Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The giant fly attack time of year

Summer now has the wetlands and dunes in its thrall. The warm, wet spring seems to have nurtured the richest greens and every flower is all the more intense against a backcloth of verdant meadow or hedge. At Hauxley yellow buttercups, Barbie doll pink ragged robin and purple spikes of orchids rocketing out of the fields compete to be the most garish. By mid June in some years the land already looks parched, the greens half hearted, but not this year. It is also an in-between time, with many birds having got their nestlings away and the occasional flourish of song suggesting a second brood might be on their minds. At Cresswell Lagoon young little gulls and sandwich terns are already hanging around waiting for something exciting to happen, or, at very least a fish to be brought back by parents who now look smaller than their indolent brood. For me high summer only begins when the meadow brown butterflies appear. Other insects are skipping, hopping, pinging and whirring from every footstep. Get down into the grasses and herbs and the sheer effervescence of life is shocking. as are flies as big as the one above, homing in on me. Nervous readers rest assured, it is not huge, high in the sky coming in from behind the tree, but somewhat smaller and probably disturbed as I crept up on a damselfly, whose turquoise body you can see out of focus bottom right. The marauder turned out to be an Empid (or Dance) fly, which often come with a conspicuous, rigid proboscis on which to skewer smaller brethren and suck them dry. They have perky, upright stance and are often furry too; if it was not for the vicious looking mouthparts they might pass as cute. During this same foray I saw an empid knock down a much larger cranefly and try to find purchase to spear its quarry, although its would be victim managed to buzz free and clamber up a stalk to re-launch itself. Judging by those raised legs and direct approach I got off lightly.

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