Nature Notes #45
As autumn progresses and the mornings hover above freezing, the onset of winter isn’t too far away in real terms. Migrant birds pour through Britain on their way south with all the warblers and hirundines becoming less common by the day. Pink-footed Geese have already begun arriving, the first of tens of thousands of birds that will spent the winter in the UK.
Insects are mainly in pupal stage ready for emergence next year, yet there is one family that are still obvious on sunny, calm, warm autumnal days, the hoverflies. Mainly migrants with a few residents, they feed on the last flowering Perennial Sow-thistles and Marsh Woundworts, Creeping Thistles and Bindweeds.
I found a patch of Bindweed Convolvulus arvensis on the track alongside No.6 tank. It had many of these insects feeding on it. A really nice, delicate flower, unobtrusive amongst the nettles and thistles. I really like this species of bindweed with its blue stamens.
The hoverfly is probably a Syrphus or Eupeodes species butthe photo isn’t good enough for an identification.
Image 3: Episyrphus balteatus. Much easier is the commonest hoverfly in Britain, Episyrphus balteatus, which is a common resident and migrant and can even be seen in winter on mild days as it hibernates.
Another attractive species is Eupeodes corollae which I found feeding on the Perrenial Sow-thistles on No4 tank. It too is a migrant and can be common even in gardens.
Image 4: Eupeodes corollae
A species pair were also found on the Sow-thistles. Helophilus hybridus and Helophilus trivittatus which look very similar but H.trivittatus is a brighter, more lemony yellow, rather than the deeper yellow of
Image 5: Helophilus hybridus. H.hybridus is a resident species that is found in wetlands across Britain whereas H.trivittatus is a migrant that frequents coastal areas and river courses.
Image 6: Helophilus trivittatus
Lastly and a species that I’d been looking out for, is a specialist hoverfly that occurs around woodland and field edges but in most other habitats as well. Rhingia campestris has an exceptionally long rostrum (like a long nose) that encloses a proboscis that allows the insect to feed in deep tubular flowers like Red Campion and Marsh Woundwort. I found several lethargically feeding on the latter along the path along the Weaver by the Lum. The larvae feed in fresh cattle dung or silage. A very nice find indeed, especially when the birds fail to perform.
Written and illustrated by Tony Broome.