Red Cow – 25th July 2009

painted-lady-red-cow-cholsey-20090725-05Today was forecast to be one of the few dry days of the coming week so I was determined to get out and do some serious entomology. While having breakfast I got a message from Tony Rayner, in Cholsey, that his meadow was humming with activity – so I decided to pop over and check it out.

I arrived around 11am and the meadow was a stunning carpet of flowers (knapweeds, clovers, vetches, umbellifers, marjoram etc.). There were plenty of insects too, with lots of the common bumblebees (B.hypnorum not seen) and butterflies such as: Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma, Small Tortoishell, Small Copper, Holly & Common Blues, Brown Argus, Small Copper, Meadow Brown, Gatekeepers, Small & Essex Skippers, a few tatty Marbled Whites, Large & Green-veined Whites etc.

But the commonest butterfly by a long way was the Painted Lady – signifying that another major migration is under way. This theory was backed up by the presence of other migrants like Silver-Y moths, Scaeva pyrastri (a black & white hoverfly), Episyrphus balteatus (the marmalade hoverfly) and one male Clouded Yellow. Sadly the Clouded Yellow was so flighty that I couldn’t get a decent photo.

* Bithia modesta used to be listed as a UK species but Ivan Perry noticed that his “modesta” actually keyed to “demotica” in the Central European key. A subsequent check at the NHM by Nigel Wyatt yielded no British B.modesta!

PS: after looking through the collected flies I found a very exciting species – Bithia spreta. I remember catching it on very low-growing umbellifers and thinking that it looked a bit like Eriothrix or Solieria but was a lot greyer, so I kept it. Bithia spp. are all quite rare, especially in northern Europe, but B.spreta is the commonest UK species (B.demotica* is the only other UK species has only been found at a few small localities on the south coast – eg. Portland). This has to be one of the best tachinids I have caught in years! 🙂

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