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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Cutting a leaf and creating an animation

I had the great pleasure, today, of watching a Megachile leaf-cutter bee actually cutting a leaf.
I got the camera up as quickly as I could - I missed the start, of course, but then got 20 images as she worked her way around a perfect part-circle.

Here's an animation from those 20 images.



This was all handheld, so nothing was aligned properly.
In the past, I have manually adjusted and aligned each individual image to create an animation. Modern software, however, has some amazing tools to do this sort of thing for you.

After a little research in the help files and with a bit of experimentation, I was amazed how easy it was to create the animation using Lightroom and Photoshop. That's the beauty of top-notch software, I guess!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Mainly hoverflies

Yesterday was another day at Rainham Marshes for me, and (except when I was sitting in the cafe drinking tea) I spent all my time photographing insects.
I bumped into Howard on the way in and walked with him down to the woodland. In the Cordite Store, he pointed out a hoverfly defending territory just next to the tunnel. 

Eristalis intricarius hoverfly

Eristalis intricarius hoverfly  Eristalis intricarius hoverfly

I didn't know the species, but Howard told me that it was Eristalis intricarius - a bee mimic. This is a male, and he was chasing after other insects that came close. Even butterflies got his attention, though as soon as he realised they weren't a rival or a potential mate, he soon came back to hover or perch.
It took a while to get any images, as he was quite unwilling to let me get too close when he was perched and, when he hovered, he did so for only a few seconds. The hovering image is the better one of only 2 that I managed to capture.

If you know Rainham Marshes' Cordite Store, you know that there are a lot of buddleias nearby, and one of these is where I found another hoverfly - but this one was dead!

Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) with prey

It was the prey of this lovely Crab Spider (Misumena vatia). I've not seen it, but I imagine that the spider hides between the flowers and then rushes out to ambush any suitable prey that lands close by.

There are several of the big Volucella hoverflies at Rainham Marshes. The one I see most often is the largest - Volucella zonaria.
Volucella zonaria hoverfly

This male was not far outside the Cordite Store, just around the bend to the left as you leave the tunnel. He kept buzzing around me then chased away, only to return  a few moments later. He even perched on my hat for a few seconds, but I wasn't quick enough with my phone to take a selfie with him.

I'll finish with a couple of butterflies. There's a nice little sheltered patch of grass between the Adventure Playground and the Cordite Store. There's a narrow path through the grass, but it's a dead end, closed off by encroaching brambles, so it's not well frequented.
There are a number of Ragwort and other flowering plants there, and these attract several butterfly species.
In particular, yesterday, I was interested in a Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) that was flitting between flowers. In the end, I wasn't as successful as I'd hoped, but I did capture this unusual angle of the butterfly resting on a grass stem.

Brown Argus butterfly (Aricia agestis)

Several male Common Blues (Polyommatus icarus) flew in, too. I didn't see any of them feed on the flowers, but this one did perch attractively for me.
Common Blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus)