The smaller species of the Fold and self-discovery.

Over the past three or four years, I have spent many delightful hours discovering the wildlife of the Fold and also nearby areas such as the Bank House Golf Course with its ponds and New House Farm fields and woodland. In the course of this amateur research I have discovered some interesting and beautiful things, and these have enabled me to recover some of the enthusiasm and love for nature I had during my younger years. Now I am retired and approaching 70, I am having to focus more on what I really want to do with the remaining years of my life and I find what Will Tooby and his dedicated team at The Fold are trying to do has inspired me.

How? Read on! And What has this to do with the creatures of the title for this blog?

Hovers, Dragons and butterflies are the insects that I have been watching out for in the spring and summer of 2017. Only by narrowing my focus just on these three families can I discover what are the species living in our area and where they are living in particular. Also: When they can be seen – many insects overwinter as eggs or pupae or hibernate so until they emerge in the spring or summer looking for them can be fruitless. BUT by looking hard at particular things, it is the case that frequently we can discover NEW things accidentally and this has been the case for me around the Fold and Bransford in general.

I started out looking at the birds to be found along the river and on the two reservoirs of the Fold and then moved onto the mammals, first the larger ones – Otters, Badgers, foxes and deer next studied the smaller mammals – rabbits, squirrels and mice. I have yet to study the shrews and bats by the way, which present particular problems. Then the amphibians (not many to study here) and reptiles (even fewer).

In 2017, I am looking hard for hoverflies (or Syrphids, as the entomologists call them), plus Dragonflies (Odonata) and Butterflies (Lepidoptera). The list of species found locally grows ever larger as I find out where, if and when these insects are to be found. As I walk around, or with these insects in particular, actually stand still and wait with a camera poised in front of a suitable flowering plant or perching place, I am almost inevitably also discovering evidence or observing the actual species of all those animals I have previously located and identified. And so my knowledge grows.

Why do I need to state the obvious? Well, I suppose what I am trying to say through focusing my efforts on one area then my knowledge and awareness have become, not narrower, but broader. Also that with insects, there are so many that unless you study one group say the bees or the beetles, both the mind and the eye can become confused and baffled, and progress is then almost impossible. I am ashamed to say that I did not attend one lecturer’s course on the classification of insects when I was 20 years old student in Leeds because I thought it was so narrow as to be useless to me. I now know that flying insects are mainly classified through their wing venation, which I didn’t think I could ever use.

But today with access to millions of naturalists and scientists worldwide who are members of Facebook groups or who run blogs to help others, identification of the species that you find has become much easier. There is just one problem (actually many but lumped into a single area): to identify an insect or any other species you need a decent photograph.

So nowadays you will find me holding not just a pair of binoculars but also a small, medium or large camera. The size depends on how far I have to carry it – the big one needs a tripod so doesn’t go out very far from the garden or car. After the dragons, butterflies and syrphids could be the beetles or bats. Bees and wasps are a surprisingly large and complicated group and have been well studied by others. I reckon moths should be good and all the time I am studying invading crayfish in the Leigh Brook. It should keep me going until my 80th I reckon.

Keith Falconer, September 2017

Keith Falconer is a local naturalist with many years experience of observing and photographing the wildlife of this region. He has an amazing knowledge of birds and bugs and all the creatures that live around us. Every few weeks he will be adding to this seasonal account of what to look for and listen to across our wonderful nature trail.