We have now entered June, a time of year where the birds begin to go quiet as they are busily feeding young. Parents will be hurriedly collecting insect prey to nourish their chicks before the summer is over and they return to their wintering grounds. This reduction in bird activity and song sees many nature enthusiasts take a keener interest in insects throughout the height of summer, and there is plenty to see at Fen Drayton Lakes.
The bank sides, lake edges and ponds on the reserve are now alive with insects. These include hundreds of damselflies and dragonflies adding a splash of colour and excitement to an afternoon stroll. One of the species which can be encountered is the four-spotted chaser. This dragonfly occurs in a wide range of habitats and will even breed in garden ponds. The larvae live among well rotted plant material and take two years to complete their development. Once the larvae are fully developed they emerge in late May/early June by climbing up emergent vegetation in the early morning, before taking their maiden flight. The males are very active, highly territorial and extremely aggressive. They rest on tall emergent vegetation such as sticks and reed stems where they launch attacks on other males, pounce on prey and await the visit of females. Females oviposit their eggs into water and these hatch in around 29 days, completing the lifecycle.
Two other insects have recently caught my eye on the reserve, the wasp beetle Clytus arietus and the Golden-bloomed grey longhorn beetle Agapanthia villosoviridescens. The wasp beetle is a batesian mimic, which copies the warning colours of a wasp, indicating that it is dangerous or unpalatable to predators, yet the beetle is in fact harmless. The larvae take two years to develop and live inside and feed on deadwood, favouring willow and birch. Agapanthia villosoviridescens adults can be seen on plants such as thistles and hogweed and really catch the eye with their beautiful colours and long antennae. The best time to see either of these little beauties is late May and June when they are feeding on the flowers of tall robust herbs.
Wasp beetle - Photo credit W George
Golden-bloomed grey longhorn beetle
The best bird spectacle to witness on the reserve at current is either the shear noise and commotion of the black-headed gull colony at Moore lake, or the nesting common terns at both Moore lake and Ferry lagoon. The terns are amazing to watch as they swoop down low to the lake surface in search of fish to feed their mates and soon their young. Whilst the first black-headed gull chicks can now be seen exploring the world they have arrived in.
Common Tern - Photo credit Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
All in all there is still plenty to see at Fen Drayton Lakes, so why not visit the reserve and see what you can spot?