What an entomologist will do to track down new sights… despite the smell.
Upon turning over some kind of poo at the bottom of a tree, a whole host of things escaped deeper into its creamy recess. I captured one… and photographed another, both of which still need identifying. Disgusting I know, but you can find some wonderful things hidden inside poo and dead animals alike. The dead animal thing i’m not into but I do know a man who is. Now, it sounds a little weird but some insects are specific to a more specialized habitat and if shit is your thing… get stuck in?!
Now I went for my usual loop around the yard, scooting around the outside and cutting back through on the path through the middle. I stumbled across the poo while photographing a 7 spot lady beetle and thought, well, what can I loose. Running around on top was a new species to my life list, Scathophaga stercoraria or Yellow dung fly. I have to mention its scientific name, Scath – Excrement + phaga – To eat. Shit eater in short. Named because the adults mate on the poo, eggs are laid in and around it, then the larvae… yes, eat it. Not a pleasant thought but again, if that’s your thing. The males are a bright yellow or golden colour while the females are a much duller greenish. The adults are carnivorous and are found in high numbers around livestock, especially cattle.
I also added a new bee to my life list, the tawny mining bee or Andrena fulva. Around 13mm in lenght, the thorax is covered almost completely in red hair. This belongs to a group of bees that differ to you more familiar subjects. As the name suggests, they mine a nest hole into the soil. The more observant of you may have noticed little volcanoes of soil on your lawn in April, this is their handy work and something I never thought to photograph when I have found one (Duh).
Now the pellet. A fantastic find. I have heard tawny owls in the trees around the yard when I was at work doing the aptly named graveyard shift or in the winter when it gets dark really early. I was hunting around for possible nests holes this week and came across a lot of bone fragments at the bottom of a tree that was clad to the eye balls in holly.I continued to have a scrape about and circled the circumference of tree, coming to one remaining intact pellet to marvel at. This is not shit, a common misconception when producing one to a friend. It consists of the parts a bird of prey or owl cannot digest properly like bones or fur. This had a few bones sticking out, and when I snapped one, I discovered they were bird and not mammal bones for these bones were hollow, something which aids a bird flight with less weight and all. Now after much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion they are tawny owl pellets and dinners want not’s.
Lastly, the green wood pecker – Picus viridis. This has always been a tough one for me to photograph or at least take one picture that is of good quality. While searching a tree for moth activity, I heard the loud yaffle call of the green wood pecker. A cracking looking bird with a sinister expression pertinently on its face. The male and females are alike apart from the details of their mustache. A females is all black while the males is red with an outline of black. It was just perched on a horizontal branch of ash, posing it seemed. Relating to poo again, I have some in a pot on my shelf. Now, it is not the dripping bird poo you find, all slimy and gloopy. It is like cigarette ash, made up of hundreds, if not thousands of the ants its pulled from the nest with it’s sticky tongue. I couldn’t resist taking some when I found it in the summer of 2011, I remember it well…
In all, not a bad week in the graveyard with 10 or so new species added to my life list, which now stands at 387. Comment below and/or visit the FB page advertised above somewhere, that’s it… bit higher, click. Ta.