Dennis Country

Dennis Country

Welcome to my blog ...

Please send me an email if you wish to leave a comment. My website includes sections on the environment, green woodworking and some industrial history photos from Gwent, UK.

Busy Bees

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Thu, March 09, 2017 09:25PM
It was around 15C today (9 March 2017), which brought out quite a few large bumble bees onto my winter flowering heather. I haven't identified the species yet - most were as shown in photos and the video. I've put this post into the "Wildlife" category, but the situation was my garden, and the food plant is not native to UK. I wonder how the bees are managing in our disappearing and fragmented countryside ...

Click for Video





Blue Fungus (Cobalt Crust)

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Mon, December 19, 2016 03:04PM
I was impressed with this blue fungus growing on an oak post, initially thought it might be a lichen. A Gwent Wildlife Trust person suggested it could be Cobalt Crust fungus (Terana caerulea), and it does look a lot like that. More photos can be seen here:
http://pics.dchopkins.co.uk/#!album-9

One of many information sources on www






Pale Tussock Moth Caterpillar

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Wed, October 28, 2015 12:55AM
I was surprised to find this very striking moth caterpillar (Pale Tussock, Calliteara pudibunda) inside an inverted wheelbarrow in south east Wales (elevation approx 1000 feet, 300m). I only had an old style mobile phone with me, so it's a poor image. A Google search for information and photos is here. This website has very good photos, and the adult moth is also impressive. It seems the species is "fairly common" in England and Wales, but a sighting made it into a local newspaper (South Wales Evening Post, with incorrect adult photo). When moving, black markings can be seen between the bright yellow segments, along with what looks like an erect red "tail". I moved it to a safer place while wearing gloves, just as well because handling can cause skin problems.




Busy Pond

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Thu, May 01, 2014 03:06PM
My small pond is supporting a lot of frog tadpoles, and I've just noticed quite a few dragonfly larvae. The photo shows (I believe) a dragonfly larva in bottom left, and (not so clearly) two darker species in middle top and right top. The plant is hornwort, which I think the tadpoles eat, and is a useful native oxygenator. (Click image for larger version)




Common Spangle Gall

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Sat, November 02, 2013 05:12AM
While walking in an area with oak trees I noticed lots of what looked like seeds on the ground. These resembled parsnip seeds - discs about 5mm across, raised one side and flattened on the other. These appear to be common spangle galls, which have fallen off the underside of oak leaves, and are abundant this year.
These galls are produced on oak leaves during the first phase of the life cycle of a small wasp (Neuroterus quercusbaccurum) - each containing an egg developing to a larva. I failed to see one within the plant material, guess they're pretty small at this stage (in late October).
The second phase also produces a gall (termed a "currant gall") on oak leaf buds in early summer, from which wasps emerge. These galls are much less abundant than spangle galls due to actions of a wide variety of predators. Here are a couple of links to the many web pages on galls -
Trees for Life - this species is under the heading "Currant Galls"
Wikipedia Neuroterus quercusbaccarum

Note: Although this is called "common", like many things in nature it may be prolific one year in a particular area, then not so for some time.

Update 30 Aug 2017
I didn't see much of this species again until this year (I wasn't looking hard), but it's noticeably another abundant year in south east Wales (sample photo).





Interesting Things

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Tue, July 24, 2012 12:25AM
I can't remember seeing these before - but I don't get out that much! Both seen on hillsides in SE Wales:

A swallow tailed moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria) - usually night flying, this was early evening in July. Similar in size to butterflies such as peacock, red admiral. Typical for moths, rests with wings open and has no 'club ends' to antennae.

Looks like a small woodlouse, and that seems to be what it is. A crustacean - rosy/pink woodlouse (Androniscus dentiger) fits the description. It's about 5mm long, found in rubble near a boggy area.

Pond Life: April 2012

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Thu, April 05, 2012 09:46PM
A high density of frog tadpoles are busy browsing the vegetation & lichen on stones (pictured below), small log and liner of a garden pond. In fact it's not the liner, but a layer of "weed suppressant" material which I put over the liner - this provides a good hold for micro-vegetation and gives the liner some protection. This is a small, fairly new pond (put in 2 years ago), so has not silted up much - which may in time reduce the amount of "grazing" available early in the year.
Having shallow areas including some stones provides shelter for various creatures, and makes the pond popular as a "bird bath". A few shoots of Ceratophyllum demersum (common or rigid hornwort) were introduced last year to help oxygenate the pond, and tadpoles etc. will eat some. This plant doesn't grow as vigourously as some other non-native species, or have significant roots, making removal of excess easier. One shoot is pictured below with the tip on the surface.
I had an old tyre and thought I'd make a habitat near the pond, not sure what species it would suit - amphibians, reptiles? The tyre has stones in the middle, and at the bottom a flat one is angled off the ground. It'll soon get hidden with more sticks and surrounding vegetation.


Lacewing Larva

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Fri, December 30, 2011 11:02PM
I found a couple of these ladybird sized bugs on the edge of deciduous woodland in early August. They were about 4mm long and seemed to be hunting for food (on an alder buckthorn leaf in this case).



I was advised that they were most likely to be lacewing larvae. They cover themselves with the skin of their prey, thus changing their appearance.

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