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. [He seems to have stalled half way so I am still waiting].
30th: Oystercatcher sitting on 1 egg on sea cliffs below Treshnish House.
29th: Blackap singing in Treshnish wood.
and at least 1 furrow bee on sea cliff to west of Ensay Burn mouth and 1 Bee Fly on Ensay meadow up from Ensay Burn mouth.
1 Tree Wasp at pebbly beach to west of Ensay Burn mouth and 1 at Treshnish Old Schoolhouse, 1 Norwegian Wasp in Treshnish wood near the lower owl box.
A Narrow-leaved Helleborine update: There are 4 known plants at Treshnish. The one in the wood is only about 4cm high, the top one on the farm road is a twin, the one in the middle on the farm road is a shoot and the lower one on the road is about to flower. No Broad-leaved Helleborines visible yet.
A new Thale Cress spot to west of Ensay Burn mouth. It was only about 20m from the original site but good news that there are now three patches in the area.
28th: A quick summary of the status of the large social wasps of Treshnish, Mull and in Scotland. There are 9 species that occur in the UK and they all occur in Scotland. Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris, Red Wasp Vespula rufa, Tree Wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris and Norwegian Wasp Dolichovespula norwegica occur at Treshnish (none of which were on BWARS maps for Mull). The BWARS maps show no other species on Mull. In order of rarity with the most common first these are the other social wasps which occur in Scotland (no. in brackets = no. of records on BWARS maps): Austrian Wasp Vespula austriaca (no records at all from western Scotland but many records from a large area around Inverness and scattered records elsewhere), German Wasp Vespula germanica (8 although 1 record close to Mull, possibly on Lismore), Median Wasp Dolichovespula media (5 or 6), Saxon Wasp Dolichovespula saxonica (5), Hornet Vespa crabro (2).
I have been using the excellent guide at http://www.eakringbirds.com/eakringbirds2/insectswaspsidentification.htm to identify these wasps but I have just realised they don’t include Norwegian and Austrian Wasp hence I have misidentified some wasps on this page but they have now been corrected and Norwegian Wasp has been added to the Mull list.
also there, this bee laden with pollen, which is probably impossible to identify but judging by what other bees with this thorax colour and size I have been seeing recently at this site, it could be Orange-tailed Mining Bee,
at least 3 female Clarke’s Mining Bees and 2 Bee Flies
27th: 1+ Fabricius’ Nomad Bee, 2+ Clarke’s Mining Bee, 1 Northern Mining Bee and 1 probable Gwynne’s Mining Bee, 1 prob Tree Wasp and 2+ Bee Flies. at Treshnish wood waterfall.
25th: Less wind today.
White Wagtail at Ensay Burn mouth.
There was at least one mining bee which I am sure was different but I didn’t get a full suite of shots. It has a very hairy inner abdomen. It looks like Buffish Mining Bee but the females of that species have orangey pollen brushes. This ones are white. I was tempted to conclude that it may be Coppice Mining Bee which has been recorded at Ardnamurchan and near Oban but the face is black so I think it could be a faded Buffish Mining Bee.
24th: On 24th May last year I took some photos of a bee which at that time was just another photo amongst tens of thousands that I took that year. In October I was going through the last of them but this bee was still a mystery: it had a white ‘tail’. A few weeks later I got a message on the submissions website that an expert was sending this record top another expert. That sounded interesting and I blogged to ‘watch this space’. Today I got an update. It is a Mason Bee and probably Wall Mason Bee which has only been recorded 5t times in Scotland. I sent the information to another expert who specialises in Scottish bees and got the reply ”The habitat makes it overwhelmingly probable that it is parietina [Wall Mason Bee].
Another windy day, the strongest yet in over 3 weeks of strong winds from the southeast. I headed straight for Ensay Burn mouth hoping to find some shelter, with a brief stop at the bottom of the waterfall which is accessible because of the low river.
3 Common Sandpipers and 1 Whimbrel at Ensay Burn mouth (my firsts of year).
It was all quiet at the cliffs to the west of the burn mouth on the earthy nesting burrows but soon there was a patrolling large nomad bee and after waiting for ages to get a shot I finally found a lot of bees a little further inland where there was an abundance of spring flowers and at least 4 large nomad bees and a large mining bee. That made sense, if the nomad bees are males they won’t be bothering with nest holes they will be only interested in two things, sex and food. Again I missed the perfect shot as one landed too close for my 400mm lens and whilst I was reaching for my macro kit it flew. It was only about 18″ away!
I was expecting them to be Early Nomad Bee but they have no red on the abdomen. I think they are Marsham’s Nomad Bee which I found at this site last year.
This is a female
There was a very large mining bee on the cliff and a male in attendance. I didn’t get a good angle shooting from below but I think it must be Chocolate Mining Bee.
23rd: Went to see if those suspected Early Nomad Bees were still around but no, I couldn’t find them.
1st Green Hair-streak of the year near Eucalyptus tree in Treshnish wood and 1 Norwegian Wasp to NE of waterfall.
I did see at least 3 Northern Mining Bee females, 1 Fabricius’ Nomad Bee, at least 3 females and at least 1 male Clarke’s Mining Bee and 1 Bee Fly. I haven’t seen any of the small grey bees which I suspect are Small Flecked Mining Bee since the 18th.
In the evening the wind died down and there was another Northern Mining Bee sighting at the waterfall with another about 10m to south. Another experts has confirmed that they are definitely Northern Mining Bees.
At same site 3 nomad bees patrolling together which look like Early Nomad Bee. I have one very uncertain record from last year. Missed the best shots as the memory card was too slow. I have one fast card and it was in the other camera! Hopefully they will still be around later but it really was the perfect shot when after this it lifted its wings and turned!
and only a couple of male Clarke’s Mining Bees but with the same number of 2+ females. At the nesting ‘colony’ in Black Park there were 10+males swarming and at least 3 females. Last year I discovered this bank much later and there were no males. There was also 1 or 2 furrow bees by the gate bank. It was pretty windy.
At least 2 Orange-tailed Mining Bees at Black Park quarry
along with 3 female Clarke’s Mining Bees in nest burrows and at least 1 furrow bee.
The bee being carried by ants on the 18th has been identified by an expert as a male Clarke’s Mining Bee as I expected.
21st: Wood Warbler and Blackcap singing at Quinish and Speckled Wood (all firsts of the year) in the sun and calm.
Back at Treshnish it was windy and quite cold. We really feel the wind when it comes from the southeast. I should have stayed at Quinish longer!
At the waterfall there were only a couple of male Clarke’s Mining Bees but still the usual 2+ females which were still flying around. They are the largest of the UK mining bees and have as thick pile so presumably are more adapted to cold and windy weather. They are spring species.
The plus side of the wind was that I could pick up the bees.
Female Clark’s Mining Bee
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.
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.]