insects

Looks innocent enough!

However, if of a squeamish disposition — do not continue.

Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris

The clue is in the name — it’s not got black and yellow stripes — it’s a ferocious predator and so is it’s baby which lives in a burrow with only its face showing which will grab any passing creature, like an ant, and munch it up with its formidable jaws.

These lavae become fat and juicy on their diet of hapless insects but if they are unlucky enough to encounter their own specific ichneumon wasp, Methoca ichneumoides, they in turn meet a horrible end. Life is like that! Here is one who has met a sticky end, lying on its back showing its terrible jaws.

Methoca ichneumenoides on lava of Cicindela , photographed by Albert Krebs (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Methoca ichneumenoides came along and allowed the beetle lava to pull it into its burrow but then stung it, which paralysed the beetle lava, Methoca then laid a single egg in the body and filled up the top of the burrow with sand. Here you see that the the egg has hatched and the live lava of the wasp has eaten its way out and is chomping on the beetle lava. I suspect the pair were both dug up by a nosey human like me and photographed without permission!

We did not find an example of Methoca on Dunwich Heath last week but we did see another interesting wasp there last time we visited, the red banded sand wasp. It has similar habits.

Red banded sand wasp Ammophila sabulosa

Click anyway — I think it will work — otherwise search red banded sand wasp on Wikipedia!

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Birds

Suffolk — the ones that got away!

County of wide skies, windmills and huge oak trees.

Long shadows, full stomachs and an evening stroll to disturb a barn owl — flying, ghostly white on silent wings, low across the field. You can’t photograph ghosts and anyway he caught us by surprise!

We’d gone out to find this little owl that Bill had seen before — we scoured all its usual roosts but it was nowhere to be seen this year.

Neither could we photograph the bittern that occasionally flew up out of the reed bed at Minsmere to have a go at the low flying marsh harrier in a spectacular display of territorial aggression. Its great thick, flexible brown and yellow flecked neck bending back to stab at the flapping bird of prey. Here is the harrier recovering from the shock.

Marsh Harrier

He is not holding up a grade for artistic merit (which was an A) but sitting on a marsh label so that other watchers in the hide can say ‘BITTERN — flying left to right above D’ and I can still miss it. Here is something else I had difficulty in seeing clearly although he was definitely there, flitting about in the reeds: bearded reedling… not a tit!

Bearded reedling

Wild horses would not drag Bill from the reserve but the promise of a glossy ibis was too much and we ventured out towards the dome of Sizewell B on yet another wild-ibis-hunt but we did see this fine wild polish konik stallion who looked as if he belonged on an ancient cave painting — look at the thickness of its neck. Not really wild but hardy and not picky when they graze and they don’t mind having wet feet — they were purchased to graze this marshland reserve and tick another conservation box.

On to Dunwich Heath for an ice cream and despite the high wind a wonderful view of a Dartford warbler, which came up and looked at us with its head on one side

J. Dietrich, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Above is a female Dartford warbler photographed in Spain — they are very difficult to catch with a camera, rare and fast and well camouflaged — the male we saw was much more purple — the colour of dry heather, with a grey head like this one, brilliant red eyes and the same bemused expression.

And now — the serious business:

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Butterflies

Summer Treasure Hunts!

Where are you two going?
Looking for Butterfllies, are you coming?

Duke of Burgundy Butterflies are rare these days but thanks to the communal spirit of another amateur lepidopterist we find them easily and in return point out an equally rare corn bunting, singing his heart out trying to be noticed.

A Corn Bunting singing from the tallest elder in the hedge of a chalkland cornfield, like a jangling bunch of keys, you will know it if you ever hear it.

The Marsh Fritillary we found for ourselves in a bog below Cader Idris in Snowdonia — no one there to help!

Nearby was this beautiful flower that likes to have its feet wet — it is said to be common but I’d never seen it before —

Buckbean or Bogbean, from a distance you might think that you have found a new orchid but each flower of the spike has 5 symmetrical petals with strange lacy outgrowths and big juicy trilobed leaves that don’t obviously belong to the flowers until you trace them back under the boggy base.

Despite recent sunny weather it seems to have been a slow year for butterflies but in the last few days Painted Ladies have arrived all the way from Africa, one of only two migratory butterflies that we see in the UK. No Clouded Yellow as yet.

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