Mols Laboratory is part of the Natural History Museum from Aarhus, Denmark. It is situated in the midst of Mols Bjerge National Park and consists of the homestead Nedre Strandkær along with two student houses and adjoining land of 160 hectares where nature is protected following a specific plan. It takes over an hour to get there from where I live so I’ve reserved a weekend day, called a friend and went there to see what we can find. Here it’s supposed to be one of the few places in Denmark where dung beetles still carry their ‘’dirty’’ business so I’ve taken a stick and poked some cow droppings to find one but was not successful. Instead, we found some interesting birds and insects, I did not manage to properly photograph all of them but the diversity was indeed greater than in other typical Danish places. If you have such a place close to you I definitely encourage you to go, anyone can easily see the difference and what impact we have over biodiversity.
The insect diversity is the one that really stands out in this place, I’ve photographed here species that I’ve not seen in other places and seen many other that I did not manage to photograph.
A common species of hoverfly which apparently has no English name (Eupeodes corolla) was the one that welcomed us in the Mols territory. This one is mimicking a wasp to pretend to the enemies that it’s dangerous but in fact it is inoffensive. The larvae of this species feed on aphids so it was experimentally introduced in glasshouses and fruit plantations to control aphids but it was found feeding more on fruits than aphids.
A bunch of butterflies were flying around in search for the perfect flower that can give them their precious nectar. One of them was the Common Brimstone Butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) which is known as simply Brimstone butterfly on most of its range because of the lack of other members from its genus. G. rhamni is an easy to identify butterfly due to its leafy shapes and its yellow-green color. Actually, the Brimstone butterfly presents a sexual dichromism (difference in color between sexes) so the male has yellow wings and iridescence while females have green wings and are not iridescent. I’ve managed to photograph both sexes. Those variations are caused by a difference in structural and pigment components leading the light to fall in different ways causing the visualization of varying colors.
Walking around we were assaulted by fleets of mini helicopters flying frenetically through the forest’s paths. Too bad for us that they rarely stop to be admired, still, we found some that were probably fueling for their next flight. The Common Hawker (Aeshna juncea) was having a stop in the bushes, not a great setup for photography but I guess that posing for me was not in his top priorities. This is one of the larger species of hawker dragonflies which is also diverse in color variations. The only thing that can be found in both sexes is the yellow costa (the major vein along the leading edge of the wings). In order to avoid the males that want to breed, female’s hawkers fake their death and dive out of the sky.
Probably feeding, or just resting, we found the Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) or the European Skipper how it’s called in North America. The Essex Skipper is a diurnal species of butterfly that I’ve only seen once in Denmark being as far North as he usually gets. This species was accidentally introduced to North America in 1910 and has spread across southern Canada and some North US states. T. lineola caterpillars emerge in spring and feed until June and the adults fly from July through August.
In the meadow of this research area, on a beautiful flower, a day-flying moth was busy too like the rest of the insect kingdom. The Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae) is a beautiful but dangerous moth. It has dark metallic green wings with six vivid red spots announcing the potential predators that it’s toxic and when attacked it emits a liquid that contains cyanide. This beauty can be seen in July and August especially on sunny days and in the winter can only be found in the larval stage.
Before going home we passed a building with an old attic. With the tail of my eye, I’ve noticed movement in an opening; it was a Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) coming in and out of her nest. I did not manage to photograph the adult but I did manage to get some shots of this beautiful, fragile little baby birds. The national bird of Estonia, the Barn Swallow is the most widespread species of swallow and in some areas one of the most numerous ones. It usually builds its nest on man-made structures and due to its insect-eating habits it is was tolerated by people and in time many references to this bird were made in literary and religious work. They are very good protectors of their nests, mobbing any intruder that dares to come close to it, often flying very close to the threat. H. rustica has a great hatching success of 90%, a fledging survival rate of 70-90% and can live up to 11 years though most survive less than four years.
Here are some other species that I’ve managed to photograph: Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum), Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Eurasian Linnet (Linaria cannabina), Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus), Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and the Raven (Corvus corax).
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For all species found on my spotting adventures, take a look at INaturalist.
The gear that I’ve used for spotting and book used for identification, here.