Monday, 3 August 2015

Aug 3rd Minsmere

Red Admiral
A sweltering day out at Minsmere with temperatures at around 25°c made for perfect conditions for insect watching. August is a bit of a quiet month for birds, both vocally and visibly as they begin to moult their old feathers. For insects on the other hand, they take over in their absence. As soon as we arrived today, I started seeing them as we made our way to the visitor centre. Buddleia bushes outside the building were producing a strong aroma from their nectar-filled purple flowers. No wonder that this plant is also known as the 'butterfly bush', as the flowers were covered in butterflies that could not resist this plant's sweet nectar. Red admirals, peacocks, commas and large whites were the main visitors to these bushes, but there were a couple of special butterflies here too.

Painted Lady
A few painted ladies have made a long migration from Morocco to come feed from these buddleia bushes. The invasion of these lovely butterflies appears to be a small one this year, but maybe it will be next year in which we will get an invasion where fields and trees are covered in them across the country. It won't be long now I expect! Though painted ladies are summer visitors, to me, they are not the butterfly that makes me feel that the summer holidays are finally here. That accolade goes to the grayling. This is an orange-brown butterfly of heathlands and coastal dunes. I love these sun loving creatures, they always make me think of the beach and ice cream on a hot summers day. They have a charming trick they can do with their wings that make me like them more. They rarely open their wings, but they can choose to raise or tuck in the top wing under their hind wing to hide the orange panel with an eyespot on it. The way they do this reminds me of a camera shutter and is rather amusing.


Sand Martins
Sand martins filled the air as they flew back and forth to their nest holes in the sand cliff near the visitor centre. Their chattering calls were one of the few bird sounds we could still hear around the reserve today. The loud chirping sounds of grasshoppers and crickets replaced bird song. Just like birds, each different sounding chirp represents a different species of these insects calling somewhere within the long, dry grass. They only reveal themselves when they decide to hop out of cover onto the path, otherwise, they were really difficult to locate.

A sandy section of the path leading to the beach was riddled with small holes. These were made by a bee-wolf. A bee-wolf is a species of solitary sand digging wasp and we found a small colony of them along this small patch of sandy path. My three companions enjoyed watching them dig their burrows, which were created in an instant. They will lay their eggs inside them and then capture and stun honey bees that are also placed inside the burrow to feed the young when they hatch. This is why they are called bee-wolves, they are like wolves to bees. A fearful beast in miniature!

Spotted Redshank
The scrapes were the only other place on the reserve which was busy with birds. Black-headed, lesser black-backed and herring gulls, lapwings, black-tailed godwits, avocets, a few barnacle and Canada geese, a common sandpiper and lots of common terns with fledging youngsters filled the islands and spits of land as well as the pools surrounding them and a cacophony of calls (mostly from the terns) made it sound like an active place compared to the reserve's woodland, which was ghostly silent. There were also a couple of spotted redshanks amongst the other waders. These are slightly bigger than common redshanks with longer bills. During the breeding season, males turn black with white spots all over, which gives the bird its name. However, the two birds here are not black and also look completely different to each other, with one paler than the other. This may mean that they are juveniles, which often confuse birdwatchers.
The paler Spotted Redshank
Common Terns
Common Tern with a fish
Juvenile Common Tern
Common Sandpiper
Canada Geese

Elsewhere, apart from a marsh harrier and a fishing common tern from Bittern Hide, little egrets and cormorants from Island Mere Hide and many dragonflies, it was rather quiet and not quite as exciting. But I do have news to leave you with about the superstar of Springwatch 2015 provided by this sign...
Common Tern hovering
Diving down for lunch!
Burnet Moth
Common Darter
Common Centaury

1 comment:

  1. Great post Sean, very enjoyable read. I've been watching insects in the garden recently and am putting together a post about what I've found. I was wondering what the small predatory wasp was and you've solved the mystery - beewolf! Thanks.