Sunday, 9 August 2020

Catching up with Scarce and Rare Inverts

You have probably read this here before that I feel that I'm pretty lucky to live here in Dorset as it holds some pretty special wildlife which can't always be found in other places.  Some of these species appear to be doing very well here within the Poole Harbour basins Heathland and Bogs.

Since the easing of Lockdown Jackie and I have been catching up on some of those special species that we are lucky enough to still be able to see locally.  The first was a very local and very new arrival to Dorset found by Ian Ballam here on the Lytchett Bay patch in 2018 and last year we observed several pairs.  So Ian and I kept looking for the first emergence this year of the Southern Migrant Hawker or Blue-eyed Hawker (Aeshna affinis) as it is sometimes known as.  This latter name I think is much more appropriate now that it has been breeding in the UK annually since around 2010.

Southern Migrant Hawker - Lytchett Bay © Nick Hull

We had to wait until the 23rd July when Ian texted me to say he had a male over the dried pond a habitat that this species prefers.  Unfortunately though it has been seen by quite a few Odonata twitching people we think we have only got the one male this year and it's been very hit and miss if you are lucky enough to catchup with it when you visit.

Our next quest was for Turtle Dove, a species we had tried for already but failed to see or hear even though we knew they were present.  We chose a fine warm morning with a gentle cooling breeze and hoped that might be enough.  

It wouldn't be me if I didn't try to include at least one bird sound into the blog.  This is one of about four Turtle Dove that we heard I just love the gentle purr that they have and accompanied by a Skylark what can be better.

The next excursion was just me and two friends, Terry and Kat, we are part of the reptile survey team at RSPB Arne, due to the lockdown some of the work that had been planned hadn't taken place.  So as it's something outside we could do easily and distance from each other we were allowed to recommence the unfinished work. This was to replace some old felt Artificial Refuges (AR's).  These if you do not know are bits of tin or felt left for reptiles to warm up on.  The day we chose turned out very hot so no reptile in it's right mind would be on or under one of the felts which we were to replace with tin, indeed we never saw one reptile the whole day. So why are you relating this account, I here you ask, well whilst carrying out our volunteer work we had a surprise, well I did.  At one location we had removed an AR at the end of February but was unable to replace it at the time, it had left a bare square in the heather so it was easy to find.  So I grabbed a piece of tin and walked up to replace it.  When I was a few metres away a Nightjar flew up from the bare patch and talk about make me jump and there on the dried patch were two eggs. I took seconds to take a quick photo and I backed away.  We will not return to the area again until after the breeding season has finished.

This is the view I had of the Nightjar nest & eggs taken with a long lens © Nick Hull

This is the same photo just heavily cropped © Nick Hull

On Fridays as a rule Jackie catches up with one of the daughters and I go off doing wildlife things.  So I met up with Terry to check out a few areas for scarce invertebrates and to see if we could get a few presentable photographs. Though Terry is much more the photographer than I am.  We started for the Southern Hawker then on to a site I know for a melanistic Adder but unfortunately the temperature was again rising quickly and it was becoming too hot.  So Terry led the way to a pond for a very rare Pondweed Leafhopper (Erotettix Macrosteles) cyane) which he picked up straight away and once I got my eye I counted a least 85 and the previous week Terry said they had only around 20.  This Pondweed Hopper is very particular about the ponds it inhabits and is a good indicator that there is no pollution of any kind and because of this they are very vulnerable. 

Pondweed Leafhopper Erotettix (=Macrosteles) cyane © Nick Hull

Next we went off to a bog where we knew there was Large Marsh Grasshopper this is as it name suggests is a large species, the males are green and the female are a super deep red and they are stunning animals.  They make a tick like sound a bit like a electric fence shorting out on a metal post, or as someone recently likened it to the snap of the gorse seeds popping out on its pod on a hot day.  It took us a while to locate one and then another an so on but to get one to pose for a photo wasn't easy but with patience we manged to get a shot of both male and a female.

Large Marsh Grasshopper Stethophyma grossum © Nick Hull

I managed to find a Bog Bush Cricket which was an added bonus this species is a little like Roesel's Bush Cricket but is generally darker and found in much wetter areas hence it's name.

Bog Bush Cricket Metrioptera brachyptera © Nick Hull

Though Cricket species can look similar to grasshoppers the easiest way to tell the difference it check the length of the antenna and cricket antenna are very long and grashoppers are short and stubby in comparison.  We also found a single Marsh Gentians which looked quite lonely on it's own though I suspect not for very much longer.

Marsh Gentian © Nick Hull

We also checked out a few other site but the wind was picking up and not suitable so we decided to call it a day.

It wasn't until a week or so later that Jackie and I met up with a few friends for a heathland walk and I managed to find my first ever Heath Grasshopper.  A pretty rare species but seems to be doing ok in and around the Poole Harbour Heathland where the habitat is right for it.  They are a very cryptic coloured species which has three main identifying features and they are :-

Heath-Grasshopper Chorthippus vagans © Nick Hull

1. The underside is densely hairy. 
2. The marking on the pronotum reach the edge.
3. The wing has a distinct bulge on the edge of the forewing.

Heath-Grasshopper Chorthippus vagans © Nick Hull

You can see the bulge on the forwing of this individual very well as it's missing a rear leg.

Well I think that brings you all up to date.

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