Thursday, 28 November 2013

Redpoll redux

Way back in the mists of 2011, we ringed a shed-load of Lesser Redpolls up on the edge of the moors. Somewhere around 250 of them over the course of the autumn. OK, it's hardly the stuff to make an observatory staff quake in their boots, but for our first full season at the site, it was something pretty special. Within that mix were a couple of local retraps - all from round about the moor's edge and none of them from more than 10km away - and that seemed to be about that... Then, the following spring, we received news that one of our birds had been caught in someone's house in northern France - always an exciting moment when one of 'your' birds is traced to another country, and this autumn we've discovered that another of 'our' class of 2011 has been recaptured twice by a local ringer on the south-west side of the moor, this time a bird on a breeding territory. So we know that some of the birds we ringed that autumn most likely came from the local area, whilst some presumably originated elsewhere in Europe...

Since that autumn, we've caught rather fewer Lesser Redpolls: in fact fewer than 10 each season. None of those we caught in 2011 have been recaptured on site either, though there are generally a few Lesser Redpoll around throughout the year.

Then, a couple of weekends back, we caught half a dozen Lesser Redpolls on one day... and this:

It's big...

...it's got a socking great pale rump...

...(just like the linked blog above, you can see some wear on the tail and primary tips which help age it as a bird of the year)...

...no brown on the flanks...

....it's grey (this photo © Judith Read)...

...it's still got no brown on the flanks (this photo © Judith Read)...

...and it's got white wing-bars (this photo also © Judith Read). Note also the two visible retained juvenile greater coverts. Award yourself an extra mark if you didn't have to look the feather tract up.
'It' is, of course (roll eyes and sigh, go on) a Common Redpoll, Carduelis flammea - one of those northern birds so controversially (?) split out during some taxonomic reorganisation back in the late 90s-early 2000s. You can see most everything you ought to want to to identify this one as a Common: white wing-bars, pale rump, cold brown and grey tones overall. You can't hear it, because I haven't got the kit to record it, but rest assured it even sounded a little deeper-voiced when it called.

The description's in the post to the county recorder...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

In France...

It wasn't quite the Frank Zappa experience (not work-friendly lyrics, I warn you): an altogether sedate and pleasant week in Brittany with wife and child - a combination of sunshine (mainly) and warm weather - just what we needed.

The beach and the cliffs at Kerloc'h.

The trip started well, when about 40 minutes out of Plymouth on ferry, a Minke Whale surfaced a couple of times - the closest to Devon I've ever seen one. The remainder of the crossing was rather anticlimactic though, with just a few dozen Gannets and a handful of Great Skuas to see. Having left a grey and murky England, it was a pleasure to arrive in France in bright sunshine and the journey south to Camaret-sur-Mer was accomplished with the minimum of fuss. We found our house, we unpacked, we stretched out our legs and chilled out, starting as we intended to go on.

There's nothing better than a snack found in a pile of rotting Goose Barnacles, provided you're a Turnstone...

Our days quickly developed a routine: a morning's gentle walk with Bina, giving plenty of time to do such important things as pick up gravel to drop on the plants at the edge of the path, sniff flowers, try to catch grasshoppers and watch butterflies, then a break for an hour or two back at the house whilst she slept, usually followed by an afternoon on one of the local beaches, combining some sandcastle-building, football, rockpooling, sand art and splashing in the surf, as well as a short swim for Na. Not exactly high-powered, but with sufficient interest for us all to enjoy the day properly.

The beach at Kerloc'h, at low tide. The most sticky sand I've yet come across on a beach - superb for making sandcastles!

A rather phallic slab of rock at Kerloc'h, which abuts the start of the cliffs proper.

The coastal area immediately to the west of Camaret is a nice combination of coastal heath with some interesting calcareous flushes, odd scraps of scrub and some rabbit-mown fixed-dune grassland. The general impression is of scenery combining western Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, though the flora and fauna have a flavour of the exotic: not only are Choughs all over the shop, and immensely tame to boot, but Grey Bush-crickets are ten-a-penny, even in suburban gardens, Dartford Warblers wheeze their indignation from clumps of gorse, and there are Vestal Moths lurking in the heath, Swallowtail caterpillars munching Fennel, Crested Tits purring in the cypresses...

Grey Bush-cricket

Swallowtail caterpillar

The flushes are dominated by Black Bog-rush Schoenus nigricans, with a scatter of things like Yellow-wort Blackstonia perforata, Devil's-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis (I wonder if there are also Marsh Fritillaries in season? Didn't find any larval webs, though) and Carline Thistle Carlina vulgaris, gradually merging back into heather-dominated heath full of Ling Calluna vulgaris, Bell Heather Erica ciliaris and Cornish Heath E. vagans, and three (apparently) species of gorse: Common Ulex europaeus, Western U. gallii and Dwarf U. minor.

The fixed-dune grassland also holds some nice flora: Rock Stonecrop Sedum forsterianum is widespread and no doubt there are some nice winter and spring annuals to be found, in season. Even found a couple of thalli of what looked suspiciously like Scrambled-egg lichen Fulgensia fulgens. This area is a Chough playground par excellence. A dozen or so birds seem to spend the bulk of their time around here, frequently bounding over with their sneezy-wheezy calls - so distinctive that Bina quickly learned to imitate them!

Choughs, swooping and looping around me.
video

A bit of Sedum forsterianum

Fulgensia fulgens, I think.

Looking west to the end of Pointe Toulinguet, across nice maritime grassland and coastal heath.

Fixed-dune grassland near Pointe Toulinguet.

The coastal heath stretches round south and east to Kerloc'h and beyond, and north to Pointe d'Spagnol. Inland is a very Cornish-looking landscape of mixed farmland and low-canopy scrubby woodland, which looks nice for birds, but is rather difficult to work effectively. Nevertheless, we found a welcome daily trickle of Chiffchaffs and Firecrests amongst the resident Robins, Blue Tits and Great Tits, along with the odd Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Blackcap - quite home-from-home in a way!

The two small lakes we visited were rather unexciting - the more interesting-looking Etang de Kerloc'h couldn't be approached closely, and the lake at Le Fret seemed to be covered in Coot, but I'm sure both have more interest at a better time of year. Etang de Kerloc'h in particular seemed nice: lots of swampy reedbed and a nice heathland transition area on one shore. Water Rail calling in the depths of the swamp were nice, but better were the distant calls of a Black Woodpecker: first of all the landing call, which sounds somewhat akin to the squeak you can get out of blowing grass-blade between your hands, then those 'krr-krr-krr' flight calls. Always a pleasure!

Finally, the beaches... most of them were lovely, gentle sand or sand+shingle beaches, generally with water warm enough to swim with pleasure, but the stand-out beach has to be just east of Pointe de Penn Hir: not only wide, gentle and mainly sandy, the western end has a superb selection of rock-pools, tailor-made for entertaining a toddler (and her father!) for as long as is possible. The pools range from several square metres to just a couple of hand's-widths, ankle- to knee-deep and with variously sandy, stony or weedy appearance. Some are clearly ephemeral, changing size - or even existence - tide by tide, some are more reliably configured, and there are even a few perfect aquariums where small hollows have been scooped out of the rocks to be left with their own microcosms as each tide departs.

The beach at Pointe de Penn Hir.

Looking seaward from Pointe de Penn Hir

Within each there seems to be a cohort of prawns, translucent creatures with chocolate bands, stalked eyeballs and immensely long antennae, picking their way fastidiously through the sand and the seaweed with tiny pincer-like claws. They move rather deliberately across the pool until they meet something they're not keen on, at which point they curl their tails under their abdomens and pulse backwards away from the threat with little darting jerks.

One of the omnipresent cohort of prawns, delicately sifting the detritus of the last tide for tasty snacks.

A large and colourful starfish is always a good start to the rockpooling session, and persuades one's daughter that her father is not quite insane yet.

The other very mobile feature of the pools is the fish: approach a rocky or sandy pool and almost certainly you will see a flurry of movement as various blennies dart away to the shelter of rocky overhangs. Wait patiently (or for the younger, capture one and temporarily house it in a bucket of seawater) and you can see that there are a couple of species (at least) involved: one rather dark brown with an array of pale-blue spots down the body, the other mainly transparent, but with a freckling of salt-and-pepper dots down it. Unsurprisingly, the darker species tend to be found in the rockier areas and the paler ones on the sandy parts of the pools. There are also occasional shoals of small sprat-like silvery fish engaged in what look like complex courtship rituals over the sandbanks of some of the largest pools.

A blenny of one or another species. This is the darker of the two abundant ones, which seem to prefer the rockier areas.

Now you see me...

...now you don't. Almost. The paler species of blenny, showing how well it's adapted for a life on a sandy substrate!

Surrounding all this activity are the more sedate denizens of the shore: a black rippling carpet of mussels, crusted with barnacles and garnished with multicoloured periwinkles and stripy top shells all sat tight, awaiting the return of the sea, dotted here and there with the tenacious cones of limpets. Here and there lie jelly-like red blobs of Beadlet Anemones, turned in on themselves where they've been abandoned by the water, or tentatively waving a tentacle or two if still submerged - and in the more permanent rocky pools the beautiful, yet somehow faintly threatening-looking, tangles of Snakelocks Anemones gently swirl their tentacles around. We did find a couple of anemones which appeared somewhat different: one a large bright orange species with an electric-blue fringe around the base of the body (it never opened up to show us its tentacles); the other a translucent species with banded tentacles - maybe more detail if I ever get them identified.
Some rather - interesting - looking sponges (I think). Linnaeus would have loved them!


More sponges, looking somewhat like a bunch of yellow pigs trying to pretend they're not there...

Anemones, apparently, but not as I know 'em. Very fine but not a species I am familiar with.

Occasional clumps of eggs on the rocks - but whose are they, and are the pinker ones closer to laying, or to hatching?

One of my favourites - the lurid Snakelocks Anemone

The highlights of the trip, in no particular order, were probably the rockpools and rockpooling, the Choughs, and the pair of hornets which were wrestling on the edge of the road in Morgat, which we watched for a good 10 minutes - both apparently furiously intent on dispatching the other, but neither of them able to get the upper hand...

Hornets. Wrestling.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Mind that forkful...

Summer holidays mean family visits. My mother-in-law's a teacher, so long summer breaks mean she and her husband are able to come over and visit in what should be the nicest part of the year. The last couple of summers an old friend of Na's has also been visiting England to help her children learn English - and they've just been over. Typically, after a lovely hot summer the weather's been playing up a little whilst they visited and a couple of weekends back it was particularly foul: heavy overcast and steady rain: more like October than August... Naturally enough, having five small children in a small house together on a rainy day means that adults are constantly looking for something to occupy them and when Bina wandered into the kitchen ans started pulling pasta out of the cupboard and rattling it around, music came to mind (sort of)!

Various jars, packets and boxes were brought out which made a variety of sounds when shaken and all was going nicely when my nephew pointed out that there was 'a moth in that jar'. Sure enough, in a jar of red Camargue rice, a small moth was wriggling energetically across the grains. I'd not long put the rice into the jar (the plastic packets that the rice comes in aren't particularly baby-proof, but good jars are) and the previous occupant of the jar had been some very nice banana chutney made by our friends on the Isle of Man - so I knew the moth had to have come in the rice.

The moth itself, before its trip through the post

I gently encouraged it out of the jar and into a small box, where Basti and I took a good look at it. Seemed innocuous enough and also depressingly anonymous: fairly plain brown above and below, though with rather pointed wings. So, I enlisted the aid of the experts - why have 'em if you can't?! First of all, I took some photos and sent them on to the county moth recorder, who's been kind enough to identify some of my photos in the past. He wrote back saying that he'd in turn enlisted the aid of a national micro-moth expert who happens to live locally, who thought that the moth might possibly be Sitotroga cerealella, a.k.a. the Angoumois Grain Moth: but that this would be a first record for Devon and he couldn't tell for sure from the photos - could I perhaps post the moth on to be scrutinised in more detail?

I duly did and the species was duly confirmed, though the unfortunate moth had to be dissected to clinch the identification. Going back to the jar a couple of days later, I was interested to see that a few more had hatched out: in fact, no fewer than 63 dead moths were lurking in the jar, along with five apparently healthy larvae (carefully transferred to a small container of rice and posted on to the micro-moth expert, who particularly wanted to see them) and nine very lively weevils: their identity yet to be confirmed, though they might just be Rice Weevils Sitophilus oryzae! All in all a productive packet of rice, though not perhaps what I'd anticipated when I bought the stuff. All goes to show though - if I'd been quicker about cooking it, we'd never have known what was stowing away amongst it. All makes you think - and perhaps a good job we're not squeamish too!

Though the species is a grain pest (link takes you to a pdf), it's confined to warmer regions and so perhaps unlikely to become established here in the UK - perhaps fortunately: we have more than enough non-native problem species as it is!

Male genitalia of Sitotroga cerealella (© R. Heckford, 2013)
With many grateful thanks to Barry Henwood and Bob Heckford for taking on the identification of this specimen.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Sounds of summer

It's been seven years since we had a nice spell of weather like this. It feels almost like living that idyllic early scene in Puckoon, in "...an unexpected burst of hot weather. Saffron coloured in the bleach early sky, the sun blistered down, cracking walls and curling the brims of the old men's winter-damp hats...", though I (hopefully) bear little resemblance to Dan Milligan. And there's no nobbly brown dog in the vicinity. What there are, though, are grasshoppers. Stacks of 'em.

A good patch of long grass, paper-dry rustling already with the breeze, suddenly comes alive when the sun begins to crank up the heat in mid-morning. The plants suddenly seem to sizzle and whisper with the songs of various species, all clinging cryptically to stems and leaves or huddled against fragments of plants on the ground. Every footstep is accompanied by an explosion of tiny forms, bursting into action and springing wildly in every which direction.

A short, 'Schritt. ... Schritt. ... Schritt' heralds Field Grasshoppers, Chorthippus brunneus, a dust-brown and faded yellow-green with a blushing abdomen tip and two neat little angles on top of its thorax (the pronotum, if you prefer), rather like the mathematical operators greater than and less than: > <

Female Field Grasshopper. Note that the pale angles on the pronotum don't meet the hind edge of the pronotum either, and that the antennae are not clubbed, unlike some otherwise similar species.

A slightly drier, softer 'zee-zee-zee-zee-zee' gives away Meadow Grasshoppers, Chorthippus parallelus, which tend to be brighter green, striped dandy-ish beasts with - slightly belying the scientific name - gently incurved marks on the pronotum: )(

Meadow Grasshopper. Posing.

Meadow Grasshopper. The pale lines on the pronotum are not only gently curved, but stretch from end to end of the pronotum.

A bright green Meadow Grasshopper. Note also the short wings: generally this species has rather stumpy wings, but when populations grow too dense, a whole load of longer-winged individuals emerge and head off for pastures new.

The crickets are less conspicuous and also quieter, with a rather ventriloqual quality. A sibilant 'srrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr' from rank grass suggests that a Conehead (Conocephalus) of one or other species is lurking, but without seeing it I'm not sure of the identification. The likelihood is that it's Short-winged (C. dorsalis), but you never know...! Finally, a surreptitious movement gives away a Dark Bush-cricket Pholidoptera griseoaptera, looking a little like a dark spider scuttling across the ground. Their staccato 'Tschr. ... Tschr. ...Tschr.' will soon be ringing from the depths of almost any patch of slightly scrubby vegetation .

Soon it'll be the season for the outrageously loud Great Green Bush-crickets Tettigonius viridis, which can be clearly heard from a passing car, even at a fairly high speed, their penetrating 'TCHR-TCHR-TCHR-TCHR-TCHR-TCHR-TCHR-TCHR-' assaulting your ears as you pass a patch of brambles.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Hot in the shade, hotter on the moors

I joined a couple of friends on Dartmoor yesterday to help them mop up the last few of their nest records for the summer. As they've found some 200 nests over the course of the season on about five square kilometres of moorland you'd be forgiven for thinking there was little left to find there, but that's never quite the case.

We started out by watching a Tree Pipit which was behaving as if there might be a nest nearby, but eventually decided that it was just guarding fledged young from a nest that had already been recorded, so we moved on up the slope to the area my friends wanted to concentrate on.

We weren't hugely successful in the grand scheme of things: finding only a new Whinchat nest with a full clutch of five eggs and a second brood of Stonechats with seven pulli (this pair had lost their first clutch), but we also checked on a number of nests that had been found previously: a brood of Skylarks had apparently fledged successfully, a female Linnet sitting on a now-complete clutch and another pair of Whichats which had - for the third time this season - had  their eggs predated (probably by a fox, as the nest had been pulled out and left on the ground nearby).

Despite it being a rather quiet day in terms of nests, the site was alive with wildlife, a sign of how useful this recent spell of decent weather has been. The air resounded with a constant 'tchirrp' of Meadow Pipits warning their young to stay out of sight, mingled with the melodious bubbling song of Skylarks above us. A male Reed Bunting rattled out his song from a patch of low Western Gorse whilst Linnets chirruped to and fro over him. Everywhere were Blackbirds shuttling between the open moorland and the adjacent scrub where their second broods sat waiting for more and more food.

It wasn't just birds, though they were perhaps the most obvious part of the day. Butterflies were out early with the rapidly warming air: Small Heaths and Meadow Browns bouncing erratically up and down over tufts of grass, whirring up into spiralling chases when another of their species approached too close, though whether fighting or attempting to impress a potential mate is impossible for me to tell. Field Grasshoppers sizzled staccato bursts from the tussocks and a Goldenring or two drifted casually through the cloud of flies and midges, snacking at will. As we walked through the grass, moths shot away from us (I could only pick out Emerald and Brown Silver-lines as we went, but there were many others too), Common Lizards rustled off, a tell-tale sliver of brown wriggling between the stems, and a brief glint of rich orange drifting through the air resolved into a fine fresh Dark Green Fritillary... Let's see how long this weather lasts!
Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) - a flake of orange gliding across the open moors, or down on the coastal heaths and dunes, often proves to be this species.

Goldenring (Cordulegaster boltonii) - this one resting up and digesting between flies.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) taking a drink to refuel between those energetic spiralling aeriel encounters.

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara), sunning itself

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Flamin' June

A rather random collection of sightings this month. I've been out to do some bird surveys (for work, even: makes a pleasant change!) so some blisteringly early starts on occasion. Amazing how much quicker the drive to North Devon is at 4 a.m. though... Unsurprisingly, nothing out of the ordinary on any of the sites I've looked at - the pick of the bunch being a handful of Spotted Flycatchers and a single Pied Flycatcher which was gone by the second visit to the site. Still, last visit was heaving with fledglings, which was very nice: the trees packed out on occasion by groups of Blue, Great and Coal Tits wheezing and squeaking through the leaves in hot pursuit of their frazzled parents, Robins and Wrens shrilling insistently from the undergrowth throughout. At one point I obviously passed too close to a family of Wrens for the adult's liking: a short 'tchrr' from a bramble was followed by a starburst of tiny, dumpy, almost tailless brown bodies rocketing into the surrounding plants.

Despite the number of babies around, it's clearly not been a brilliant breeding season. Our boxes at the Willow Tit site on the fringe of the moor were not well used this year: four broods of Blue Tits and two of Marsh Tits in the 27 boxes. Of these, one brood of four Blue Tits died before fledging and one of the Marsh Tit boxes produced just one youngster from a clutch of three eggs. Perhaps a young pair breeding for the first time? On a brighter note though, the (a) pair of Treecreepers used the same gap behind a Marsh Tit nest tat was used last year, and seem to have fledged a full brood of five - last year the chicks all drowned in a torrential downpour (otherwise known as June 2012).

This June's been slightly better, though we had more sunshine in May, and nearly as much in April... The general invertebrate interest in the garden has continued to improve, with the exception of butterflies which are having a very poor year here. We've started to note an increased variety of micro-moths - nothing particularly rare, I don't think, but a bit more of the 'small is beautiful' line again. The pond has obviously settled in nicely, with Large Red Damselflies emerging from the nymphs we saw last year, the newts now breeding successfully (a tiny eft the other day was proof of that) and a bit of interest from the odd hoverfly, backswimmers and a smart male Azure Damselfly. I've turned the old kitchen sink into a tiny pond to go in the back garden as well, so we'll see what takes an interest there - it's currently only about 1/3 full though, as I'm leaving it to the rain to fill it. Maybe not the best move!
Anthophila fabriciana - the Nettle-tap - which is abundant around the nettles in the neighbouring scrub. We've only seen it a couple of times in the garden, but then I'm not out there looking often enough.

I think this is Caloptilia cuculipenella. It seems to fit the description in the book and is (was) hanging around near the ash trees on the edge of the garden.

Easy: nice male Azure Damselfly, Coenagrion puella.

And a bright and breezy hoverfly: Helophilus pendulus, which has taken a liking to the front pond.



Thursday, 23 May 2013

Small is beautiful

Having a small person in the house now means that some things have changed radically. Our time outdoors is constrained by sleep patterns (to some degree) and time spent with the camera is now precious. That said, the recent spell of (whisper it) fine weather here has given me an opportunity to get out into the garden and appreciate what's lurking in the vegetation there.

Some background... when we moved in, the back garden was effectively a wasteland only recently reclaimed from a seething mass of bramble, with a small patch of dog-fouled perennial rye grass at the bottom. We began by digging out bramble roots and pulling up ash seedlings which sprout like weeds in this area, but aren't really suited to a tiny garden, and mulled over the possibilities inherent in the grass patch. I hesitate to call it a lawn... Both being of a somewhat wildlife-friendly bent, we decided that chucking a bit of species-rich hay around might be quite fun, so we asked a friend of ours for a couple of bags of hay next time he cut his patch - and duly got about 15 sacks of clippings (thanks David!!). We raked over the rye-grass until there were some sizable bare patches amongst it, strewed the clippings, and jumped up and down on them for a while, just to make sure.

The next spring, we began to see the fruits of our labours - well, the flowers. Germander Speedwell, Ribwort Plantain, Meadow Buttercup, Sweet Vernal-grass all came up with some vigour, and a handful of Yellow-rattle plants emerged too, to our pleasure. In the autumn we repeated the grass-strewing over the bare patches, and were rewarded with Centaury, Common Knapweed and Bird's-foot Trefoil joining the party.

This year I've noticed that we seem to have an abundance of invertebrates, when compared with my memories of previous years. OK, last year was nothing to shout about for most wildlife (except bryophytes and molluscs, perhaps) but this spring hasn't exactly been brilliant weather either. However, looking over the back garden now during a sunny spell and the air is full of a myriad shining wings - mainly small hoverflies and other flies. This intrigued me, so I thought I'd take the camera out and have a look... and what's pictured below might not yet be identified - and indeed may not be identifiable - but it gives a flavour of what's going on in the garden.

One of a number of slender hoverflies which cruises the garden - this one a rather black/bottle-green animal.

A small, yet perfectly-formed longhorn beetle of some description, working its way over the raspberries (the raspberry canes have proved to be a fertile hunting ground for photos this year - nearly as good as the hazel-honeysuckle tangle nearby). Edit: thanks to Tim Worfolk, below, a name: Pogonocherus hispidus

One of the flesh-flies, as far as I can tell. Edit: TW suggests perhaps Graphomyia sp (Muscid)

Leaf-mining flies (Liriomyza sp.) doing their stuff on the comfrey. Perhaps not identifiable to species, but they bear a passing resemblance to L. pusilla - and as the name suggests, they're small! About 2mm long, snout to tail-tip.

A more conventional hoverfly, brilliant in black and yellow. Edit: Eupiodes c.f. luniger is suggested

A tiny teardrop-shaped spider which feasts on aphids. Go to it...

Yet another fly - there is a startling diversity in the garden... Edit: this one appears to be perhaps Beris c.f. chalybata, a Stratiomyid fly.

A solitary bee, one of the Andrena species. This one seems to have a particular liking for our dandelions.

Apropos of which, dandelion clocks too are worth a closer look. Their geometry is pleasing when the clocks are whole...

...and there is also beauty to be found in the detail of the seeds when they are exposed.

Even plain old Ribwort Plantain takes on a new dimension at this scale: I hadn't realised that the anthers seem to be swollen bags of pollen. These release their pollen on the wind, but if you see them on a still day when the rain is falling gently, you can see little puffs of pollen clouding up, for all the world like miniature cannon-smoke drifting across the grass...

Another small fly which enjoys hanging out around the honeysuckle growing through the hazel. Notable particularly for its antennae... Edit: Dolichopodid fly: Syntormon sp.

A scorpion-fly, I think. Edit: an Empid of some species - anyone feel like raising the bar?!

Micropterix calthella - a tiny micro-moth, about 4-5mm long, which has decided our raspberry canes make a great place to lure in some of the opposite sex. They spend a lot of time wandering up and down their few cms of stalk, waving their antennae around, looking left and right and occasionally scrapping over the right to use a particularly choice spot.

Another hoverfly, this one with powder-blue markings on the dorsal side of the abdomen, and a rich ochre stripe along the sides. Edit: Platycheirus sp. (female); thanks to 'Ophrys' on i-spot for that one.
Final edit: Many thanks indeed to Tim Worfolk (two bird theory blog - visit: it's great!) and 'Ophrys' on I-Spot for their help with identifications so far...