And the weather today is…?

150627 Blashford5 by Jim Day_resize

According to folklore spiders can predict the weather – if spiders build their webs higher than usual (or if they spin overly large webs) rain can be expected. Not sure what it means if a spider spins a web inside a thermometer, but I’m sure it must mean something!

Todays event was “Catch a bug”, which got off to a good start with a good haul of moths in the light trap – nothing of note, but cinnabar moths, elephant, eyed and poplar hawk moths and buff tip, amongst others, are always going to be a hit! Over in the meadow again there was nothing of particular note but a good range of insects, spiders, beetles, grasshoppers, bugs and caterpillars were enjoyed by all.

Elephant hawkmoth

Elephant hawkmoth

We’ve spent a lot of time in the meadow with children from Queens Park Infant School this week and it is amazing how much it has changed in just those few days – the grass is now an awful lot more yellow than green and many of the plants that were flowers at the start of the week are already starting to seed. Another remarkable observation from this week has been the growth of the emperor moth caterpillars that we have been rearing from eggs found in the light trap, following the predation of a gravid female a few weeks ago. Pictured below as they are today at about 5 cm long, they were barely 1cm long at the start of the week!

150627 caterpillars 1 by Jim Day_resize

While I have been “bug” hunting today, John Coombes was in the classroom leading the third of four of his very popular summer photography courses and while out an about putting theory into practice one of the students spotted this mullein moth caterpillar – the first I’ve seen this year, although by its size it has been over-looked for a few days at least!

Mullein moth caterpillar - oops forgot to rotate it...

Mullein moth caterpillar – oops forgot to rotate it…

The dock plants around the nature reserve and in particular the centre/Woodland/Ivy North Hide area are looking particularly “moth eaten” again, as they do every year – not however as the result of moths, but rather the voracious appetites (and sheer numbers!) of dock beetle and their larvae:

Dock beetle - adult

Dock beetle – adult

Dock beetle - larvae

Dock beetle – larvae

Elsewhere on the reserve grass snakes are still a regular sight – you can come across them anywhere, but Ivy South Hide is a reliable spot and the reptiles there are now very well photographed! Russ Tofts sent this image in – you can see the cast to one of the two snakes eyes that is indicative that it is about to slough its skin:

Grass snakes by Russ Tofts

Grass snakes by Russ Tofts

Less well photographed, but being enjoyed equally as much (actually given the poor reputation of snakes even with some of our visitors, who, lets face it, should be more enlightened, probably enjoyed more!) are the bullfinches with pairs around the Woodland Hide and Centre as well as over by the main car park/Tern Hide. Thanks to David Cuddon for sending in this picture of a male at the feeder (albeit a while ago – sorry it took so long David!):

Bullfinch by David Cuddon

Bullfinch by David Cuddon

Finally two oystercatcher chicks have been faring well near Tern Hide all week – until today when I could only see one. Hopefully the other was out of sight behind the vegetation and bank the birds I could see were in front of…

Waders have done well this year – the two fledged little ringed plover chicks and their parents are still regulars around the hide, as of course are the lapwings. This picture, sent in by Colin Raymond, shows off a lapwings colourful green plumage very well:

Lapwing by Colin Raymond

Lapwing by Colin Raymond




2 thoughts on “And the weather today is…?

  1. One regular visitor here trying very hard to be more enlightened over the snakes – at least I don’t shudder when I type the word now but am equally overjoyed that I am probably the only person on the reserve who hasn’t seen one yet (touch wood)!


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