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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Bumblebee Surveying and A bit of Bird Watching - Dungeness 02.08.21

The primary purpose of this visit to Dungeness was bumblebee surveying, aa part of my role as a volunteer with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's Short-haired Bumblebee Reintroduction Project.

This was a special day, as it was the first time all the volunteer had met together since October 2019. Some of the people I haven't seen since October 2019; and I saw no-one in 2920; and some of the new volunteers I had never met in person (only on Zoom). U to yesterday we had been surveying in smaller cells/bubbles (mine at Rye Harbour) sinve re restarted in 2021. We still surveyed in little groups, but it was nice to see the whole group at lunch. We used to have lunch in the Dungeness RSPB study room. But I don't think we'll be doing that for some time.

This is the view on the train just before arriving at Winchelsea: "quintessential" British lowland countryside, sadly, though, a lot of bird and insect habitats have been lost through intensive arable monocultural agri-business fields (foreground), but with "wild" (well "historic") biodiverse habitats on sheep-grazed hills (background).

A possible Brown-Banded Carden worker, Bombus humilis

Aquatic Bistort in the pools and boggy ground of Dungeness.

Very fresh (i.e. just emerged) Brown-Banded Carder Bumblebee Queen, Bombus humilis. An extremely rare bumblebee in the UK, but we saw this Queen, another queen, 5 workers (female) and 1 male, at Dungeness in the morning, and in the afternoon we saw 25 on Tufted Vetch (2 queens, 21 workers and 2 males) and 6 on Red Clover (1 queen and 5 workers). Dungeness is a rare stronghold for this bee. Vegetated shingle is an extremely rare habitat, and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust has been doing habitat improvement here for 10 years. Brown-banded Bumbles love a bit of Tufted Vetch on shingle. I am proud to be a volunteer for such a great project.

A male Ruderal Bumblebee, Bombus ruderatus. It's male as it's mostly black, Queen's and Workers (always female) have more yellow. It's long face is a clue to identification. Another very rare bumblebee but doing OK at Dungeness.

Red Clover, Tufted Vetch and Meadow Vetchling in the Craggs Small meadow at Dungeness RSPB- a great meadow for bees.

A Buff-tailed Queen, Bombus terrestris, on Red Clover

My field notes for Craggs Small (red line = transferred to excel spreadsheet count)

Excel spreadsheet of the count:

Signs in Craggs Small

On the sand bank near the first hide. A Beehawk Solitary Wasp, Philanthus triangulum. It has a very useful biological function; it eats Honey Bees - this is good for Bumblebees as Honey Bees compete for forage with Bumblebees. "Less than 20 years ago, this magnificent wasp, commonly known as the 'bee wolf' or ‘bee-killer' was considered to be one of the great aculeate rarities in Britain. Records for the last few years indicate that currently the species is locally common to abundant in a steadily increasing number of sites in southern England" Beginners bees, wasps & ants: Philanthus triangulum - beewolf | BWARS N.B. wasps are carnivores; bumblebees are herbivores. Solitary wasps sting their prey, very rarely people. Bumblebees only extremely rarely sting, as it they die after stinging!

Cormorants, Phalacrocorax carbo, from the Scott viewing platform

Fireweed aka (Great/Rosebay) Willowherb, Epilobium angustfolium

A lovel Linnet, Linaria cannabina. A red-list bird. RSPB Dungeness. Linnets are named after their favourite food, linseed, which is the seed of Flax, while their Latin name, L. cannabina, refers to Hemp.

An Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, fling over. Related to the shelduck; it;s a duck really; not a goose!

A fledgling Whitethroat, Curruca communis. I saw it with a parent feeding it, then both birds disappeared. I had to be very patient waiting for them to reappear. He/she needs to eat as much as it can as in a couple of months it'll be flying off to Sub-Saharan Africa till next year

Another male Linnet

A Great-crested Grebe, Podiceps cristatus; unmistakable!


A watery scene (one of the drainage ditches)

Possibly a Great White Egret, Ardea alba. Rather big for Little or Cattle; and has black feet. It was a long way off between Dungeness and Lydd; digitally enlarged so little definition. Black feet rather than yellow feet, and not the coloration of a Cattle Egret

A watery view of one of the drainage ditches.

Birds flying off in the distance


Cinnabar moth caterpillar, Tyria jacobaeae, on yellow ragwort; much loved by Cinnabar Moth caterpillars (and the birds that eat them) but feared by horse owners (because if its toxicity to horses - ragwort, not caterpillar).

Great-crested Grebe and some Pochards - I think.

I think these are Pochards, Authya ferina; what do you think birders? There were lots in the pool below RSPB Dungeness, between the reserve and the power station (previously a gravel pit). If they are that is good; as they have been decline rapidly; and are now red conservation status in the UK.

Grey Herron, Ardea cinerea

Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea and two Little Egrets, Egretta garzetta

Great-crested Grebe and Pochards (?)

Mugging up on the identification characteristics of the megachile (leaf-cutter and mud bees) genus of solitary bees on the 8.02 train to Eastbourne for Rye. I see a lot if solitaries too. Bumbles are relatively easy to identify, except the cuckoos which are cleptoparasites. Solitary bees are really hard to identify; there are 275 British soecies. I'd be pleased to narrow a solitary bee down to its family e.g. plasterer, yellow-face, mining, end-banded furrow bees, base-banded furrow bees, blood bees, blunthorn bees, pantaloon bees (one my favourite solitary bee families), wool carders, dark bees, mason bees, leaf-cutter bees (another favourite), sharp-tailed bees, nomad bees, long-horned bees (just one species), and flower bees (funny name as all bees forage on flowers but they are neither bumbles or honey bees - look out for the Green-eyed Flower Bee in your garden - lovely bee, looks like it's wearing green sunglasses).



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