Spider hunting.

Today I went on a spider hunt in our local fields, there were less flying insects as most of the thistles are now over although the wild mint is still in flower in the boggy areas which seemed to be a magnet for hover-flies and bees.

I spotted a Nursery web spider and was pleased with today’s pictures which gives a insight into the spiders life cycle.

Nest tent/web.

They are relatively large, slender-bodied spider, which is fairly common spider. Found on grassland and scrub, and is often seen on plant leaves such as Brambles or Stinging Nettles.

Nursery web spiders do not spin a web to catch food, but wait for passing flies and other insects which they rush in and catch

The male will lay still pretending to be dead – the female seeing him as food investigates then male will suddenly jump up and mate with her. A dangerous game if he gets the timing wrong!

The pregnant female carries around her large egg-sac in her fangs. When the young are about to hatch, she builds a silk sheet among the vegetation to act as a tent, sheltering them she guards her young until they are old enough to live on their own.

Guarding the tent and below you can see the baby spider safe inside.

Back to nature.

After 3 days away in the campervan this morning it was back to our local patch to collect the trail cameras which had been set for the past week and a nature walk across the wet meadows.

Having seen my 1st Wasp Spider last year and it being the only one. This year they keep coming with a record 12 in one day. Like all things in the wild once you understand how they behave you can get a window into their world. The Wasp Spider diet locally seems to be Grasshoppers and Crickets. Find the area with the most grasshopper and you find the spiders. They build their webs about 2 foot off the ground which is strong enough to hold a Grasshopper with its powerful rear legs. Once caught the spider quickly drops and wraps up it meal.

I have only seen female Wasp Spider’s the male is smaller and less colourful.

The season is definitely shifting grasses are over and turning brown. In the fields farmers are starting to cut the hay.

Trail camera footage this week familiar Roe deer family.

Another good looking spider. A female Orb-weaver. (Neoscona adianta).

An unusual spider with two humps on the body. An Angular Cobwebs spider (Araneus angulatus) this is listed as a rare spider found in southern england. Another 1st for me.

Not a bee but a fly a Tiger Hoverfly.

Lime Hawk moth Caterpillar.

Havestman. Not a spider but Opiliones (formerly Phalangida) are an order of arachnids commonly known as harvestmen. Many have very long legs!

Muntjac +

Ditch camera collected again this morning with another week a nice surprise capturing a first female Muntjac deer. (1st male recorded in May). A small deer about the size of a larger fox, they were introduced into the UK at Woburn Park in Bedfordshire at the start of the 20th century. They soon spread and are common in some areas of the South.

Length: 77-91cm
Shoulder height: 45-52cm
Weight: 10-17kg
Average lifespan: 10-13 years

The rabbit gives a size comparison with the Muntjac deer .

Roebuck. As we approach the Roe deer rut the bucks are looking their best!

Song Thrush fledgling.

Fields of plenty.

Another local walk to keep within our lockdown restriction. Although this Pandemic is getting to me and it still seems a long way before life will return to any sort of normal walking and enjoying the environment remains a lifesaver.

Garden Squirrel

Female Blackbird enjoying Red Crab Apples.

Walking across what we call the horse field today it seemed wise to keep to the edge of the field has the horses were running wild!

One of the trail cameras caught the Roe deer family mum and twins.

To the Woods!

Boxing day & Hampshire is back in full Lockdown but individuals with one other are able to undertake daily exercise from home. So without my running shoes and jogging suit I took my 1st day of Tier 4 lockdown into the local fields and woodland for my exercise. A dark dull day with threats of storm Bella coming in in the next few hours but I am sure my exercise did some good to body and soul.

Roe deer abundant in their usual fields.

Step back in time.

Due to the very wet weather over the week end and restrictions due to lockdowns I spent most of the weekend inside. I scanned many old pre-digital holiday photographs into digital format to save on computer memory and to back up in a number of places. I came across some working farm black and white photographs which I have posted below.

In the mid1980’s we picked up a leaflet in the tourist information office in St David’s Pembrokeshire. It was to visit a working farm in the Preseli hills it had no tractors and was farmed totally by Shire Horses the way it had always been done there.

We visited the next day at the set time to see the horses working the land. No road signs just a small map on the leaflet to find the farm. This was no theme park, set up for the growing tourist trade in Wales this was a true way of life. Hill farming the old way. We were met by the farmer who took us to a muddy farmyard he told us about his farm and his way of life after paying him a couple of £’s. No electricity, water from the spring pump, it was like stepping back 100 years.

He harnessed his horses and the group of about 10 visitor walked with him and his team of horses to the hillside field where he attached a harrow a started on the task of working the sloping field.

Soon the visit was over a glimpse of a past way of life was over. Sadly I only now have 3 pictures of this experance,

A couple years later returning to Wales the farm was on top of the list to visit again no longer having the leaflet we returned to the tourist information office at St David’s only to be told they no longer endorsed the farm for visitors and had no leaflets. Asking why I was told, they had many complaints from visitors?

This visit was the best working farm I had ever visited and remains so to this day some 35y ears later but the complains stopped people seeing this true gem and step back it time.

Complaints – the farmyard was too muddy, no toilet facilities, no gift shop, no tea room.