It begins

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Photos of early hoverflies and solitary bees have been turning up on Facebook for the past few days; so early this afternoon I dusted off the macro lens, applied it to the 5D and went out hunting bugs. There’s very little in flower at the moment in my garden, other than hellebores, crocuses and a mahonia, but the celandines, wallflowers and pulmonarias are also coming into bloom so the season is definitely beginning.

My haul today largely consisted of honey bees, bickering over possession of the best hellebores, but I did find one Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) – which excited me so much that all my photos of her were out of focus. And then, on a second pass through the garden, I spotted two Drone flies (Eristalis tenax) and this Marmalade fly (Episyrphus balteatus) feeding on the scruffy viburnum by the garage. I especially like the Marmalade fly because her colouring is so dramatic – later specimens will be much paler than this, and the silver overlay on the black stripes will be less visible.

It’s a mark of how my bug hunting skills fall away through a long winter that I had to check my hoverfly book this evening to be sure that this was definitely E. balteatus – she seemed so terribly small that I had no confidence in my initial identification. But past experience tells me that within a few weeks I’ll have my eye back in, and I’ll be searching out tiny Bacchini hoverflies and sweat bees – and these graceful little Marmalade flies will have come to seem big and clumsy.

There are a handful of other shots from today here. And if you have the time, this one looks much better full-screen.