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Dungeness Day Out

Hard work yesterday, though we did manage to find the target bird-the Cattle Egret that has been around for a few days, following cattle through the lush vegetation of "hayfield 2". Otherwise just 4 Hobbies hawking dragonflies and a family party of 13 Long-tailed Tits perching on wires at the ARC pit.

We usually walk slowly round the Willow Trail in search of interesting insects to photograph. Second time around we came across a Specked Bush Cricket, and a larger , but not adult, Great Green Bush Cricket. This was  clearly a female, with an impressive ovipositor, the wings were undeveloped and it was next to what is presumably an exuvia, complete with antennae.


Nice legs....

Peter Greenhalf sent me this image of a solitary wasp he caught at Castle Water on Tuesday this week, which we are pretty sure is a male Crabro cribrarius (based on the ridges on the top of the thorax and yellow edging and pale dots on the expanded front tibia). These weird expansions are apparently used in nest digging, though I can find little more than that and it seems unusual as they are only found in the males and it is the females that generally provision the nest, in this case with various flies. This species is widely distributed in the UK, but I was surprised to find that it had never been recorded on the reserve before, probably because wasps seem to have been little studied here (another surprise).


Beach Reserve

A dismal daybreak with thunderstorms and heavy rain showers, but I had a walk around anyway. There were a few highlights, with a rather soaked Short-eared Owl grounded behind Ternery Pool (the poor thing could barely take off as I approached), Curlew numbers are slowly begining to build again with 24 roosting on Flat Beach along with a lone Whimbrel, a Common Sandpiper was out from Denny Hide and a Green Sandpiper on Harbour Farm pools.



Rye Harbour Moths

A half decent catch this morning, still below what I would expect for the time of year, but around 35 species was the best yet in 2016. Rarity value was provided by another five spot ermel and a couple of saltmarsh grass veneer, but it was the bigger boys (or girls - no sexism here) that stole the show this morning. This included five species of hawk moth (elephant, small elephant, poplar, eyed and privet) and a couple of garden tiger looking splendidly garish in their bright warning colouration. The technical term for this colouration is aposematic (the term is derived from the Greek and appears to mean 'a signal to go away'!) and indicates a pretty toxic character, derived from chemicals ingested during the larval stage and passed on to the adult moth. You're fine however as long as you resist the urge to eat them.



Bee Orchid

The fields we manage for bumblebees on Harbour Farm are looking very good this year and we're just starting to see the first areas of red clover, the single most important pollen source for our rarer bees, coming into flower. Over the last few years we have done some seeding of yellow rattle, spreading of green hay (for red clover) and planting of comfrey, but by and large the species that are coming up were either already there or have made there own way to the site. One of the most pleasing arrivals is bee orchid, which for the last couple of years has been growing on the sea defence bank, and this year I managed to find four separate plants growing here. The appearance of the flower has evolved to attract a certain species of bee (tricking it into thinking it has found a mate) which then transfers pollen between plants. Unfortunately, the bee in question is not found in the UK, so our plants have to pollinate themselves! Bee orchids are quite variable and this particular individual has white petals with green veins, rather than the normal pink colouration.