22 March 2013

GOS Talk

Just a quick note to confirm that I'm still giving a talk to the Gower Ornithological Society tonight. It will be at the Environment Centre, Pier Street. Turn up from 19:15 for a 19:30 start. £1 admission fee to cover room hire.

The topic will be digiscoping video, with equipment used and my videos from the last few years (since 2010). And, if all goes well, the premiere of my Great Grey Shrike video taken at Afan Argoed on the weekend! I must get on with that. Members and non-members are welcome. Hopefully see you later.


On a rainy day all we can do is think about insects, this is the sort of weather that makes me wish I was into plants more!

As I said in my comment to Gareth's post of 19th here are some pictures and explanation about the bees mentioned. I also managed my own "oops" in the comment, the free abdomen is the gaster not the propodeum (this latter is attached to the thorax).

The bee on the Draba azoides is in my opinion Lasioglossum calceatum:

it has the hair bands on the gaster (abdomen) half showing through the transparent rear edge to the tergite (dorsal segment) in front (beware there are other species of Lasioglossum which can show this):
A check to Lasioglossum is the veins shown below meeting at 90 degrees (at point V, other genera also show this, clicking on the pictures will make them much larger):
 As you can see the Andrena wing below has the veins meeting at an acute angle at V (there are Andrena species as small as Lasioglossum!):
In the case of the females an additional check for Lasioglossum is the presence of this trench (rima) at the tip of the gaster, sting would not be showing in life!:
 Here are both sexes of Andrena flavipes (sorry about the sex Barry):
Hope this is helpful. Much more can be found on the excellent BWARS website including a free downloadable book on bees which will allow you to identify all the genera.

19 March 2013

Bombylius discolor/Andrena flavipes

On a similar subject to that preceding, these are some things to look out for in the next month on the Gower coast.
The Dotted Beefly, Bombylius discolor is not uncommon on the coast, for its main host appears to be the mining bee, Andrena flavipes.
Otherwise it is very uncommon throughout the rest of the British Isles.
Gravid females coat their eggs in sand and flick their eggs into the nests of these mining bees, where the larvae develop to parasitise the bees or their larvae.
They are easily distinguished from the very common B. major, which also occurs here, by the obvious spots on the wings (though a photo may be needed for this)

A. flavipes is one of the earlier mining bees around and may be located on some of the few flowers available in March, such as Draba aizoides, a very rare speciality of the Gower coast. These photos were taken around this time last year above Ramsgrove, Rhossili, when we had our 'Summer!'
However, I am reliably corrected that this bee on the Draba is Lasioglossum calceatum, another early ground-nesting solitary bee which may also be parasitised by the Beefly.

sunday at Horton

Who said spring was imminent? Compared to last year when it was crawling with Hymenoptera on this date we only had 2 species (and a third Andrena flavipes reported by Paul Alton). The usual spring flowers are firmly closed as yet so just as well. No flowers on the Dwarf Willow at Oxwich either so no signs of Colletes cunicularius.

Anyway enough complaints we did have:

 Andrena thoracica male (above and below), just one on the soft cliff on the shore.
 One Lasioglossum morio also on the soft cliff. This is a picture from the autumn last year. This species is a bright metallic green which doesn't show up with flash photographs.
Both the above are quite common but there's nothing wrong with common species. If you click on the images they will appear a lot larger.

16 March 2013

Comet PANSTARRS C/2012 S1 (ISON)

Photographed low in the western sky shortly after sunset from the hill south of Waunarlwydd, Swansea.

14 March 2013

Slow-worms in Gorseinon

Lifted a few felts tiles in the garden around mid-day to discover two Slow-worms toasting beneath. Earlier a Common Sandpiper on the estuary was a sign of things on the move and yesterday Philip Croft saw a male Wheatear east of Mewslade. Other early spring arrivals I've heard of in our area include 3 Sand Martins at Swansea Vale on the 10th (Alastair Flannigan), with another at Brunel Dock the same day (Mark Hipkin & Rob Jones) and earlier still a White Wagtail in the Upper Loughor on the 9th (Chris Brewer). CLICK HERE for updated first arrivals.

more on Saxon Wasp

Just to add to IFT's blog on this wasp on 8th, here are some pix of it in Shropshire. The marks on the face are more variable than any other wasp. Here are four different workers leaving the nest:

The nest is made originally by the queen who makes a flask-shaped structure on a roof beam, or similar. This is one nearly complete, in which she lays the first batch of eggs to create workers to make the main nest:

The new paper added is wet and she is working backwards leaving an inch of new paper. Below is a worker doing the same thing later on the main nest:

The dark line of paper can be seen on the edge she is working on. This leads to the formation of the football-sized nest with help from many workers:

They are not an aggressive species and this nest tolerated my passage everyday into the shed without one attack. In this they are similar to hornets, but not to common wasps and tree wasps which attack without provocation.
The paper constructed is brought in from various sources locally and so has a very attractive appearance:
This large nest has many tiers of honey-comb cells stacked within it. No honey, just eggs and then larvae.
This species is a good one to study, while others can be dangerous.

12 March 2013

Grass Eggars

Paul Copner sent me this image of a Grass Eggar caterpillar along with the following comment: 'Numerous of these seen in the sand dunes near the bird hide on Whiteford Nature Reserve.' Although it is known from Whiteford dunes, this is a rare species and is strangely absent from other dune systems in the county, so in these times of change it may be worth keeping an eye open for it elsewhere.

08 March 2013

worth keeping an eye out for

After a visit to Cardiff Museum I finally have confidence in the identification of this wasp as Dolichovespula saxonica, bottom 2 pictures, an individual from a moth trap based in Rotherslade in 2012. I have the specimen. The top photograph is also one from my own garden in Tycoch also from a moth trap but the year before, 2011.

Why is it that species?

1. Long space between bottom of eye and jaws = Dolichovespula
2. Dark mark in middle of face and widely spaced punctures of face, not visible in photograph, = NOT sylvestris (common).
3. Hairs on side of thorax all pale and no red on abdomen = NOT norvegica.

First records I know of from Gower. Mark Pavett says he's had it in Cardiff. Anyone know of any other records?

05 March 2013

university today

my first Bombus hypnorum of the year @ crocus