Favourites

A few of my recent favourites, with some detail of camera settings etc. I'll be adding to and amending this list from time to time, as my favourites change.

Female Katiannid Springtail
I love photographing springtails. Fortunately, many species are active during the cooler, damper months during autumn and winter. These provide interesting photographic subjects when bees and wasps (which I also enjoy photographing) are not around.

In 2009, Dr Paul Ardron published an article describing a number of “alien” springtail species that he had discovered at various UK locations including Sheffield Botanical Gardens and the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. Some were new to the UK, some new to science. Since then, some of the species have been reported from various locations around the UK; this year I found one of them (Katiannidae Genus nov.1 species nov.) in our Staffordshire garden.

Dr Frans Janssens of the University of Antwerp, asked me to photograph as many individuals as I could, hoping to get a better understanding of how the different male and female instars changed size and appearance as they matured. During the "survey" I had an interesting find. It had been assumed (from some early observations), that red-backed individuals were males and "non-redbacks" were females. This individual (I understand), was the first definite female redback to be photographed. She's around 1.4mm in length. The presence of a sub-anal appendage confirms the gender. Frans is now speculating that there may be two (or more) different colour forms of this species. A nice bit of citizen science!

For more information on springtails, visit Frans' comprehensive Collembola of the World website.

Click on the image for a larger version.

Camera Setup: Canon 5D Mk III + MP-E65mm Macro (at 5x) + 1.4x tele-extender + 25mm extension tube + diffused MT24-EX Twinlite flash.
Settings: 1/125th second, F/6.3, ISO 100. Cropped a little. Two imaged blended in Photoshop.
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First solitary bees of 2017!
It's always great to see the first solitary bees of the year in the garden. I'm fortunate in having quite a few species visiting and nesting here.

One of the first solitary species to appear in the garden each year is Andrena bicolor (Gwynne's Mining Bee). True to form, the first males appeared on 13th March; a day earlier than in 2016. This one posed nicely for me on one of our rockery plants.

Click on the image for a larger version.

Camera Setup: Canon 5D Mk III + Canon MP-E 65mm F2.8 Macro Lens + MT-24EX Twinlite Flash.
Settings: 1/160th second, F/11, ISO 200.
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A new springtail for me
It's always great to see a creature that you've not encountered before. This happened to me recently when I was looking for aquatic springtails in our Staffordshire garden pond. There's a thriving colony of one common species in the pond, but I was surprised to see a couple of pink individuals floating on the surface. I managed to extract this one a piece of stone and get some photographs. It's very small (about 0.7mm) and turns out that it's Brachystomella parvula. It's apparently widespread in the UK, but had only been reported a two locations in Shrophshire (during work on the Shropshire Springtail Atlas) and as far as I can see, is a first county record for Staffordshire. This doesn't mean that they are rare, it's just that very few people look for them!

Click on the image for a larger version.

Camera Setup: Canon 5D Mk III + MP-E65mm Macro (at 5x) + 1.4x tele-extender + 25mm extension tube + diffused MT24-EX Twinlite flash.
Settings: 1/160th second, F/6.3, ISO 160.
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A rare Cuckoo Bee
OK, an unremarkable image of a nondescript-looking bee, but this got me quite excited! I saw it fly away from one of my garden bee hotels in June 2016. At first, I thought by its size and overall dark colour that it was Osmia caerulescens, but through the camera viewfinder, it obviously wasn't.

I didn't think much more about it until I looked at it on the PC. I didn't know what it was, but knew that I hadn't seen one before. I then had a sudden realisation. There were Osmia leaiana mason-bee nests in the bee-hotel. It couldn't be this bee's cuckoo Stelis phaeoptera could it? Looking at the Staffordshire Atlas of Bees and Wasps, Stelis phaeoptera hadn't been reported in the county since 1948. I contacted a local bee expert and he confirmed that it was. Steven Falk, author of the Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain & Ireland commented to me that I was one of a small and special group who had see this bee in its live state. A special finding for me that's probably never going to be repeated.

Click on the image for a larger version.

Camera Setup: Canon 5D Mk III + MP-E 65mm Macro lens.
Settings: 1/160th second, F/11, ISO 200.
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