28 October, 2016

Coleophora ibipennella

 Coleophora ibipennella

That 'thing' in the photo above is the protective case of a tiny moth called Coleophora ibipennella. The larva lives inside this peculiar looking construction and feeds (upside down) on an oak leaf before pupating within the case and emerging as a slightly less peculiar looking adult. Despite there being well over 100 species in this genus, feeding within cases on an equally large number of foodplants, I rarely have any luck finding them in their larval stage. Coleophora ibipennella seems to be an exception, with this being the third case of this species that I've found so far in 2016. I stumbled across it whilst taking a jaunt through West End Common in the sun yesterday evening.

26 October, 2016

Camera troubles

I made the run into town last Friday to book my Nikon D300s onto a well-needed spa break at one of the brand's repair centres just outside Kingston. I stopped off in Richmond Park on the way home for a dose of fungus spotting, mainly in an attempt to take my mind off the hefty price tag needed to bring the camera's auto-focus capabilities back to life in preparation for the slight possibility that I might take some photos of birds this winter.

Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera

 Yellow Fieldcap Bolbitius titubans

 Ochre Brittlegill Russula ochroleuca

Purple Brittlegill Russula atropurpuea

The Deceiver Laccaria laccata

I know what you might be wondering. I have two cameras. 

21 October, 2016

Blogger's decline

Doing my weekly 'rounds' of the blogs I regularly check-up on, I came across a forlorn post by Wanstead Birder in which he attempted to make sense of the terminal decline in the number of people who blog. It struck a cord with me, as only the other day I'd taken the regrettable decision to start purging my sidebar links list of any dormant blogs that hadn't posted within the past year. It's something I've been putting off for a while, not least because many of the now skeletal blogs that I linked to epitomised what was for me a 'golden age' of blogging between 2009 and 2011. At its peak, I could expect twice-weekly posts from every blog in my sidebar, with the likes of Counting Coots and Reservoir Cats, though only short lived, amassing impressive followings and cult status amongst bloggers for their unrivalled satirical observations on the birding world.

But as things move forward, the number of bloggers giving up the ghost is on the up, and it's evident that the rise in superior forms of social media is the reason behind it. In the short space of time since I started blogging back at the tail end of 2008, the likes of Twitter and Facebook have come to provide hassle-free platforms through which to share funny cat videos sightings, experiences and opinions in natural history. A blog post can take time to draw up, and the number of people that will ultimately view it is determined by the regularity and reliability of your posts. In contrast, tweets can be composed within a matter of seconds, and a 're-tweet' from the right person will slap your content onto the news feeds of hundreds of other nature enthusiasts.

I've had my fair share of disagreements with Bill's Birding over the years, most of which have culminated in variable lengths of time passing without any posts. Inevitably, the circumstances that encouraged 14-year old me to start the blog, mainly to communicate with other young birders at the time, have become less relevant, and I can now share everything I want to with my 480 odd Twitter followers in a few sentences without worrying about having to tailor to a blog audience.

That said, I feel like I've come too far to simply pull the plug. I've made a permanent connection with Bill's Birding, so much so that while out in the field I'm often subconsciously compiling a suitable blog post in my head. I've committed to the blog for so long that it's become a defining part of me; something that I care too much about to let go. Our relationship is hard to compare to anything you might be able to relate to. Think about the emotional connection you hold with a loved one (i.e. child/partner/parents). Then consider that winter coat you think you look good in. It's probably somewhere in between.

Shaggy Inkcap

12 October, 2016

Leafmining in the North Downs

There was a bit of a chill in the air as I arrived at Sheepleas yesterday morning for another dose of leafmining. The beech trees were throwing long shadows across the woodland floor and the sunlight had a distinct glare to it typical of the latter months of the year. It felt truly autumnal in the North Downs.

I recorded two species I've never seen before - the scarce (but no doubt under-recorded) Stigmella aeneofasciella which mines the leaves of Agrimony, and Parornix fagivora which makes a distinctive leaf fold on Beech.

Stigmella aeneofasciella leafmine on Agrimony 

 Euspilapteryx auroguttella on Perforate St. Johns Wort

 Parornix fagivora on Beech

 Parornix betulae on Silver Birch

 Phyllonorycter acerifoliella on Field Maple

Aspilapteryx tringipennella on Ribwort Plantain

 Pyrrhalta viburni

 Corizus hyoscyami

Tree Damsel Bug

On the way home I stopped off at Littleworth Common, just outside Esher, to check for leafmines on the large stands of Aspen and Rowan that grow on site.

 Stigmella assimilella on Aspen

 Stigmella magdalenae on Rowan

Phyllonorycter sorbi on Rowan

Caloptilia stigmatella on Aspen

11 October, 2016

Telegraph Hill

Some welcome free time yesterday afternoon tempted me to get out onto the patch to have an optimistic search for a rogue avian migrant or two. Telegraph Hill, just south of Hinchley Wood, is one of the highest points in the area as the name suggests, so it didn't seem completely unreasonable to expect a Siberian Accentor or at the very least a Ring Ouzel to drop in for a quick refuel before heading onwards into the deepest and darkest depths of upper middle-class Surrey.

Alas, nothing materialised so I resorted to some invertebrate appreciation. The irridescent leaf beetle Phratora laticolli was feeding in profusion on a small row of aspens at the top of the hill, and it wasn't too hard to find some Stigmella leaf mines on various deciduous trees in the hedgerows.

 Phratora laticolli

 Stigmella plagicolella on Blackthorn

Stigmella ulmivora on Elm

10 October, 2016

Foreign field guides

Last Saturday saw the Amateur Entomologists' Society's Annual Exhibition held in a massive room at Kempton Park racecourse. Asides from being a mouthful to say, the exhibition consists of a diverse (if a little underwhelming) concoction of stalls selling live pet insects, mounted specimens, entomological equipment and the latest wildlife-related literature. I try and get over there every few years to bump into old friends, but with enticing book titles being sold in all four corners of the room and a bank account balance that seems to remain in a perceptually frail state, it's always a dangerous place to go. This year the exhibition coincided with payday, which instilled within me enough confidence to grab a couple of foreign field guides to add to the bookshelf - 'Fjadermott i Norden' and 'Suomen Luteet'.

In our quest to give everything Anglocentric common names it's surprisingly easy to forget that the world of insects doesn't evolve around Britain, not by a long stretch. A large proportion of the latest entomology-related research is carried out in institutes across Scandinavia, and field guides like these two are a testament to this.

Fjadermott i Norden is a pocket-sized Swedish guide that illustrates all 58 species of plume moth found in Scandinavia, many of which are also present in the UK. I won't claim to be able to understand a word of it, but the book's in-depth coverage of larval stages combined with fantastic illustrations was reason enough to part with a tenner for it.

The other book I purchased is called Suomen Luteet - translated simply as 'Finnish Bugs'. It was an impulse buy having been recommended to me 10 minutes earlier by good pal and leading hemipteran guru Tristan Bantock. The layout is simple and an impressive array of species are described (a hefty proportion of which are also present in the UK) using high quality photographs of mounted specimens.

As far as I'm aware, there are no other books available that cover Hemiptera in such a comprehensive manner, and at £35 it's a bit of a bargain. The only pricey bit will be the subsequent Finnish language classes you'll need to be able to read it.

01 October, 2016

Mushroom interlude

Earlier this week I found myself driving to Aylesbury with a couple of hours to spare before a bat survey, so I stopped off to stretch my legs in the tiny hamlet of Christmas Common that sits atop a steep chalk escarpment within the Chilterns Hills.

I parked in a lay-by and walked off, in no particular direction, through a silent patch of beech woodland. It was my first autumnal walk of the year, with dappled sunlight beaming through the gaps in the tree canopy where leaves had begun to fall, and fungi of various shapes and sizes fruiting amongst the leaf litter.

An unidentified Bolete

Amethyst Deciever