are a few photos of pollinating insects in beautiful flowers.

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The Himalayan balsam is a very attractive but invasive plant;but like all of the so called alien plants we now have here in Britain, they all do a good job with insects and pollination. A plant bug hides inside the large colourful flower.

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A small be leaves a flower of the clustered bellflower now flowering in Purbeck. this tear there are more plants than i have ever seen.

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Ants are very important pollinators and fennel is attractive to all manner of Hymenoptera.

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A capsid bug takes pollen from a trefoil flower

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Here is an unusual morph of afemale common blue butterfly nectering on hawkweed flowers

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A wild honey bee has more than it bargained for as its face is totally covered in pollen from the common mallow flower.

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A pair of meadow brown butterflies copulating. I like the subtle sexual dimorphism

DSC00947Above is the bee wolf wasp pollinating sea holly.

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Under the Oak bark

It is vitally important for dead wood to hang around, especially as standing trees. these days so much dead wood or dying trees are removed in the wake of namby pamby health and safety laws and regulations. we risk losing many of our very important insects,birds and bats and fungi due to the removal or trees,branches, trunks,roots or just logs on the ground, especially oak. Many species of animals depend on dead and dying trees foe their survival and many species are very rare or on the brink of extinction. In Europe many iconic insect species have gone and now as Britain takes on more European laws we are heading in the same direction. some of the oldest trees we have are oaks and many of these now only remain in parks and stately homes. I have seen many dead trees removed along with the important ecosystems they support. some species still exist and the New forest is the last home to many rare or endangered species of beetles and moths and flies. A search of the bases of oaks sometimes yield typical evidence of goat moths (Cossus cossus). this large moth as a larvae consumes oak timber by boring into the base of the trunk. the holes can be seen with frass(excrement) in piles at the entrances and pupal cases can be found. Here is a dead specimen with hosts, flies as larvae about to pupate alongside. The fly is an endangered species.

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The goat moth is uncommon but a much less common moth species is the waved black (Parascotia fuliginaria). the larvae of this small mottled brown species feed on fungi under the bark.

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This caterpillar was not parasitized but the one below was.

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A small elephant hawk moth(Deilephila porcellus) was eaten by a small predator possibly a ground beetle.This uncommon moth is rarely seen, but occasionally visits moth lamps.It is mainly coastal in distribution and feeds on bedstraws

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This is the main month for butterflies and it has been a good year for them so far with last year being great for many species(the previous three years were very bad for many species) so hopefully the ideal weather conditions this summer will produce masses of abundant species. A variation of the ringlet ( Aphantopus hyperantus) ) was seen at Martin down nature reserve a few days ago , I call it the starry ringlet ! as it has tiny white star like speckles instead of the usual small eyelets.

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also a strange marked common blue female .

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Most smaller birds have fledged many young and some are incubating their third broods by now although only a few species have time to do this. Starlings (sturnus vulgaris)usually have one brood and the young remain with the family group for the rest of the summer. The numbers of these colonial species have plumeted over recent decades but i think that their numbers are increasing again in some areas and in some areas they have remained stable for a long time. I see then nearly everyday around Bournemouth areas and some places such as christchurch and mudeford and Hengestbury, they are tame and can be hand fed at food outlets

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The parents beg whilst the fledglings wait.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mini weevils

with over 1200 weevil species in Northern Europe identification of individuals can be very tricky. In Britain there have been over 420 species recorded.Some of the overlooked species are tiny such as the two following species from the Apion genus.

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A.frumentarium is only 2mm long and lives on docks and sorrels.It is usually this bright red orange colour.

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This is A.pomonae it lives on low growing composites.

A young boy on the promenade on Bournemouth beach front found a little strand of debris in a drying out gutter under the cliff and wondered what it was . i snatched it from him and took a closer look.There were three midge larvae cocooned in a droplet of water clinging to a plant root. Midges usually have aquatic larvae and are usually predatory or feed on other organic matter such as fungi, moulds or other insects in rotting wood or soil.

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Some spring butterflies are busy doing their stuff such as the orange tip(Anthocharis cardamines) as a larvae it feeds on crucifers (cabbage family) they love the cuckoo flower.

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orange tipThe underside is very camouflaged. Another white butterfly is the green veined white(Pieris napi) here feeding on gorse flowers.

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A nights moth trapping with a UV lamp in the New forest with entomologist friends, only provided three species but included many great prominant(peridea anceps) moths.

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The warbler and the buck

My nearest part of the heathland is vibrant with life today as the warm sun bathed the dry heather in a warm glow.Seven grass snakes basked on the moss and drab coloured sand lizards emerged .A young roe buck grazed the ling.Many young bucks are still in velvet whilst many old bucks are now free and clean. Nearby a male Dartford warbler scolded for fear of its nest being disturbed.

DSC00794The warblers suffered badly during the winter last year but this mild one seemed to save them and now I see the half the normal levels in prime heathland habitats.

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Unfortunately much heathland management by the conservation bodies actually is detrimental to the very existence of this species, as heather and gorse is cut too low for them to sing from. There must be a variety of all sizes of gorse to suit all animals.

One of our most beautiful insects surely must be the little ruby tailed wasp(chrisis ignita).They are parasitic on solitary mason bees and can be seen mainly around old wooden fences or logs or walls. They are very lively in the warm sun and are very difficult to photograph when active.

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A quick look into some calcareous woodland slopes yielded this magnificent plant, the herb Paris(Paris quadrifolia), is now a rare plant.where it occurs, it usually grows in carpets across the woodland floor along with dogs mercury.

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The snake and the scorpion

snake flies are odd creatures. They are Predators as adult and larvae. and have an elongated neck that moves around. The larvae lives in rotting wood feeding on a different variety of smaller organisms, the adult looks look like a lacewing but solid and brown with an articulated neck.Underneath the larvae is a small pseudo scorpion.Both were six foot up in an old oak in the New forest.

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There are just three species of snake flies, and twenty seven known species of pseudo scorpions. They are arachnids like spiders,mites,harvestmen and true scorpions, but lack a telson, but they possess venom glands and inject it with their pincers or palps.They also have silk glands but do not spin webs like spiders.

 

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The cronk and the Pini.

The Cronk, or raven as it is better known, (corvus corax) is now a common bird, and I am rarely out and about without hearing the typical cronk cronk sound of the call.They have a varied vocabulary and are very intelligent birds. Yesterday I heard a new sound emitting from one of a pair that have two nests in high monterey pines on Purbeck.The sound was a “What “repeated a few times with long intervals. Ravens are early nester’s and the chicks usually fledge before May.It is then that hobby falcons often take over the nest to rear their young.The ravens do not seem to mind this as they abandon the nest until next breeding season where they add sticks and other debris to the construction.

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On one of the pines within the group was a rare fungus Phellinus pini.

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This huge old veteran birch is a rare site to see, and it is possibly over a hundred years old. There are many good old trees dotted around that are not registered and so it takes people to find them and have them logged into the data base.

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Many large old trees are being destroyed by land owners without the knowledge from authorities. Even hedges are being pulled up and destroyed or badly cut. Dorset is one of the worse counties for neat hedges and especially on Purbeck, where the wrong kind of cutting equipment is more often used than not.This can result in badly damaged hedgerows and effects the wildlife that need the hedge.This is a prime example of a badly cat hedge.

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The odd thing about it, is that it is on a local wildlife trust reserve where there were doormouse boxes put into the hedge.I also see many hedges being cut now at this time of year when birds are starting to nest!I see all kinds of land mismanagement over recent years, some by landowners or conservation bodies that should know better.

I found this rove beetle (Staphalina caesareus ) under the raven trees.

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And a lovely spider , The fence post orb weever( Nuctenia umbratica) in another place.

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The witch and the eft

Newts, often called efts among many other things were one such group of animals that were poory understood in the past.They were thought to be the spawn of witches in the middle ages and to touch one would turn you to stone or you would lose your lover ! such silly superstitions thankfully rarely occur these days. This dead common newt(Lissotriton vulgaris) was snatched by a bird and tossed around its pond, yet was not eaten.

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The Witch hazel has a lovely scent and has been in flower for about a month.

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The relatively mild winter has allowed lots of fungus to fruit out of their usual time of year. The common helvella or white saddle(Helvella crispa ) is an odd shaped fungi and may not be shaped like a typical mushroom and may be overlooked much of the time.

DSC09600whilst the common ink cap (Coprinus atramentaria) is common and to be found on wood especially if buried in the ground.

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The fungi has surrounded a bumble bee nest box in the garden of the Bournemouth natural Science society.

One of my favourite passerine birds is the tiny long tailed tit. When I was a kid, I called them “Lolly pops,” as they are just a little ball on a stick.

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This one was killed by a car in the New forest.

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Strange jelly

This is the time of year when frogs spawn is found in waterways, but there is often problems in very wet weather and that is frogs laying their spawn in water that is to try up such as in open fields, roadside puddles and extended parts of their usual spawning ground that are usually not saturated.Much spawn is left high and dry when water levels drop rendering it useless unless it can find its way back into permanent water, or at least water that can remain until the later half of the summer season.Every year I rescue spawn that is high and dry and this year I found a clump of spawn four feet high off the ground on a fence post ! I do not think for one minute that a frog put it there as it could not have even got up onto the post top and the water level was not that high as it was on high ground. A person may have found it on the path and placed it on the post or a bird may have caught a frog and eaten it on the post, discarding the spawn.Crows, magpies ,Buzzards or tawny owls could be possibilities.

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Sometimes jelly masses are found in places especially in open fields and there are a number of different names for the strange alien looking slime. I tend to believe that it is barren frogs spawn jelly without the right development including egg yolks,which are usually black.Some frogs may just produce the outer jelly in large amounts instead of spawn, or large females may over produce jelly and release it after they have spawned. This is just mere speculation here, but I have no other explanation for the phenomenon. It certainly is not fungi. This small amount was in a woodland near to where frogs spawn amongst grass and leaves.

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I love rainbows and we have had plenty of them lately! so any excuse to take a photo of one, and I do,especially if it is bright with a nice foreground.DSC09409

Beach combing is great fun and one can learn a lot about the creatures and plants that thrive around Britain’s coasts. The rough seas through up all nature of stuff including these commonly found dogfish egg cases.The little sharks wrap a single egg around anchored obstacles such as rocks or weed bases with very long tendrils that can be over a meter in length. All of the hundreds of cases I found on Southbourne beach had hatched.

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Goose barnacles float about as they permanently fasten themselves to floating debris but can find themselves high and dry on beaches. These three are adult size but with tiny babies ones branching off from the stems.

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Some Tasmanian animals and plants

I was fortunate enough to visit the Australian state of Tasmania a few weeks ago and photographed many common and less known creatures. I will write a large section on the adventures that myself and my  colleagues got up to in more detail later  , but for now I will just post a small collection of some of my better wildlife pics. Some of the invertebrates have not been identified yet but some of the genus maybe.DSC09063

Of course one cannot go to Australia without photographing kangaroos !In this case the Eastern grey.

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The southern wombat is common throughout Tasmania as are many other mammals, some of which are rare or absent from the mainland.

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Tasmanian devils are common and in the Tarkine region of North west Tassie, they are generally healthy. These are picked up from my trigger cameras that were placed in the bush.

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this is the rainforest where we camped. Wet and cold most of the time as the spring time was long and cold.Tree ferns were the main under story, and towering myrtle trees and eucalyptus species dominated the forests.

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One of my favourite animals is the echidna. This is the short beaked. They trundle along searching for ant nests.We found quite a few of these monotremes but sadly no platypus !

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The Author holding an echidna which I spotted from the vehicle on the roadside.They dig themselves into the ground fast , exposing the sharp spines so one has to run up to them and start to dig them up before they bury themselves too deep.

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A devil in captivity, many are housed in a desperate bit to try to eradicate the facial tumours that many devils get in some parts of the island.They are gentle, calm and affectionate animals. Certainly not deserving of their name !

Dacelo novaequinae. Laughing Kuk

 

The bird life is amazing but birds are very difficult to photograph , yet the kookaburra are quite tame and this one was one of a pair that visited the camp daily.This is the worlds largest kingfisher yet it does not take aquatic animals but reptiles and insects.

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The sulphur crested cockatoo is common and forms large noisy flocks.They are amazing to watch as they fly around.

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Tree frogs could be heard much of the time near water but they are very elusive.This was the only one that I found.

Cave harvestman.Hickmanoxyomma sp.

 

Cave harvestmen are unique creatures from the region.There are about three similar species.

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The cave spider is unique to Tassie also and lives in just a few areas.This female guards her egg sack at the entrance to a sink hole cave.

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This beautiful crab spider was hanging from a tree fern.

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A lovely huntsmen spider.

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I found a tree funnel web spider.

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It was a bit early to find many species of orchid but this caladenia species were common on the heath lands.

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The beaches are amazing and often have a different variety of plants on the coastal dunes.

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Within the rainforests are many species of fungi, with quick decomposition of fallen and standing timber, the bracket fungi are abundant and large. This is a small species.

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Autumn Lepidoptera

Many larvae of large moths can be found up until this time as they finish eating and growing. Many will go to ground to hibernate as a pupa, some as a caterpillar and some as adult moths. Most of the tree dwelling larvae will have already headed towards the ground and be ready to pass the winter but some hang on quite late.This grey dagger moth caterpillar(Acronicta psi)  is one of the several types to be found this late in the year, along with Pale tussock(Calliteara pudibunda),buff tip(Phalera bucephala), and Knot grass(Aronicta rumicis).

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The adult moth is grey with dagger like streaks on the wings. It eats a variety of plants and tree leaves. The convolvulus hawk moth(Agrius convoluli) is mainly a migrant from southern Europe and north Africa, but some breed in the UK. A moth trap used at Durlston country park at Swanage in Dorset attracted at least nine individuals and other migrants such as the crimson speckled(Utethesa pulchella) of which there were several.Moth trapping on the South coast during September can conjure up anything strange and beautiful.

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There is much variation between many moth races and no two individuals are alike.

The Grey bush cricket (platycleis albopunctata) is a coastal  living species on cliffs, dunes and rough grassland. They, like other cricket and grasshopper species are very obvious during autumn time.They too are yearly living and die off before the winter leaving their eggs to start the next generation in early summer.

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Many spider species are also very obvious at this time of year because the orb weaving species are annual; they hatch from egg sacks layed by females the previous autumn, and over winter inside the egg, to hatch in the springtime and they slowly grow during the summer and only become visible late in the year, mainly females as they grow large and make large orb webs. They mate, lay eggs and then die.Many other spiders live for a year, linked in with our seasons and yet others that hunt on the ground or indoors ,houses and caves or in trees or rocks can live for many years. The spider below is the four spot orb weaver (Araneus quadratus).

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