A little bird said …

This week I had the almighty pleasure and joy of taking over the Biotweeps account. This Twitter account is curated by a different biologist each week, who discusses their research, knowledge and interests. From a cursory glance over the contributors, the majority are in academia, but I queried whether a naturalist could curate for a week – with an affirmative answer!

During the week I wanted to cover a variety of things across two topics: people and nature, and pure wildlife. One of my regrets is not setting aside enough time to plan thoroughly and thus fit more in. Nonetheless I fit in a fair amount:

  • twitching and panspecieslisting
  • mental health and nature
  • young people and nature (including A Focus On Nature of course)
  • wildlife recording
  • getting a career in conservation
  • mammals of the UK
  • moths
  • butterfly identification
  • photos from scotland / south africa

You can see a selection of my tweets in the images below.

As I began my tweeting, I made sure to venture out into the sunny garden in Cambridge a couple of times, spotting a couple of different insects about, although the Old Lady moth (Mormo maura) had been caught in Matt’s moth trap. I’m not sure how clear it is in the photo – but the wasp is eating a fly caught in a spider’s web!

On the way back to Dorset from Cambridge, I popped into my parents’ house in north London where I was promptly distracted by a jam doughnut, plus a Hornet hoverfly (Volucella zonaria), a Large White butterfly (Pieris brassicae) and a dead bumblebee in the garden.

In work this week, there was a lot of sitting inside working away at various tasks, but I managed to get out for a couple of walks and see some wildlife – including a Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi) in a field that hasn’t got any records for them as far as I know! I attempted to do a bit of moth trapping at Lorton for Moth Night – but caught mainly Hornets (Vespa crabro), so I gave up after a little bit. Luckily the hornets weren’t in stinging mode so I was able to get them out of the trap without getting hurt myself! However, I did find a few moths, albeit not in the trap itself!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).

Pain, but no gain (only partially true)

Strictly speaking, the title is not true. I’ve had very little pain this week, and a lot of gain, but you’ll see later why the title. As I write, I am in a sickeningly “I love life” mood. I want to take a moment to examine this mood. As a sufferer of both Seasonal Affective Disorder and, more recently, bouts of depression, spending time outdoors in the sunshine and talking to people (aka my job!) is bound to have a positive effect on me. People can often underestimate how much nature can help us, not least with our mental health. We are intricately connected with nature, even with today’s technological distractions. Taking a moment, even just a little one every now and then, to appreciate nature can benefit you.

Back to my week. It began with paint. An odd beginning to the week one might say, but I work in environmental education (/community engagement) and my tasks are varied! For the first couple of days this week, I was tasked with ensuring that a big roll of white fabric got covered in handprints! I relished the task, and got involved with an appropriate amount of enthusiasm (i.e. getting my hands covered in paint and encouraging others to do as as well). Soon enough, and with help from volunteers, centre visitors and even Taste* cafe staff, the sheet was covered. And my hands were blue no matter how much I scrubbed them! And the purpose of this? Well, that shall remain a surprise until the next blog post.

A midweek lunchtime stroll on Chesil Beach resulted (as usual) in a quick beach clean! I just hate seeing litter on the beach (and elsewhere!). So I am continuing well with that wildlife resolution!

We sailed off into the sunset, almost literally, when The Fleet Observer took some centre volunteers (and a couple of DWT staff) out on a trip. I know, I know, I went on a trip only a couple of weeks ago! But I do so love going out on the boat and we always see something fun. This time I even managed to get some good photos of the hares (Lepus europaeus), and some sunset photos too, so I was particularly pleased.

Inland to Lorton, and I was leading our Caterpillar Kids session on grasshoppers and crickets! What great fun it was, and we had some children that were absolutely brilliant at catching them! I have realised that there aren’t actually that many grasshoppers and crickets, so I didn’t feel too daunted in trying to identify a couple. I got them wrong mind, but I gave it a go and I shall continue to try, which is the important thing!

I must apologise here to the residents of Weymouth and the surrounding areas. The torrential rain on Friday was my fault. I had a day off you see. However, I wasn’t too put out as it provided me with a decent opportunity to sort through some photos and the like. The weekend dawned bright and clear, but Weymouth did soon cloud over (unlike Portland which stayed sunny all day, grr!). I was meant to be leading a reptile walk at Lorton, but the slight chill in the air made me dubious that we would find any. So I turned it into a general nature walk and we had a fantastic time! A good variety of wildlife was seen, including my first Wasp Spiders (Argiope bruennichi) which are incredibly awesome! I also picked up a bush-cricket and much to the amusement of everyone there, yelled in startlement when it bit me! The cheeky thing (though I don’t blame it)! I can’t say which species it was, as the unexpected pain caused me to throw it into the grass. Oops! Note to self – it isn’t just Great Green Bush Crickets (Tettigonia viridissima) that bite! The end of the walk ended on a reptile sighting, as we found two baby slow worms, but they slithered away before I got photos. I caught one the following day, prompting it to defecate on me – charming! – but again no photo I’m afraid.

A quick evening dash up to Portland Bird Observatory as Josie Hewitt was visiting and I wanted to say hi. I also got to see this lovely Painted Lady  (Vanessa cardui) which was very obliging with letting me take photos. I even persuaded it to sit on my finger, but naturally it flew off before I could actually take a photo of it doing so! I also saw a Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum), but that was not at all obliging and disappeared before I could even grab my camera.

The weekend, and thus the week, drew to an end. With sunshine above, and no big plans for the evening, I just had to go for another wildlife wander in Lorton. I looked for the Wasp Spiders again, and found two, as well as some galls on oak (presumably caused by a parasitic wasp?).

A note on Wasp Spiders. It is actually only the female that has the stunning stripes. The male is smaller and brown, I think there is a male in one of the photos above. Apparently, the male has to wait until the female reaches her mature form, make the most of her soft jaws, and then go into mate with her. Even so, a number of them do get eaten still! As one of the orb-weaving spiders, you can see the white zig-zag in her web, which is called a stabilimentum. According to the Wildlife Trusts webpage on them, there is no known function to this stabilimentum.

Next week’s post is likely to be delayed as I shall be travelling back from BirdFair (which is going to be amazing!). Let me know if you’re going and would like to meet up!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).