Scientific Illustrator out & about: Pembrokeshire coast animals 18th July 2014

Story posted: Friday, 18. July 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Last week I discussed some of the flower and plant treats available to a botanical illustrator on a weekend trip to Pembrokeshire

This week it’s the turn of the animals.

Bosherston beach, pembs

Bosherston beach, Stackpole, Pembrokeshire

The first treat, on a sandy path facing the sun, were Green tiger beetles (Cicindela campestris).  I love these fierce animals; each scuttling at high speed, hunting like the ferocious predators they are, patrolling their stretch of bare earth.

Lizzie Harper entomological illustration of tiger beetle

Green tiger beetle (Cicindela campestris)

I was blown away by a beetle I’ve not really noticed before, although there seemed to be one in every hawksbit flower I looked at.  Extraordinary metallic green, with swollen femurs, and wing cases that taper and don’t fully meet; showing a glimpse of the flying wings below.

Lizzie Harper photo of swollen thighed beetle

Swollen leg beetle (Oncomera nobilis)

Turns out it’s an animal called the Swollen leg Beetle (but of course); or Oedemera nobilis.  Note the “Oedema” or swelling in the latin name…  I shall DEFINITELY be painting this beetle in the near future.

There were ladybirds galore in the patches of saxifrage, and on the red campion.  This one’s a seven-spot (Coccinella 7-punctata), but I also saw the two-spot (Adalia bipunctata).

Lizzie Harper natural history illustration of 7 spot ladybird

Seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata)

I saw an abundance of baby grasshoppers and crickets amongst the grasses on the dunes; and, a long way from any water, a lone Common blue damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) amongst the bracken.

Lizzie Harper natural history illustration of common blue damselfly

Common blue damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)

Andy (my long-suffering other half) claimed he saw the flash of a slow worm (Anguis fragilis) as it twisted across the path.


Lizzie Harper natural science illustration of slow worm

Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)

Many people go to Pembrokeshire for the coastal birds, and with good reason.  Just a short boat ride across the sea lies Skomer island where hundreds of puffins, shearwaters, cormorant, and guillemots nest.  Grassholm, also close, has the third largest colony of gannets in the UK, over 39,000 breeding pairs.  Even on the cliffs of the mainland we saw rafts of razorbills, and pairs crammed onto their nests, precarious on stony ridges above the sea below.  I saw my first pair of choughs!  Delighted.

The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path is a also a great hunting ground for butterflies; I spotted Large whites (Pieris brassicae), a beaten up Peacock butterfly (Inachis io) which had certainly survived the winter in hibernation, a Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta), a Wall Brown butterfly (Lasiommata megera), the Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus), Small tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae), and the beautiful Common blue (Polyommatus icarus).

Lizzie Harper natural science illustration of common blue butterfly

Common blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus)

Burnet moths (Zygaena filipendulae) fluttered amongst the dunes, and the beautiful Speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) was ubiquitous.

Lizzie Harper entomological illustration of speckled wood butterfly

Speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria)

Butterfly Conservation have produced an identification chart of some of the 28 species recorded here; and even refer to it as the “Butterfly Coast”.  This one was a common species in a hay meadow a little further inland.

Lizzie Harper entomological illustration of small copper butterfly

Small copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas)

My favourite wildlife spot though, has to be the bumble-bee mimic, Volucella bombylans.  This hoverfly was busy pretending to be a bee; the form V. bombylans bombylans mimics the red-tailed bumble while V. bombylans plumata has a white abdomen and closely resembles the white-tailed bumble bee.  Again, another animal to paint.

Photo of bee mimic v bombylans plumata Lizzie Harper

Hoverfly (Volucella bombylans v. plumata)

Lizzie Harper scientific illustration of white tailed bumble bee

White tailed bumbe-bee (Bombus lucorum) for comparsion (also abundant along the route).

It was such a happy day; wandering amongst the flowers and wildlife in the sun and the wind.  If anyone is looking for a dramatic, almost empty, gorgeous place to visit; that is peppered with wildlife and beauty, look no further.  The Pembrokeshire Coastal path awaits you….

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