Friday, 16 November 2018

Curious signs

It was back to Matt Moser's farm today but my precise destination was a little different. Last time we had met I had asked Matt whether a little patch of land in the north-east corner was actually part of Foxhill Farm. He assured me that it was, so a small group of trees I had hitherto ignored suddenly took on considerable interest.

I parked up about half a mile away on the edge of Daventry and set off walking. A flock of Jacob's sheep met me as I climbed the stile and entered the first field. I say 'met' but in fact they strolled off, unhurried but determined.

Jacob's sheep turn their bums to me and strode off.
Foxhill Farm. 1 October, 2018

Trying not to let my hurt show over this rejection I made for an area which would be bathed in sunshine yet sheltered. I wasn't the only one with similar ideas for on a sunny tree trunk was a Noon Fly, Mesembrina meridiana. The Noon Fly belongs to the same family, the Muscidae, as our common house fly and it has to be said that  the majority of its members are dull little creatures. Not so with this species.

A Noon Fly basks on the trunk of a tree stump. 1 October, 2018
With its brilliant orange wing-bases this insect is very eye-catching. Its larvae, which live in cattle dung, are coprosaprophagous, feeding on the faeces but also decaying vegetable matter. Apparently they may also live on carrion.

Also enjoying the sunshine was a Comma butterfly, Polygona c-album. As it sat on a fence with its wings spread, the c-album bit wasn't visible as the marking is on the underside of the wing.

The clue to the comma's common name is not to be seem on the dorsal
wing surface. 1 October, 2018
I offered it a Kit-Kat to co-operate and it obligingly opened its wings but I then sneaked off and ate it myself. Yes, I know...there's a nasty side to my nature.

The comma mark is very clear on the ventral surface of the rear wing.
1 October, 2018
I continued on my way and eventually reached my target - a clump of Norway Spruce, beneath which were several rotting logs. A number of interesting spiders were taken from the crevices and under loose bark but, just before departing I had a swish with my net through the needle-like spruce foliage and...

One of Britain's prettiest spiders is Diaea dorsata. The male is striking, with emerald-green legs and carapa and was painted by Mike Roberts for the cover of his monumental 'Spiders of Great Britain and Ireland'. The female is of a similar shape and size but is of muted browns.

Diaea dorsata features on the cover of Volume 1 of Mike Roberts' great 
3 volume work.
I also chose it for my e-mail address:, so when I looked into my net and saw it there I was delighted. The species seems to like evergreens and I usually find it on yew. This was not the easiest place for a photograph so it is a poor picture but I hardly felt like complaining.

From a Norway spruce came this prize. Foxhill Farm.
I October, 2018

A good start to October.


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