Saturday, July 25, 2015

Local Red-Tailed Bees

A mid-day walk round the usual South Sawbo. It was quiet, possibly due to the prolonged deluge yesterday. Of bird note were c20 Stock Doves, 3 Linnet , 1 Yellowhammer, and a Common Tern amd a Kingfisher that were both seen over a field; the tern coming from distance and the kingfisher cutting a corner.

A number of butterflies and dragonflies were out as well as a variety of bees. I  saw the one below on the path by the park and took the usual out-of-focus close up, but I think it is Bombus Rupestris, common name either Hill Cuckoo Bee or Red-Tailed Cuckoo Bee. It was lounging around not doing much, which is apparently what Cuckoo bees do as they leave rearing the young to the host bee (hence the name). From an id point of view it has a shiny hairless back and dark wings that are apprently characteristic of cuckoo bees.

So what of the host? I reads that cuckoo bees lay their eggs in the nest of one species only, and for Rupestris this is Bombus Lapidarius the Red-Tailed Bumble Bee. This is a frequently seen bee, and we have a nest in the garden - its a hole in the ground under a bush. The bush itself has a number of bumblebees on it - mainly Tree Bumblebee and the other white and yellow banded ones, but not Red-Tailed. I had seen the workers coming and going for a few days, but on a visit last week found a queen staggering around the lawn near the nest not seeming to know where it was going. There were lots of white dots all over the back, and I thought this may be some kind of parasite. A quick look on the net and it would seem to be mites which I read may not be too harmful for the bee, so possibly not the reason fot the poor state of this creature.


Bees are a recent addition to my list of wildlife interests, and its been like my first year or so of birdwatching, in that the books don't seem to describe what I am looking at, and there is lots of scope for variation not covered by a few pictures in a guide. Its fun to be back at the start of the learning process, and I will no doubt be making lots of mistakes.

Finally a tune in honour of yesterday's deluge.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

homeward bound

In a few weeks I will be taking a break and saying goodbye to the daily commute. As commutes go its quite a good one. Decent and reliable trains, good company to share the journey, and nearly always a seat.

The trainline runs through a damp valley so there's plenty of birdlife to see and hear. the approach to Sawbridgeworth station has Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler often quite close. A recent addition is a strident Cetti's Warbler from the end of the platform, and there's usually something toi breighten the morning - woodpecker, bullfinch, or sparrowhawk.

Cetti's Warbler at the end of the platform ...
My normal walk home from the station takes me up into the village and down the main road to my house, but in summer the ground is sufficiently dry for me to be able to walk home along the river/canal without undue risk to my suit.

First up is Lawrence Moorings on the far Essex bank, home of the mosquito. Not the one that bites your ankles and exposed parts in mid summer, but the De Havilland sort that conducted lightning raids in WWII. The is the site of the former Lawrence Furnishings factory that made the fuselage and wings. Along hear there is regular Grey Wagtail, a colony of House Martins, Swifts, and occasional Common Tern flying along the river.
Home of the Mosquito
Across Sheering Mill Lane the river continues beneath overhanging willows. The path is lined with houseboats. There are fewer birds down here but regular warblers and finches. I turn off just before we get to SLRS and the occasional ducks and gulls.

so overall a decent walk home, and one I will do for leisure in the coming months no doubt.

Finally an appropriate tune from a few decades back.

Sunday, July 05, 2015


Yes folks, its time to dust off the binoculars, clean up the camera, fix the tripod, and boldly ride out once more.

I had a brief flirtation over here, but my circumstances didn't permit consistent postings or any depth to the posts. Now, however, circumstances are changing. The children are getting older, and some free time is looming as I take a break from the 9-5. Also my interests are changing, so expect some variety.

Somethings haven't changed, and the more dedicated readers will be delighted to hear that despite my best efforts the standard of photography is the same. Here's an example of what you can expect in the months to come.

Finally there may be some more than just lists of what's around. Some musings on life, some analysis, even some music. Here's an old favourites from my teens that seems appropriate. I saw them at Crystal Palace in 1980. There's points for anyone who knows who topped the bill. And we know what points mean. Happy viewing.

Commonly Spotted Orchids

We are fortunate in the UK in that the commonest orchids are also amongst the most beautiful. I spent a morning photographing some on the lo...