Saturday, 1 April 2017

April 1st Roydon Common and Dersingham Bog

Roydon Common

It was time to get serious with my bug challenge. Today, I was at Roydon Common with Dad in search of a dung beetle. What I am looking for, however, are much smaller than those you might find in Africa and will roll around rabbit droppings rather than large balls of elephant dung. In the UK, these dung beetles are known as dor beetles and out of the 8 species, I am hoping to find the most impressive looking of all; the minotaur beetle!

A dead female Minotaur Beetle
Roydon Common is apparently one of the best places to find a minotaur beetles in Norfolk, though you can find them at any heathland. To locate one, you need to find what they love the most, animal droppings. This was easy enough as there were plenty of rabbit and horse poop everywhere. We searched an area that was slightly sheltered from the wind and we found one! However, it was a dead female. Not quite the same as seeing one alive, but it was a good sign.

Male Minotaur Beetle
Just a little further on from where we found the dead female, we found one that was alive! It was a male and was busy rolling a rabbit dropping to its burrow. I picked it up dropping and all for a closer look at it in my new bug pot. Then I held it in my hand before letting go to continue what it was doing. It really is an impressive insect to look at. Only the males have those fierce-looking horns and they use them to battle rival males to gain access to a female. This is exactly the specimen I was after. After admiring this male, we then found a second male as well as a second dead female. Not bad at all. We also saw stonechats, a kestrel, linnets, skylarks, lapwings and some tiny wasps, but I was unable to get a decent photo of any of them.
Some kind of toadstool growing on a horse dropping
Black Slug
Some kind of bee

Testing out my home-made sweep net
After lunch, it was time to test something out. Recently, I have been spending my birthday money and what I bought may surprise you as odd. A bamboo cane, a roll of wire and a net curtain is not exactly what I would normally spend my birthday money on (in fact there was plenty left over to buy a new camera case and a new strap for my binoculars), but I had something in mind for them. I wanted a sweep net to catch insects hidden in tall grass, but I could not find a shop that would sell one and they were rather pricey online. So I decided that I should make one. The only thing is, I am not very good at sewing, so Mum was kind enough to make me this brilliant net for me last night. I wanted to test it out to see well it is out in the field. It actually works pretty well, though the wind may be a problem as it was straining the wire frame a little bit. If I am to use it, I must avoid windy days.

Once the net testing was done, we then drove to Dersingham Bog for a short walk. Here, I managed to get some photos of a kestrel, a stonechat and some woodlice, which made me jump when I discovered them crawling underneath me while I was sitting on a log for a short break to take in the scenery. 

Yellow Dung-fly
While at Dersingham, I also found another target of mine on a cowpat. There were cows grazing around the site today and what they leave behind attracts a very colourful fly. Yellow dung-flies are very noticeable with their canary-yellow bodies on this least desirable of natural objects. Though a fresh cowpat may look disgusting to us, to a yellow dung-fly, it is the perfect place to meet up and mate. I have a fondness to this species of fly more than any other. I find them rather charming creatures, perhaps because they are bright and cheerful and they don't annoy or bite me like other species. Looking down at a cowpat is like looking at a secret, wonderful world that no-one takes any notice of.

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