Bird notes and some rather interesting smaller creatures.
Our buzzards and red kites continue to thermal high above Stroud and our swifts, swallows and house martins will soon be leaving us to winter in Africa. So good to see house martins around the new houses and village hall in Stroudfields a few days ago.
Our pretty little spotted flycatchers that kept us so entertained in the garden, have long gone and are now probably back to overwinter in tropical Africa.
The few sunny days we have had recently revealed some spectacular smaller creatures.
We had a pair of mating slow-worms earlier in the summer and now we have had a baby slow-worm under one of our wildlife tins (image 1). We have not had a grass snakes for some time and now our newts and frogs (that have not been taken by the grass snakes) will be holding out hidden in damper places in the garden.
A trip to catch the sun on Petersfield Heath provided some great creatures. I located about eight wasp spiders down amongst the heather and long grass (image 2) where they make their webs to catch grasshoppers. A spectacular large wasp-like mostly Mediterranean species first located in the UK in Rye (East Sussex) in 1922 and now spreading north across the UK. Several Hornets were flying fast across the heather and I watched one catch a flesh fly and land to adjust its hold just long enough for a photograph before it zoomed off into nearby woodland (image 3). Small copper butterflies seem to have vacated Stroud Common this year however, there is a strong colony on Petersfield Heath (image 4).
Back in the garden, I was so pleased to locate a humming bird hawk-moth on our flowering buddleja (image 5). Our humming bird hawk-moths migrate here from southern France and breed here although they do not survive our winter. Cleaning out the pond revealed this great diving beetle (image 6), a large voracious predator that hunts smaller invertebrates, tadpoles and small fish (image 6).
The moth trap has attracted some great insects, but only space to mention two. The gold spot moth (image 7) has bright golden patches on its wings and has not been recorded in our corner of Hampshire and so I shall be recording this for the National Moth Recording Scheme. Many other creatures are attracted to moth traps including this brightly coloured burying beetle that appeared a few days ago. The bright red and black colours are thought to be a warning to predators. Burying beetles lay their eggs in dead animals and their larvae help in the disposal of dead creatures.
Finally, two long-nosed insects. I found this elephant hawk-moth caterpillar in a garden in Havant (image 9) with its long probing elephant trunk like front end. They can retract this (like a tortoise) creating a bulging head-like structure revealing large eye-spots thought to frighten off predators. Back in our garden, I found two of these small long-nosed hoverflies Rhingia campestris. They have a long nose-like rostrum protruding from below their eyes and which conceals a long proboscis for reaching down into flowers for nectar.