Nature Blog Network

Ants

After over 120 species of bees and 100 species of wasps recorded in Lancashire it was something of a relief to discover that there are 'only' 17 species of ant documented in the county. Again reporting patterns give a skewed picture of the distribution and it is difficult to believe that there are no ants at all in Rossendale. Such data as exists on sightings and preferred habitat suggests the target species to look out for are the common black and (Lasius niger), Formica lemani and the red ants Myrmica rubra and M ruginodis.

I must confess that part of my interest in ants is related to my bogey bird, the green woodpecker, for whom they are the main source of food.

Lockdown birds and bogey bird

My lockdown bird list for spring 2021. I was hoping to see 50 different species under lockdown rules. Whilst this would include birds seen driving to/from work or whilst going about legitimate business, in the end they were all seen on walks from the door. I'm lucky that this includes moorland, river and an inland reservoir together with pine and broad leaved woodland so a fair range of habitats. I have only counted birds with a clear view and positive identification. This has excluded some birds (e.g. goldcrest, blackcap, sparrowhawk and raven) which I'm pretty sure have been seen but not positively identified.

As lockdown begins to ease on 29 March when it becomes permissible to travel to take exercise, this doesn't include a number of birds which would be expected in these places later in the year, particularly the hirundines. It helped that the skylarks and chats returned earlier than usual. I was hoping that the harsh winter in the Netherlands would push some waxwings over but no.

My bogey bird still escapes me. Green woodpecker, anyone?

Anyway here goes. Nothing too stunning but a good list nevertheless:

Greylag Goose (Anser aner)
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Mallard (Anas platyrynchos)
Goosander (Mergus merganser)
Cormorant ( Phalacrocorax carbo)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinera)
Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Kestrel(Falco tinnunculus)
Peregrine (Falco peregrinus)
Moorhen (Gallinula chloorpus)
Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Black Headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull (Larus canes)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
LBB Gull (Larus fuscus)
Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
GS Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
Slylark (Alauda arvensis)
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)
Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
Robin (Erithacus rubella)
Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
Blackbird (Turdus marula)
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Great Tit (Parus major)
Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Long-Tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)
Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)
Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)
Magpie (Pica pica)
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)


Wasps

I didn't claim to be an expert on bees but freely admit to knowing even less about wasps. The 'wasp' chapter ran to 42 pages in the book* so it shouldn't surprise me that 108 species of wasp have been described in Lancashire. The curse of non-reporting strikes again however as there is not a single report of a wasp in Rossendale. Not a single one. Goodness only knows what those black and yellow stripy things after my ice cream were then…so that's the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) taken care of.

Historically there have been records of the sand wasp or thread-waisted wasp (Ammophila sabulosa) or its close cousin A pubescens reliably recorded in Burnley (8 miles north) and Bury (8 miles south) so was probably around here somewhere. As the name suggests, it prefers a sandy environment so what it is doing in the very clayey soils of East Lancs is anybody's guess. Unfortunately these were historical records and it is now thought to be locally extinct.

So in the absence of local data I'm going to keep an eye out for the German wasp (Vespula germanica), Tree wasp (Dolichovespula sylvestris) and European Hornet (Vespa crabo). Any reliable sightings will be reported to the Lancs and Cheshire Fauna Society and the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society

Beyond that species identification gets rather tricky. There are numerous references in the book to individuals being difficult to identify in the field and the need for microscopic examination to confirm. I'm not comfortable with specimen work which will ultimately serve no great purpose and, given my lack of skills, may well be inaccurate. Similarly I have no desire to become an expert in wasp genitalia or the dimensions of their mandibles.

Next up: ants.


* 'The bees, wasps and ants of Lancashire' (Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Society 2021)



Bees

There are a sprinkling of bees in Springhill and I have so far identified the small garden bee (Bombus hortorum), the white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestrial) and honey bee (Apis mellifera) as being present on the lane or in an accessible garden. I am aware that there are deep discussions amongst bee experts on the criteria for separation of white-tailed and buff-tailed bumble bees, these are given in good faith.

I am no bee expert and so could only learn when my copy of 'The bees, wasps and ants of Lancashire' (Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Society 2021) landed through my door. And learn I certainly did. I had no idea that at least 128 species of bee had been recorded in Lancashire. I had a vague appreciation that some bees were not social but didn't know that the majority of Lancashire species were solitary. I had only the vaguest appreciation that some species were parasitic.

What really surprised me however was that only two species, the tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) and the bilberry bumblebee (bombs monticola), were described as having been recorded in Rossendale. Having personally seen at least three other species in the area I strongly suspect this reflects an absence of recorders as much as an absence of bees. I have reflected on this previously regarding bat surveys and it is a reminder again that in any field the data is only as good as that which is collected and preserved.

I now have my two target species for this summer however, the tree bumblebee and the bilberry bumblebee. Bilberries are quite common in the area so there are plenty of places to look. We know you're there!

And that's before we start on the wasps and ants.

February weather

Must check my rain gauge…sure I remember it raining in February…

Feb 2021 temp 640

Feb 2021 wind 640

Feb 2021 precipitation 640