Despite being called the common reed (Phragmites australis) this is not a reed at all, it is a species of grass; its wonderful florescence is the sure indicator of this as no reed or rush has anything like it. It may not be a reed but it certainly is common. You can find Phragmites just about anywhere in lowland Britain where there is water! It occurs in fens, swamps, ditches, lakes and on riversides, both in brackish and alkaline waters, even in acid bogs! Although it has the scientific name of Phragmites australis there does not appear to be any direct link to the plant originating in Australia, it is very much a native of Europe.
This plant can spread to cover large areas and forms an invaluable habitat for birds. Here in Dorset, of course, some parts of Poole Harbour, Christchurch Harbour, Radipole Lake and Lodmore all have vast Phragmites reed beds. If you want to find bearded tit or cettis warbler, water rail or bittern, or even marsh harrier, then it is a large Phragmites bed you need. They are also used by swallows and starlings for roosting, often in large numbers.
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.