Monday, December 16, 2013

A Christmas miracle...

As promised I am returning to my favourite  macro subjects, for this update. That will be invertebrates in case you were in any doubt. Something of a miracle to start with too and it concerns a large caterpillar that showed up in the garden...

When I say that it 'showed up', it was actually in the bottom of a water bowl that the dog uses; I am not sure how long it had been there but when I fished it out, it was saturated and limp.

I decided to dry it off as best as I could and take a photo and I managed to prop it on  a leaf although it kept rolling over before I could get a picture. As you can see, the abdomen has descended too. Anyhow I took the shot.

I left it on the leaf and decided to put it in the shed whilst I tried to identify it. I think it is a large yellow underwing larva actually. Two days later, I went into the shed for something and noticed it still there unmoved-well, no surprise there as dead larva tend not to move around much.

And that would have been the end of the story had I not decided that afternoon to top up the bird feeders with seed that was stored in the shed; I briefly looked in the direction of the larva and................gone!

What? How.......? I investigated further and on turning the leaf discovered the larva not only alive, but it had been feeding as well!


I haven't featured a mystery photo for a while and I still have a few to choose from; what about this one that I found at the edge of the garden pond-well, I say pond, it's really an old butler sink that doubles as a teeny pondette!

This 'thingy' was around 10mm long and jelly-like in consistency, with these greyish dots. Looking closer, some appear to have what look like eye spots?

I've been observing for a few days now and can't see any real change in appearance but will keep a watch in case. I have no ideas as yet on this one but maybe in time it will reveal a clue or two? The only thought I had was that they might be water slater eggs as there seems to be a growing population of these in evidence; however, I checked them out and they seem to have a pouch where the eggs are kept, kinda like a marsupial.

Shall I tease you with another?

Okay so that was a rhetorical question really wasn't it-even if I was expecting an answer you couldn't have provided one before I posted the photo. Now that I have though, any ideas as to what kind of creature this may be?

It looks just like a water droplet does it? Hmm...okay, I've been rumbled-that's exactly what it is!

Just prior to moving on from strange critters/objects, I want to share this amazing fungus that I found recently...c'mon, everyone loves fungus?

I think this is the beautiful blue-green cup fungus (Chlorociboria aeruginascens) or possibly its close relative C.aeruginosa? Interesting to me (hopefully to you as well) is a piece I read about how it stains the wood and then becomes quite prized by woodworkers for inlay purposes. 
The article said that it was used by craftsmen in Tunbridge Wells, a town very close to here, where it was included in designs that formed the famous 'Tunbridge Ware'.

Update: Since writing this, I have had my winter update e.mail from The Woodland Trust and guess what? Amongst the features I spotted this same story, with almost identical facts about the Tunbridge Ware..or Tonbridge Ware as they called it; now everyone locally at least knows that Tonbridge is a different town altogether. I do know that there were early workshops producing the ware in Tonbridge but even those were called 'Wise's Tunbridge Ware Manufactory'.


Back to invertebrates then.

Gibbaranea gibbosa

This little orb weaver spider that I found is quite interesting in as much as, although they are never particularly common, they are widespread. The females reach about 7mm and males (this is a male) only around 4mm. 

I rarely see these and I think this is my first male, but then being so small that's not too surprising; however when I checked out the NBN records for my area, it seems there are none?

Being orb weavers (Araneidae) they belong to the same family as the huge wasp spiders and also the more commonplace walnut orb weavers...

Nuctenea umbratica
I've chosen this particular photo as it shows well how the abdomen is flattened in this species, this assists in being able to secret itself away in fence posts, or under bark during the day, as this is a nocturnal spider.

Now this one is quite easy to find locally and I have photographed them many times-and yet, the results that are returned from the NBN database once again show no local records...

I think next year I will make a concerted effort to record all of my finds on the British spiders website.

Another bug that specialises in secreting itself under bark is the aptly named 'flat bug' and these can be found under the bark of dead trees, particularly ones that have been affected by fungus, as that's what they feed on...

Aneurus laevis
Again, these are about 4-5mm in length but at this scale do look just like a bit of old shoe leather to me...

What else have I found since the last update? Well, there was this flightless moth..

It is only the females that are flightless and their sole purpose in life seems to be to mate and then lay eggs, after which they die. I think this one is a female winter moth.

Most folks will agree that 2013 was another strange and difficult year for some of our native ladybirds. I have still managed to find and photograph a few species though and some like the tiny 24-spot seem to be bucking the trend.

These orange ladybirds (Halyzia 16-guttata) often turned up in the moth trap through 2013 although this one was out and about feeding when I saw it. 

Take a look at the photos below of the more common 7-spot ladybird...

I believe these are both seven spots and both photographed this week at the same location and at the same mag. What accounts for the difference in size then? I know that the availability of a good food source at the larvae stage, before pupation can affect the resulting adult beetle's size. I did also consider that it might be a scarce 7-spot ladybird (Coccinella magnifica) but there seems to be little size difference between the two species and as the next photo shows nicely, there are no small white triangular marks on the underside beneath the legs, which would confirm an identity...

I think  the most likely explanation is that this is a male. Males of most species are slighter than the females and so that would be my best guess.


Yet another interesting find was this feeding caterpillar...

I think this is probably the larva of an angle shades moth but what surprised me here was what it was feeding on. I know some caterpillars are carnivorous but I thought only eating soft-bodies creatures like aphids? This one seems to be tackling a small cocoon or something?

Time then to draw another blog update to a close but before I do, I would like to leave you with this last photograph. ...

Until the next time....


  1. Happy Holidays to you too! Looking forward to many more interesting posts from you in 2014.

  2. Thanks and I am sure I will be visiting your own blog through 2014...


Please feel free to comment on my blog. I am always grateful for any feedback, good or bad. Commenting should be fast and easy. Just enter your comment in the box, then click on the drop-down box beside 'Comment as'. You can use your Google ID if you have one, or just choose 'Name/URL and enter your name (URL is not needed). You can also just choose anonymous, if you would rather not be identified.

Regards 'JJ'.

If you do experience any difficulties, you can contact me directly from this blog and I will try to help.