Thursday 26 January 2012

The Ones That Nearly Got Away...

In the summer months I tend to take lots of macro images, knowing that each phase of the 'insect season' is transient and before long the days will start shortening and it will soon be autumn. The downside of taking so many images is that the processing backlog starts to build up and I soon develop processing fatigue. As a result, after processing the best images from a photographic session I'm always keen to start processing images from the next photographic session and don't always bother to process those images that perhaps didn't grab me immediately.

At this time of the year, when photographic opportunities are less plentiful (at least for a macro photographer), I sometimes find it pays to review these 'best of the rest' images that I didn't get around to processing. Occasionally I find an image that I do quite like.

Anyway, here are a few such images. These will definitely be the last of my 2011 insect images.


A male Banded Demoiselle Damselfly

Longhorn Beetle (Agapanthea villosoviridescens) 

A feeding Syrphus species Hoverfly

A Black Ant looking for honeydew from aphids to feed on

Common Blue Butterfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

Green Hairstreak on Bird's Foot Trefoil

Mating Syrphus species Hoverflies

I'm looking forward to spring!!

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Final Fungi Images of 2011

I've taken very few images in recent weeks, a combination of the time of year (no insects!), the weather and too much work. The limited spare time I have had has been devoted to preparing stock images and continuing to go through last year's images.

In another recent post I commented on how poor last autumn was for fungi, mainly as a result of the prolonged dry weather. While I managed to find a reasonable number of Fly Agarics (see this post), other types of fungi were few and far between. In fact I only managed a couple of half decent images. See below!


and a final Fly Agaric image for good measure:

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Median Wasp Nest

Back in the summer of 2008 I found a small wasp nest in a Flowering Redcurrant bush in my garden. It was about the size of a small football and turned out to be a Median Wasp nest. While many people might be slightly alarmed at the prospect of having an active wasp nest in their garden, I was thinking more in terms of the photo opportunities it would provide! I was also assured that Median Wasp nests tend to be smaller and to hold far fewer wasps than Common Wasp nests. The kids were therefore instructed to steer well clear of the nest and I got to work observing and photographing it over the space of several weeks.

The construction of the nest was probably the most interesting stage to observe. Small teams of wasps would land on the fences in my garden (for some reason they tended to favour certain patches of fence) and they would scratch away at the wood. The act of scratching was audible from some distance away and also left lots of thin lines scratched into the fence which are still there several years on. The wasps would then fly back to the paper-like nest and add the chewed wood pulp to the outer layer of the nest.

In order to photograph this activity I decided that I wanted to use my MP-E 65mm macro lens in order to get sufficient magnification. The downside of this plan was that this lens has a maximum working distance of only a few centimetres meaning I had to get very close to the nest. Every now and again I would get slightly too close and would brush the nest with my flash diffuser. This would result in numerous wasps exiting the nest en masse in order to see off the perceived threat. It would also result in me moving in the general direction of away, quite rapidly :-)


A Median Wasp exiting the nest

Nest building: in the image below you can see the recently chewed wood pulp that has been added to the nest

The image below shows what happened if I accidentally knocked the nest. Bear in mind my face was just a matter of centimetres from the wasps...!

Wednesday 11 January 2012


2011 was a particularly good year for Seven Spot Ladybirds, I don't think I've ever seen so many. But I also spotted quite a few other species of ladybird this year, including the Harlequin Ladybird. This species only arrived in the UK in 2004 but has already spread throughout much of England though it remains rare in Wales and Scotland. Unfortunately it poses a significant threat to our native ladybirds as it feeds upon small insects and eggs, including the larvae and eggs of other ladybirds. Its variable patterning can make it difficult to ID but its large size often gives it away.

Below are some examples of the various ladybirds that I photographed in 2011.


A Harlequin Ladybird on a Hollyhock flower. This is probably the most common Harlequin colour and pattern

This one below is also a Harlequin and is another common variety

This is a Cream Spot Ladybird

while this is a Fourteen Spot Ladybird

This one isn't a great shot but is a Ten Spot Ladybird, these are very variable in terms of patterns and can be mistaken for Harlequins, by me anyway

Here's a tiny Two-Spot Ladybird, much smaller than the similarly coloured Seven Spot

and finally, a good old Seven Spot Ladybird, here eating an aphid. The Seven Spot is still our most common Ladybird, but perhaps not for much longer given the rapid spread of the Harlequin