First frog, cold tolerant moths and a harvestman, frosted webs and catkins.
My last blog of 2022 and wishing a happy new year to you all.
From hoar frosts, strong winds and heavy rain, to bright warmish winter days, we have had some variety of weather during December.
I was surprised in looking down by torchlight into our pond to find the first Frog of the winter on the 11th of the month, a male distinguished by his bright bluish-white throat (image 1). Females are unlikely to arrive till the early spring. Palmate Newts were also active and so were these Caddish Fly larvae in their distinctive cases made of rows of circles cut from leaf fragments (image 2).
Insects about in winter need to survive cold and often freezing conditions and have alcoholic antifreeze chemicals in their bodies. True to their name, the rather elegant December Moths were about and attracted to the light trap (image 3). Another aptly name species is the Winter Moth, small and grey and with a distinctive fluttery flight and that has been common flying freely at the end of our garden (image 4). A brighter and very variable moth has been the Mottled Umber (image 5). Tiny but brightly coloured is the White-triangle Slender Moth Caloptilia stigmatella, with a wing-length of only about 5mm and so small that I almost missed it on the side of the trap (image 6).
Looking down on logs waiting to be cut for firewood by torchlight, I noticed this Harvestman Paroligolophus agrestis, a common short- legged species often about on the coldest of days (image 7). Harvestman are distinguished from true spiders by only having an apparent single body segment whereas spiders have two (and most insects have three).
Frosty days are good for spider web spotting and the end of our shed had two web types. The Missing-sector Spider’s spiral web has an upper section free of the spiral threads but with a strand passing through the missing part used by the spider to detect prey vibrations (image 8). In contrast, Money Spider webs are sheet or hammock shaped suspended by long threads above and pulled into shape by further threads below (image 9).
Finally, December has seen many spring plants producing very early flowers but it was a surprise to find these Hazel catkins in our hedge shedding their pollen into the wind.