Find out more about the nature of Dorset at 'www.natureofdorset.me.uk'
Say hello to Daphne for me!
In our garden we have a shrub, a daphne, that is in full flower and has been for about three weeks now.
Today (9th March 2014) it has been visited by at least four small tortoiseshells, two red admirals and a peacock. Not only these butterflies but also buff-tailed bumble-bees, honey bees, a hoverfly (Eristalis tenax) and, most surprisingly perhaps, a humming-bird hawk-moth. Also a regular visitor to the garden today, but not to daphne, a brimstone butterfly.
Now I do not write this as an attempt to show off and to say how great our garden is, wildlife gardening is not, despite what some think, a competitive sport! No,
it is just that it has triggered two thoughts in my mind.
These insects I have mentioned have one thing in common, they hibernate over winter. In spring, and today was certainly spring-like, they emerge and immediately seek food. My first thought is, therefore, that there are very few shrubs (if any) in flower in the wild at present so just how important are our gardens to these insects? To me it demonstrates a nature garden does not have to be full of just native plants, any nectar bearing shrub or flower is welcome despite what some theorists might tell you. It also shows the benefit of trying to have plants in your garden that flower at different times of year to provide all year round nectar.
Secondly, is it not encouraging that in early March such a variety of insects are up and about and, apparently, in good numbers too? The mild winter has, it seems, been a real boon to these creatures and maybe more will have survived than in harsh winters. Given the pressures our insects are under, to have a good boost to the new breeding season must surely be welcome. Perhaps we can look forward to a summer with far more of these little treasures than we have seen in recent years?
Whilst bladder wrack is the best known of the wrack seaweeds the one most often seen is actually the channelled wrack (Pelvetia canaliculata). Growing freely near the high water line it is adapted to withstand long periods of exposure to the air without drying out. The weed that is out of the water the longest is usually blacker than the paler colour of that which is covered for longer. It does not have bladders for flotation as it rarely needs to float. It may appear to have bladders at the ends of its fronds but the swellings are not full of air, they contain a jelly substance and are the fruiting body of the seaweed. Channelled wrack grows in large masses and can be seen on sea walls, quays and piers as well as the upper reaches of rocky shorelines but each plant only grows to about 18 inches long due to the amount of time it is our of water. It is common around British shores and Dorset is no exception to that. In Scotland it has been used as cattle fodder but I was surprised to r…
The centre of the web is a funnel in which the spider waits. Around the entrance are lots of single strands, a bit like trip wires, that stop insects from an easy escape and gradually bring them nearer to the central funnel from where Agelena can strike!
I have heard people refer to these as Funnel Web Spiders which, of course they are not. Funnel Web Spiders are renowned for being very poisonous where as this spider is quite harmless (to humans).
The are extremely nervous creatures and quickly retreat in to their funnels which makes photographing them very difficult.