Mid October and getting autumnal and with a new speed warning light (and finally a note on dog mess).
Petersfield Heath is one of my favourite local places and always produces something new. The Heath is a good place to find the spectacular black and yellow Wasp Spider in late summer but, until now, I had never found their vase or urn-shaped egg cases (image 1). Once I got my eye in on a recent visit, I found them commonly attached to rushes and heather stems at about 25-30cm above the ground, each silken case being about 25-30mm high and about 10-15mm across and attached to their supporting plant stems by protective threads.
Also on Petersfield Heath, I found these shiny little silky umbrella-like structures about 25-30mm across and attached to the vegetation at about 50-60mm above ground level (image 2). Getting down on my knees and peering up to see underneath them I found sheltering spiders. Looking more carefully, the ‘umbrellas’ were connected to a large spiral web; if anything landed on the web, the spider would shoot out of its refuge to secure its prey. I was surprised to find that these ‘umbrellas’ were made by the Four-spotted Orb-web Spider (image 3) and of which species I had found a small colony on Stroud Village Green (see my last blog). However, here on the Heath, they were by far the most abundant large spider and seemed to be everywhere on the open heather waiting to trap grasshoppers and other low flying insects.
My (adult) daughter and I recently had a trip to Chawton Park Wood and which is just west of Alton. Of the many things we found were these brilliant Yellow Stagshorn wood rotting fungi, Calocera viscosa, and which were first described to science in 1894 (image 4). Just by where we stopped for our picnic were these potato-like Earthball fungi, Schleroderma citinum, (image 5) and which over time peel open to release their abundant spores into the air. We were sitting on a log when my daughter noticed a movement and there, crawling across the leaf litter, was this large shiny blue-black Dor Beetle, Geotrupes sp. (image 6). Dor beetles are usually dung feeding but it seems that in woodland they feed on rotting wood. We later saw several more. Nearby, we also saw a large Devil’s Coach Horse beetle, Staphylinus olens, with its upturned tail ready to squirt a defensive foul smelling liquid at us or bite us with it ferocious jaws. Often the best things are seen simply by sitting still and waiting for them to appear.
Back to Stroud, every year Common Inkcaps, Coprinopsis atramentaria, appear in the garden with their dome-shaped caps (image 7) that soon readily decay into jet black ink. Many other fungi are appearing and perhaps more of these next time.
At this time of year the Sun sets due west and which, just before it tips below sight, shines directly along the Winchester Road creating a wonderful golden glow (image 8) and we have had some fine sunsets recently. Talking of the Winchester Road, the Parish Council have recently installed an automatic speed check display on the bus stop outside the 7-Stars public house. It has been fascinating to stand and watch the effect on the traffic. Most cars do slow down when they see the red light come on and then turn green to show they are not speeding (image 9). However, some cars still speed through despite the reading (image 10).
Finally, a plea to dog owners using Stroud Village Green. This grass field (opposite Finchmead Lane and entered by the bus stop), while privately owned, has statutory public access along and either side of the footpath and so is a public space and used by local many people. Dog mess is an eyesore, a health hazard and also pollutes the ground and is awful to have to clean off shoes. Please, please, clear up after your dog and leave our village green in a clean condition.