Flanders Moss NNR
While taking a turn about Flanders last week, we were able to take a moment to catch up with one of our volunteers. David McCulloch, a fountain of knowledge, has been volunteering with us for many years , and conducts regular dragonfly transects across Flanders Moss. We almost didn’t spot him at first, as he was lying flat to the ground across the boardwalk, hidden below the heath line. It transpired he had his camera aimed at a very beautiful beetle, which David has subsequently identified and written a wee piece on. Enjoy!
I visit Flanders Moss once every couple of weeks over the summer months to photograph dragonflies but, even though I live not far away, my first visit of 2021 wasn’t until 22 February. Obviously, the bog is very different at this time of year without the opportunity of seeing dragonflies, damselflies and lizards, no insects on the wildflower meadow, and probably still too early for the ‘mad March hares’ and mating frogs unless you’re really lucky. There’s always the possibility of geese overhead but, in truth, I wasn’t expecting much other than some exercise around the boardwalk and open views to the surrounding hills.
However, my camera goes with me everywhere, and I had my macro lens with me just in case. It would be easy just to walk around the boardwalk enjoying the views to Ben Lomond, Ben Ledi and Ben Vorlich, but it always pays to look down at the boardwalk itself, the raised edge strip and the plants on either side. I look out for the slightest signs of movement, or something that just seems to look a bit different to its surroundings. By doing this, I spotted something tiny glistening in the strong sunlight. I quickly looked over my shoulder to check no-one was behind me, because obviously I don’t want to impede anyone else’s exercise in these Covid times. Thankfully, the boardwalk was deserted so I crouched down and realised there were several beetles, all with very metallic-looking bodies reflecting the sun. I managed to get a few photos, which involved getting down low (and more glances over my shoulder!).
After several days of heavy rain, and the forecast of more to come, the strong sun was truly glorious. However strong sun and shiny insects aren’t a good combination when it comes to photography, so the photos aren’t as detailed as I’d have liked, but I knew I had something to identify when I got home. For me, what matters is finding something interesting, spending time trying to photograph it as well as possible, and then learning about it later. If I get a pleasing photo, that’s a bonus.
I only got interested in insects in 2018 when I started photography as an amateur, so identifying them isn’t easy. However, that’s what I love about photographing insects. Once I’ve ‘captured’ something, my natural curiosity means I need to find out what it is (or what it might be) before I upload it to social media sites. There are over 24,000 species of insect in the UK, so any general guide book is always going to be selective, but I like Paul D. Brock’s A Comprehensive guide to insects of Britain & Ireland (published by Nature Bureau). A new guide by the same author is soon to be published by WildGuides.
Identifying the correct taxonomic ‘order’ is a good start, and I knew this was a beetle rather than a bug due to the shape of its wing cases (T-shaped, rather than Y-shaped). Leafing through the beetles in the book, it closely resembled the ‘family’ Chrysomelidae (leaf beetles) of which there are 273 in Britain & Ireland. Sometimes, identifying the family is as far as I get, but mine most closely resembled the species Plateumaris discolor, a leaf beetle found widely across the UK, which occurs in a variety of metallic colours and which lives in bogs and other wetlands. That’s just my hunch of course, based on small photos in a selective guidebook, and I may be wrong. I’ve entered the sighting on iRecord, so hopefully I’ll find out if I’m right. Or maybe someone reading this blog can comment!?
What beautiful and interesting creatures we can see if we only take a moment to look at the miniature world within our own. From mountain-tops to blades of grass, there’s always something interesting to spy from Flanders boardwalk.