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Monday, September 30, 2013

Spiders' webs everywhere!

This September the weather has been largely dull,  indeed, according to our solar meter it was as dull as March, and last week we had the first of the autumn fogs descend over the village. Then on Monday we awoke to garden scenes which looked as if the spiders were taking over! 

Huge webs had appeared strung between anything available that provided an  upright anchor and the intricate webs glistened with moisture from the increased humidity in the air. You could hardly walk down a footpath without walking into a web strung across it.

These structures are really amazing and are really only so easily visible because of the moisture in the air. In fact the poor spider is probably not happy that its web is so visible as it makes it more vulnerable to becoming prey of other creatures. 

Most of these webs will have been spun by garden spiders and the spider will wait in the centre until an insect alights on the web before dashing across and seizing it for a tasty meal.
Garden spider web

Garden spider web

Garden spider waiting patiently for prey

Money spider webs

The Garden spider was not the only one making incredible webs however. There were also a number of horizontal webs like these which were probably made by a variety of money spider. They appear to be of a random design but are they have cleverly made a "sheet" web into which prey may fall.

Whilst I am mentioning spiders, have you also noticed the increasing number of big spiders which are appearing indoors at the moment? These are actually the Giant house spider and the ones that dash across your floor and then stop for no apparent reason are apparently males looking for a mate. Like a cheetah they can run very fast for a short distance but then have to stop due to exhaustion! If you are interested, you may like to send your sightings to the House spider survey which the Society of Biology are currently running. Funny old world!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Beau the Barn owl visits Combe

Last night the Local ladies group opened its meeting at the village hall too all (men as well!) and welcomed Chris Sperring MBE and Beau the Barn owl for a presentation about the current owl situation in the country and the Somerset Barn owl project in particular.

It proved to be a fascinating and informative evening, starting with information, about how Barn owls have struggled with the weather over the last couple of years. First the wet spring and summer last year caused the vole population ( favourite owl food) to plummet as the fields, especially on the Somerset Levels were flooded. Then the snow, followed by cold winds made hunting for food very difficult. This resulted in very few successful breeding attempts and so by this summer the numbers of Barn owl locally had fallen by an estimated 75%.

Chris however explained that his recent surveys were indicating that vole numbers were increasing again and he was hopeful that the owls may have had success with their attempts at late broods this year. If that was the case he was also hopeful that numbers would increase again quite quickly.

The Somerset Owl project is a joint effort between the Hawk and Owl Trust and the Somerset Wildlife Trust and is well on the way to achieving its aim to put a Barn owl box in all 335 parishes in the county by November 2014. At the same time, Chris is visiting local farmers and landowners and encouraging them to leave field margins or corners of land uncut to help the vole populations and thereby provide food for the owls. Indeed, everyone can help by leaving areas in their own gardens where the grass can grow longer and thereby increase biodiversity as invertebrates etc can survive.

Al in all an enjoyable evening and whilst the star of the evening was obviously Beau, Chris's talk was very much appreciated!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wildlife and sights you won't find in Combe!

As mentioned in my last post we have recently returned from Brazil and I thought I would share some of our most exciting sightings which we were privileged to see.

We spent some time in the Chapada  dos GuimarĂ£es National Park in central Brazil before travelling 250 km down the Transpantaneira " road into the heart of the Pantenal where we spent a week exploring the rivers and marshlands in search of Jaguar. For the last few days the trip we flew south to the Brazilian / Argentina border and visited the spectacular Iguassu Falls.
In all we saw 21 species of mammal ( including 6 separate sightings of Jaguar) and over 280 species of birds and between Steve and I we took nearly 10k photos! As you can imagine it will take some time to edit these, but here are a few of my favourites, from the colourful to the curious and the spectacular to the stunning! It was difficult to do justice to the sheer variety and the Falls in particular have to be heard as well as seen to appreciate the tremendous power of the water pouring over the cliff tops. We returned filled with many so many wonderful memories. Enjoy!


Signs of Summer coming to an end?

Arriving back at the beginning of September after two weeks travelling in Brazil / Argentina (further post to follow) it was lovely to see the green fields, despite the continued dry weather whilst we were away. It was also great to lots of young swallows and house martins skimming over the fields catching insects as they build up their strength before their long journeys south for the winter.
It seems the late broods have done well as I hoped they would when mentioning them in my previous post.The young swallows are easier to identify as they have far shorter tail streamers than the adults and it seems the breeding season was a success as there are far more young of both species in the air than I can recall this time last year.
I always feel sad as, during September, they line up in increasing numbers on the overhead wires which heralds their departure, usually at the end of the month, when they just seem to disappear all at once as if something has fired a starting gun!
Let's hope they all return safely to us again next year. 

Speckled wood
  Another welcome sight this month, even if it might signify that summer is coming to an end, has been the different species of butterfly which are about, including Speckled wood, above and Small copper, below, both seen in SSW. (Apologies for the poor photos but I only had my mobile phone with me and creeping up on these two without a zoom lens proved a challenge!)

Small copper