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1st Proper Day out…

17 / 05 / 20

I was thinking of what to put as the title to this blog! It has been a weird couple of months coming back from the wilderness of Northern Sweden back to the UK under lockdown. That basically limited my photography to what I could find in the garden and walks from my house. So when the restrictions eased a little this week so we could drive to enjoy the countryside I jumped in the car and went to Skipwith Common.

Skipwith is one of my go to places for both macro photography and reptile photography. Unfortunately, the best time to photograph snakes has been and gone whilst we were locked down. It's not that you can't photograph them now it's just late March and early April is by far the best time to photograph them. So I decided to spend my time looking for insect macro subjects.

The first subject I found was a common enough subject a zebra jumping spider (Salticus scenicus). I didn't get a perfect shot of it and the subject wasn't very obliging usually these guys are!

1st Proper Day out…

I then moved to another part of the reserve where there's a fence leading into an area with a lot of heather. I have found this area to be rich in lots of insect life and the fence tends to attract a lot of insects. I had only been looking for a few minutes and I found a ruby tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita). I was quite surprised as it seems early in the year to find ruby tailed wasps normally when I have seen them it's later in the season. They are a really beautiful looking wasp all metallic and have a pitted like surface similar in texture to old golf balls. So I got down to doing some photography. 

1st Proper Day out…

These wasps are incredibly active and notoriously tricky to photograph so I was quite happy to be able to get the above stacked shot. It was good light for doing this type of photography (ie handheld stacking) as the sun has high and kept getting covered with some cloud. I tend to avoid direct sunlight when doing macro photography as it causes to many issues with blowing out the highlights and making the shadows too dark.

The wasp flew away but then either the same wasp or a different one came back on to the fence and allowed me to try a number of different stacks.

1st Proper Day out…

Here I had gone a little tighter into the wasp. Can you see the 3 mites?

1st Proper Day out…
1st Proper Day out…

These ruby tailed wasps are a type of cuckoo wasp. This group of wasps gets this name because they behave in a similar way to the cuckoo bird (and coincidently while I was here I could here two male cuckoos calling and a female cuckoo making that surreal gurgling sound they make). The wasp is constantly on the lookout for solitary bees and wasps nests when they find one they sneak into the nest and lay there own egg inside the nest. Later on, ruby tailed wasp egg will hatch and will either eat the other eggs or larvae and a ruby tailed wasp will emerge from the nest. 

1st Proper Day out…

In the above image initially, I thought I had seen another ruby tailed wasp and then I realised there was no ruby tail. It turns out this was another type of cuckoo wasp (Trichrysis cyanea). I have only seen one of these wasps before. So was very pleased to photograph it. This type of wasp has a very similar lifecycle to the ruby tailed wasp but uses a different host species. The Trichrysis cyanea lays its eggs in the nests of spider hunting wasps which I have also photographed in this location. The below photograph I took in May 2014. Here a spider hunting wasp which has paralysed a spider and is dragging the spider back to its underground nest. There it will lay its egg inside the spider and the larvae will consume the spider from within! Well unless Trichrysis cyanea has found the nest and laid it's cuckoo larvae in there!

1st Proper Day out…

Just to finish off the day I found my 1st robber fly of the season.

1st Proper Day out…

The blow was going to finish there but before I finished I had to take the dog out for a late morning walk and we headed to my nearest reserve by Ledston Luck. As we walked onto the resevre I saw my first horsefly of the year. I love the eyes on these although less keen on the bites! This is a male though and he can't bite he doesn't have the mouthparts for it! 

1st Proper Day out…

Then ten minutes later I found another ruby tailed wasp. Normally I only find a few of these a year and then even when I find them they don't normally let me get a stacked image. Also, this is probably my most visited reserve as it's the closest and this is the first time I've ever seen on there!

Notice the colouration of this wasp is a little different to the one/s I photographed at Skipwith. More blue and less green.

1st Proper Day out…

Anyone else seen an abundance of cuckoo wasps over the weekend?

On all of the current images, I was using a Canon 5Div and the Canon MP-E 65mm.

Any questions or feedback please let me know.

I'll include a little gallery at the end of the blog too as that's the best way of seeing the higher resolution images.

All the best,

Oliver 

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