Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Bitten by the bug.

One of the down sides of ringing at this time of year is having to get up earlier and earlier to beat the sunrise and the other is the emergence of biting insects. We were out the other morning in flat calm conditions which were perfect for mist-netting but we must have attracted every biting insect for hundreds of meters around. The ringing was a bit slower than expected so I spent some of the time in between net rounds trying to get some photos of mosquitoes filling up with blood.

Yours truly photographing a mosquito.
This mosquito has only just started feeding.
This one is engorged with blood and about to fly off.
I am lucky in that I rarely get a really bad reaction to insect bites although it should be said that I do try and avoid getting bitten most of the time. The very small black flies usually cause me to be covered in little red circular blotches that make me look like I have been dotted with a red felt tip pen but that is usually as much of a reaction as I get. They are a real nuisance when there are a lot of them and can make your skin crawl but they don't cause much pain or swelling, just the telltale red dots.

Small biting black-fly of sorts.
I did have some insect repellent impregnated wipes with me and I used some those on my face and neck but as the dog was suffering more than me I used most of them to try and give him some relief from the gathered swarm. I wiped his fur and tied all the used wipes to his collar but his legs and belly still became a mosquito filling station.

The latest doggy fashion, a mosquito repellent wipe adorned collar.

A fairly thick fur coat was no protection.
Now I know I said I don't normally get a bad reaction to insect bites but allowing my hand to be used like a pin cushion for photographic purposes did have its consequences. The following day the back of my hand swelled up and became quite itchy but it only lasted 24 hours or so. I think it was one of the larger black-flies that I reacted to and not the mosquitoes, I couldn't brush the black-flies off while waiting for my mosquitoes to fill up.

No I am not showing off my finger nails, just the swelling on the back of my left hand (right as viewed).
While on the subject of insects there has not been much new in the moth trap recently, in fact it has seemed quite slow despite the reasonable weather. A Lunar Marbled Brown on the 24th was a welcome improvement in variety. Yesterday the trap produced the first Lime Hawk Moth of the spring and it was quickly followed by a Poplar Hawk Moth this morning. Variety should steadily pick up from here but the frost forecast for this weekend may temporarily hold things up.

Lunar Marbled Brown (Drymonia ruficornis) from the night of 24/04/14

Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi), fresh from the trap this morning.
The other bug I have been bitten with is all things Grasshopper Warbler. Below is a collage of head shots of birds caught in the past few days. As you can see there is quite a bit of variation in the bill colour in these birds. As for the pale olive grey bird from my last post we are no further forward yet.

Grasshopper Warbler head shots showing the variation in bill colour.

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