Thursday, June 30, 2011

Duck End Nature Reserve

Yesterday I went out into the local countryside for the first time since getting back from our holiday in Canada & Alaska. I didn’t see any bears or whales, but an hour at Duck End Nature Reserve emphasized, once again, that there’s a jungle out there, wherever we may be. I have to say that I didn’t see many flies during our holiday but here’s a few from Duck End which is heaving with ‘em!!

This first one’s cheating a bit because it’s a Damselfly and not a true ‘fly’ at all. But I had to include it because I was really pleased with the photo. It’s an Emerald Damselfly. This species seems to me to be going through a real increase in numbers, and no more so than at Duck End where it was relatively uncommon until a mini-population explosion over the past few seasons. I love the metallic green colours and the way in which it holds its wings out like the larger dragonflies.

And here’s another stunner – the generally scarce wasp-mimic, Chrysotoxum verralli Hoverfly, the only record for Bedfordshire so far this year. Mr Verralli seems to have lent his name to a number of species: the flies Aphantorhaphopsis verralli, Brevicornu verralli & Thaumalea verralli, the scuttle-fly Megaselia verralli, the midge Tanytarsus verralli, the cranefly Ephelia verralli, a horsefly Tabanus verralli…the list seems to go on and on!

At this point I decided to do an internet search to find out something about this character whose name I mention regularly! It turns out that Wikipedia have an article about George Henry Verrall, who was born in 1848. I was reminded about the famous song which begins, “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly…” Several verses later it concludes, “I know an old lady who swallowed a horse, she’s alive and well of course.” For George it was the other way around: he started with horses and ended with flies! To cut a long story short he became Clerk of the Course at some of the most prestigious race meetings, eventually moving to that horse-racing Mecca, Newmarket. To be fair, his interest in flies developed alongside his proper job and, from 1866, he was over time a member, Secretary and then President of the Entomological Society. He and a colleague described some 900 species of Diptera! Alongside his entomological pursuits George was also a doughty politician and it appears that exhaustion from an election campaign led to his demise in September 1911, aged 64.

I shall never look at Chrysotoxum verralli in the same way again!

Here’s a fly that’s not named after George. It’s the tachinid fly, Thelaira nigripes. Thanks to Chris Raper for the identification. This is another photo that I was really pleased with (it’s a shame that the Chrysotoxum flew off before I could get anything more than the record shot above). It clearly brings out a number of the features of this tiny creature. You can see why George and others have fallen in love with flies…

….O.K., maybe I’m pushing it a bit there!! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment