Saturday, 28 February 2015

Sphagnum at Keston

Sphagnum capillifolium subsp. capillifolium.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum capillifolium subsp. capillifolium.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
 Sphagnum mosses like it really wet, and live mostly in boggy places and at the edges of some streams.  I am certainly no moss expert, but I have a small field guide so last December I had a look at Keston Bog.  I managed to find and identify three of the species that live there; I know there are more.

Sphagnum capillifolium subsp. capillifolium.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum capillifolium subsp. capillifolium.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
You can see how the stem is covered by some clasping branches that grow quite differently from the spreading ones.  The stem also has its own types of "leaves".  If you look carefully you can also see a spore capsule.

Sphagnum fallax.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum fallax.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
This light green species seems to be the most common. 

Sphagnum fallax.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum fallax.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
The leaves of this one are even more thin and pointed than the reddish one above.  But the next one:

Sphagnum palustre.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum palustre.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Has much broader leaves.  You can see that you have to look closely to distinguish these.

Sphagnum palustre.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
Sphagnum palustre.  Keston Common, 10 December 2014.
But once you do, differences become apparent.  This one also has some spore pods.

The stems of these mosses are quite relaxed and floppy.  In situ they are supported by the mass of the stems all around them.  For these photos, I dangled them downwards and they flipped the photos the other way up!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

More Wisley Butterflies 2015

Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
More exotic butterflies from the RHS gardens at Wisley.  This Malachite has a more autumnal tone on its underside.  Here's one at a feeding station.

Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Malachite, Siproeta stelenes.  Underwing.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
One of the prettiest types was almost monochrome, with just a hint of yellow.

Tree Nymph, Idea leucona.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Tree Nymph, Idea leucona.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Despite the droplets in the background, it wasn't raining outside.  That was condensation on the glass.  Actually, it was so warm and humid that it was some while before I could take photos without my lenses steaming up.  Next time I will take the camera in the cabin of the car, not the boot, to keep it warm - a tip given me by another photographer.

Common Leafwing, Doleschallia bisaltide.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Common Leafwing, Doleschallia bisaltide.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Like some of our native species, this leafwing disguises itself quite effectively when its wings are closed.  Though it did rather stand out on the feeding station.

Glasswing, Greta oto.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Glasswing, Greta oto.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
I saw a few of these Glasswings flying around but they never seemed to perch within reach, until just as I was leaving.  I colled down in the temperate section of the glasshouse and popped back in to the tropical area for one last look, and this one flew down and perched nicely within reach.  The transparent wings look highly unusual on a butterfly, though they are quite normal for insects considered more widely.

I will certainly visit this butterfly display again.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Wisley Butterflies 2015

Scarlet Peacock, Anartia amathea.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Scarlet Peacock, Anartia amathea.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
In February, the Royal Horticultural Society releases exotic butterflies into the tropical portion of their large glasshouse at Wisley Gardens.  Wisley is a lovely place at any time of year, and the glasshouse in winter is always worth a visit.  The RHS take care to have interesting and beautiful plants on display there all the time.

Knowing what would be there this time, I took my big camera (EOS 6D with 100mm macro lens and ring flash).  I saw maybe a dozen species of butterflies and ended up with a few nice pics.  Other species are released at different times.

I am reasonably sure of the identification of most of these, but less so of the swallowtails, some of which are very variable species.

Owls and Blue Morphos at a feeding station. Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Owls and Blue Morphos at a feeding station. Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Feeding stations were set up with sugar solution and various fruits.  These Owls and Blue Morphos had their wings closed; they both looked very different when they were held flat.

Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides. Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides. Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
This is a Blue Morpho, one of those on the right above.  Here's a closeup of the same species with closed wings, feeding from one of the flowering plants. 


The trouble with the feeding stations, from the photographer's point of view, is that they were too bright and colourful, and the butterflies blended in!

Great Mormon, Papilio memnon, female.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Great Mormon, Papilio memnon, female.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
This is one of the variable species, and I think I have the right name.  It's also sexually dimorphic, and this would seem to be the male of the same species, if my web searches have revealed the truth to me (be wary of such truths):
Great Mormon, Papilio memnon, male.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
Great Mormon, Papilio memnon, male.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
At first it looks very different, but it does have the same veins and compartments in its wings.  It doesn't have the long tails, but some female forms don't have those either.

I had hoped to show the chrysalides the butterflies emerge from, as they are on display in a side room.  But that cabinet is just as humid as the tropical area and has just as much condensation on the inside of the glass.

The chrysalis cabinet.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.
The chrysalis cabinet.  Wisley Gardens, Butterflies in the Glasshouse, 10 February 2015.




So there is not much to see!  With the naked eye you can move about and see quite a lot, but it can't be shown by a single photograph.


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Last Summer's Predation

Spider, Tegenaria species, predating Pale Mottled Willow, Paradrina clavipalpis. Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 21 June 2014.
Spider, Tegenaria species, predating Pale Mottled Willow, Paradrina clavipalpis.
Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 21 June 2014.
Some of last summer's spiders were quite active.  This Pale Mottled Willow moth had been resting in the crack between the garage door and its jamb.  When I opened the door, it fell to the ground, right into a few strands of web that this Tegenaria spider had spun just under the door opening.  Sensing that something had fallen in, it ran out and grabbed the moth.

Well, the spider was happy, and this also shows off the very light underwings that are typical of the moth.

Jersey Tiger, Euplagia quadripunctaria, being eaten by Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus.  Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 16 August 2014.
Jersey Tiger, Euplagia quadripunctaria, being eaten by Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus.
Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 16 August 2014.
Jersey Tigers are large and colourful moths that used to be scarce here, but now arrive in some numbers over a period of three to four weeks every year.  This orb web spider clearly appreciates the way they come to the light of my trap.

Harvestman, Leiobunum rotundum.  Male.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 7 June 2014.
Harvestman, Leiobunum rotundum.  Male.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 7 June 2014.
I also get Harvestmen in my trap.  They are arachnids, related to spiders, but different in several important ways.  I am showing this one because ..

Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis.   Male.  Eating a Harvestman, a male Leiobonum rotundum. In my garden light trap in Hayes on 19 May 2014.
Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis.   Male.  Eating a Harvestman, a male Leiobonum rotundum.
In my garden light trap in Hayes on 19 May 2014.
Spiders like them too.  A trap full of insects naturally attracts predators, but some of them are more at risk than they would probably like, were they capable of liking things.

(This Nursery Web Spider would have started with eight legs, but has lost two.  I quite often see spiders with missing legs.  The spider at the top of the page and the harvestman in the photo above have both lost a leg.  It doesn't seem to slow them down.)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Last Summer's Spiders

Wolf Spider, Trochosa species.  On my back wall in Hayes on the morning of 5 June 2014.
Wolf Spider, Trochosa species.  On my back wall in Hayes on the morning of 5 June 2014.
And now the spiders I found in and around my moth trap last year.  As a group, I think these are the prettiest apart from the moths themselves.  They are also quite varied.  This wolf spider chases down its prey, and has big eyes to see it and muscular legs to run fast.

Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus.  Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 14 September 2014.
Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus.  Near my garden light trap in Hayes on 14 September 2014.
This is our most familiar orb web spider.  The colouration varies from this medium brown to almost black.

Enoplognatha species,  probably.  Juvenile coloration.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 18 May 2014.
Not quite sure what this one is because it is still a juvenile, but it looks like a web spinner with those long tactile legs.

Spider on the thermometer.  Probabkly Metellina merianae.  In my back garden in Hayes, 1 October 2014.
Spider on the thermometer.  Probabkly Metellina merianae.  In my back garden in Hayes, 1 October 2014.
This species lives around the mouth of caves, so feels quite at home under my balcony near my garage door!  I see the juveniles in my trap quite often.

Noble False Widow, Steatoda nobilis.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 3 September 2014.
Noble False Widow, Steatoda nobilis.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 3 September 2014.
This one was interesting, as well as being pretty.  Wikipedia says " it has a reputation as one of the few local spider species which is capable of inflicting a painful bite to humans, with most bites resulting in symptoms similar to a bee or wasp sting."  There was a media fuss about this Noble False Widow, sometimes just called a False Widow, in 2014.  It's not really rare, but it doesn't go about biting people, even though it could if it wanted to.

More spiders next time.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Last Summer's Bugs


Forest Bug, Pentatoma rufipes.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 24 July 2014.
More insects from my moth trap last summer.  These are true bugs, creatures in the order Hempitera with sucking mouthparts.  There are lots of these plant suckers around, including aphids, though I don't have any shots of those.

Probably the most common in my garden were the Hawthorn Shield Bugs, so common that I didn;t photograph any!  But they are very like this Forest Bug except for coloration.  This group are sometimes known as stink bugs because they can leave a nasty smell on your skin, though they are always kind to me.

Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 21 May 2014.
Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 21 May 2014.
There are lots of rather similar Mirid bugs around.  The complicated second part of this one's name just means "four yellow marks." 

Mirid bug, Phytocoris longipennis.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 15 July 2014.
Mirid bug, Phytocoris longipennis.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 15 July 2014.
Another Mirid bug, this one with more subtle colouring, but very similar in overall shape and patterning.

Leafhopper.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 14 July 2014.
Still a bug, but from a different family, this leafhopper is one of many similar species.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Last Summer's Beetles


Water beetle, Ilybius ater .  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 15 July 2014.
Water beetle, Ilybius ater .  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 15 July 2014.
Some beetles from my moth trap last year.  I get quite a few water beetles.  I wonder if they think the light is the moon reflecting from water? 

Whirligig Beetle, Gyrinus substriatus.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 3 July 2014.
Whirligig Beetle, Gyrinus substriatus.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 3 July 2014.
There is a tiny pond two gardens down, but I don't think they all come from there.  They turn up in other moth trap too, and I think they fly around more than people tend to think.

Some beetles turn up on the ground near the trap, so I'm not sure the trap has actually brought them in.


Stag Beetle, Lucanus cervus.  Female.  Hayes, 14 June 2014.
Stag Beetle, Lucanus cervus.  Female.  Hayes, 14 June 2014.
This Stag Beetle was crawling around nearby.  It's large for a British beetle; notice the half-centimetre squares it is sitting on.  It has had a hard time and is missing a leg and an antenna.  There is some spider web sticking to it.  Why do big beetles have such a problem with web?  Look at this ...

Lesser Stag Beetle, Dorcus parallelopipedus.  Hayes, 14 June 2014.
This Lesser Stag Beetle was in the garden on the same day, and it is completely tangled up.  (June is a great month for insects.)  I was excited to find both these species, but sad at their condition!

Ground Beetle, Dromius species.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 21 May 2014.
Ground Beetle, Dromius species.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 21 May 2014.
I also see a few ground beetles in the trap, and this one stood still to be photographed.  Beetles are many and varied, and I only see a tiny fraction of the available types in the light trap.