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Myrmeleotettix maculatus
find out more... Myrmeleotettix maculatus Copyright: Peter Harvey

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The weblog below is for naturalists to use to report interesting sightings, ask questions, report on field meetings and generally post pictures and any information or questions generally relevant in some way to the wildlife and geology of Essex. You will need to register and be logged-on to post to the forum, and you need to upload pictures first, for use in posts. Find out more

Wed 4th April 2012 17:37 by Graham Smith
March 25th to 31st 2012
Seem to be struggling to keep up to date with these weekly entries, probably because I am currently bogged down trying to organise the BTO's Nightingale Survey in Essex. Attempting to find 200 volunteers to cover a similar number of tetrads is proving to be a struggle but, fortunately, virtually everyone knows what this iconic bird sounds like and as many, if not more, conservation volunteers, entomologists, botanists and mycologists (most of them Field Club members) have come forward to help out as have birders, probably because they are more used to doing survey work as a matter of routine.

Weather wise, it was another week of glorious sunshine and warm temperatures, reaching 23`C at Tollesbury Wick EWT Reserve on 29th. Like Steve, there have been exceptional numbers of Common and Small Quakers in my garden moth trap at Ingatestone this spring and both Twin-spotted Quaker and Oak Beauty have proved to be commoner than in any previous year since 1990. This may be because I have upped the power of my UV light from 40W to 60W this spring or it may be, as Steve suggests, due to the unusually warm weather. Never have discovered why the Victorians called them Quakers : because they are subdued in dress and restrained in manner perhaps?!

The first three Swallows of the spring had arrived at Blue House Farm on 30th. A lone Swallow may not a summer make but three, that's distinctly more promising, and its always pleasing to greet the first ones home before the close of March. Spring flowers are also coming to the fore. Primroses and Celandine everywhere; swathes of Coltsfoot at Writtle Park, Wood Anemones coming into bloom at The Backwarden and both Moschatel (pictured), otherwise known as Town Hall Clock, and even the first tentative blooms of Bluebell in The Grove at Ingatestone.

Moschatel Copyright: Graham Smith

My garden is also beginning to hum with insects, a long overdue Garden Bumblebee Bombus hortorum among them. Five down, one common species to go! Among hoverflies, Eristalis pertinax, Meliscaeva auricollis and Eupeodes latifasciatus were three common ones confirmed on capture. Other bees are also getting numerous but I hesitate to guess at what species for fear of Peter coming down on my head like a ton of bricks! One I did recognise though was the Tawny Mining Bee while up to 50 queen Common Wasps have been feasting on the resin like sap exuded by the new shoots on the Nordmannii Spruce. This Sexton Beetle Nicrophorus humator turned up in the moth trap, recognizable by the orange tufts on the tip of its antennae. It is one of the burying beetles, the crypts of churches being one of its favourite habitats, hence the name

Nicrophorus humator Copyright: Graham Smith

Cream-spot Tiger Moth caterpillar Copyright: Graham Smith

Another find this week was this Woolly Bear at Blue House, the caterpillar of the Cream-spot Tiger Moth; the maroon coloured head being the best ID feature. The caterpillars of its cousin, the Garden Tiger, were abundant locally when I was a boy, especially at this time of year when they are marching to and fro looking for somewhere to pupate, and we used to catch and rear them at home. There are still a few corners of Essex where the adult moth is of regular occurrence but I have caught precisely one here in the past 22 years. The Cream-spot, though, is still a frequent sight on the coastal marshes.



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