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About Me

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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

30 April, 2012

Hoverfly: Platycheirus albimanus

Spring is a peak time of year for Dandelion and Daisy flowers and it seems nearly every Dandelion has a small, dark coloured insect feeding on it. Closer inspection shows these to be hoverflies, many of them this species, Platycheirus albimanus.
This is one of the most numerous of hoverflies and occurs throughout the British Isles and will be found along woodland rides and margins, hedgerows and in gardens however, because it is so small and almost insignificant it is just not really noticed by anyone other than the enthusiast. It is also one of a range of similar species and identification can be difficult without actually catching a specimen and examining it under a microscope. I can't bring myself to do that so if I have wrongly identified this species I apologise.
Occuring all through the spring and summer months but is especially numerous and, therefore conspicuous in late April and early May.
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Find out more about the nature of Dorset at www.natureofdorset.co.uk

22 April, 2012

Solitary Wasp: Mellinus Arvensis

Everyone is surely familar with the common yellow and black wasp species, Vespula vulgaris; a social wasp, living in colonies and extremely aggresive if disturbed or threatened. However, there are many other species of wasps, not all of which are yellow and black, and most of which live a pretty solitary life. This species, Mellinus arvensis, is one of those solitary wasp species.
Also known as one of the 'digger' wasps, this species excavates a burrow by digging with her mandible and legs. She then finds a spider (or may be more than one deppending on the size of the spider) and paralyses it with her sting and then drags the spider in to her burrow where she then lays her eggs inside the spider. The eggs hatch and the larva eat the spider before pupating and over wintering to the emerge as adults in the spring.
A bit gruesome may be but this sort of thing is going on, usually unseen, in the natural world all the time.
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Find out more about the nature of Dorset at www.natureofdorset.co.uk

21 April, 2012

Dotted Bee-fly (Bombylius discolor)

I have been wildlife watching now for many, many years and I always work on the principle that statistically I am likely to see common things when I'm out rather than rareties but equally one should always expect the unexpected. In spring the Bee-fly is a fairly common site around spring flowers and especially Primroses and Ground Ivy, it has a brown furry body, long probosis and appears to hover when taking nectar from these flowers.

I happened upon a bee-fly that did not look quite right somehow. It was a bit bigger than usual and had light markings along the side and on closer inspection the wings were dotted. Thinking this was odd I took a photograph and so was able to look it up when I got home. There was nothing like it in my field guide but a bit of digging around and I discovered we actually have twelve species of bee-fly in this country although most are uncommon or rare.

I soon had an idenfication for this one, a Dotted Bee-fly, not rare but certainly uncommon and an interesting find. Yes, always expect the unexpected!

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Find out more about the nature of Dorset at www.natureofdorset.co.uk

01 April, 2012

Orange Underwing (Archiearis parthenias)

Some insects seem to break all the assumptions we make about nature. Moths fly by night? No, not true. Several species fly by day and the Orange Underwing is one you can find on bright sunny days. Moths are summer insects? Again, not true. There are moths that can be found in the middle of winter as they have a form of 'anti-freeze' in their blood and the Orange Underwing is found in March and April. Moths are drab coloured insects? Again, totally untrue. Many species disprove this but even the drably coloured top wings of the Orange Underwing part slightly, to reveal the most glorious golden orange on the underwings. Orange Underwing for good reason!

The Orange Underwing is widespread and locally common in Britain but is, perhaps, not seen that often as it likes to fly friskily along woodland rides quite high up and at a level where the casual observer might not see them; I was lucky to find this one at rest on the ground so was able to photograph it.

They favour birch but also visit sallow blossom and late March is certainly the time for that.