Not too bad a morning up on Collard today. The weather was mostly overcast with occasional drizzle which thwarted my efforts to carry out transects today. I have to admit I eventually ran away this afternoon when this bank of rain started drawing in.
Because there’s little left to report now and my time here is drawing to a close, I’ve gone back and found a wealth of photos I’d taken but not had the chance to put in the blog.
Today I want to focus on ‘Collards Critters’, the little creatures that are easy to miss. I’ve had far too much fun chasing after little things like these, most of which I know very little about because they are so diverse. There’s something amazing about the way that little critters can catch my eye when I’m not expecting it, after which I can often find myself watching them for minutes, seeing how they behave or how they use their minute appendages in cool ways.
Macro lenses really let you capture some of these amazing features and bring them to life, so hopefully I can share that with you. The really incredible thing about these little guys is just how easy it is to pass them by unnoticed.
As always, if you’re familiar with any of these, please share in the comments! If you would like to see them enlarged, simply click on an image and it should open in full resolution.
I noticed quite a few of these crab spiders across Collard. They’re hardly photogenic so I was always photographing them at strange angles, but they’re very charming. They’re always extremely quick to drop from vegetation and retreat if you walk near them, which is possibly an adaptation for living in a grazed habitat.
I’m not even slightly sure what species this chap is a member of, would love an I.D though. Wasp-like markings are fairly common in many species of flying insects, but I personally love how irregular the bands are on the abdomen of this one, they almost look like a mistake.
These guys were common as muck, real ugly too, they look like right bruisers of the insect world. They were particularly abundant along the grassland strips on the way to Collard, where large numbers would feed/nectar on Apiaceae.
These buzzers need no introduction. Bees are really abundant at Collard, especially along the bottom meadows rich with trefoils, clover and thistle, where I’d often end up chasing after them. (I just really love the light in this picture)
This one’s a mysterious and fairly unremarkable individual. I really love the way the Hawkbit came off in this.
The magnificent iridescence of this beetle is what first caught my eye, but upon closer inspection I noticed it’s preposterously over-sized chunky legs. I believe this beetle is a fairly common species, but it’s absolutely fascinating when you get a proper look. It has something else I’ve not seen before – a large gap along its back, thus its wings are visible (where normally they’re encased in most species?).
I’ve already featured this guy on here, but couldn’t resist posting him again simply because this is one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken. I mean look at that abdomen. Click for more species info.
This is another little member belonging to the Araniella genus, although I’m not sure exactly which species. I found a large number of these in one corner of the site, each with their own webs atop wooly thistle plants.
Now this one’s a puzzle. It’s a pretty poor photo for I.D. so I apologise, but I saw a few of these around and they just look absolutely evil.
The humble and excellently-named ‘Marmalade Fly’ (Episyrphus balteatus). I absolutely love these hoverflies, and without them my dissertation experiments would have completely failed, so I’m still thankful to them for that. They’re fairly common, and in my opinion, really underrated.
This little fly wouldn’t leave me alone. He wanted to be friends.
I have no idea what this species was, and it wasn’t until I got it under the lens I began to see all of its strange detail. They have a number of really amazing features; their really bizarre sting-like appendage at the back of their abdomen, their amazingly detailed green eyes and their markings along their backs.
The ant vs. fly showdown. (you can really see how amazing their eyes are in this one)
This striking little hoverfly really stood out amongst the Thyme. I believe it’s a member of the Parhelophilus genus, as identified by its unusual vertical bands on the thorax.
These tiny little beetles(?) were covering my shirt most days, possibly attracted by the extreme orange. My arm hairs give a pretty accurate impression of just how tiny these little ones are.
Another species I’m unsure of, but the colours on this are really really striking, they have a real metallic sheen. I was lucky to get it posing for the camera on a nice bit of Thyme.
This guy caught my eye as I was sat on the bench, as it was just resting on a fence post straight ahead of me. You should be able to make out the huge proboscis and all the interesting structures within his thorax.
This one was almost invisible to the naked eye, but I spotted him perched on this grass head. Once again no idea what kind of critter this is, almost looks like a mite of some kind. Wonderful.
I had to include one of the humble ‘bloodsucker’. Rhagonycha fulva or the ‘Common red soldier beetle’ doesn’t actually feed on blood, thankfully preferring pollen, aphids and nectar.
I thought it would be nice to finish with this tiny little spider holed up in grass. The feathery depth of field on the grass is what really makes this image for me.
As ever, a massive thankyou goes out to all of our readers. This is likely going to be my last major entry, so I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the blog while I presided over it and despite the poor year for Large Blues. A very special thankyou to everyone who’s praised the blog this year, you all gave me a warm fuzzy feeling which has allowed me to continue putting in the extra effort to try and make these posts as interesting as possible after long days on the hill!
Hopefully not making this sound too much like an award-acceptance speech, I’d also like to say a thankyou to all of the NT staff I’ve had the pleasure of working with, who work insanely hard across a huge number of sites and welcomed me onto their team. To all the volunteers who give up their free time to help improve the countryside and conservation sites for us to enjoy. And to David Simcox and Sarah Meredith for making the time to work with me and for freely imparting their expert knowledge.
Okay I’m done! The speech is over!
Jono, The Large Blue Ranger.