Saturday, June 10, 2006

Water Beetles
I am not the only writer who finds these earnest little insects irrisistibly fascinating, for reasons best known to hereself (and she ain't gonna tell us because she is dead), the late, great Nancy Mitford called one of her volumes of anthology `The Water Beetle`, and I like to think that it is because, as children, she and her sisters
(including the future Lady Diana Moseley, and the poor doomed Unity), were as fascinated by these creatures as I was as a child. However, there is probably a far more prosaic explanation - there usually is.
When I was a boy, the ponds and ditches around Woolsery contained a dazzling range of these creatures, ranging from the tiny whirligig beetles, to the enormous Dytisticus marginalis, and it was one of my plans on aquiring a digital camera, to set up a range of pond tanks, so that I could study and photograph these tiny beasts at my leisure...
... but sadly, either I am looking back at the mid 1970s with more than usually rose-coloured spectacles, or something drastic has happened to the water beetle population around here, `cos they are singularly absent. However, today I caught three small black and gold beetles, (Platambus maculatus) I think, in a sluggish stream just past Huddisford. I look forward to continuing my acquaintance with this handsome insect...

A stream near Huddisford, about 100 yards from where we caught the water beetles

`Trawling` for insects....

This afternoon it was bloody hot, and although I had enormous amounts of things that I should have been doing back in the office, I decided to skive. Hastily grabbing Dave (our Saturday boy), Oll (the Ecologist(), and Mark (Assistant Director), I bundled them and a couple of butterfly nets and some jam jars into the car and set off...

It was Oll who suggested that we try this rather interesting variation of the old fashioned beatuing-net which served generations of entomologists so very well, and I have to admit that I was well impressed by what we managed to catch..

A shield bug (Coreus marginatus)

Araniella cucurbitina

We caught various other things including two species of bug, two small oil beetles, various click beetles,and some exquisitely beautiful iridescent flower beetles. They are all too small for me to photograph, but I hope that Graham shall be able to tomorrow..
When I was a little boy, my favourite book was G.A.K.Herklots' Hong Kong Countryside, in which he exhorted his readers:

"No-one who loves the countryside should face the new year without making at least this one good resolution - to keep a diary day by day. This would not be a social diary, but a record of flowers and birds seen in the country, of seed-sowing in the garden, and of all the little events of interest in the world of nature. As January succeeded January, I solemnly vowed each year to write down what I had seen, and heard and done. Never have I fulfilled the vow as I should have wished; but others may be more resolute."

I first read those words forty years ago in 1966, and they inspired me well. But not well enough. I have intended to keep such a journal for something like forty years, I have never actually got around to doing it. OK, I have published about a dozen volumes of my vaguely autobiographical writings which include my ramblings within natural history at home and abroad, but I have never actually done a nature diary.

....and I don't suppose that I will be about to start one now, either.

However, as anyone who has read my inky fingered scribblings here or elsewhere probably knows, I returned to my old family home in rural North Devon a year ago. I relocated the CFZ up here, and am using this as a base for our cryptozoological researches across the globe. However, I am also rediscovering one of the vocations of my youth; that of the amateur naturalist, and armed with a digital camera (the killing jar is somewhat passe now), we roam the same fields and lanes which I explored when young, in search of the same creatures which fascinated me as a child.

This blog is intended as a home for the pictures we take, and for us to record our findings as we make them. I haven't actually thought this through particularly, so I have no idea how these pictures will eventually be displayed, and I am sure that the whole affair will develop organically. But enough waffle, and on with the show......