I’m beginning to despair of the BBC; my guardians of proper English are relaxing their standards. Yesterday I spotted a headline proclaiming, “April  is the wettest month for 100 years”. The very first paragraph began, “It has been the wettest April in the UK for over 100 years”. OK, so which is it, the wettest month or the wettest April? Precision guys, precision!
Be that as it may, whereas last spring was a stonker, this spring thus far has most certainly been absolute rubbish as regards the weather. In 2011 I spotted my first dragonfly of that new season on 19th April at Duck End NR, Malden. Consequently, for the last couple of weeks since returning home from Spain, I’ve been making trips to Duck End in search of this year’s first arrivals. My first two trips produced nothing – well, a couple of Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) butterflies flitting about wondering where the sun was.
Eventually I received an email from the Bedfordshire dragonfly recorder saying that Bedfordshire’s first 2012 record had been submitted on 21st April somewhere near Biggleswade. Then a follow up noted that three tenerals (recently emerged specimens) had been seen on Tuesday 24th at good ol’ Duck End NR. He also noted that 2012 had been the worst start, in terms of numbers of species spotted, that he had witnessed. I’m not surprised; if I were a dragonfly larva climbing a stem bent on emergence but came up against this April’s weather, I’d clamber straight back down under water again.
However, today being a very rare bright day, I made my third trip to Duck End (having first drawn a complete blank at both King’s Wood and Sandhouse Lane NR). It didn’t look terribly promising at first but eventually, beside one pond (there are four), a glint of wings fluttered up from the grass and settled not too far away. The little beauty, it was a recently emerged female Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). I kept disturbing the grass and a few more fluttered up and off to various safer locations. Eventually a new male settled on a very accessible bramble leaf a short distance from the pond to complete my pair. I saw 10 in all, I had broken my duck.
The Speckled Woods (I spotted five) looked a lot happier in the rare spell of sunshine and a few territorial spats went on. A little more interesting, though, merely because they are generally more difficult to capture, was my first Orange Tip (Anthocaris cardomines) of the season which settled to bask, albeit at some distance beyond assault-proof brambles. I was trying a new tactic of having my long lens mounted on my Canon EOS 7D body and my macro lens on my trusty and recently professionally cleaned 40D. One of them is also on my monopod. This armoury constitutes a bit of an armful but somehow I managed to juggle everything and bring the long lens to bear on said Orange Tip.
Back at home the sun had brought our ivy into life with a domestic collection of basking insects also longing for better weather. Here I manage to snag decent macro shots of the so-called Marmalade Fly (Episyrphus balteatus) and a Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina). Green Shield Bugs are interesting in that they are brown in winter, turning green for summer. This one looks as though it’s in transition.
Finally, this little fellow (I think it’s a male now, judging by the length of its antennae) turned up. I had no idea even what kind of critter it was at first but it looked cute in a very hairy kind of way. It turns out to be a Solitary Bee of the Osmia genus. As is frequently the case, Chinery says there are many similar species so we have to be satisfied with genus level id. Typical!
I’d say I was a happy camper but regrettably today was a very small island of sunshine in an expansive sea of crap.