Thursday, July 21, 2011

Flitwick Moor & Maulden Wood

Last week I spent a great day in the company of Jason, Alan & John, focusing on the invertebrates of Flitwick Moor in the morning and Maulden Wood in the afternoon.

We found all kinds of stuff through the day but this was my favourite fly, the Square-spot Deerfly, Chrysops viduatus. Before now I have only ever come across the Twin-lobed Deerfly, Chrysops relictus, in Bedfordshire. The names refer to the shape of the black mark on the top of the abdomen. Identification cannot be confined to this marking alone, but the wing markings help to confirm that it is, indeed, C. viduatus. I’ve got a healthy fear of these Deerflies, the females of which can give a painful bite, usually on the back of the neck.

I’ve shown a photo similar to this in the past. These hats appear to be remarkably effective in Deerfly areas!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A ghostly Squirrel & a muggle Polecat!

Many thanks to Dennis for these photos of an albino Grey Squirrel that is running around in Station Road, Ampthill, at the moment.

I love the photo which shows the contrast with the accompanying Grey Squirrel and Blackbird!

On Friday the last episode of the Harry Potter franchise is released. Will Voldemort and his 'pure bloods' triumph over those inferior wizards with muggle ancestry? I found this Polecat earlier today close to the Stewartby turn, and I'm not sure whether it's a pure-blood Polecat or a muggle Polecat-Ferret! There seems to be a few too many pair hairs on the facial pelage, and I need someone more skilled than myself to have a look.

During the Vincent Trust’s Polecat Survey of England, Scotland & Wales (2004-2006) road traffic casualties comprised the majority of the 1,273 records and, of those, 86.2% were verified as true Polecats. Here in Bedfordshire the majority of our records follow this trend. I’m going to let Richard, our County Mammal Recorder, make the call on this one! You can contrast some of the features on the Vincent Wildlife Trust’s downloadable resource here.

Having looked at the side profile, it was reckoned that the pale appearance may well be down to the Polecat beginning to come into its winter coat, even at this early stage. The front profile above, with the brown nasal mark extending right to the nose suggests that this is, indeed, a pure blood and not a muggle!

Bees Bee-ware!

These two flies are both members of the Conopidae or Thick-headed Fly family. They were photographed near the Oasis Swimming Pool in Bedford last week.

Conopid flies are to our Bumblebees what Sparrowhawks are to our Sparrows! They perch on leaves and flowerheads waiting for their unsuspecting victims to alight and then, before you can say “Beware, Bumblebee, Beware” they fly alongside it and quickly deposit an egg inside the unfortunate victim using a razor-sharp needle-like ovipositor. The larva which hatches out consumes the Bee from the inside out, overwintering in the chitin husk. Gruesome, or what!!

This deep-red Conopid is Sicus ferrugineus, which is very common in this area. The head looks like it’s being blown up like a balloon!

And the wasp-like waist on this fly means that it is almost certainly Physocephalus rufipes.