December records

snailshellDid you know that spiders sometimes eat snails? Hanging from spider silk attached to the eaves above the back door, I found this empty shell of an immature garden snail. Wondering how on earth it could have got there, I consulted the
Oracle and found several records of spiders attacking and eating snails, including a video clip.

It was at the site of a garden spider web (Araneus diadematus).

The garden is generally quiet at this time of year, but after some unseasonably warm days, I have heard wood pigeon, green woodpecker, song thrush and wren all calling as if it were spring. A great spotted woodpecker sat at the top of a large tree, calling persistently, but I have not yet heard him drumming. By the river, siskins are investigating the alder trees – they love the seeds. My front garden has been adopted by a robin, keeping guard over the feeding station from a perch in the quince tree.

Cambridge is generally surrounded by green belt – fields and agricultural land. Some of their hedge boundaries are ancient. Oliver Rackham, an eminent Cambridge woodland ecologist, described the application of Hooper’s Rule here. Hooper maintained that the average number of woody species in a 30 yard stretch of hedge was roughly equivalent to the number of centuries the hedge had been there. By this rule, there are many hedges between Cambridge and Grantchester which must be 500-600 years old! I wonder how many there are which are threatened by the proposed development of West Fields for a busway? If you know of hedges in Cambridge which may be interesting and ancient, we would be very happy to come and survey them – please get in touch.

Olwen Williams