Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Wildlife Wander...

...was the name of today's school holiday activity "Playday" and enjoyed by all, despite the heat! With a "minibeast" theme focusing upon woodland and grassland habitats the highlight was undoubtedly the meadow where (nearly!) all enjoyed a quiet and stationary "Still Hunt" searching and listening out for the meadow wildlife around us and during which time Maggie spotted this stunning wasp spider, the first of the year, and, as far as I am aware, actually the first for a couple of years as I think we all "dipped" on this impressive arachnid last summer:
First recorded in the UK in 1922 and once a rare migrant species of spider restricted to the south coast which they "parachuted" into from across the channel, in recent years wasp spiders have established themselves as a breeding species and are slowly but surely establishing themselves further and further north. This is the striking female - the male is a third of her size, pale brown and vulnerable to being eaten by the female when seeking to mate with her! They are a grassland specialist where they spin a web low down in the vegetation to trap their grasshopper and cricket prey as the insects hop among the flower and grass stems.

The other highlight of the day, for the children at least, was getting nice and mucky, digging up and then sculpting some Blashford clay. Robbie modeled a particularly fine duck:

Other wildlife highlights today: the Little Ringed Plover is still guarding its chick and there were plenty of dragonflies about - emperor, southern and brown hawker. I've yet to see it in the flesh, but a couple of visitors both saw and managed to photograph (with cracking results!) the lesser emperor on Ellingham Pound today.

The undoubted highlight was

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