September wildlife in the run up to the Autumn equinox.
The autumn equinox has passed and soon our trees will begin to show the golden colours but here is a look at what has caught my eye during September.
From time to time I visit Petersfield Heath and on the 11th September the sun was shining and I was out with my camera, hunting wildlife. Viviparous lizards are becoming common on the heathland but usually all you see is a quick retreating tail. This time I spotted a whole lizard and crouched down keeping very still watching where it was going and then, it poked its head out of a heather clump right in front of my camera (image 1).
I watched a variety of small solitary wasps buzzing around the heather and then a small grey moth fluttered across and settled briefly. This turned out to be one of Hampshire’s rarest moths of which only a few are recorded each year and then mostly along the coast. This was Loxostege sticticalis sometimes called the Diamond-spot Pearl and is an irregular migrant into the UK (image 2) and not before recorded in our part of Hampshire.
While lizard hunting, I headed for this weathered sunlit log where a lizard might be resting (image 3). No lizard but I spotted what turned out to be the small Black Spider-hunting Wasp Anoplius negerrimus running across the surface (image 4). I sat down and watched this tiny wasp through the camera lens and found it was collecting small wood fragments in its jaws and piling them up in one location and then taking those of the right size down into its nest burrow where it will have its eggs amongst a stash of paralysed spiders. Such a tiny black wasp only about 6mm long but so fascinating to spend 10 minutes or so peering into its life.
Autumn is the time when the spiders grow large and here was a mature Garden Cross Spider out on the Heath (image 5). Identify this spider by the cross shaped markings at the front end of its abdomen as it waits for prey to land on its vertical spiral web.
Back now to Stroud and the Hawthorn bushes are rich in red ‘haw’ berries (image 6), the Dog Roses are showing off their brilliant red ‘hips’ (image 7), and the Blackberries are ripe for picking (image 8). The Blackthorns have produced only a poor showing of ‘Sloe’ berries this year (image 9).
I have mentioned before the recent total lack of Small Copper butterflies on the village green where there is usually a small colony. So I was really pleased to find just a single specimen on 21st September at the north end of the green (image 12).
Looking down, my eye was attracted by a movement in the grasses by my feet. Until it moved I would never have seen it, but this was the Noctuid moth Zestia xanthographa, the Square-spot Rustic (image 13).
In the garden, I found this brightly coloured caterpillar stretched out along a buddleia leaf. Checking it out I found it was the caterpillar of the Oak Eggar moth. Each summer we find the male moths flying around the house homing in on a females pheromones and earlier this year found a mating pair in a flower pot. Clearly, the mating had been successful (image 14).