Sunday, 6 August 2017

Off the beaten track at Maple Lodge NR

Saturday I was at Maple Lodge in the company of Martin Parr and Emily Hobson. Emily and I were being treated to an 'off piste' insect experience by Martin, and apart from one short sharp rain shower the weather stayed relatively good.
Most of the visit was spent exploring the wetland meadow in front of the Rotunda Hide. The high-light for me was seeing not one, but two very good sized female Wasp Spiders. I've seen these before at Harefield, Rainham and Barnes. But I've never seen them as big as the ones at Maple Lodge. And previously I've only been able to photograph the top of the spiders. Today however I got some cracking views of the underneath. The web has a wide, white zig-zag strip running down the middle, known as a 'stabilimentum', the function of which is unclear. Mating is a dangerous game for the small brown drab males; they wait at the edge of the web until the female has moulted into a mature form, then take advantage of her jaws being soft and rush in to mate. However, many males still get eaten during this time.

The one below is the same female as above, but photographed again after the rain....

The other large female was fairly nearby but lower down in the grass so I couldn't manage a full framed shot. But I did get some nice close ups of the colourfully marked abdomen....

Of course there were some butterflies, not in great numbers as the weather was a little breezy and chilly....

Large White

The brambles and nettle patches were attracting a few hoverfly species, the two most prolific being the ones below.....
Helophilus pendulus

Myathropa florea

Hoverfly species pupa
Naturally there were plenty of bugs to keep us all entertained.
Harlequin beetle

Anthocomus rufus (thanks to Emily Hobson)

Mint Leaf Beetle

Mint Leaf Beetle larva on mint
1st instar Common Green Shieldbug

3rd instar Southern Green Shieldbug
 My Grasshopper and Cricket identification skills are not that great despite having a great field reference book, so the ids underneath each photo below may be incorrect....
Long-winged Conehead

Long-winged Conehead - female

Conehead species nymph

possible Meadow Grasshopper

possible Meadow Grassphopper
Emily has eyes like an eagle. She spotted this wonderfully weird critter below in the shallow waters edge...
larva of the Soldier Beetle (thanks to Emily Hobson)

larva of the Soldier Beetle (thanks to Emily Hobs
She also found a couple of 'mud bugs' which may be first records for the Nature Reserve. Unfortunately my photos of the 'mud bugs' aren't clear enough to post.
I'm still trying to get these below identified. I walked past them initially thinking they were hoverfly pupae but I'm now wondering if they are ladybird pupae with a possible fungal parasite ?

The day was completed with a wonderful sighting of a young Grass Snake which sadly my camera couldn't focus on before it slid off.
A great afternoon with two insect experts and lots of chances for macro photography.
Thank you Martin for escorting us 'off piste' and thank you Emily for your outstanding knowledge.

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