Saturday, 17 June 2017

Some you know some you don't - always something new to learn

The Safari has had a busy week. We've been entertaining the Brownies on the beach and doing a bit of exploring around and about for ourselves too.
We always find it amazing that the beach can change so much in such a short space of time. On Tuesday evening the Brownies found loads of shells
but only one live Green Shore Crab - and that came out of the sand close to where they were standing probably in response to their pattering feet. It wasn't for want of trying either as we had well over a dozen nets being wielded in the rockpools and runnels. They did pull out a huge number of Brown Shrimps including many large ones and a solitary Common Prawn. We found them half a Compass Jellyfish floating in a pool, much more likely battered on the rocks by the previous day's storm than bitten by a hungry Leatherback Turtle. While gently caressing it to turn it over to show its 'compass points' we managed to get stung and had a very itchy thin red wheal on our hand all the following day. The also found something far more dangerous than a jellyfish - lostfishing tackle with a couple of hooks still attached.
In contrast a similar number of Guides found a rather different suite of creatures. They found a smaller Compass Jellyfish lying on the sand and close by were the first of many Sea Gooseberries, something we didn't see at all the previous evening. Like the Brownies they found prodigious numbers of Brown Shrimps but all but one were very small, where had all the big ones gone? They didn't find a single Common Prawn either but did manage four species of fish with neither group seeing any of the very common Sand Gobies in the runnels which would normally be expected. Four species of fish caught in one rockpooling session is good but not including Sand Goby is remarkable.
Despite the rough weather there were no Common Starfish or Brittle Stars to be found nor any of the giant Octopus Jellyfish which had been a feature on the beach only last week. That's why wildlife is so brill - you just can't predict what's going to be about.
Once the winds had subsided the rest of the week turned out nice and there was a selection of invertebrates to be found in the work's garden. A week or so ago when the sun was out we'd spotted a species of spider hunting wasp but were unable to get a photo. and now a bit of sunshine had us out looking again. We didn't see any but did find a rather tall specimen of the rare Deptford Pink and only an hour after telling someone they hadn't come up yet...dohhh prove us a liar!
To be fair we were looking where they've appeared in the past in mown grass and consequently much smaller although this large specimen was only a few feet away so perhaps we should have noticed it.
Around and about flying through the long grass were hundreds of the lovely Broad Centurion soldierflies
So far this year we've not seen many hoverflies anywhere we've been out on safari but the work's garden seems singularly devoid of them so seeing this big dobber was a bit of a treat. We think it's one of the Helophilus species.
 Also present as a single individual was this quite unusually shaped fly. We're sure we've seen it before but can't put a name to it yet - can you help?
Still on the look out for any spider hunting wasps we saw some tiny Cinnabar moth caterpillars. Unusually they weren't on their foodplant but at the tip of a Yorkshire Fog grass stem. What on earth were they doing up there? Basking to get more heat?
Lower down, still deep in the grass were their friends, these were on the right plant - Ragwort - and had made serious inroads into it. Maybe the others had done an early bunk to find a bigger Ragwort plant to start chomping on.
A big movement very low in the grass nearby caught our eye, we'd disturbed something fairly large and brown and out fluttered our first Silver Y moth of the year. You can make out the silver Y on it's fast moving wings as it scrambled to get clear of the grasses to make an escape.
By the picnic area there are a couple of old logs we used to use as seats but which are now in the later stages of rotting away. The furthest gone will be nothing more than a pile of dust soon but interestingly we noticed a few red blobs 'growing' at the most rotten end.
 We gave them a gentle prod with a finger to find out if they might have been candle wax or not, they weren't, deffo well attached to the wood. Could they be young Scarlet Elf Cap fungi? It's a very odd place for that species though, out in the open and very exposed to the most severe elements such as gale force winds, salt spray, direct sunlight. Or could it be a slime mould of some sort? We're going to be keeping an eye on it but if anyone has any ideas let us know.
We did eventually see one of the wasps and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing managed to get a few snaps of it. We're pretty sure it's Amblyteles armatorius which would mean that despite it being on a spider's web and us thinking those fast waving antennae were searching out the web's owner tucked beneath the prickles of the Creeping Thistle leaves it wasn't hunting for spiders at all. Reading the books it appears that this species parasitises Noctuid moths. That's why wildlife is so brill - you just know you'll learn something new before too long. It might have been this one hiding in the seedpods of the Red Campion
Here's a Red Campion pod still full of seeds - when the wind blows it acts like a shaker and the seeds are scattered.
And so what does the non-spider hunting wasp look like - well fortunately we got a few pics that are juts about in focus.
It's certainly a beauty - unless you're a moth caterpillar that is in which case it's your worst nightmare!
Where to next? It''s the weekend and the weather is fine so there might be a safari once family duties are done to tell you about.
In the meantime let us know who's on the prowl in your outback.

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