Tuesday 4 April 2023

A to Z challenge 2023 - C is for . . .


A to Z challenge 2023 – C is for . . .

My theme for this challenge is Nature in all much of her wonderful diversity. My posts will reflect the fact that I am resident in the south of England.

All photographs in this post are the property of the writer.

Spiders used to make me shudder, but photographing them has highlighted details not easily seen by the naked eye. However, I would still rather they disported themselves outside the house. Money spiders I have never minded and little Crab spiders are most interesting.

Crab spiders (Thomisidae)

There are around 2100 Thomisidae spider species across the world and 27 of them can be found in the UK, in the south of England. Unsurprisingly, they somewhat resemble crabs and scuttle crab-wise sideways.

Flower crab spider (Misumena vatia)

 They are often called flower crab spiders, as that is where they frequently can be found, waiting patiently for their prey, which they will trap with their long, strong front legs, after paralysing them with their toxic bite. They catch mosquitoes, sawflies and butterflies among other insects, but their main diet consists of ants, small caterpillars and moths, and occasionally, houseflies, grasshoppers and aphids.

Although they feed mostly during the day, they are able to hunt at dusk because of their excellent eyesight. They have six eyes, two large and four smaller.

Some of them can change colour, though it may take a couple of days for them to take on the colour or markings of the flower in which they lurk. As with many spiders, the female may eat the male, either before the male approaches to mate, or after mating. The wisest males approach cautiously and depart quickly.

They are not large spiders, their overall length being about 10mm, and can be seen between April and September, usually on white or yellow flowers.

Candy stripe spider (Enoplognatha ovata)
The Candy stripe spider is even smaller than the Crab spider, about 6mm long. It is very common throughout the British Isles, and is active from May to October and despite its small size, preys on insects many times larger than itself.
‘Redimita’  has two dorsal red stripes
The Candy stripe spider is a comb-footed spider. Comb-footed spiders are also known as cobweb spiders or tangle-web spiders. There are more than 2000 species and they are known as haphazard web-builders because they spin irregular webs. They possess a row of comb-like bristles on their hind legs which they use to throw silk to trap prey.

After mating in July, the males soon die and the pregnant females build dens by rolling leaves of bramble or nettle. In this the female deposits a blue egg sac and guards it. As August comes to an end and throughout September, emaciated females leave their dens to die, just as the young spiderlings emerge from the egg sac. They stay within the leaf den before travelling down to groundcover at grass roots level where they overwinter. From April to June they move higher up the plants, ready to mate in July.

 ‘Lineata’  is yellow or cream, though this one looks more greyish-white!

It’s a short life and a merry one!

My next C is Castanea sativa, the Sweet or Spanish chestnut

This is a majestic deciduous tree. With an eventual height of 35 m, and a girth of 2m, it can live for 700 years.

It belongs in the same family, Fagaceae as oaks and beeches.

Young trees have smooth greyish bark but as they age they develop fissures which spiral upwards around the trunk.

                                           The dried remnants of the catkin hang below the prickly coat of the chestnut. 

When they are about 25 years old they begin to produce fruit. The sweet chestnut tree is monoecious – that is, it bears both male and female flowers on the same tree. The long catkins are pollinated by insects and the female flowers develop green, spiky cases which contain and protect the developing shiny brown, soft nut.

In late summer and early autumn the woodland floor is littered with the ripe nuts, mostly all still within their cases, and the woods are busy with individuals and families collecting them. 
Gloves are recommended for the task of removing nuts from their cases, as the spikes are sharp and piercing!
The nuts can be roasted or boiled and can be used in many different ways to complement other dishes. Commonly, Brussels sprouts are combined with chestnuts to make a tasty accompaniment to game or poultry.

The dried cases remain on the ground and can hurt tender paws, which makes dog walking in the woods more exciting than is customary.

 My final C is for cygnets.

Cygnets of the Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor)

The Mute swan is the British Isles’ largest and heaviest water bird. It has been part of wildlife in the UK for over 10,000 years and thus is defined as a native species.

It breeds across most of the UK, apart from the north of Scotland, mid-Wales and the moors of the south-west of England. Although it does not migrate, it may move around the country in winter in search of better feeding grounds.  

Mute swans have orange bills

The young of swans are called Cygnets or swanlings. Cygnet derives from the Old French ‘cigne’ meaning swan, and originally from Latin ‘cygnus’. There may be as many as 12 cygnets in a clutch but some will be lost to predation. Sometimes a complete clutch is lost and at other times an entire clutch will survive. Cygnets may be seen at any time between May to July on bodies of water as diverse as village ponds, rivers and estuaries.

                                    Both parents care for their young

Very young cygnets sometimes ride on their parents’ backs where they are safe from predation. Newly-hatched cygnets often fall victim to crows, herons, magpies and pike. On land they are, like the adults, prey to foxes and mink.

Mute swan cygnets are usually a dull brown above and white below though occasionally a cygnet will be all white. Such cygnets are known as ‘Polish swans’.

Cygnets remain with their parents for about 6 months, but once their plumage has changed to become predominantly white, during late autumn or winter, they are driven off to become independent. They join the first flock of swans they meet and stay with them until they are old enough to breed, when they are about four.


  1. The candy stripe spider is cute.
    The female crab spider commits a bit of own goal if she kills her prospective mate before the act.

  2. What fascinating insects/arachnids! We have a pond nearby locally that always seems to have cygnets! Beautiful 🤩

    1. I've become quite - fond isn't the right word, but will have to do - of arachnids :-)

  3. That spider looks quite spooky and ghost-like, doesn't it? xx

  4. We wonder whether there is a spider for every letter of the alphabet.. In any case we much prefer swans (although the Tigger prefers them from the safety of his backpack .)

  5. I have a vision now of Tigger wearing a backpack - a sort of modern Dick Whittington's cat!

  6. We love today's C post. Gail just wishes we had more sweet chestnut trees in Northern Scotland. She has happy memories of feasting on roast chestnuts she'd gathered when, as a child, her family visited their Sussex-based relatives.

    1. Over an open fire? We did that as children.

  7. I always learn so much from your posts. Visiting your blog is better than a nature channel show. Thanks.

  8. Thanks for sharing insightful posts

  9. Great post. I enjoyed all the photos. We grow chestnuts, but unfortunately many end up having bugs.

    1. Ooh, nasty - they put you you off, don't they?

  10. We saw some flattish, 1.2cm spiders indoors in Crete - boy could they move fast. The sweet chestnut and the herbs in your last post are both things we do not immediately think of as flowering plants, particularly trees, but of course they are...

    1. The mighty oak and the humble daisy have much in common.

  11. A very interesting collection of Cs. I've added your blog to my reading list, and look forward to your future posts. https://misky.uk

  12. G'day Jabblog,

    Great collection of C natural objects. Your theme is similar to mine - animals and plants.

    Lots of spiders inside my house at the moment but yesterday I swept away the webs outside the house. We have a few nasty spiders in Australia - red backs, white tails and one near Sydney - funnel web.

  13. I'm glad we don't have such dangerous spiders here, but then we don't have the amazing variety of wild life that you have.

  14. I'm not the biggest fan of spiders, but they are the most fascinating creatures, aren't they? Once again, your photos are fantastic! xxx

  15. Thank you, Ann. It took me a very long time to be able to look at spiders objectively.


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