Rural Reading - Time of plenty for insect loversBy Adrian Lawson
June 05, 2009
All of a sudden the air is filled with insects, which is a mixed blessing. Last night in Prospect Park, as the sun set, huge stag beetles took to the air.
They flew ponderously over the meadows – a great delight to me but the group of teenagers sitting nearby were not so impressed, shrieking in horror as they saw them approaching.
Higher up noctule bats swooped on smaller insects. I couldn’t see what but they were busily feeding high in the skies above me, probably on smaller beetles. A few moments later as dusk set in the shadowy shapes of pipistrelles flitted among the trees and daubentons flew low over the pond, all gorging on the countless flies.
Earlier that day I had witnessed mayflies hatching from the Kennet, beautiful insects emerging from crude looking nymphs to fly splendidly over the water, dipping on to it to lay eggs and occasionally vanishing in a swirl as a fish grabbed them from beneath.
Swallows zoomed along a mere foot or so above the water filling their beaks with insects and, nearby, a pair of grey wagtails collected stone flies as they hopped about by the canal.
They would occasionally fly out over the water and snatch an emerging insect to add to the masses held in their beak, before vanishing into the undergrowth to feed their young.
Swifts, too, trawled for insects but as high as the noctule bats and even higher from time to time. They appeared to attract one of the best avian predators, the hobby, but after watching them for a while I could clearly see the hobbies were catching damselflies.
The swifts knew they were not the prey this time so got on with feeding and these two mortal enemies co-existed in peace for a while.