Saturday, 7 May 2016

A day of hoverflies

In just over a month's time I'll be heading up to the highlands in search of the rare and enigmatic Pine Hoverfly. Finding any of them is likely to be a challenge, so today I did a bit of training in the company of Joan, a local hoverfly expert. We spent the bulk of the day underneath a couple of beautiful cherry trees that are in full flower, netting and identifying all the hoverflies that we saw, and we saw a lot of hoverflies!

First in the net was a cracking Melangyna cincta, a hoverfly which I've been wanting to see for a while without any success - a good start, and it soon got better with Dasysyrphus tricinctus popping in for a visit, another lifer. Remarkably Joan then netted a hoverfly that wasn't just a lifer for me, but for her as well, the diminutive Parasyrphus annulatus, one of a group of similar looking species, looking a look like a mini Syrphus, all of which seem to have declined in recent years, so it's good to know there's still some at The Lodge. Slightly less dramatically, I added another lifer in the shape of a male Platycheirus scutatus, one of a large number of very similar looking species which I've never really got to grips with before.

Amongst all the hoverflies, a nice surprise was a False Ladybird, a shining gem of a beetle which is more usually found underneath dead wood, munching on fungi, but clearly had got carried away with the sunshine and decided to do some sunbathing.

False Ladybird
False Ladybird
After that distraction we got back to the hoverflies, and the list get ticking over with common species like Epistrophe eligans, Neoascia podagrica, Melanostoma scalare and the lovely Leucozona lucorum bolstering the total. As the temperature continued to rise, activity started to drop, so we decided on a quick stroll around the gardens, where we added another lifer for the day in the shape of the buttercup loving Cheilosia albitarsis. After that lunch arrived in the company of my better half and the scrambling ball of chaos that is my daughter, suitably kitted out in a bee patterned t-shirt.

Leucozona lucorum
Leucozona lucorum, one of the best looking hoverflies in my opinion
After lunch a bit more hoverflying turned up a few more species around the pond in the woods, including the first Myathropa florea and Rhingia campestris of the year, and the briefest of views of my second ever Criorhina ranunculi, plus few ripples and a blur of fur that was probably a Water Shrew. By the time we called it a day we'd racked up a list of over 20 species, five of which were new to me, and I'd also had a great chance to learn a lot more about a lot of species that I've previously found a bit daunting. Hopefully I'll be able to put the experience to good use up in Scotland, and everywhere else I go hoverflying in future.

Rhingia campestris
Rhingia campestris, I always think of Plague doctors' masks when I see these!

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