Sea Aster Mining Bee

Today we were surveying a very long stretch of saltmarsh from Friskney Flats to Wainfleet, which was formerly used by the MOD as a bombing range. Before we could start we had to be given a briefing on unexploded ordnance, our third in the last few years! Basically, the advice boils down to not touching any suspicious objects and notifying the MOD or police if you see anything suspicious. Most of our work was from the sea bank, so actually very low risk.

We arrived on site a bit early so spent a bit of time watching a colony of Sea Aster Mining Bees, who like to nest in eroded areas of the sea bank. These look quite similar to the now well-known Ivy Bee, and are in the same genus, but they are totally dependent on Sea Aster as a source of pollen and nectar, and only occur along the coasts of the UK and north-western Europe. It is thought the UK holds about 90% of the world population of this rare species. So far we've found six colonies on our surveys.

The survey work went well, though the marsh was very flooded, following the highest spring tide of the year, which made it hard to distinguish eroded bare ground from natural pools. The downside of good weather was the enormous number of small but very voracious saltmarsh mosquitoes, brought out by the warm sunny conditions and unusual lack of wind.

Out on the mudflats it was wonderful to see huge flocks of swirling Knot, while on the seabank I spotted a couple of Redstart, so a couple of additional species to add to my somewhat depauperate year list. Never mind, there's still four months to go...

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