Saturday, 4 July 2015

On the Rocks

My parents are up to visit this weekend, so we were looking for somewhere to take them. My mother has a love of wild flowers, and my father beautiful and dramatic places, so we thought we would try Llanymynech Rocks, a Shropshire Wildlife Trust reserve on the English/Welsh border. This is part of a carboniferous limestone outcrop, and so has a range of really interesting species that are difficult to see elsewhere in the county.

Whilst my mother was concentrating on the plants, I was having a look at other taxa. One of the first things I saw when leaving the car park was this magnificent fungi, growing in large, overlapping clusters. I believe this is Dryad's Saddle Polyporus squamosus. A dryad is a mythical wood nymph, and presumably the legend goes that they would rest on these brackets. They certainly seem large enough.

Dryad's Saddle Polyporus squamosus

I also got the chance to test my hoverfly identification skills, and put into practice what I learnt on the hoverfly course a few days ago. A quick check through the keys identified this species as Leucozona glaucia. This is a relatively common species that visits white umbels, and the larvae feed on ground layer aphids. This is a typical species of woodland clearings.

Leucozona glaucia

I am growing my interest in Diptera, and whilst there is a huge amount to learn I am having a stab at flies that look reasonably distinctive. I found one of these picture-winged flies on the same plant as the hoverfly above, but despite the distinctive wing pattern I had been struggling to identify it. I then happened to look at Pete Boardman's excellent invertebratechallenge365 blog, in which he describes a recent visit to Llanymynech Rocks on which he found Urophora jaceana. This is the same species as the one I found, and is associated with knapweed (Centaurea).

Urophora centaurea

There were quite a few moths around the site, and a bit of sweep netting revealed several micromoths, including a species that I had not seen before. In the warm sunshine I did not manage to get a nicely posed picture, so an in-the-pot picture will have to suffice. This is Homoeosoma sinuella, a species often found on limestone grasslands, and previously recorded at Llanymynech.

Homoeosoma sinuella

At the ohter end of the size scale I found this Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet Zygeana lonicerae. This was my first of the year and another species that favours alkaline grasslands. It even was happy to pose on my finger for some photographs.

Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet Zygeana lonicerae

Arriving home this afternoon, I noticed a soldier fly (Stratiomyidae) on the kitchen wall. I potted this up and had a look to see if I could put a name to it. Under a handlens, though difficult to see in the below picture, it can be seen there are six spines on the back edge of the scutellum. This narrows it down to one of the six Beris species. From there, the pale yellow legs, black abdomen and yellow base to the wings identifies this as Beris morrisii, a new species for me.

Beris morrisii

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