Sparrows, Spiders and Earwigs

While the sun of last weekend did bring butterflies, insects and (maybe) a last barbecue of the summer, the weather is now turned wet and windy, and the leaves are starting to turn. Bird-wise the last 2 house martins were still over the house this morning, but Chiffchaffs joining the tit flock and the first Lesser Redpoll mean Autumn has arrived. On my Garden Birdwatch, which I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, I’ve had my first ever sparrow-less weeks, as the usually-resident House Sparrows have gone - presumably they will be back though, after a short stay-cation out in the hedgerows.

Other signs of Autumn moving on are the craneflies appearing in the house most evenings and spiders, like the European Garden Spider (or Cross Spider) and this this lovely False Widow found in my sons Wellington boot. Pruning back shrubs in the garden, this pair of earwigs needed re-housing, but in general, apart from spiders, insects are few; though there are still plenty of snails & slugs..

Colour-changing Spider - Misumena vatia

This is a cool but freaky-looking spider that’s caught itself a big meal. The White Crab Spider (Misumena vatia, #480) can change its colour depending on the flower it is on. It hides on the flower pouncing on any unsuspecting insect and grabbing it with its strong front legs. It may not be able to do blue - not that it seems to have mattered much in this case - but like a chameleon it can change its colour from white to yellow or green in order to blend in. In the US it is called the Golden Rod Spider as it’s commonly found, coloured yellow, on Golden Rod later in the summer when this in flower and covered in pollinating insects. It’s not such a common species in UK, only found in the South of England, so I’m happy to have found one in my garden.

#480 Flower Crab Spider (Misumena vatia)

#480 Flower Crab Spider (Misumena vatia)

Easter Pick & Mix

A bit of a mixed bag around the garden today, with Chocolate Mining Bee (Andrena scotica, 459) adding to the medley of mining bees that are present at the moment. A few Amara ground. beetles were to be seen in the sunshine; this one appears like a Common Sun Beetle (Amara aenea). Next a couple of spiders. Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus, #460) is usually a common enough species of jumping spider, but I didn’t find one last summer, so it was nice to catch this one in the sunshine by the front door. The not-so-long-legged harvestman is Phalangium opilio (#461); found while doing some gardening,

Spring Cleaning

Tidying out the shed this weekend didn’t turn up as many bugs as I was expecting. The shed starts to be quite rotten, especially around the base, so there is a lot of entry points for all kinds of creature to crawl in through. In the event though, apart from a few spiders and hibernating mosquitoes, there wasn’t so much to keep me from my spring cleaning. The spiders were mostly Black Lace Weavers (Amaurobius ferox, #103); I’m not sure where the other big spiders present back in the Autumn were hiding themselves. The mosquitoes, which were plentiful, were Common House Mosquito / House Gnat (Culex pipiens, #332). Happily neither one of them bites people much.

Elsewhere I disturbed a couple of toads that were getting intimate in the log store and found these primroses (Primula vularis), which were new for the list (#422)

Spider's Breakfast

A busy morning for the local spiders.  The European Garden Spider (aka Cross Spider) in the tomato plants was having Marmalade Hoverfly for breakfast.  Meanwhile a Noble False Widow spider living in a gap in the wall was immobilising a Common Wasp that had got snared in its web.  The diversity of insects seems to be declining as summer progresses, but spiders and wasps are more and more apparent.  We even had a visit from a very impressive European Hornet yesterday - a first this summer - too much of a wimp to get a decent photo, I’m afraid.