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.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Last Summer's Flies



Fly, Phaonia species.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 14 June 2014.
Fly, Phaonia species.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 14 June 2014.
 There's not much happening outside at the moment, unless you are keen on lichens, and I know very little about them.  So here are some of the creatures that came to my garden moth trap last summer.

Starting with a few flies.  Flies are quite a varied group, and I only photograph a few of them.  I usually ignore bluebottles, greenbottles and house flies.  Also, I don't seem to have any dung-flies from last year, and they are quite common and rather pretty.  But this one, a Phaonia, caught my eye.

Fly, Xanthempis concolor.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 18 May 2014.
Fly, Xanthempis concolor.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 18 May 2014.
As did this small-headed creature, Xanthempis concolor.  I can't always get good photos of these small insects.  They are a lot more mobile than moths when disturbed so I have to take them where they stand, often oddly positioned or (like this one) partly hidden from an otherwise good viewpoint. Wing shape and veins, antennae, body shape and markings can all be important.

I usually have to rely on others to identify them, so I try to get as much visual information as possible.

Fly, Dilophus species.  Fever Fly.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 25 October 2014.
Fly, Dilophus species.  Fever Fly.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 25 October 2014.
I can recognise a few specific types.  That shiny black appearance and triangular, ridged body shape on this one made me think this was a Bibio, or close relation, and it turned out that it was.  Dilophus are in the family Bibionidae.

Picture-winged Fly, Anomoia purmunda.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 30 July 2014.
Picture-winged Fly, Anomoia purmunda.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 30 July 2014.
And this I can place in a large group called Picture-winged Flies, belonging to the superfamily Tephritoidea.  I always try to photograph these because, obviously, they have pretty wings!  And can usually be identified by them.  This one is Anomoia purmunda.

I can place a lot of the hoverflies, too, but they don't tend to come to the trap and I have lots of photos of them elsewhere in my blog.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Snake-legged Giant



Another new coin!  This one, rather crude in execution, shows an odd event.  The goddess Athena is fighting a creature with snakes for legs.

This is always described as a "snake-legged giant."  That is rather odd, given that the creature is about half as tall as the goddess, and Athena was usually shown as being around the same height as a man.

But there is a misunderstanding involved.  "Giant" here comes from the word "Γιγαντεσ" or Gigantes, the name of a group of earth-born creatures, offspring of Gaia, who were originally not supposed to be oversized or monstrous at all. In myth, they got involved in a fight with the gods, the so-called Gigantomachy. 

It was only in later depictions that they acquired snake legs and sometimes large size.

Perhaps this "giant" is small because there is limited room on the coin.  The legend has been squeezed in, and had to be finished off by cramming the last few letters into the space behind Athena, and even then it has been abbreviated.  This reverse legend reads "CEΛEVKEΩN KAΛVKAΔ" - Seleukewn Kalukad - which means that the coin comes from Seleukeia ad Kalykadnon in Silicia.

We know this is Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, because she is wearing her typical dress and helmet and carrying her shield with the head of the gorgon Medusa mounted on it (the Aegis).  The spear-thrusting pose is a commonly shown stance.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Sheep on Boxing Day

View from inside the quarry on Riddlesdown, with Jacob sheep on the skyline.  26 December 2014.
View from inside the quarry on Riddlesdown, with Jacob sheep on the skyline.  26 December 2014.
There was a Boxing Day walk on Riddlesdown, along to the abandoned chalk quarry where the warden, Matt, counts the sheep every day.  There are 40 Jacob sheep grazing here to keep down the secondary growth, which allows the rare chalk plants and butterflies to survive.

The quarry is fenced and locked, so it's good to get inside occasionally.  I was last in Riddlesdown Quarry in the summer of 2011, a very interesting time to see it.  Not much is happening in midwinter, but we had a good look at the sheep.

View from inside the quarry on Riddlesdown, with Jacob sheep on the skyline.  26 December 2014.
View from inside the quarry on Riddlesdown, with Jacob sheep on the skyline.  Closeup.  26 December 2014.
This is part of the same photo at full size.  The sheep were baaing loudly.  Matt gives them some pellets to get them to come and be counted; they were clearly reluctant to come down that slope, and not intelligent enough to go around.  There used to be some goats in the quarry that would have come straight down with no problem.

(Here you can see the typical jpeg compression blockiness that is a shortcoming of the iPhone camera.)

Geologists love this place because so much of the chalk stratification is exposed.

Diagram of exposed strata in Riddlesdown quarry.
Diagram of exposed strata in Riddlesdown quarry.
This is an iPhone photo of a handheld photocopy.  This shows the good points of the iPhone camera - it's still quite visible and legible!   The view at the top is at the left side of this diagram, showing the gully.

We clearly could not count the sheep from this viewpoint, so we went to find them.

A walker feeding sheep in Riddlesdown quarry.  26 December 2014.
A walker feeding sheep in Riddlesdown quarry.  26 December 2014.
This is at the top, not quite the same place shown above because they came running to us, more so when they heard that bucket being rattled.  We learned that counting 40 sheep is only possible if they stop running around.

Before the walk I had a look around Coombes Wood, near the car park, and saw this pretty late season fungus:

Mycena rosea, Rosy Bonnet.  Coombes Wood, Riddlesdown, 26 December 2014.
Mycena rosea, Rosy Bonnet.  Coombes Wood, Riddlesdown, 26 December 2014.
 There are not many annual fungi around this late, but it has been a very mild December.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Cluster of Jewels

Hoya curtisii flowers on my kitchen windowsill.  Hayes, 8 November 2014.
Hoya curtisii flowers on my kitchen windowsill.  Hayes, 8 November 2014.
 Hoya flowers are beautiful miniatures, like clusters of jewels.  I have posted some before - Hoya bella here, and Hoya serpens here.  This one, Hoya curtisii, flowered for me this year.  (Those tiny greenfly get everywhere!)

A single Hoya curtisii flower.   Hayes, 8 November 2014.
A single Hoya curtisii flower.   Hayes, 8 November 2014.
They do have drawbacks.  Hoya bella is very free-flowering but the clusters all face downwards, so you need to have it trailing from up high if you want the best view.  Bot this one and Hoya serpens have inconspicuous fowers that you need to get close to to get the benefit.  Hoya serpens is probably the best, though, because its fabulous scent fills the house.

Close up, they seem just a bit more glamorous than native flowers, lovely as they can be.  For comparison, here's a Dogwood from earlier in the year:

Dogwood flowering in my back garden in Hayes, 18 April 2014.
Dogwood flowering in my back garden in Hayes, 18 April 2014.
Of course, another view is that the Hoyas look like costume jewellery, whereas this is the real thing.

And another comparison.  Here's a Stapelia variegata, a succulent plant from southern Africa, that lives indoors here in winter and outdoors in summer.  As the flowers smell of rotten meat, like an ill-tended dustbin, outdoors is good.

Stapelia variegata flower on my balcony in Hayes.  13 August 2014.
Stapelia variegata flower on my balcony in Hayes.  13 August 2014.
Like the Hoyas, this is exotic, but I would not describe it as jewel-like.  Of course, there are exotic native flowers too.  Orchids, for example. 

Some Local Farm Weeds

Erysimum cheiranthoides, Treacle-mustard.  Hayes Street Farm, 17 December 2013
Erysimum cheiranthoides, Treacle-mustard.  Hayes Street Farm, 17 December 2013
Treacle-Mustard is another plant from Hayes Street Farm.  It is a well-known agricultural weed and it used to be common on waste ground in London, but is now much less so, perhaps because there are fewer loads of earth-covered potatoes and so on being trekked into the town from the surrounding countryside.  It keeps flowering into winter.

Galinsoga quadriradiata, Shaggy-soldier.   Hayes Street Farm, 1 December 2014.
Galinsoga quadriradiata, Shaggy-soldier.   Hayes Street Farm, 1 December 2014.
Shaggy-Soldier is uncommon enough to be worth recording.  Again, this is in one of the ploughed fields on Hayes Street Farm and is flowering well into winter.  It has a close relation known as Gallant-Soldier, a common name derived directly from the scientific one, which has spread as an escapee from Kew Gardens.  The plant shown here is Shaggy because of its hairy flower stem. 

Thlaspi arvense, Field Penny-cress.  Hayes Street Farm, 5 December 2014.
Thlaspi arvense, Field Penny-cress.  Hayes Street Farm, 5 December 2014.
Lastly for this post, the seed pods of another agricultural weed from the same farm.  This pod is about 1.5 cm across, and it is easy to see how its common name came about.  This was also still in flower in December, but the flowers are insignificant and this seed pod is much more showy.