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There’s a tiger in the wood

Wood Tiger

Parasemia plantaginis – Male

You’ve probably gathered I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to butterflies. Well then it’ll come as no surprise that I’m even more so when it comes to moths. However, when I’m out surveying, particularly at Morgans Hill, I quite often see a few day-flying macro moths like this fantastic Wood Tiger Parasemia plantagins but if anything they’ve proved even harder to photograph. One afternoon I saw four of these, yet as soon as I brought my macro lens anywhere near they were off, catching the wind like little kites and then arching through the air 30 or 40 feet at a time. Most of the time I soon lost track of them across the steep terrain. But I guess eventually I had to get lucky and eventually I did. This little male sat still for a split second longer than usual and here’s the result. Read more

Viviparous Lizards

Viviparous Lizard - Female

Zootaca vivipara – Female

Whilst looking for butterflies in Bentley Wood I came across quite a few Viviparous Lizards Zootaca vivipara basking on some old grey tree stumps, clearly enjoying the sun. I must have seen over a dozen of them, plus many more scampering through the shorter dryer grass in the clearing. I find colour variation interesting and this is one species where both colour and pattern is quite variable. Read more

Marbled White

Marble White Butterfly

Melnargia galathea – Female

This morning I reluctantly trudged through the mud down to Jones’s Mill nature reserve to do my monthly Riverfly survey. To be honest I’m not always in the mood for it and sometimes would rather be doing something else, like laying in bed. It can get a bit monotonous in as much as I can pretty much predict the result and quantity of each of the eight species I’ll record. I guess there’s only so many river invertebrates you can count before you start to lose the will to live. Yet the sun was doing it’s best to steam some puddles and as I splashed across Big 40 towards the wood my mood was lifted by the sight of dancing butterflies, a mixture of orange-splashed Meadow Browns and bitter-chocolate Ringlets. To lift my damp spirits further, just as I started my first kick-sample I flushed a metallic blue-green Beautiful Demoiselle damselfly Calopteryx virgo from the reeds. Sadly my camera was in my rucksack. Not a lot of use in there is it? Read more

There’s a wet tiger in the garden

Scarlet Tiger Moth

Callimorpha dominula

I’ve been trying to organise a walk with a couple of my colleagues from work, but we’ve had to cancel twice now because of the incessant rain. We’re not bothered about getting a bit wet, it’s just that I’m taking them to two of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves where I do a bit of surveying and hope to show them a few of our rarer butterflies and some day-flying moths. Today in between the downpours I found a couple of half-drowned Scarlet Tiger moths Callimorpha dominula in my garden, as you can probably see they were pretty sodden. I put this one on this leaf in the hope that it might dry out a bit. From what I’ve heard the weather has not been kind to butterflies or moths this year. Read more

An inordinate fondness for beetles

Scarlet Lily Beetle

Liloceris lilii

According to Evans and Bellamy’s book of the same name, when asked what could be inferred about the creator from His works, the British scientist Haldane allegedly replied “an inordinate fondness for beetles”. Whether he actually said this or not is disputed, for a start he was an atheist, but you can’t argue with the numbers. Over 350,000 species of beetle have been described since 1758, that’s more than 4 per day.

I’m pretty fond of them too, even little red devils like the one pictured above. Resplendent in black uniform and grenadier coat Liloceris lilii more commonly known as the Scarlet Lily Beetle is nonetheless a serious pest of lilies and fritillaries, eating its way through the stems, leaves and flowers. Mine have been totally devastated this year. This alien invader from ‘somewhere in the Mediterranean’ was accidentally introduced to England in 1939 and although primarily found in the south, it is now endearing itself to gardeners as far north as Scotland. Read more