Spring seems to have been a long time coming again this year, but now that it’s here everything is bursting into life around Kinghorn Loch!
Have you seen one of these locally? It’s a Speckled Wood butterfly. I took this photo at the western end of the Loch at the end of April. What’s particularly interesting about it is that until very recently this species was virtually unknown in Fife. Here’s the latest national distribution map, showing records up to 2014, from the butterfly conservation website.
It’s spreading northwards up the east coast and westwards from western Scotland! I’ve also seen one in my Burntisland garden so they’re definitely becoming established. Other butterflies which may soon appear here are the Holly Blue and the Wall Brown. Both are now resident in East Lothian so keep an eye out for them. It’s likely that these northwards movements are a result of climate change.
Talking of “incomers”, here’s another: a Tree Bumblebee, again photographed by the Loch. First discovered near Southampton in 2001, it has shown one of the most dramatic expansions of any British insect, arriving in Scotland in 2013. It has recently been discovered in Ireland too. It’s an easy one to identify with the unique combination of gingery or reddish-brown and black, with a white tail.
There have been a further five species of bumblebee buzzing around the loch recently: White-tailed, Buff-tailed, Red-tailed, Early and Common Carder Bee.
Common Carder Bee nectaring on a dandelion, very important early flowers for bees, hoverflies and other insects. This was recently tweeted by Pam Ayres:
Ode to the Dandelion:
The dandelion is good for bees,
Her golden hue is sure to please,
Clad in springtime’s fine regalia,
with roots that finish in Australia
White tailed bumblebee
Bumblebees make up just a tenth of the 275 bee species of the UK. Here’s a Chocolate Mining Bee of the genus Andrena. These are solitary bees, lacking the communal behaviour we associate with honeybees.
This is Gooden’s Nomad Bee of the genus Nomada. These are kleptoparasitic bees: the female will enter the nest of e.g. the Chocolate Mining Bee, and lay its egg. The grub which hatches then destroys the host’s grubs and steals their store of pollen and nectar. It’s dog eats dog out there….well, bee eats bee.
Here is a pair of mating Gorse Shieldbugs. These are also called Stinkbugs as they can give off a nasty smell to deter predators.
Great Crested and Little Grebes, Coots, Moorhens and Mute Swans are all nesting around the Loch. Numbers of the summer visiting birds have been building steadily. I heard Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing at the beginning of April, followed by Willow Warblers by mid month. Sand Martins have passed through and Swallows have arrived. The dawn chorus on May 5th took a while to get started as it was quite chilly. Only Blackbirds, Chaffinches and Wood Pigeons were singing when we arrived at 5.00am but others gradually joined in and by 7.00am we had also heard Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Dunnock, Wren, Goldfinch, Song Thrush and Great-spotted Woodpecker. Notable by its absence was the song of the Robin – they really do keep a very low profile when they’re nesting.
Moorhens are usually quite timid, but this individual has become very bold, wandering around near the buildings.
This Coot’s nest is only a few feet from the footpath. As soon as those eggs hatch the youngsters will be bobbing around on the water.
This Tree Sparrow is one of the regular visitors at the feeders at the east end of the Loch. They can be told from the more familiar House Sparrow by the chocolate crown and black face-spot. We’re lucky to have them: the UK population suffered a devastating decline of an estimated 93 per cent between 1970 and 2008, mainly due to agricultural changes. Recent years have seen some encouraging upturn.
I’ll end this blog with some of my favourite Spring flowers, cowslips.