Category Archives: True Flies

Educated Fleas

I thought that I would take Fizz up in the fields and take her picture in amongst the Dandelions…

Fizz

FizzBut I became distracted.

This is St Mark’s Fly (Bibio marci)

St Mark's FlyWe call it that because they all emerge around about the same time, April the twenty fifth and that is St Mark’s Day. They are a little bit late this year.

These first picture are of the male. He has large eyes and clear wings, also very long back legs that hang below him in flight. Last year I searched in vain for a female of the species. They look quite different.

The problem is that the adults only live for about a week and as they all emerge at the same time there is very little opportunity to see them.

St Mark's FlyAnd there she was, distracting me… I forgot all about Fizz.

St Mark's FlyShe has small eyes , she is a little bit longer than the male and has dark wings.

St Mark's FlyBut even though she looks so different I am quite confident that this is the female of the species.

St Mark's Fly

St Mark's FlyI have heard it said that the male has such big eyes so that he can find the female and that is quite believable. I had a lot of trouble finding her.

The Dandelions are beginning to fade now.

FizzThe Buttercups are just starting to appear.

As soon as the Dandelions go these fields will fill with Buttercups.Buttercup

ButtercupIt looks like these fields are going to be grown for silage again this year, the grass is already too long for Sheep. That is good because for a few months we will get long grass and lots of wildflowers and all of the associated insects.

I will leave you with the firework display called Ribwort Plantain.

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain

 

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Feeling The Heat

The purpose of our “Selfies” is to try and capture the feel of the day. These are from December… Great long shadows and it is cold and windy.

Selfie

SelfieNow this is April…

SelfieHer mud is drying up.

MudThese are my holiday snaps and I have been on holiday for a long time.

There may be trouble ahead….


I wouldn’t like to be that Rat when Fizz the Great War Dog gets a’hold of him.


She just needs to practice a bit, she is warming up.

Oh yes, I have bought the Goldfinches a nyger seed feeder.

Nyger feederThey are loving it and empty it very quickly. I will do more about that in another post.

On the subject of birds. The Bullfinches have stopped using the feeders but they are still around. We have an Apple orchard at the bottom of the garden and I think that they are drawn to the buds there.

Disappointingly the Long -tailed Tits have gone. Like the finches I think that their comings and goings are related to the natural food supply but I don’t know what has drawn them away.

The little Robin never came back. There are still lots of Robins about and sometimes I look out of my door and shout, “Come on! One of you must be Christopher.” No, he has gone.

But all of that fades into absolute insignificance because when I opened my door yesterday I heard a song that filled my heart.

Barn SwallowNow I know what they say, that “One Swallow does not a summer make,”  but that is rubbish, it is summertime now 🙂

There is something that I have got to do this year. Swallows pair up for life, each autumn when they leave they separate and then in the early summer when they return they reunite. It is something to witness and I have got to video it this year. They are so excited to be reunited, like little puppies and it doesn’t last for that long but for a little while there is a great video waiting to be made.

Barn SwallowI am going to love hearing their song again.

The little Mud Eaters beat the Swallows back by several days.

House MartinI didn’t really do the House Martins justice last year, they don’t nest outside of my front door like the Swallows but I will try harder this time around. I love their little feathered feet.

I like a little heat.

SelfieWildflowers then, there is so much going on that I don’t know where to start.

Walking along the country paths it just looks like a mess of green…

MessUnless you know it.

Cow ParsleyThis little leaf is the Cow Parsley and in a few weeks it will be painting the most beautiful pictures.

Cow ParsleyThat reminds me of another April challenge. The St. Mark’s Fly.

St Mark's FlySo called because the adult flies emerge around April the twenty fifth (St. Mark’s Day), these are the ones with long dangly legs that trail behind them when they fly.

St Mark's FlyThe challenge is to photograph the female, I just could not find one last year. They only live for a couple of weeks and the window of opportunity is a small one.

But back to the present, this leaf is the Hogweed.

HogweedForget any misconceptions that the name might suggest, this one is a very beautiful flower.

HogweedAlso the large, saucer like, flower heads are an absolute magnet for insects. I am finding my first flowers now and it will be here until the very end of Autumn.

I have got to leave the wildflowers for a bit because I have got to take Fizz for a walk, I will come back to them. While we are out I am going to upload some wild animal videos for you to watch.


These are female Fallow Deer (Dama dama) They are just losing their winter coats and so they look a little bit tatty but they are healthy animals.


This week the trail camera returned 180 videos over two days and nights. 136 of those were of my little friend the Fox but I also got 44 clips of the deer in the daytime, a nice return.

This is the same spot that I videoed the Boar in last week and it is proving to be a good place to set the camera. As well as the Deer, Fox and Boar I have been getting clips of Badgers, nothing exceptional but it is good to know that they are there. I feel happier if I can say that I am putting the camera out to film Deer, they are hunted just the same as the Boar but there isn’t the same hysteria and people are much more likely to go into the forest to look for Deer.

This location is not in the Forest of Dean, it is woodland some way outside of the forest boundaries and the Boar here are the animals that the Forestry Commission have been kind enough to drive out of the forest as they attempt to disperse them across the whole county, or country even.


A few other things that are good about this location, apart from the fact that it is rich in wild life, It is an unmanaged Sweet Chestnut coppice, I wouldn’t normally like that because there is very little else that grows in such a coppice but it does give me quite good views of the animals. This is also a Bluebell wood and that will make a nice backdrop and nobody comes here. I have filmed a lot here and have never picked up Dog walkers or anybody at all, that makes me feel quite safe about leaving the camera out. I will continue to film here for a few more weeks.

Okay I am back and Poochy has been walked. It is quite blustery out there today.

Back to the wildflowers. I like them because they are beautiful…

Ivy-leaved Speedwell(Ivy-leaved Speedwell)

Ivy-leaved SpeedwellFizz likes them because they make a nice soft bed.

Fizz in BedGet off the bed!

I am very pleased that I got pictures of the Town Hall Clock buds last week because this week there were no buds to be found.

Town Hall ClockAnother flower that has just appeared…..

Remember the diminutive Harry Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)?

Hairy BittercressThis is the girl of his dreams, Lady Smock and if you think, like Harry that she looks good enough to eat, well, she is.

Cuckoo FlowerCuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis). The leaves and flowers are the best bits to eat, they  have a peppery flavour that adds a lot to a herb salad.

Cuckoo FlowerBoth she and Harry are Cardamines and they can cross pollinate but  will she, wont she? That is what Harry would like to know.

Cuckoo FlowerA couple more “firsts” for the week, this little splash of pink is Herb Robert.

Herb RobertLast year I was able to find this one in flower throughout the winter but this year, this is my first.

Herb RobertI have also seen my first signs of the spathe of the Arum Lily.

Wild ArumThere will be much more of these flowers in the weeks to come.

Well it has been a long post and you must be feeling pretty tired.

Tired FizzI have just got one more wildflower to do today and then we can play ball.

FizzThis is Hen-bit Dead-nettle. I found it growing on my steps when I got home.

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettleI will try and find it in more picturesque surroundings.

Goodnight Fizz.

Selfie

 

Defamation of Character!

As you probably realised I have been away for a few days, gathering botanical specimens for the benefit of our understanding and not what Fizz said, that is just her impish sense of fun.

Impish sense of funI was not lying in a ditch, I was in the pink.

Starting with pinks, I have got Primroses.
PrimroseNot pins or thrums or even yellow ones, I have got pink Primroses.

Pink Primrose

Pink PrimroseThis is the real thing, not a hybrid or garden escapee, this is the pink form of Primula vulgaris subspecies vulgaris a pink wild Primrose. They are not that rare but I didn’t have pictures and now I do 🙂

Pink Primrose

Pink Primrose

Pink Primrose

Pink PrimroseNow put pink out of your mind or the colours might clash.

This next one was a wonderful find.

I have been walking miles to get photographs of the various stages of Coltsfoot. A couple of days ago I was walking back from just such an expedition when we came to the gate.

This is where Fizz likes to play “The Gate Game.”
The Gate GameThis particular gate is by the side of a track we regularly walk and it is very close to home.

The rules of the game are simple. She runs under the gate with the ball and sits there looking at me, she won’t budge. If I climb over the gate she runs back under, to the other side and we play again. She can play this game for a long time. It is so funny. (Her impish sense of fun, again)

This time when I climbed over, I forgot all about her and didn’t bother coming back.

Coltsfoot on my doorstep.
ColtsfootI have shown you the flower, it is a beautiful flower but that’s not it.

We had been out for about three hours in bright sunshine and we hadn’t seen an insect, not even a Butterfly. The Coltsfoot was swarming with them.

I need these photographs again for Easy Wildflowers. It is okay to say, “Provides a valuable source of nectar and pollen early in the year” but it is much better to have photographs.

Honey Bees.
Honey BeeWhen I photograph insects I really want to get the eyes and it can get very frustrating trying to capture Bees on Thistles or Dandelions because they bury their faces in the flower. Coltsfoot is lovely and flat and it doesn’t give them anywhere to hide.

Honey Bee

Honey Bee

Honey Bee

Moving on…Honey BeeThere were lot’s of Butterflies but all of them Small Tortoiseshells and some of them were quite badly torn so today I will move past them quite quickly. (We will have lots of Butterflies later)

Small Tortoiseshell(Butterfly nectaring on Coltsfoot)

I just want to show you one more insect today. This next one is a Hover Fly, called a Drone Fly it is a Bee mimic.

This is Eristalis tenex.

You can tell it is a Hover Fly and not a Bee because it only has two wings and it has a thick waist.

Common Drone FlyIt has huge eyes that would meet in the middle if it were a male, this one is female and it has stubby little antennae.

Common Drone FlyIt is not quite so easy to get it to species, they can vary in colour a lot.

This is Eristalis tenex because it has a banana shaped back leg (curved rear tibia).

Eristalis tenexThe hairs on it’s back legs are longer in the centre of each section and that is indicative of species.

Eristalis tenexIf you look closely there are two lines of fine hair running down it’s eyes. That is probably not very clear unless you are looking for it.

Eristalis tenexOh dear. Am I boring you?

Bored FizzJust one more little flower today.

I have been fretting over this one. It is already in flower and I haven’t put it on EW yet. There are two subspecies and I wanted the pictures to show the difference. This is the flower in question.

The Ivy-leaved Speedwell.

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

You have to look closelyIvy-leaved Speedwell

Really closely.Ivy-leaved Speedwell

There it is.Ivy-leaved Speedwell

A British pond coin is about the same size as a wedding ring and an Ivy-leaved Speedwell is the same size as the “G” in “REG.”Ivy-leaved SpeedwellInside the flower there are even tinier bits (smaller than Fizz) and what I have been looking for is a picture of the anthers just before they open to produce pollen. There is a fairly small window of opportunity.

If the anthers are bright blue, before they get covered with white pollen and all the other bits add up then it is Veronica hederifolia subspecies hederifolia and that is what I think that I have got here.

Ivy leaved speedwellDoes it really matter? Will anybody ever look?

What do you think Fizz?

FizzFizz thinks that we should play ball.

Sunday (Phew! What a Scorcher)

Now, I have sat down here to write a post for you and beside me there is a steaming mug of black coffee and a large glass of whiskey. This is not good, I don’t do my best writing when I am drinking black coffee. I have taken a sensible precaution and I have written “Don’t Ramble” on the back of my hand in Biro. So now if you are sitting comfortably, I will begin….

Scorcher

Yesterday started well. Saturday had been as warm as a late Spring day and Sunday looked just as promising. So we had to ask ourselves, “what will we do with all of this sunshine?” We can scour the woods for fungi when it’s raining, we decided to go and look for butterflies instead.

It was a long shot given the time of year but if it was going to happen it would be on a day like this.

Well we didn’t see any. In fact it was just a sunny winter’s day and not spring at all and in winter everything that isn’t dead is asleep.

So that’s that.

The End.

FizzOkay now I am rubbing the word “Don’t” off the back of my hand with spit.

Why on earth did I think we would find butterflies on the last day of November?

There are five British butterflies that overwinter as adults and that means that throughout the whole winter these delicate little insects will be outside, even when the streams freeze up and stop moving and frost covers everything in long crystals.

On any warm winter day they can and do wake up and they have a little stretch and bask in the sun for an hour before going back to sleep. These five will be the first to welcome the spring.

I will show them to you.

Three pictures of the Brimstone because I don’t think that I have had it on the blog yet. Not very flashy wings but it has a lovely photogenic face.

Brimstone Butterfly

Brimstone Butterfly

Brimstone ButterflyThe other beautiful animals are…

Comma
Comma Butterfly

Red Admiral
Red Admiral Butterfly

Small Tortoiseshell
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Peacock
Peacock ButterflyAll of these animals emerge in the summer sun and they are like teenagers, they don’t have any responsibilities. All that they do is drink nectar and enjoy the sun. Somehow when summer ends they have to survive the winter and when spring comes they will have to learn about territories and breeding. Well, that can be fun too.

It was a long shot but we could have seen any of these butterflies.

Anyway this isn’t going to be a post about any of these, this is a post about the Orange Tip and somewhere there is probably a reason.

This morning I wrote a couple of posts for my Easy Wildflowers Blog. They were both about Strawberries (of sorts) The Wild Strawberry….

Wild StrawberryAnd the Barren Strawberry.

Barren StrawberryPretty easy to tell apart, the real strawberry has a yellow dome in the centre of the flower.

Whilst I was researching the species I came across this interesting bit of information, you can tell the species apart because on the leaf of the Barren Strawberry the tooth at the tip of the leaf is smaller than the teeth either side of it. (True)

Barren StrawberryWhereas on the Wild Strawberry it um…isn’t (particularly)

Wild StrawberryDid you know that?

I think that there are easier ways to separate the plants but it is all good.

Wild Strawberry

Wild StrawberryThe other good way to tell if it is a real Wild Strawberry is to wait and see if Bananas grow on it. Wild Strawberries are really small and Bananas are far away.

OOOh! That coffee is kicking in.

Anyway I digress. While I was checking out my pictures of Strawberries I happened to notice some other pictures of Orange Tips and the Orange Tip is a butterfly. Do you get the connection?

The Orange Tip was sitting on my hand. Over the last few days I have become involved with a bird that might sit on my hand and so the Orange Tip struck a chord.

Robins are pesky birds.

I made the mistake recently of not identifying this bird, it is a European Robin. In the UK this is probably the most recognised and most loved bird that we have. I have got a love of these animals.

Robin

Robin

RobinThey hang around my flat and try and steal my stuff. Over the last few days I have been trying to get one to feed from my hand and so that is why I decided to write a post about the Orange Tip.

Everybody loves the Robin Redbreast. It is an audacious little bird and approaches men and seems friendly.

Male Robins will not tolerate each other and they fight to the death. I have read that up to ten per cent of all Robin deaths may be down to robinicide, they are little psychopaths, they are killers but they are fine with other species.

RobinSo anyway, as I was saying, When I first arrived here I was quickly accepted because of my affinity with animals. I know what they like to eat.

Everybody was happy because I brought Robins with me (Meal worms). The old fellow even started stealing my photographs to put on his wall…..

PhotographThen the Goldfinches arrived (Sunflower hearts)

Goldfinch CharmThese birds are so sweet and charming and as they had never been here before I received a request to stop feeding the Robins in case they chased the Goldfinches away.

Like Goldfinches can’t look after themselves 🙂

The bird wears war paint.

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

GoldfinchI have been feeding the Robins by my back door and recently I have begun to think that I could get them feeding from my hand, which would be very nice.

So little animals in my hand was on my mind when I looked through my library for strawberry pictures and that is when I saw the Orange Tip.

Now, keeping in mind the need to be precise and avoid rambling, I just need to tell you about how little animals came to be in my hands in the first place.

Blue tit chickBack in the olden days when I first started hanging out in woods the animals were very friendly.

Some of them were a bit too friendly and it seemed like they just couldn’t get enough of me.

Mosquitos What you are looking at there is probably the second most dangerous animal in the world. Mosquitoes kill more people than all of the Tigers and Great Whites and Crocodiles and everything else that you can think of put together.

The only thing worse than a Mosquito is me and my kind.

Still I quite like them. I understand that it is only the females that take my blood and they only do it because they need the protein to make their eggs and Mosquitoes love their children as much as we love ours.

Horse Flies on the other hand are just mean.

Horse FlyYou don’t even feel a Mozzie, they are masters of stealth but Horse Flies have mouth parts that slash and rip flesh and you get instant pain.

Ouch

Ouch! That had to hurt.HorseShut up! Who asked you?

Being quite green (Naive rather than environmental) my solution was Deet.

DeetIt is very effective. It works by creating a smell that is really offensive to insects and for a couple of years I lived in an insect free world.

One day my bottle of Deet just stopped working. It had always worked and then it just stopped. Why would that happen?

On my first day without Deet I got this photograph.

Red AdmiralThat was the day that I realised that the best way to approach insects might not be to cover myself in insect repellent. I have never worn it since.

So to get to the subject of this post.

The Orange tip is a lovely spring butterfly.

Orange TipIt is very common in the spring time and easy to recognise, you can spot them a mile off.

Orange Tip

Orange TipThe female of the species is a different matter. She doesn’t have the orange tips, she is just white and there are a few small white butterflies around at that time of year. I desperately wanted to photograph the female.

Every little white butterfly that I chased down the hedgerow turned out to be one of these.

Green Veined WhiteThis is a Green-veined White and not a female Orange Tip.

I was beginning to think that Orange Tips must mate with Green-veined Whites and there was no such thing as a female Orange Tip.

So anyway, one day I was out looking at the Wild Arum flower.

Wild ArumThis is not really a flower at all, the flowers are inside. The Arum Lily is really a complex Fly trap.

Wild ArumIt is a bit like the opposite of an insect repellent, it is designed to attract insects.

Now I am not suggesting that anybody goes out and covers themselves in Arum sap. It is a deadly poison that burns and blisters the skin but these things do happen and in the process of examining the fly trap I was exposed to the sap.

Wild ArumI did wash my hands in a nearby puddle of mud and I dried them on a convenient walking hand towel that I always keep with me for just such an emergency.

Hand Towel

Hand TowelBy this time my hands must have been smelling pretty good. (It’s okay I didn’t poison the dog)

This is a female Orange Tip.

Female Orange Tip

Female Orange Tip

Female Orange TipNow I am afraid that I have forgotten what I was talking about. Monday evening has become Tuesday morning and the whiskey is all gone. I must get some sleep.

This month I have to work on my Easy Wildflowers blog and get some content on there. You might think that I am slacking a bit. It is only temporary and it will be worth it. That blog is going to be very good.

Take care.

Back Off or I’ll Sting You!

Oh no you won’t, you’re not a wasp.

Am so!

So are you a male wasp or a female wasp.

You won’t care when I am done stinging you!

Chrysotoxum festivum

Chrysotoxum festivum

Chrysotoxum festivum

Chrysotoxum festivum

Chrysotoxum festivumIt’s just that most male wasps have seven segments to their abdomen and seven stripes and females have six… and you have got four, so I was wondering, are you a male wasp or a female one?

Right I’m ready. You’re for it now.

I’ll just have a little drink, then I’m going to sting you!

You better start running.

Chrysotoxum festivum

Chrysotoxum festivum

Chrysotoxum festivum

Chrysotoxum festivumThe problem with this little fly is that she hasn’t got a name. She has got a scientific name (Chrysotoxum festivum) but she hasn’t got a common name.

Nobody has noticed her or deemed her important enough to be included in their conversations.

Look out Mavis! It’s one of them Dangerflies. You watch the kids and I’ll get a stick to whack her if she comes any closer.” “Don’t whack her Fred, she’s a harmless little pollinator.”

Nobody has ever been frightened by her. She is of course a Hover Fly and a strikingly bold and beautiful one and she should have a name. Perhaps not Dangerfly though.

Chrysotoxum festivum

Dead Heads

Myathropa florea is quite a pretty name, prettier than Dead Head.

These Hover Flies are called Dead Heads because the pattern on the black thorax (The first part of it’s body behind the head) is supposed to resemble a blackened skull.

Dead Head Hover FlyThese are one of the easier Hover Flies to identify. There are a lot that you just can’t get to species from a photograph, you have to chop them up and examine them with a microscope.

Dead Head Hover Fly

Dead Head Hover Fly

Dead Head Hover Fly

Dead Head Hover Fly

Dead Head Hover Fly

Dead Head Hover Fly

8It has lovely yellow hair, don’t you think?

The Pellucid Hover Fly

A couple of days ago I posted a picture of a Pellucid Hover Fly (above) without properly identifying it. So just to set the record straight and while I am having my coffee and making my plans, this is a Pellucid Hover Fly.

Pellucid HoverflyThis one is a female, it is the same with all Hover Flies, the female’s eyes are spaced apart and the male’s eyes meet in the middle.

The Pellucid is one of the UK’s largest flies and quite easy to identify. It has a large white band through the middle of the abdomen and dark spots on it’s wings, also a very pretty face.

Pellucid HoverflyThe colouration is supposed to mimic a bee or wasp, that may serve to deter attacks from birds but there is another reason behind it.

The female is an intrepid beast. She enters the nest of wasps (Common and German) and lays her eggs in their nests. The larvae feed on the debris at the bottom of the nest. Despite the fact that she doesn’t look much like a wasp she is allowed to do this without being attacked even though Wasp’s nests are otherwise pretty well guarded places. This may be a symbiotic relationship as the larvae clean the nest and remove (eat) dead Wasps and their larvae and they also eat other insects that they find in the nest.

When they are ready to pupate the larvae leave the nest and pupate underground and adult flies emerge sometime around June.

Volucella pellucensMost Hover Flies look a bit like Bees or Wasps and that must help to prevent attack but they don’t sting. The big difference between a Hover Fly and the Bees and Wasps is that Hover Flies only have two wings. They belong to the order Diptera (The True Flies) and Diptera literally means “two wings”.

All insects have four wings but in the Diptera the hind wings are tiny and are not used for flying.

Volucella pellucensso that is the beautiful female Pellucid Hover Fly, Volucella pellucens.

Pellucid Hover FlyHere is the male of the species.

Pellucid Hover Fly

Pellucid Hover FlyNow while you were reading that I have had a chat with Fizz and we have decided to give the Butterflies a rest for today and go up to the woods in search of a particular fungus that I feel quite confident of finding and of course we shall play ball in the fields on the way. So we shall see you later.

Have a nice Tuesday.