Saturday, 2 July 2011

Burrowing and burying Blashford beasties...

It was already warm as I opened up and with no wind to speak of the lakes were all like mill ponds. Should be a few more dragonflies and butterflies around with more weather like this - having started spring well the recent wet weather has diminished their numbers somewhat. Indeed, locking up at the end of the day there was a clouded yellow butterfly in the meadow area north of Ivy North Hide. Although I wasn't close the distinctive orange of its wings in flight was quite obvious.

It's certainly good for the solitary wasps and bees that lay their eggs in burrows in the sandy soil around the reserve - I spent some time watching this "thread waisted wasp" excavating its burrow in some bare ground next to the main car park entrance while unlocking the gate this morning. It will paralyse some caterpillars with its sting, lay eggs on the poor creatures and then seal them in, fated to be consumed alive by the wasp larva when they hatch!

More familiar wasps are busy too - the "scritch-scratch" sound of common wasps chewing the wood that makes up the hides reverberates surprisingly loudly when your sitting in the hide that they are (very, very, very slowly!) destroying! This one was one of several working at demolishing Ivy North Hide. The chewed wood will be regurgitated back at the nest as wasp paper and added to the nest to increase it's larvae rearing capacity.

Good weather for reptiles too - having commented to someone while opening up that I hadn't seen a grass snake basking in the Ivy Silt Pond dead hedging for a while, guess what I saw on my way back up to the Woodland Hide? Yup, a grass snake. Unfortunately my comment that I hadn't seen an otter yet did not result in an otter... yet. I live in hope!

It was a good night for moths with 28 species, including some of my favourites; a poplar and an elephant hawk moth, buff tips and a burnished brass.

There was also a burying beetle in the trap - surprisingly fascinating animals. Apparently they can smell a dead body from some distance away and then having found it bury it by digging away the earth under the body so quickly that a bird can be buried within a couple of hours! A good tactic as once buried it is less likely to be discovered by other scavengers. The female then lays eggs in a little chamber next to the body which she feeds off until the larvae hatch when she promptly feeds them off the carcass too. How loving! They are often covered with mites which always makes them look a bit "unhealthy" somehow to me, but apparently even this is all planned - the mites don't feed on the beetle but simply hitch a ride and then prey on any blowfly larvae that hatch out in the carcass and so reduce the beetles competition for the food!

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