FOLLOW THE SPIDERS

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Judging by all that glorious sunshine last week, we seem to have sped through Spring and landed squarely in Summer – but in this post I want to take you back to two weeks ago, when we’d just shaken off the last of the cold March weather and it felt like everything was still just starting to rev up. Macro lens attached for the first time since last Autumn, I set out to see what was also making the most of the first of the warmer days.

When I got to Strumpshaw, it was early enough that the full onslaught of insects hadn’t yet materialised- so instead of getting stuck at the first patch of nettles I came across (which is what usually happens when the macro is on) I managed to make it to the second of the reserve’s ponds. Bustling around in the leaf litter were healthy numbers of wolf spiders, as well as a gorgeous nursery web spider that had positioned herself so as to be beautifully camouflaged against the dry reed. I have a lot of time for nursery web spiders- I like that each one is patterned slightly differently, and that they’re much happier to pose for photos than the lycosids, which seem to dash out of view upon the mere hint of a shadow. If you give it enough time, though, I find that eventually you become part-of-the-background enough for them to resume whatever it is they’re up to, and that’s how I ended up with these leafy shots.

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So, with it seemingly being an arachnidy sort of day, I decided to follow the spiders- stopping in the sunnier parts of the reserves to see if I could catch any of the wolf spider’s incredible mating dances. While it didn’t lead to Aragog, it did guide me to two very exciting things- my first common lizards of the year, and (if you look at the last picture in this post) my first every glowworm larva. I had no idea I could expect to see them out and about (a) during the day time and (b) at around this time of year, and initially wrote them off as just extra-large ladybird larvae. However, as a huge individual measuring over an inch and a half inched its way along the riverbank, I realised I was in the presence of something much rarer. It’s all looking promising for finding some glowing adults later on in the year- now if we can just have last week’s sunshine to go with it…

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