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A beautiful day to be out and about. I travelled a few miles to Lesnes Abbey in south-east London to attend a field studies council teaching day on the identification of Spiders. Now, as regular readers know I do recording for Butterflies, Dragonflies and Bumblebees on my local patch but I have to confess that I know next to nothing about spiders. Unlike the others, they don’t tend to make themselves obvious, quite the opposite in effect so I thought this course, part of the FSC’s Biolinks project was an excellent opportunity to at least start to remedy that.

The morning was taken up by an introductory talk on common spiders and how to recognise them. Species-level identification can be very difficult in the field so it is often about just identifying the family they come from – in some case there are only one species in a family which helps. In the afternoon we spent the time in and around Lesnes Abbey. We started with a wall in the ruins and soon had examples of 5 or 6 species to look at – who would have guessed that so much lived in an old wall. The highlight was a large but very agile example of the Lace web Spiders (Amaurobius ferox) along with a Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus)and the more common lace web spider (Amaurobious similis).

Amaurobious Ferrox

Zebra Spider (left) and House Spider spp (right)

Next, we examined a bush and found another group of species. My favourite was the Cucumber Spider (Araniella cucurbitinia).

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Cucumber Spider. Photo by Mary Shattock (https://www.flickr.com/photos/maryshattock/)

Our final stop was some grassland where we found some Large Jawed Spider (Pachygnatha spp) along with Wolf Spider. My favorite here was the Cricket-bat Spider (Mangora acalphya).

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Cricket Bat Spider. Photo by Christophe Quintan (https://www.flickr.com/photos/34878947@N04/)

This was a very worthwhile and productive day. Thanks to Lawrence and Keiron who led it. I would encourage anyone who wants to improve their invertebrate identification to check out the Biolinks page at http://www.field-studies-council.org/individuals-and-families/fsc-biolinks-courses.aspx

Spider spp seen

Buzzing Spider (Anyphaena accentuata); Crab Spider spp; Running Crab spider spp; Cucumber Spider (Araniella curcurbitinia); Nursery Web Spider spp; Lace web Spider ( Amaurobius similis and Amaurobius Ferrox); Zebra Spider ( Salticus scenicus); Money Spider spp; House Spider spp; Wolf Spider spp; Large Jawed Spider spp; Cricket-bat Spider (Mangora acalphya).

Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)

Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Small Tortoiseshell [sp] (Aglais urticae)

Looking at the week’s weather forecast, today seemed the best bet for this week’s natural history survey on my patch. This year I am recording Butterflies, Dragonflies and after a couple of years training and practice Bumblebees. The first couple of weeks are usually blank returns and set a baseline for emergence later in the spring so I wasn’t very optimistic about actually finding anything to record, but I can still watch the birds as I follow my route and after the inactivity forced by the snow last week it was good to get out.

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The earliest emerging insects are usually the Queen Bees as they awake from their over-wintering and start to seek out a nest for the coming year. These can be as early as February but given the recent weather, things may have been delayed a few weeks. On my patch, I usually see Butterflies from the end of March and Dragonflies from May so it was really just to record any Queen Bees that might be in flight. Regrettably, but perhaps not surprisingly, none were recorded.

There was some evidence of the oncoming spring, however.

The usual birds were present although the small party of Gadwall which had wintered on the Tarn appear to have moved on, probably when it froze last week. There were good numbers of geese present with 23 Greylags. This winter has seen record numbers for the site as last year was a very successful breeding season for the flock with 16 young raised. It will be interesting to see if they ‘thin out’ when it comes closer to breeding time. Our mixed pairing of a Greylag and a Canada were present as was one of their rather strange looking youngsters.

Mallard (top left), Greylag Geese (top right), Moorhen (centre right) and Coot (bottom)

A Grey Heron flew into the pool by the reedbed and proceeded to look for lunch.

 

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Rock Dove [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)