Walking the Tyne: Wylam to Prudhoe

A sunny Friday off work recently provided the perfect chance to explore yet another stretch of River Tyne.

Starting out from Wylam, and slight detour found me heading first for the small Northumberland Wildlife Trust reserve at Close House Riverside. An intersting little site, widely known for its myriad rare plants but also a pretty good place to catch up with a range of intriguing insects.

Here, it was the bankside woodland that drew addition first, sunnier glades holding a good number of hoverflies including Myathropa florea and Epistrophe eligans. More interesting was a peculiar looking fly with a vibrant orange abdomen, Xylota segnis.

Here too Common Blue Damselflies were numerous and a small area of Common Nettle held lots of lovely Nettle-tap moths, alongside a numer of striking Tachina fera. Bumblebees included Small Garden, Common Carder and White-tailed.

Reaching the reserve itself, the footpath was pitted with an extraordinary numer of small burrows. Mining bees, or so I thought at first, though closer inspection revealed an impressive number of digger waps. The culprit was later revealed to be Crabro peltarius. Another, far larger and more vibrant wasp spotted nearby turned out to be Field Digger Wasp.

I did eventually find some bees too, though not as many as I’d hoped for. A closer look at a portion of the sandy riverbank revealing a number of Ashy Mining Bees, alongside their cuckoo, Lathbury’s Nomad Bee – a new species for me!

Gooden’s Nomad Bee was also encountered and a blood bee of some description was admired as it inspected the burrows of its chosen target.

Blood Bee, Sphecodes sp.

Departing Close House, I soon set off on the fairly short walk between Wylam and Prudhoe, quickly making it to Hagg Pond and moving on to the nearby riverside meadows. Here, colour abounded with the Germander Speedwell, Meadow Buttercup and Red Campion in full bloom. A closer look at the flora here yielded Wood Crane’s-bill, a number of Northern Marsh Orchid and rather oddly, a stand of Siberian Iris. Not a species I have encountered in the wild before but definitely rather beautiful.

Insects here included more Common Blue and Large Red Damselflies, Comma, Green-veined White and many Early Bumblebees but by this point, it had clouded over and most insects opted to perform a vanishing act.

Finally reaching the Spetchells, it was nice to see the place awash with colour – a welcome change from our visit a few weeks back. Here the Columbines were in full swing, with blooms ranging from a somewhat natural purple to various shades of pale pink and white. Many of the latter were also double-petaled, highlighting clearly their garden origin.

Here too, Wild Pansy was nice to see and the various orchids that adorn the site were coming into their own. Northern Marsh Orchid was by far the most numerous; though a few Common Spotted Orchid were also found.

Making the most of the abundant blooms, a number of Dingy Skipper were seen here too, including the individual below whose tattered wings suggested it may have recently evaded capture by a bird.

Bee numbers at the Spetchells had dropped considerably since their peak earlier in spring, though Buffish Mining Bees were still the most numerous. On this occasion, most were found feeding on the small blooms of Cotoneaster horizontalis – an invasive species here.

Gooden’s Nomad Bee remained numerous here, and a few Ashy Mining Bee were also encountered. Surprisingly, only a single Dark-edged Bee-fly was noticed.

The jewel-like weevil shown below proved a fitting way to end what turned out to be an interesting and fairly productive walk. Taking the picture, I had assumed it would be fairly straightforward to identify something so vibrant and green. It transpires that is definitely not the case, and the best I can do is one of the Phyllobius group.

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