Sunday, 22 July 2018

Did Penni ischnur her cnemisis? To prey or not to prey... that is but Nature... raw in tooth or mandible!!

I was strolling round our watermeadow, early doors...
looking for interesting pictures of the wildlife...
when this scene occurred in front of me...
I was just about to take a picture of the "Pea Penny-pipes" when it was pounced upon by this Blue-tailed Damselfly...



Quite a tussle occured until, very suddenly the Blue Featherlegs stopped resisting...



....and she crawled forwards onto a dead plant... where I could see through the viewfinder what was happening.



The reason Pennipipes had suddenly become subdued was very clear... the female Common Bluetail that attacked her had chewed through the thorax and consumed her flight muscles!



You can see from the side shot here that her thorax has been chewed from start to finish...



...and that was enough for the smaller damselfly... who, having fatally crippled the Featherlegs... went off and rested just above on a dying nettle!!



I moved Penny Featherlegs to a wild carrot flowerhead where she would be more visible to predators... doubting that the Common Bluetail would be back for more.




and this final photo is a close-up I took before leaving, which shows the extent of the damage.




Sorry, Nature isn't nice and twee.... it is nasty... but with beautiful moments!
Given the number of warblers we have here...
and the swallows, tits, wolf spiders, big bushcrickets...
and my favourites... the huge wasp spiders... carnivores all...
the Bluetail itself could have bought it by the end of the day!!
Even sparrows and other seed eaters hunt insects at this time of the year....
to feed their growing young.

This whole episode lasted... taken from the time of the photos...
09:54 18 - First shot - pounced a few seconds earlier.
09:54 44 - 26 seconds to cripple her.
09:56 24 - Finished meal in 2 minutes & 6 seconds!

The protagonists... or the diner and her meal are...
Common Bluetail / Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) l'Agrion élégant  [female]....
Blue Featherleg / White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) l'Agrion à larges pattes [immature female]
all taking place in our water meadow / flood plain of the Aigronne River.

And no apologies for the title!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Confusion and Obfustication.... and Nature's digital art.

What does the Passenger want you to see...
Well, perhaps it is easier to say what it doesn't want you to see....
it, and all the other wonderfully patterned moths, don't want you to see a potential meal!!
Save those like the Tigers, the Cinnabar and other very brightly coloured insects...
they, apparently, are saying "Don't eat me, I'm yucky!"
No, I've not tried!!!
But these, whilst often seen in flight during the day, are few in number.

The vast majority of moths are resting at that time and only flying at night.
So they need to remain unseen...
the most well known of these was the Peppered Moth [Biston betularia]... often cited as "evolution in action"*...
where...int'Black Country and t'grime of t'far North'n cities with the mills and steelworks...
a dark form evolved... and thrived... because it couldn't be seen at rest.
And, now, with the "big clean up", it has become much rarer.

Everyone knows the Buff-Tip... which tries to make us think that it is a broken birch twig....

Here, it is actually on a broken willow branch....
so it isn't restricted in its choice of places to rest!


and the Lappet, in silhouette in the previous post, even has "leaf veins"!

The leaf veins are showing very well on the lower wing of this one.


But what is the Passenger trying to imitate?
As a moth, it is a very "flat-winged" one...

It is a very delta-winged moth.

but, by "posing" in a nose downward position, it is imitating a curled over, dead leaf.
A total optical illusion... but very effective... all the insect needs to do is keep its tail towards the sun...
et, voila...
it is a dead leaf.

Not one of my best pix....
but I had released it well before looking at it onscreen...
and spotting the illusion.

And it is all done with pixels...
nature invented digital art before computers were even a Greek dream!

And here are the pixels!!

*Personally, with the Peppered Moth, my take is that a dark form had always existed!
Many moths have dark forms... given the right conditions, they will be more successful...
simply because they are the least likely to be picked off as a tasty snack

Friday, 1 September 2017

Spinning on a branch!!



Sometimes book illustrations get it so wrong...
whilst being "right and proper"....
moths are one example...
illustrations of the waterside plant Butterburr [Petasites hybridus] Chapeau-du-Diable being another.... it always has tiny holes in the leaves caused by the Strawberry Snail [Trichia striolata] that feeds under the leaves. Artists have always "cleaned" the leaves when they paint illustrations for books.

A Lobster Moth [Stauropus fagi] fr... on a rendered wall... in normal, and book, position.

All moths are portrayed heads-up or from the side....
to show the underwing, quite often the moth is pictured with one pair open....
usually the right... and so it should be, you need to be shown the characteristics...
but they are always a bit "museum"!
Possibly because museum specimens were used to do the drawings??
But, possibly also, because that is the "norm"!

But on websites, I have noticed that the photographs are also quite often corrected...
the moth doesn't actually adopt the position shown in the books... but the picture's editor....
possibly the photographer... possibly the website owner[s]...
have orientated the moth to the book position.
You don't actually find the moth in that position...
and the direction of light shows it has been rotated.

An "almost-silhouette" of a Lappet...
showing the leaf outline... not the right plant...
but it chose to fly off and settle there!!

Take the moth at the beginning of this post...
The Passenger
[Dysgonia algira] la Passagère...
a moth new to me... but a beautiful example of evolution.
I rotated the first picture to the "book" position.
BUT... this is how it was in the trap...




And a better picture taken later...



And this is the position it immediately adopted on release back to the wild...


... in both cases, as in the trap, head down.
But can you see why?
Let your eyes relax a little and look at those last few pictures...
can you see the optical illusion?
Remember that the moth is a flat-winged creature...
the illusion is created in "pixels"... each wing scale being a "pixel"....!!

I'll post later about what evolution "thinks" you should be seeing.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

A LONG Gardening Break...

...or yet another "Hiatus on the Homefront"

After yet another gardening break...
and we are almost ready for the growing season...
OK...OK... I know it has gone mid-AUGUST...
but the drought and then the heat held us back.
But, on the other hand, we'll be eating food "out of season"....
when it begins to get expensive in the shops...
So any bloggin' has taken a back seat...

We had a marvellous visit, though, at the start of May, by fellow LPO Refugers...
a reunion for LPO members who have declared their patch of land, or balcony...
as a Refuge LPO....
which visits a different persons refuge each year...
and this year, we had been asked to host the  day...
with lots to see and lots talked about.... a guided walk around the Refuge...
broken around midday by a picnic lunch, plenty eaten... quite a lot drunk...
and then a great Orchid Walk from Susan of Loire Valley Nature in the afternoon.

The Moorhens decided to nest just beside the bridge this year...
having destroyed the patch of yellow iris...
there is only so much bending and destruction of the leaves that a plant can take!!
But the nest was very visible from the bridge and gave a very nice intro to the site...
and, for a change, had local naturalists... whispering!!

At the six egg stage... she finally laid nine.
Five survived through the early days and were split 2 & 3 amongst the adults.

Then Pauline led the group around the meadow using her new chariot!!
The day was nice, weatherwise... and plenty of wildlife seen...
and we even river-dipped...
with a net!

Pauline introducing the visitors to the meadow...
the raised side bar of "The Chariot" can be seen on the right.

Lunch was had.... and on the way to the orchids, we stopped on the 'flatlands' above Chaumassay to see if we could spot the larks that frequent the fields just there... and anything else that would be different from the valley fauna... and were treated to a wonderful exhibition by a male Hen Harrier... both quartering the fields and.... new for me... trying to flush small birds from the treetops.
As there has been a "vole crash" locally, I am presuming that this 'out of the ordinary' behaviour is a little observed method of hunting when times are tight.

The walk proved interesting...with a number of oddities spotted... the best for me, though, was discovering the very strange larva of a Bloody-nosed Beetle [Timarcha tenebricosa] le Crache-sang.... a "Jabba the Hutt" type of critter....
anyway...
here's a load of pictures from the day.



Two views of a male Beautiful Demoiselle [Calopteryx virgo meridionalis] le Caloptéryx vierge méridional...
this is indicated by the fact that the wing colour doesn't quite reach the body...
in C. virgo virgo, it goes from the body almost to the wingtip.

A nice fat Roman or Burgundy or Edible Snail [Helix pomatia] escargot de Bourgogne, or Gros blanc...
and also known as escargot de Champagne....
these are actually really heavy when they get to this size!!
 
Spiderlings of the Garden Spider [Araneus diadematus] l'Épeire diadème...
which carry the same back pattern as the adults.
All orb-web spiders... as well as many other species...
form these dense clusters of newly hatched youngsters for the first few days.

A Woundwort...
most probably Marsh Woundwort [Stachys palustrisÉpiaire des marais...
given the habitat and pattern on the labia....
although hybrids between Marsh and Hedge Woundwort are not uncommon.
We have Hedge Woundwort by the front fence.... and is a lot darker...
this, though, is by the Aigronne.

A "nest" of Peacock caterpillars on a nettle plant
And then the afternoon and orchids...

Susan of Loire Valley Nature giving a talk on the orchids at Chaumassay....
before leading a walk along the road and up through the woods to the right.


Two colour shades of the Monkey Orchid [Orchis simia] Orchis singe...
first, a reasonably normal version...

....then a hypochromatic version.
Hypochromatic means lacking in colour.... and this one is very pale...
but you can see a tinge of pink.

Then it was single file up the hill into the woods.

Where, as mentioned, I discovered the "Jabba the Hutt" larva of a Bloody-nosed Beetle...
they feed on members of the Goosegrass family...
in this case, found on Madder [Rubia peregrina] Garance voyageuse.
And a male Crab Spider [Synema globosum]... named for the female's very spherical abdomen.
This fella is 3 to 4mm from nose to tail...
in fact, his front legs, at 4mm long, make him look much larger.


We also dipped a net in the millstream before lunch and came up with a few goodies...


A caddisfly larva in its sand tube...
possibly one of the Limnephilidae, which tend to build long, straight tubes....
you can just see its front pair of legs... the others hold it in the tube...
and a Water Mite...Hydrachna sp. possibly, as the habitat fits.


A couple of mayfly larvae... type again unknown... an Olive or a Dun of some sort...

And, finally, a Freshwater Shrimp [Gammarus pulex]...
along with a very small spire-shelled water snail.
And so went the day....
In other news...
the moth trap has had two airings per month...
middle and end on the "half-moons" as it cannot compete with a full moon...
and the identified species count is now up to 230 micro and macromoths...
with plenty more unidentified... mainly the micros.

My favourite spider, Argiope, is back with a vengance... they seem to be everywhere in the verger and one in the potager... plus some casually spotted in the meadow...

And the bief [millstream] has been declared out of bounds to fishermen... it has become a nursery for truitelles... baby trout.
More on all this in future posts....

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A slight Hiatus on the Home Front....

or "Apologies for no major post last week..... or this, and this and that for that matter"

Sorry... with all this fine weather, and a need to get spuds in the ground at the right time this year... I hadn't pre-prepared anything...
But the moth trap has had two airings so far this year... and we've started to get visitors to the windows at night!
The Swallows are back... swinging in and out of the barn.... and paying a visit in here, too... which took a bit of juggling to create an escape route....
The Black Redstarts are back, as well....and the duck gave us a nice present the other day... a fresh egg that she'd laid on the fly down by the old apple tree.
How do we know it was fresh? Because anything like an egg down there wouldn't have lasted overnight....
A Little Egret had been fishing in the bief...and flew past the bedroom window just as I looked out... no need for binos...
The Nightingales are back... three singing males at least... and a Zizi was singing from the wall early doors... a Zizi is the Bruant Zizi... or Cirl Bunting... relative of the Yellowhammer... with a similar song but it keeps what it doesn't want a secret... "Little bit of bread and no..."
It misses out the "cheeeese"
We've got a group of young Viperene Snakes [Lat] Coulevre vipérine who have holed up together just inside the barn door... four is the maximum seen at one time.

So here are a few pictures taken recently.....

Here's the Bruant zizi... aka: Cirl Bunting.... zizi'ing his little heart out!!

There are four Viperene snakes in this picture
... count the heads... one sunbathing...
three in the gap 'twixt barn wall and the metal...
sunwarmed...
hinge.



Three from the moth trap....
R>L: a Brindled Beauty, a Small Lappet and a Lunar Marbled Brown....
the curate who named the last probably had cataracts.... it is all grey!!

 
A hoverfly.... hovering!

An Ichneumonid wasp...
possibly a female Ichneumon xanthorius based on looks and flight period.
{But, only experts can really tell... and not from photos!!}

Black Redstart [male].... showing his "shirt-tails"!

And finally... for the moment... an orb weaving spider.
Tetragnatha sp.... possibly Tetragnatha extensa which is the most common...
but I need the other side to be certain...and this one was...
thirty centimetres off the ground in stinging nettles!!