Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Thursday, 31 January 2013


As usual, I go out for one thing and come back with another.

This time, I went to look at the sea and came back with pictures of creatures.

Do I know anything about creatures? No! So, here are some mysteries.

The first is this little fly on an alexanders flower.

Fly with big brown eyes sitting on alexanders flower and gazing into the camera lens
January 31st 2013
Phil at The Cabinet of Curiosities suggests this may be  a dung fly
Scatophaga stercoraria

If I had taken a picture of its back as well as its face, I might have been able to have it IDed. But I didn't. None the less, I am charmed. Indeed, I am so charmed I have set it as my laptop background and I sit here gazing inanely into its eyes (oh, fly! what big eyes you've got!) and admiring its poise, the frog-like angles of its legs. If ever one were able to fall in love with a fly, I have fallen in love with this one.

The alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrumare zooming up. Most years, they do this, then they get zapped by frost and go all droopy. So far, though, so good. Not that it matters. Even if they do get zapped, they recover - and there are millions of them! I've not counted so maybe it's merely thousands. 'Lots' doesn't cover it.

They seem to be popular for sitting on. Here's another fly on an alexanders leaf. This one a little bigger.

Fly on alexanders leaf with wings partly open.
January 31st 2013

See the round, yellow dent? This is caused by Alexanders Rust (Puccinia smyrnii). For ages, I didn't realise it is a rust and would, each year, poke around looking for insect eggs. Nothing to do with insect eggs. (I'd hoped for butterflies, ah well.) Rusts are a kind of powdery fungus (do not quote me, this is very unscientific language but, unless you are scientist, I think this is a good way to describe it). It counts as 'parasitic' because it harms the plant but it doesn't kill it. This rust, though, does make the leaves look pretty ugly when it gets a hold.

Next distraction was that a trench had been dug into the narrow path I use to make my way between brambles and buddleia.

Ground dug away to make route into hole in bank
January 31st 2013

The ground is soft from rain, though not muddy, and some animal has made a huge groove leading to a hole in the bank. It runs for several yards and includes a right turn into what appears to be a dead end part of the way along. But what has done this? Dogs sometimes scrabble around holes but they don't make a massive pathway. I don't know what a fox hole looks like but the BBC Nature Site suggests the area round it smells strongly - and this doesn't. So I'm left with badger. A badger would easily be big enough to do all this digging - and they like grand entrances to their setts. But is the hole big enough? And would a badger do this to a path regularly walked down by lots of humans? It may not be Oxford Street but it's rare one doesn't meet someone here.

Then to the beach.

I had planned to photograph seaweeds but was quickly diverted to footprints. And here's the next mystery. (Only a mystery to me. If any bird people read this, I'm sure they'll easily be able to put me out of my mysteryness.)

Two kinds of bird tracks dominated - similar except some were about two inches across and some only an inch and a half.

Impression of bird's foot in sand showing traces of web
January 31st 2013

Some footprints are indented with clear indications of a web.

Impression of bird's foot in sand with stone and two crisp holes
The two crisp holes in the sand beside the track print interest me too. Any ideas?
January 31st 2013

Some have depressions running either side of a ridge and no sign of a web. I don't know whether these differences reflect different foot structures or it's merely something to do with the sand and the water.

And, there we have it. Two flies, yellow rust, a dug up path and some bird prints. Not what I went to find  -  but that's the pleasure of a walk.


Phil said...

The fly in the top picture might be a dung fly Scatophaga stercoraria, Lucy - they like the smell of Alexander flowers .....

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hi, Phil - and thanks! Having looked a pictures of Scatophaga stercoraria on Google images - looks like a very likely ID. Looking at iSpot - not many pictures of it there and discrepancy over size. This was about 1.5cm long and very narrow. Would that fit?

Down by the sea said...

As always you take me into a different world! I would love to know what made those footprints could it be a geese or swan?

One of my fellow bloggers told me hundreds of guillemots have been washed up on the Chesil today -covered in a white sticky substance let's hope they can find out the cause asap.
Sarah x

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hi, Sarah. Too small for swans - and although there are many swans along The Fleet, they don't tend to turn up in Portland Harbour.

Whatever they were, they seemed to have been running around a lot.

I'd guess (GUESS emphasised)the webbed imprints are from herring/black headed gulls and the un-webbed ones oyster catchers.

I took a photo of herring gull feet a while back

Roll on the experts!

Anonymous said...

An interesting, and informative, post with terrific photos. Flighty xx

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Thanks Mike. I wish it could be more informative!

Gerald (Hyde DP) said...

I really shouldn't have looked at that fly in the eye before I'd had breakfast!

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hi, Gerald. Do you not find the fly has a very cheerful and relaxed atmosphere?

Gary said...

Great shots!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Thanks Boom and Gary. Have been browsing the bird pictures on your latest post.

Susannah Anderson said...

What a friendly, personable fly!Love it!

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hi, Susannah. I imagine all flies of this kind look similar. None the less, it's the first insect picture I've taken where the subject matter has had anthropomorphic attitude.

Dimple said...

Hi Lucy,

I agree with your comment on my blog about frost being extraordinary...and I would add that flies, plants, and birds are, also! Thanks for showing the interesting and beautiful things you find on your walks!

Is there any chance the ditch was created with a flow of water?


Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hi, Dimple. Definitely not water - clearly dug and leading to the hole. However, it will be interesting to see what will happen when it rains (and it has been raining a lot recently).

Mark Willis said...

Life is full of little mysteries, isn't it? Maybe you need to set up an infra-red webcam to see what's digging trenches in your garden path...

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hi Mark - that would be fun . . .though it's not my garden path, it's a little public track that goes down to the sea. As much as the idea of a private beach appeals . . . !

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams said...

I love the shots of the flies...so cute? LOL. Anyways even if I don't find them cute, I am impressed with your shots.

When we lived near the beach, I used to photograph the footprints also.


Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hi, Jen. Aren't you fascinated by their hairs? I think we humans are missing out on something in the hair line. Before I started taking photographs of plants, I hadn't realised how hairy many of them are. And these flies - with precise spikes sticking out from their legs. And the one on the black one's back - they are like studs in a particularly thuggish piece of armour. Their sphere of perception, proportionally, must be so much greater than ours!

Donna said...

Yours is the best sort of walk for discovery...I do have to find time to do a few walks by the lake down the road...that first picture is stunning...I fell in love with the fly as well..

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hi, Donna. It's interesting how different people respond to the same beings. We'll form a fly fan club!

Tim said...

Brilliant post Lucy. I was looking at the photo on your other blog and noticed the blotches on the alexanders and was really glad I did. As I now know it is a rust. Thanks :)

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hello Tim. Glad you like the post. I resisted the temptation to say anything about the rust (Puccinia smyrniion)on the alexanders and fly picture on my other blog because that's the kind of blog where visitors are invited to look rather than think.

But if anyone else would like to see the rust more clearly, this is the Message in a Milk Bottle link


Tim said...

I totally agree. I think you've separated the blogs really well. It allows us to really take notice of your fantastic photography one on site and then to enjoy your essays on the other.

Pat Tillett said...

I have no idea what that fly is, I only know it's an awesome photo. The others are as well...

Cindy said...

Oh I loved your post!! The first fly photo is beautiful. I'll admit I like the flower better than the fly but I do like the pose and it's eyes. Couldn't imagine what made the trench but it looks like something big. Then there is your beach tracks which look very interesting and now I want to know what made them. Happy weekend! ~Cindy

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Tim - glad you like the division between Loose and Leafy and Message in a Milk Bottle.

Thanks for letting me know you like the photos, Pat.

Cindy - although it's good to know answers, it's also fascinating to be tantalised by questions, don't you find?

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Dear Everyone,
You might like to know there's a new post on Loose and Leafy.

Spring and Autumn - Can we Tell the Difference?