August sightings 2018

On August 10th after two full months of drought, there was rain at last, a couple of inches altogether over a week. The vegetation has responded vigorously, nettles sprouting anew and the grass green again.

I am constantly amazed by the variety of wildlife reported to us – many thanks to everyone! It seems to have been a good (or perhaps bad?) year for bats. A dead Pipistrelle in my kitchen was followed by an email from a neighbour, saying she had found a dead bat in the house too. However, the accompanying photo showed the most enormous ears and it turned out to be a Brown Long-eared Bat – equally tiny, but the ears almost as long as the body. Mo also reported some from Trumpington : they are reasonably common but new to me.

Brown Long-eared Bat Olwen Williams

Red Underwing Moths have been abundant : Peter found this one indoors and released it outside. Duncan also noted Old Lady and Vine’s Rustic Moths. Paul’s micromoths have become too numerous to comment on, but he has promised a moth blog sometime!

Red Underwing Moth Peter Woodsford

Liza reported three Oak Bush Crickets in Alpha Rd.  Until the last three years, they had been regular since 1981,  often coming into the house on warm nights when windows are open. She was very pleased to see them again.

On August 13th, Colin, “Woke to see a Fox moseying around in the bushes a few yards outside my window. Rather small and dowdy with a bushless tail.” Then on August 14th, “Different fox this morning (5.36am) – bigger and silvery-bushy-tailed lolloping across my lawn. We’re infested!” (West Chesterton)

We have been doing a survey of the College Gardens and on a visit to Queens, Duncan was introduced to a huge Chichester Elm Tree. Propagated by Gilbert White’s brother in 1770 it is undoubtedly one of the largest surviving elms in the country. Steve Tyrell, the head gardener, is standing by the trunk.

Chichester Elm Queen’s College Duncan McKay

From huge to tiny – weeds flourish even in the city centre! Valerian Verbena officinalis grows beside John Lewis in Downing St and there is Gallant Soldier Galinsoga parviflora (a small-flowered daisy family plant) in several locations including Mud Lane (off Parkside) and on Trumpington Road alongside the Botanic Garden.

Along Cherry Hinton Brook, there have been two reports of a Kingfisher and several sightings of Water Vole. Still on a watery theme, Colin reports swimming at the Newnham Riverside Club (balmy at 19 degrees, as it has been for much of the summer). However, at the top of the steps he saw a floating dead Fish, about four inches long and lying on its side, quite motionless. Not liking the idea of it rotting in the river, he dipped his hand in to hoick it out, when it suddenly sprang to life, wriggled free and disappeared into the depths. What, he asks, was it doing – sun-bathing? My reply was that I had no idea! Any suggestions welcome! However, while I was talking to a lady by the learners pool, her daughter brought a dead Wasp which she had fished out of the pool with a net. I picked it up, inspected it, showed it to them and put it in the top of my thermos for proper Id at home. When I opened the top, a perfectly alive-and-well wasp walked off along the counter. Colin’s comment, “I must introduce your wasp to my fish – they are clearly soul-mates!”

Paul writes, “Late August is a great time to look for spiders. Many species have reached maturity and males can be found roaming around looking for a mate. Lots of spiders hide away during the daytime, so a night time search of your garden is likely to throw up species you never knew you had. Here are a few I found in my garden recently.”

A male Zygiella x-notata was found courting a female who had made her home at the base of a bird feeder. These spiders make very distinctive webs, very similar to the familiar common garden spiders webs, but with a triangular section missing (which is why they are called Missing Section orb web spiders).

Male and female Zygiella x-notata  Paul Rule

Nuctenea umbratica (Walnut Orb-weaver Spider) spends the day hiding in any convenient crevice. This one is living under the window frame of the shed.

Nuctenea umbratica Paul Rule

This Pholcus phalangioides  (Daddy long legs spider) was found on the outside of the shed, but they are mainly found indoors and responsible for most of the webs found on your walls. Despite the webs they are good to have around as they eat insect pests.

Pholcus phalangioides  Paul Rule

And finally, a couple of really beautiful spiders! A Big Butterfly Count at the end of July turned up a Cucumber Green Orb-weaver (Araniella cucurbitina) in the Meadow of British Antarctic Survey site.

Cucumber Green Orb-weaver Spider

Then this amazing Wasp Spider is living on Ditton meadows –  another species moving steadily northwards as the climate warms.

 Wasp Spider Duncan McKay

Olwen Williams     olwenw@gmail.com          August 2018