Sunday, 17 February 2013

My first hoverfly of the season

I have been spending the day in the garden, trying to prune some shrubs and clear back some ivy that is threatening to engulf the borders. I don't want to get rid of the ivy as it is such a good plant for wildlife but it does need to be kept on a tight leash.

Anyway, the sun was bright and the more sheltered parts of the garden felt quite warm. I saw a peacock butterfly fluttering in the sun so had high hopes of a hoverfly. Examination of the leaves of Bergenia revealed a single drone fly Eristalis tenax. This is usually the first hoverfly I see in the garden each year and is usually on the Bergenia. I think the combination of early flowers and a sheltered sunny position make it a very attractive spot.  I expect the marmalade hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus will be the next hoverfly species to occur, as it too overwinters as an adult.

On Thursday morning I joined the Wild Bunch for our usual foray into Yardley Chase. The highlights were woodcock and a lesser spotted woodpecker. This is the first I have seen for over 10 years in the county. I had high hopes of finding a hoverfly as there were some good sunny intervals. One promising area was a large manure heap, which should have provided a warm microclimate for flies. Sure enough there were several midges and, on close examination, I found some higher flies. I did not have a net and did not fancy pooting off manure so catching any was a problem. I did manage to get a tube over one fly and bring it home for identification. It is a heleomyzid fly. These characteristically have prominent spines along the wing's costal vein. At present I do not have a key to species but luckily next weekend's Dipterists Forum workshop is covering Heleomyzidae and Lauxanidae so I should be able to identify it to species. I have one or two saved heleomyzids and lauxanids to sort out so may be able to add some more records.

I see that Roger Morris in his blog (see Links) is trying to encourage keen wildlife photographers to photograph hoverflies in their gardens so that he can try to identify them to see what occurs. He notes that Jenny Owen had 90 species of hoverfly in her garden over the years she did her recording. I must see how many I have found so far.

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