From the viewpoint of an enthusiastic amateur living alone, with nowhere to go and time on her hands, I have been looking more at life in my garden (much to the amusement of the neighbors seeing the mad woman standing motionless staring at her hedge with a camera in hand, and also entertaining a couple of local cats). I have a patchy knowledge of the insect population and an average ability with a fairly normal camera.
First attempts are often out of focus – don’t give up!
During the good weather I have had quite an influx of small solitary bees and emergent hoverflies which have been of particular interest. They appear on a regular basis between about 9-15 and 10 30 am when the sun comes over the house and they all pose for photos while warming up on the hedge. The advantages of working in your own garden is you can nip in, download the photos, dispose of the blurred images, try to identify the beastie and nip back out to try and photo the relevant bits you missed the first time.
Using this principle I have had success with a couple of interesting visitors – a hoverfly Didea fasciata (left) which was the 4th record in Naturespot and a small bee which I tentatively identified as Andrena dorsata which is only the 2nd record in Naturespot – both of these are firsts for Knighton Ward. The hoverfly managed to pose on a sun-drenched leaf of the yucca at roughly head height enabling me to take a large number of photos from several angles. Again this proved a good move as distinguishing it from a similar species (using the key in the Ball and Morris field guide to Hoverflies and the photo library on Naturespot) a salient ingredient proved to be the colour of it hair just under the wing! Quite a buzz in every sense of the word.
The bee (Andrena?) seemed to have just emerged as it posed for quite a while on the lobe of an aquilegia leaf A good job it did as one of the identifying features was a ‘short dorsal fringe on the hind tibia’. This gave me time to not only look this up, but also make sure I had evidence of it in the photo. The bee is more common in the south and like a number of species is expanding its territory northwards due to the warming climate so I’m sure there will be more to be found. Because this bee has only been recorded twice in Leicestershire NatureSpot experts are making sure the identification is right before making it a verified record.
Not all attempts have proven so fruitful but all have been fun. A very small Nomad bee took to flying in groups of five or six up and down the hedge on a daily basis. They tended to alight for a few seconds and then fly on. Getting a good shot in the short time they were stationary proved quite difficult (I’m sure I could hear them laughing at me) and it was only after four days of trying I realized it was more than one species.
Much as I still have a large number of bad unidentifiable shots, I have learnt a lot about what to aim for next time they visit my garden, which most of them do, and hope this will encourage others to give it a go. I haven’t got all my ID’s correct, and Naturespot have very politely corrected a few but it is proving great fun and hopefully providing valuable records as to the state of our wildlife