An expert is going through my hoverfly records from last year at Treshnish. Last year I tried to limit them to those that I was unsure of or new, late and early records. Some new species were obvious but some were very tricky and so I’m pleased that some difficult species have been accepted. I will print an update when he has finished.
20th: About 30 godwits fying west at Haunn cottages were thought to be Black-Tailed Godwits.
Moonwort emerging at Toechtamhor cottage.
2 Fabricius’ Nomad Bee and 1 bee fly at Treshnish wood waterfall. Bee fly is parasitic on Northern Mining Bee.
17th: Chiffchaff(s) heard at waterfall and photographed at cattle-grid and Willow Warblers heard in Treshnish wood, firstly at the cattlegrid. Others saw a Swallow below Treshnish House. All first of the year records for Treshnish.
The bee with bright orange hind tarsi at the waterfall which I thought was Red-backed Mining Bee, I am told by an expert, is probably Northern Mining Bee, a first for Mull with the nearest records being Loch Tay, Islay, S. Uist and Pitlochry. I waited for over 2 hours as it excavated a nest burrow, hoping to get a good shot as it exited. I didn’t.
12th: I went to check the plants I had recorded as Butterbur below Treshnish House. I was concerned that I had misidentified them based solely on leaves but the flowers are there so no extra paperwork. I have one more sit to double-check in the boathouse meadow.
11th: 2 Sand Martins over Treshnish wood along Ensay Burn (my first of the year).
2 Long-tailed Tits at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse so I think they must be breeding in the wood this year.
I had another breakthrough with the mining bees with white face, rufous thorax, well defined pale hair bands and orange ‘tail’ at Treshnish wood waterfall. A few days ago I wondered if this and the small grey bees could be the different sexes of the same species with small grey ones being the males. Today I saw 5 possibly 6 of the larger bees in a very small area, sometimes all within the span of a hand. They were exploring and sometimes fighting. I wondered why they weren’t actually doing anything. Usually when I see nest digging there is definitely a certain amount of prospecting but sooner or later they get down to burrowing. Presumably this even more true of spring bees which are more likely to be severely hampered by bad weather. In Scotland this can be true even in the summer, yet these 5 or 6 bees didn’t seem to be anything except walking around in the same area, fighting with occasional short flights only to return quite soon.
It wasn’t until that evening that it occurred to me that these 5 or 6 were actually males and what I was witnessing was lecking or swarming. I am pretty sure that some of my photos of the last few days are females because the pollen basket is visible but otherwise these males look very similar and are of a roughly equal size. I can’t totally rule out the possibility that the fighting I was seeing was actually mating but it did look very aggressive. The area they were patrolling had spoil heaps, presumably of this species so there must have been females around at some time. Now I just have to find out what species they are!
The lecking males were also seen fighting with Clarke’s Mining Bee.
So my original theory that the small grey bees were the males and the larger more brown bees were females of the same species is in fact the exact opposite in many cases.
I have struggled for days even after discovering the small grey bees were females because no small grey females should be flying this time of year which is why I thought they must be males which are often smaller, more grey and difficult to id. I have come to the conclusion that the flight times in the books given for the small grey bees are inaccurate possibly because we have such mild winters; windy but not very cold. So I think the small grey bees are Small Flecked Mining Bee. I have 2 accepted records at Treshnish from the summer last year and one looks very similar to those below. So now I shall submit it and see. (The other small grey bee is Tormentil Mining Bee but that should have yellow legs and supposed to fly even later in the year). There were at least 3 present.
This mining bee near the Nissen hut in Treshnish wood looks similar to the white face, orange to tawny thorax, pale-hair banded mining bees at the waterfall in last visits but this one has long orangey hairs on the inner tergites and is definitely a female. It has nest burrows here and the pollen baskets in the slightly orangey legs are obvious. It doesn’t fit anything obvious that should be flying at this time of year but I am less and less sure that the flight times in the books are reliable for Mull.
3+ small grey mining bees at the waterfall. The break-through came today when I saw one burrowing a nest tunnel. That means that at least this one is a female and can’t be the same species as the one with the white face, orange to buff thorax and pale hairy banded abdomen with an orange tail. I saw it start making a burrow and 2 hours it still hadn’t emerged. The light had gone so I gave up waiting.
1 bee fly presumably Great Bee Fly Bombylius major at waterfall
along with the usual furrow bee(s)
and this mining bee, which I am still working on
this is the same bee from a slightly different angle, so it appears less hairy and the orange ‘tail’ is more visible
1 Fabricius’ Nomad Bee on Treshnish side of Ensay Burn cattle grid along with a probable Gwynne’s Mining Bee and same two species on the other side of the bridge and at least 2 Fabricius’ Nomad Bees at Treshnish wood waterfall
along with at least 1 Clarke’s Mining Bee at Treshnish wood waterfall.
1 bee fly at Treshnish wood waterfall. The photo is poor but I think it must be Great Bee Fly Bombylius major.
8th: It was sunny and windy and a late start meant I only saw 3 solitary bees, all the Treshnish wood waterfall. 1 Clarke’s Mining Bee inspecting suitable nesting potential and within a metre 2 Mining Bees which will need a lot of effort to even hazard a guess. They may have been a male and female of the same species as they interacted with each other in flight.
This is the small one which I think is the male
Red Admiral at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse (first definite of the year for me at Treshnish) and a very dark butterfly which I think must have been a Peacock northeast of the waterfall.
Narrow-leaved Helleborine plants near Treshnish Old Schoolhouse and the one below the concrete ramp are emerging and have avout 1cm of shoot. I don’t know the exact spot of the one near the ramp so I can’t check it safely.
2nd: Pair of Grey Wagtails at Ensay Burn mouth.
Unopened flowering Bluebell at Butterbur site to west of Ensay Burn mouth. Butterbur also flowering. It always surprises me that this area has the earliest Bluebells and the earliest Early-purple Orchid and yet is it north-east facing which would seem like the worst aspect for getting sunlight. I must go around now and check for some other areas where I may have mixed up Butterbur and Lesser Burdock leaves. Right now, with them flowering, it is impossible to confuse them.
First Gwynne’s Mining Bee and Fabricius’ Nomad Bee of the year at a new site up from Ensay Burn mouth. The Gwynne’s was digging nest burrows whilst the Fabricius’ patrolled around. The latter is parasitic on the former. Last spring was cold and I was only just learning about how to find solitary bees away from our garden flowers. My previous earliest Gwynne’s Mining Bee was on 8th May and earliest Fabricius’ Nomad Bee was on 7th May, both last year.
The Clarke’s Mining Bee seen on 31st of last month was almost a month earlier than previous earliest which was 29th April last year. I saw it again by the waterfall today and this time it was digging a nest burrow.
I think this is a Red Wasp Vespula rufa by Treshnish Ensay Burn bridge. It doesn’t look the same as some photos on the identification pages I found on the internet but some angles show the red edges to the abdomen cross bands (bottom image) and there is an overall reddish cast so although at first I was unsure, I have ended up confident that this is the correct id. I have only seen it once before, last year in Treshnish wood.
By Treshnish Ensay Burn bridge saw a hoverfly which only allowed a couple of shots. I think it is a new species for me, possibly Cheilosia chrysocoma, although I have a couple of records submitted from last year that have not been checked yet. It is a Nationally Scarce species which has been recorded on Mull before. In fact Mull is one of the four best areas in the UK for this species. I think I also saw the same hoverfly on the other side of the bridge on the 31st March but again it spooked easily. Hopefully I can re-find it. [I have been informed by an expert that it could be Cheilosia grossa but without more photos it is nor certain.]