Wheatears on the Moor Walk—and a mystery beetle

A glorious blue sky with a brisk, slightly chilly WNW wind. I immediately abandoned plans to go shopping in Manchester and headed up on to the moor.

At the stile leading on to the moor proper, I startled a group of five red grouse. They flew off downhill in panicky formation, low above the purple-turning heather. Good practice for this coming Friday: the so-called Glorious Twelfth.

At the stile just before the big shed, I was joined by three wheatears, which were hunting for flies in the lee of the wall. As always with wheatears, they were sufficiently trusting to come fairly close, but sufficiently wary to avoid coming quite close enough. They always kept about 15 yards in front of me, flitting quickly into the heather after flies, as I walked slowly towards them.

Wheatear
A wheatear hunting for flies.

There were more harebells as I came down the track off the moor. I managed to get a half-decent photo this time:

Bluebells
Bluebells.

I also spotted some of the tiny, iridescent green beetles in the tree willow at the side of the lane:

Mystery beetle
Mystery beetle (now probably identified—see comments).

They always seem to be in that one tree, eating the leaves. I'll find out what they are one day, no doubt. Earlier this year, I thought the tree had died, but its upper twigs are now covered in leaves. But there are no leaves on its lower branches. I wonder if the beetles are to blame.

More photos »

2 thoughts on “Wheatears on the Moor Walk—and a mystery beetle

  1. Have you thought about putting your beetle picture onto the 'ispot' website? Someone is bound to know what it is on there.

    We see Wheatears here in Sweden while walking back and forth to John's office (in the centre of Kista - Science city), they sit on a wire fence and watch you walk by but again from about the same distance that you mentioned.

  2. Funny, I used the special iSpot Bayesian keys facility yesterday to try to identify the beetle. It ended up telling me that it was probably a beetle! My next step was going to be to create an iSpot account and submit the photo. My problem is that I'm still trying to work out what sort of tree the beetles are on (which I suspect will be a good clue to the beetle). I'm not very good at trees! I looked the leaves up in a tree book yesterday, but without any joy. Beech seemed the closest, but I was pretty sure it wasn't a beech.

    Having just had another look, I strongly suspect that the tree one of the varieties of grey or (more likely) goat (pussy) willow. A quick bit of Googling has now convinced me that I am dealing with an aptly named leaf beetle, of which there are 216 species in Britain! It's very like the one depicted in this Guardian piece, but, as the piece describes the beetle as rare and found in only about four UK sites, somehow I doubt it! But the net is definitely closing!

    Next step, a cup of tea, do the shopping, then more research on leaf beetles! I could develop an inordinate fondness for them.

    Postscript: After a bit more research, it's looking more and more as if Plagiodera versicolora is our beast! And, yes, it almost certainly is responsible for the tree's having so few leaves!

Leave a Reply