A face only a mother could love…
Recently I talked about the raft spider, Dolomedes fimbriatus, in this blog post. Every time I’ve been back to Thursley since then, I’ve been on the lookout for it, and today I saw another one. This one was smaller, so maybe a male, and he was on a bit of wood below the level of the boardwalk. I was able to get a few close up shots – despite my shaking hands! You can clearly see his eight eyes and ferocious jaws. He was completely unbothered by the proximity of my camera (I was making full use of its 5cm minimum focusing distance!).
We also saw a rather cute little hairy caterpillar, although you wouldn’t want to touch its hairs – they’re extremely irritant. It’s a yellow-tail moth caterpillar. Saw another fox caterpillar too which I talked about in the same blog post as the spider.
The lizard is a pregnant female common lizard, Zootoca vivipara. At some point she’s lost her tail (a defensive strategy to evade capture) but it hasn’t grown back very well so she’s got a rather sad little stump there. The latin name vivipara refers to the fact that this species produce live young, rather than lay eggs like most lizard species. In fact the young do develop in eggs sacs, but internally. Instead of being laid in an egg sac protected by a shell, the embryonic lizards remain in their egg mebranes inside the mother, and the egg membrane ruptures at or soon after birth. It’s thought to be an evolutionary development to combat Northern Europe’s colder temperatures, and it’s one shared by adders, who do the same thing. It makes me think of the similarities with the amniotic membranes (bag of waters) rupturing at the birth of a human baby (and now I’m thinking wistfully of how much easier it would be to lay an egg at around the four month mark than a baby after nine months!).
With all the rain we’ve been having the water levels at Thursley look more like they should in winter, with most of the mire area under water. I’ve seen very few dragonflies there this year though, and very few butterflies. I think it’s been a bad year for both, which presumably means it will have been a bad year for the hobbies too, since they feed on the dragonflies. The reserve warden told me that this year hasn’t been a good one for birds generally at Thursley, and that neither pair of curlews have successfully raised chicks. A combination of extreme weather and predation has meant that only one of four chicks (if that) have survived.