Friday, 11 June 2010

Fluff and Flies

It was so nice to be able to get out and about again this morning as the sun shone and the birds sang once more. We set off to see if the swans we have been watching, had successfully hatched their clutch of eggs. As we approached the Straws Bridge Ponds, we could still hear the Great Reed Warbler singing loudly from the reed bed and there, swimming around the same lake, was a proud mother and her two cygnets.
They were being kept fairly far off until someone appeared with a bread bag and they were joined by the father, a magnificent specimen of testosterone-fueled belligerence, keeping all the other waterfowl at bay.
Around the lake, there are several trees and it was on the trunk of one of these, that I suddenly spotted this strange insect....A Scorpion Fly (Panorpa communis).
This one is a female and about an inch long, so a fairly impressive beast. These flies are scavengers and regularly feed on the rotting remains of other animals. They can also be seen feeding on the contents of spiders' webs, a tricky and rather dangerous thing to do.
Speaking of spiders, I have mentioned the small, Jumping or Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus) and have photographed one before on our patio as it devoured a fly. This morning, as we got home, there was another one of these charming little arachnids on our house wall - again it was devouring a fly.
The most curious fact about these little spiders, is that they do not jump by means of muscles in the legs. Instead, they jump by suddenly increasing the blood pressure in their legs which makes them 'explosively' stretch out and propel the spider forward. Quite amazing!
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