Saturday, 23 March 2013

It's lovely out there!

Well what can I say, the weather's awful, everything is still tucked up in dormancy with temperatures around freezing and my moth trap is still empty. It's not good considering that this week was the vernal equinox, the point when day and night are equal but the days now begin to get longer than the nights of winter, yes, SPRING!
So why hasn't it sprung??? Answer, I have no idea. However, I'm sure it has something to do with that dreaded jet stream that was responsible for our wet miserable summer last year. But enough about the weather, for when it's like this it's time to be getting on with other things. One of those other things was looking at a book that's just been released, Britain's Hoverflies by S Ball & R Morris.

An excellent book for ID'ing hoverflies.

I ordered this book last year sometime and was disappointed when I got an email saying that the release date had been put back till March this year. But hey, it arrived this week and I've been perusing its pages and can only say, what an excellent book!
With over 296 pages covering 165 (yes, I didn't know there was that many either) species and over 500  colour photos. It also has maps, charts, glossary, biology, a detailed section on all the parts that make up a hoverfly and so much more. I just can't wait for the season to begin now, which is even harder as it states in the book that:
"The field season really starts in March once the Goat Willow, Blackthorn and Cherry Plum come into flower."
 There's only one more week of March left and as I look out my window all I see is snow falling heavier and heavier with each passing minute. Don't quote me on this, but I think the season is going to start later this year. I just have this funny feeling lets say.
So yes, I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with a passing interest in the cute little hoverfly or with just an interest in insects in general, especially if your new to all this. The naming the parts section gives a simple, yet detailed account of all of the hoverfly from its ocelli to its claws. It will certainly be handy for me as I'm booked up on another course this year at the wonderful Field Studies Council studying these little creatures, yay!

 On TV

No, not me. But did anyone catch the insect season on BBC4? It started with The Incredible Story of the Monarch Butterfly which showed this butterfly's amazing journey from the North of America down to its wintering grounds in the forests of Mexico. One thing that truly amazed me was how roughly the Americans handled them when they had Monarch catching events. At one point, they even got kids to put stickers on them! Not only has this butterfly got to fly thousands of miles, which is a feat in itself, they have to avoid getting caught in a net, being manhandled and then having a sticker placed on your delicate flying apparatus. Truly amazing.
Then there was the Insect Dissection, which definitely IS NOT for the squeamish, as you can imagine. I had to wait until wifey was snugly tucked up in bed before I could watch it. Very interesting, especially the bit where one of the presenters gets stung by a very powerful stinging insect. If you ever want to see what a 'cool dude' looks like when he's trying to hide the pain he's actually in, this is the moment (sorry, it must be my evil streak). 


As previously mentioned, I'm off on another course this year studying Diptera (two winged flies) and also a day course on spiders with the Field Studies Council. This place is excellent, they have locations all over the UK and courses to suit everyones needs whether it's for the individual, family or professional development, you're bound to find something of interest. If there's one thing that's worth doing, booking up a course with the FSC is a must.
Of course, the FSC isn't the only place that offers courses. There are many groups, societies and organisations that also offer courses and workshops. Some useful organisations to mention just a couple are the British Entomological and Natural History Society and the Amateur Entomologists Society. You could also just look up your local naturalists society using Google and see what workshops and courses they have to offer. I'm sure you'll find something of interest.


This week found me stumbling on a murmuration of starlings Sturnus vulgaris. It really was by complete accident as after some car trouble in the household, me and the wifey had a little running around to do dropping off and picking up car from the menders. This involved me getting home a little later than usual and via a different route. The route involved me driving past Ransomes Industrial Estate in Ipswich and as I approached the roundabout, glancing to my right I saw the murmuration. I immeadiately pulled up (once I got off the roundabout of course) and watched this fantastic natural phenomenon. I sent a text to wifey who was driving ahead of me only to get the reply, 
"Yeah seen it before, Their there most evenings." 
We've lived here for nearly 7 years and wifey has not once mentioned it to me that this occurs on a regular basis. Don't worry though, we are speaking again.
Anyway, you can see my rather bad footage of the event (it was taken on a mobile) here.

Citizen science

Yes, there's still more CS stuff to get into. There's a new one especially for Easter called The Great Easter Newt Hunt and for those of you living in the Norwich area, The Norwich Bat Group still have some squares left for surveying once it's warm enough for the bats to come out.

Sorry there's not much top report on this post, but as you well and truly know, the weather is awful. Lets hope that it gets its act together very soon and then we can start having some fun.

Be careful peeps, till next time.

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