Monday, 14 October 2019

Spider in the house !

To be more precise, its a spider or two under the conservatory roof, throughout the long summer months I have watched the spiders spin their webs along the eaves of the conservatory, happy to leave them to do their best at removing unwanted flies and such, that have made their way into the house.

One in particular, that lives in a crack at the corner of the roof has grown to a fair size, probably a female, also very wary as she scurries back to her lair at speed as soon as she detects my presence.

I've noticed that during a particularly heavy rainstorm, the raindrops hitting the glass roof tends to bring out the spiders from their hiding places. on this occasion I thought I would try and get a photograph and identify the large female that keeps catching my eye.

And here she is, presuming she is a "she" ,  I suspected this might be one of those False Widow spiders that keep making the news, a look through my Spider field book at the possibilities narrowed it down to the  Steatoda nobilis  or Noble False Widow, later confirmed by the UK spiders on Facebook.

I was particularly pleased with this find having never seen one before, a bit of research revealed that the females are much larger than the males and can reach a size of 2 to 3 cm which is very close to the size of ours. ( I,m taking this measurement covering the spread of her legs) so a female she is. The males being much smaller.
The pale marking around the front of the body is another indicator of Noble False Widow , its also said that the marking on the body sometimes resembles a skull, not on this one though.

Steatoda nobilis Noble False Widow
A few more images of the female.

As I mentioned before several other smaller spiders also living around the conservatory roof but much smaller and looking at the markings on the body are also Noble False Widows probably males.

Possible male Noble false Widow and hoverfly prey

I was initially a bit wary of  these spiders considering the scare stories that newspapers have reported in the past but it seems to be that there bite is no worse than a Bee sting,  and they scurry away as soon as they detect your presence so for the moment there safe to lead there short lives in peace, as long as they stay out of harms way.

Here's another spider taken up residence outside the house, the common garden or White Cross Spider. nothing to worry about with this one, unless you're a Mayfly !

Araneus diadematus Garden Spider and Mayfly prey.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Last of the summer Butterflies !

 The Clouded Yellow is usally my last sought after butterfly of the year, with just one sighting seen last year at Rainham Marshes in Essex. This year I was hoping to see some in Kent.

September, and several reports of Clouded Yellows at Oare Marshes caught my attention, I couldn't resist a visit, but after a long walk down the Swale towards Uplees in some sunny but probably to windy conditions brought no sightings.
 I walked around the East Flood not really expecting to see any now, until a bright yellow butterfly flew up from the path ahead, catching me by surprise, but typically it did not linger and disappeared across the inaccessible meadows next to the flood, but a sighting nevertheless.

 No more sightings for me here which was disappointing, a brief view and no photograph.

I was given some information by another butterfly enthusiast from 'Facebook' on a possibly good location to see Clouded Yellows and also the Wall Brown another butterfly I struggle to see well.

The location , Cliffe Pools, a site quite close to where I live, but a vast area to look for butterflies but worth a try.

As I walked from the car park down towards the river wall butterflies started to appear, mainly Small White and a few Small Heath, but expectantly a few Clouded Yellows started to appear , all very restless and none settling.

Small White

Small Heath

 I passed the Flamingo Pool, as it was named in my bird watching days from years gone by and walked towards the river wall. My first of many sightings of the Wall Brown started to appear, more than I have ever seen before.

Worn Wall Brown female

male Wall Brown

The embankment behind the river wall was alive with butterflies,  Small White the most numerous, Large White, Wall Brown,  a very worn Painted Lady, a very fresh Small Tortoiseshell, Brown Argus, Common Blue, Small Copper and finally a few Clouded Yellow, with just one settling for a photograph.

Clouded Yellow

Small Tortoiseshell
Brown Argus

Small Copper

Common Blue female

One last surprise sighting were these small Bees , It seemed to me at the time were making a higher pitch  hum than the usual carder bees seen. I was thinking  maybe a Shrill Carder Bee but having never seen one before I wasn't' sure.
I managed a couple of photographs and after an I.D. request discovered that they were in fact Brown Banded Carder Bee's also quite scarce, so nice to see.

Brown Banded Carder Bee    Bombus Humilis

A successful days wildlife watching, Clouded Yellow, Wall Brown and the Brown Banded Carder Bee best sightings of the day.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Valerian and the Hawkmoth !

 Some late summer memories.

Sitting in the garden as I often  seem to do these days, with plenty of time on my hands, I'm always on the lookout for a wildlife encounter, on just such an occasion, what I thought was a large Bumble bee of sorts, caught my eye, it was investigating a tub of Verbena that had been placed by my pond,
suddenly a 'eureka' moment struck me, this was no Bumbleblebee but a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, I nearly fell out of my swinging chair, where was my camera when I needed it, I rushed indoors and grabbed my camera, the Hummingbird Hawkmoth was nowhere to be seen on my return.

 As I sat back down, I could see that the Hummingbird Hawkmoth had discovered my clump of Valerian further down the garden which I had grown for just such an occasion.

This time  I thought I would watch for a time and try and get a photograph later as it happily hovered around the Valerian flowers in a typical Hummingbird fashion.

What a stunning day-flying moth this was, I took a few photographs as you can imagine, most of which were out of focus, trickly moth to capture as they move from flower to flower, but I did manage a couple of photographs, some showing the long proboscis.

I caught sight of this Hawkmoth  on two more occasions the following day, and then no more.

I think planting the Valerian was a huge success, which I may now move some around the garden,
in the hope for more sightings next year.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Sunday, 22 September 2019

New Skipper !

Well a new Skipper for me !

With the weather not so good at the moment it's time to catch up and record some of my recent sightings.

I set myself a few targets this year, in the world of Butterflies I had set my sights on trying to see the Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Heath Fritillary and the Silver Spotted skipper, all of which I have been fortunate to observe in the field this year.

Queensdown Warren in Kent was the place to head for to see the Silver Spotted Skipper, and as the optimum time to see these approached, end of July through to August I made my first visit to the site.

A Warm sunny day with plenty of Butterflies to view, my first  couple of Silver Spotted Skippers were seen, but with some difficulty ,very fast darting flight low across the grasses. not to many to be seen probably as they were at the early stages of there flight  period. Just managed one photograph to record this first sighting.

My second visit  a few weeks later 13th August, and what a difference  a few weeks make, the Skippers seemed to be everywhere enjoying the sunshine giving good views of all their features. still flying  low and very fast but I seemed to be able to keep my eye on them this time , and once they settled there was plenty of opportunity to get some photographs.

 I have now managed to see several Skippers now, just one sighting of a Dingy Skipper, several Essex Skippers, Small Skipper and Large Skipper next year I hope to try and catch up with the Chequered Skipper.

My wanted list for nest year stands like this at the moment :-
Chequered Skipper, Purple Emperor Butterfly, Long Tailed Blue which seems to be making a stand here in Kent at the moment, maybe the Glanville Fritillary which resides very close to the Kent border, a few more sightings of the various Hairstreaks would also be nice.

What I have learnt this year is that if I want to see new species previously unseen, I need to make the effort and search for them in their favoured haunts, we will see what  next season brings.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

" Long time coming .... "

One of my garden wildlife highlights this year has been the discovery that my long forgotten  ' Bee Hotel/houses'  has finally got some occupants, its been nearly two years since I placed these in the garden after noticing the tell tale semi-circular cut outs on my Rose leafs.

I have heard it said that these little insect house's are not very successful, but mine has certainly found favour with the local leaf cutters this year.

These are the the two insect houses , as you can see some of the cells have been capped off with leaf sections.

I have obviously found a position to their liking.

The next stage was to find out what species of leaf cutter was using the boxes.

Finally caught sight of a bee entering the box, closely followed by more Bee's entering the cells .
As I patiently waited close by I soon noticed the Bee's coming in with some leaf sections.

I just needed a photograph now and an identification.

Finally got some good views as they flew into the house, they do not hang around and soon disappear into the cells.

These turned out to be one of the commonest garden leaf cutters,  commonly known as the patchwork leaf-cutter or (Megachile centuncularis).

Common or not I was really pleased that the Bee's were finally using the insect house, in the end eight cells out of twenty four have been used in one house, and three in the other.

 Patchwork leaf-cutter (Megachile centuncularis).

These Leaf cutter Bee's have a yellow pollen brush under there abdomen which can be clearly seen in some of these images.

I tried to get a photograph as they flew in towards the house, but they come in quite fast and hard to get a focus on them. this is the closest I got.

Quite fascinating to watch as they seal the exterior of the cell, will be interesting to take a look later at the completed cells, later in the winter.

Update - I have noticed a couple of the cell caps have been removed, probably by the local Tits looking for a meal.

 I read that sometimes the Leafcutter Bees leave these last cells empty to combat the birds attentions.

The moral here is not to give up on your Bee houses, just find that perfect location.

Monday, 26 August 2019

More of the Blues !

The Chalkland Blue,  as its name suggests a chalk grassland speciality and another Butterfly that I seemed to have overlooked. I have been waiting several weeks now for this species to show itself, and finally at Queensdown Warren they appeared, this apparently one of there favoured localities, usally making an appearance in the last weeks of July.

Male Chalkhill Blue

They like the short grasslands of this old rabbit warren site, set on a south facing hillside. I had managed to see the Adonis Blue at this same site earlier this year, this Chalkhill Blue is much the same size although much paler in colour and those distinctive black borders give it a very attractive look. I took so many photographs it's hard to know which to post but here are some of my favourite shots.

Male and female mating pair Chalkhill Blue
worn Male & female Chalkhill Blue

This is my third new species of Butterfly this season, very happy to see this one, not particularly rare, just need to go the right habitat at the right time.