Friday, 5 June 2015

Damsel city

After finishing my tax return yesterday afternoon, I decided I'd earned a short break, so went down to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve for the first time in AGES. It was a gorgeous day though quite breezy. I took just the D300 and BigMac lens.

It was a lovely surprise to begin with a patch tick, before I'd even made it into the wildlife garden proper. This female Brown Argus was looking wonderful as she fed on Bugle flowers by the car park.

The garden was looking wonderful and was alive with insects. As usual the Ox-eye daisies were very popular. I have seen this stripy fly species before but forget its name.

A Red-tipped Flower Beetle learns about the Fibonacci sequence.

Closer view of an Ox-eye's florets. If you fancy getting your head around the maths behind their 'meshed spiral' arrangement, have a look here.

After stalking assorted bees with limited success, and watching a singing Garden Warbler through my bins, I headed out towards the Long Lake end of the reserve. The woods were full of birdsong and the squeaks and tweets of recently fledged youngsters of various species, including Long-tailed Tits and Robins. Swifts and martins zoomed overhead. It was, in short, pretty idyllic. I saw my first Banded Demoiselle near Willow hide (out of camera-reach) and carried straight on to the Long Lake meadow.

This field serves as a perfect 'nursery' for the teneral damsels that are fresh out of the lake, where they can feed and colour up for their first day or so of adult life, before they return to the water's edge for the hurly-burly of mate-finding and egg-laying (the latter a process that involves the males just as much as the females, as they remain in tandem and the males help the females break the water's surface tension when they immerse their abdomens). Dozens rose up at every step I took, mostly drab but shiny-winged tenerals, but a few full-coloured and mature.

It was still warm and the damsels were lively - plus I'm out of practice... so it was difficult getting close. Managed it in the end with this male Common Blue.

The longer vegetation at the far end of the meadow held quite a number of Banded Demoiselles, males and females. They were very skittish but I just sat down and in due course a few came and settled close-ish. This female offered me a side-on view...

... then a head-on one. Look at those beady eyes.

A male nearby, who didn't go for the side-on option. With the two of them sitting close together and both eye-balling me, I began to wonder who was more fascinated by whom.

Lovely though the damsels were, it was disappointing to see no Downy Emeralds. With the near shore becoming shaded, I think it was just a bit too late in the day for the males to be out patrolling their territories.

I crossed over to one of the swims over West Lake, and here too were some damsels, including this pair of Common Blues getting it on.

I was watching them trying to unite their important bits when this gorgeous little shiny beetle wandered into view. I'll seek out an ID for it today and edit if/when I find one. ETA - found it, Green Nettle Weevil (Phyllobius pomaceus).

An amazing cacophony of squeaks and honks from the lake heralded the arrival of some adult Canada Geese, shepherding a mixed-age creche of some 30 goslings.

I walked back the other way, by East Lake, and found more nice insects, including this lovely Red-headed Cardinal Beetle...

... this male Azure Damselfly, which let me get much closer than any other today...

... and a Tree Bumblebee stuffing its face with nectar from one of the newly opened bramble flowers.

Back in the wildlife garden I had another go at flying bumbles and got one half-decent pic of a Buff-tailed (plus hundreds more where the target bumble was blurry or missing).

Among the familiar species I spotted this striking little grey-and-black job, which I have tentatively IDed as Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria).

Another flower beetle, this one known variously as Thick-legged Flower Beetle or Swollen-thighed Beetle. Way to undermine a beetle's body image and self esteem!

I was watching the various solitary bees around the pseudo-hide when I spotted a ruby-tailed wasp - amazing tiny iridescent blue thing with a red abdomen tip. Didn't manage a photo and it didn't reappear - maybe next time, I've always wanted to get a photo of one of those. Instead, here's... whatever this is. A shieldbug nymph perhaps.

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