We were rather enthused by the recent spider course at the Field Study Centre and without Keith to keep us in check, having decamped to sunny Spain, we spent some happy hours identifying those spiders we could, with the help of Nigel and an excellent course handout.
The first to be captured and examined, using our new spi-pots, was Zigiella atrica, a male, conspicuous by his long boxing-glove palps. The other species that is common is Zigiella x-notata but this is found on buildings, especially near windows.
Next Brian and I caught a male Dicranopalpus remotus. We were able to identify it from the FSC harvestman card, the key features being forked palps and also its resting position with its legs spread out side-ways in two narrow fans. It is to be found from late summer to winter.
I next spotted a Larinionoides species, possibly Larinionoides cornutus, a common orb-weaver, normally hiding during the day in a silken retreat by its web.
Steve was next to bring a find, convinced it was a crab spider as it was running sideways. Indeed it was confirmed as a male Philodromus species, a running crab spider, although it looked nothing like the illustration on the FSC spider card!
The next find caused lots of debate and consternation. For a time we thought it might be the harvestman Opilis saxatilis but Jim and Nigel suspected it wasn’t quite right. Then Nigel had his ‘eureka’ moment and identified it by the pincer-like operculum on the underside. Only the Paroligolphus argrestis has this feature. Phew!
In the late afternoon Steve and I both caught a long legged spider, Tetragnatha species. This had a very long thin abdomen and large fangs.
Nigel’s final ‘hurrah’ was a nursery web spider - Pisaura mirabilis, often seen sunbathing on nettle leaves or in the long grass. Although in this case it was one of many vacuumed up by Nigel’s giant spider-catching machine!
We did manage to record other species such as sloe bug, dock bug and green shield bug. Also a seven spot ladybird and a pill wood louse that did its party trick of rolling up into a ball. Jim’s sharp eyes spotted a Peacock butterfly as it sped by, and later we recorded a very fresh Red Admiral and a Small White.
Botanically the grey wilderness of the quarry is now becoming peppered with small pioneer plants. Sweet wild strawberries are everywhere, with Eyebright, Bird’s-foot-trefoil, St. John’s-wort, Basil, Thyme, Self-heal, Carnation sedge and the small yellow Lesser hawkbit making a tapestry of colour. The wide variety of plants bodes well for next years’ further regeneration.
Against the blue sky, buzzards flew overhead and green woodpeckers made their presence known by yaffling loudly amongst the trees. The weather was perfect and the company good fun as usual. The balmy atmosphere encouraged a lazy pace and a peaceful, relaxing day monitoring Lea Quarry.