Saturday, 1 October 2011

Wandering spiders

A busy day today! Got in early-ish to get Tern Hide open for a Bird Call identification course that started even earlier and utilised other parts of the reserve before I opened up, got the classroom ready for a Compact Camera Nature Photography course, opened up the rest of the hides and then got myself ready for 3rd Ringwood Scout group who were in for the day and working towards their Naturalist badge - just had time for a quick slurp of coffee as they arrived, so downed that and we got stuck into some pond dipping. Didn't pull out anything out of the ordinary, but was a little surprised to catch a male smooth newt, still exhibiting some fine spots, though his crest had gone, he's relatively late in the pond as most have returned to the woodlands until spring. Also surprising was a very small eft (newt "tadpole"), obviously a result of some late breeders (maybe even the adult newt we caught) as, like the adult newts, most of this years efts have lost their gills and left the pond for the woodland by now.

I had set the telescope up at the start of the day with the view of being able to show them at least one of the raft spiders, and this worked well and certainly attracted lots of interest - so much so it was a bit of a job to get the telescope down and away at the end of the session for everyone wanting "just one more look". It was just as well they did as one of the eagle-eyed scouts then noticed that there were in fact tow spiders, side by side on two neighbouring lilly pads, albeit one partially hidden under a third lifted leaf that obscured all but a couple of legs. So maybe its love and we can look forward to a nursery pond of raft spiderlings in the future? Unless of course the larger spider eats the smaller... time will tell.

Down at the river they caught good numbers of bullheads, a couple of minnows and even a 5 inch long brown trout - not a fish we catch many of being so fast in the water, and when we do (which is seldom) at least half that size, so they did well there! Alongside the stonefly nymphs and caseless caddis-fly larvae they also had several goldenringed dragonfly and beautiful demoiselle nymphs. And we all got bitten by mosquito's - they are particularly bad all through the shadier woodland areas of the nature reserve at the moment and visitors are well advised to wear long sleeves/trousers and plenty of repellent at the moment!

Nothing stood out in the light trap, but they were all duly impressed by the attractive species - black rustics, lunar underwings, frosted oranges, brimstones, the sallows and a number of different caddis-flies.

Some of us glimpsed a kingfisher from Ivy North Hide, everyone enjoyed watching a grey heron and some got in near hysterics at the sight of black-headed gulls washing (not sure why!). There was just time for a quick sweep netting of the meadow - not something I normally expect to do in October, but it resulted in small copper butterfly, several grasshopper and cricket species, a couple of caterpillars and variety of spiders, before it was time for them to head home.

Elsewhere on the reserve there were reports of two black necked grebe, the great white egret and a black tern on Ibsley Water.

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