Hello again everybody!
I apologise for it being such a long time since the last blog. Getting all excited about breeding Lapwing must have really taken it out of me!
News on that front is that none of the 4 birds are there any more! It is a bit annoying not to be able to say definitively what happened to the chicks but we definitely know that a pair of Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) raised 2 chicks that left the nest so it was all looking positive the last time I saw them.
My plan for this blog was to have a look at some of the dragonflies, damselflies, chasers and demoiselles that live in our area and explain what they are, at least to family level if not exact species.
Firstly, dragonflies are the biggest and perhaps best known of this group.
Emerging Emperor Dragonfly (Jane Watson).
This one is just emerging from its exuvia (outer casing from its larval stage) I think is an Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) and reasonably common.
Next are the demoiselles. There are 2 of these around here the Banded (Calopteryx splendens) and the Beautiful (C. virgo) Demoiselle.
Beautiful Demoiselle, male.
This one is a male Beautiful Demoiselle with an iridescent blue body and clear wings, while the female is a metallic green. The both sexes of the Banded Demoiselle have a big black blob in their wings. The 2 species prefer different types of rivers, the Banded liking slow moving water compared to the Beautiful’s flast flowing rivers although I’ve seen both around here. How well would they get on if this area was heavily developed? Probably not very well.
The next group are the Chasers and this one is a female Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) and this is a species that you can find kind of anywhere! The male has a blue body and chasers generally have a short stubby body, sometimes looking quite like large hornets.
Broad-bodied Chaser, female.
I’m keeping a look out for others and there is the potential, for want of a better phrase, for rarer chasers to be here too. I’ll keep you posted if I find any!
Finally in this group we come to damselflies. In this area, most damselflies are a pattern of blue and black with a very thin body. One notable exception is the Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) which is, speaking generally, simply a red damselfly. I have found others including Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) and Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum).
Another exception to the blue and black rule, at least in its immature stage when it is nearly all white, is the White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes). This again is a species that wouldn’t respond well a loss of habitat. It is described by the British Dragonfly Society as ‘locally common’ and mostly found only in southern England.
So now we come to what happened at home in Twineham 2 weeks ago. There is a pond in the garden and it’s not uncommon to find damselflies there. I had never seen a White-legged Damselfly in the garden though and so when I see a potential candidate I grab the camera and try to get a record shot.
A blurry line.
It didn’t really work.
The damselfly flies over the house and on the off chance it might head to the pond, that’s where I head. It wasn’t there and since I’m there I take a photo of a spider that’s hanging in a web suspended in an Iris.
Cricket-bat Orb Weaver (Mangala acalypha) (probably).
Later, I have a look at the Butterfly Conservation sightings page and I see someone has put up a photo of a spider and it clicked that it was the same spider as the one I had seen earlier. I click on the link and the spider this other person has found is a ‘Cricket-bat Orb Weaver’ (Mangora acalypha). It has a distinctive cricket bat pattern on the abdomen and from photos I’ve seen it can vary in colour.
At this point, it is worth stressing that my record hasn’t been verified yet (which is why I put probably in the photo caption being absolutely accurate) but I am pretty sure of what it is and pretty well anyone I’ve asked about it seems to agree.
So it looks pretty good for being the first record for the 10km square that we fall in according to the National Biodiversity Network.
I made a data request to the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre (who were really helpful!) about this species and it showed that if this record is verified that it would be around the 100th Sussex record and I’m not going to try to rank the Cricket-bat Orb Weaver’s rarity but it does show what is out there if you look, or in this case just happen to take a photo of a spider.
To emphasise the point, later in the week I’m at home and just as an exercise to see if there’s anything else notable out there I say to my mum let’s go outside and each take a photo of the first insect we find. This is at about 8 in the evening so not the best time to do this for varieties sake, but the first thing I find is a bee.
Buff-tailed Bumble Bee
We identify it as a Buff-tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus terrestris). Maybe not out of this world but this find led us to find a colony of them living in a forgotten bird box in the hedge and it has been well publised how hard a time bumble bees are having!
Have fun wild spotting – you never know what you might find and hopefully this blog proves it!