Another windy Saturday at Farlington Marshes, today’s tasks were to check the cattle and do a wetland bird count, neither of which were helped by the weather. When I arrived it was raining and all the cattle in Main Marsh were huddled together right next to the fence, but 82 cattle in one tight bunch are impossible to count with confidence, they are never still and it is almost impossible not to get lost during counting them. The sun then came out, which was good but they then scattered right across the Marsh and many sat down, making it impossible to see them all at once. They looked content and I think I saw them all. The same cannot be said for the waders we were trying to count, they were hiding behind anything that would give them shelter. About the only ones I could get a reasonable count of were the oystercatcher on the Deeps as they were at least on the side closest to the seawall.
As it was June there were hardly any birds to count anyway, although things will start to pick up soon and there will be quite a few Arctic breeding waders back by next month’s count. After the count I headed off to Swanwick to help out at their continuing Birthday celebrations, today it was a public event aimed at families. I was to help with the mini-beast hunt, unfortunately the weather seemed to have put a good few people off, although the middle part of the day was actually pleasantly sunny, if still very windy. We found a good few mini-beasts too, most impressive was the longhorn beetle Agapanthia villosoviridescens
I had only ever seen it at Martin Down before, although it was already known from Swanwick Lakes which actually provided the first South Hampshire record only a few years ago. This was not the only longhorn beetle though as we also saw a Rhagium mordax, one of the commoner species.
It was obviously a day for beetles as we also found a good few larvae of the fleabane tortoise beetle, a rather scarce species generally, although another that has been recorded at Swanwick before. The larvae are extraordinary looking and carry, what I assume to be, their dried out and blackened caste skins on their backs just to make them look even stranger!
There were also lots of caterpillars eating the flower heads of the corky-fruited water-dropwort, they look very distinctive but I cannot identify them, does anyone recognise it?