A to Z challenge 2023 – C is for . . .
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
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.
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.
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.
The dried cases remain on the ground and can hurt tender paws, which makes dog walking in the woods more exciting than is customary.
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.
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.