It’s surprising what you can find in even the smallest urban garden. Mine is rather small and narrow (below, slightly overweight spoilt dog for scale), mostly taken up by a rather tatty rectangle of grass (I hesitate to call it a lawn) with a narrow flower border and a barely tamed hedge of bramble at the far end. What with being furloughed for the last three weeks, I spent a lot of time in it recently (the excuse ‘I won’t do the garden this weekend because I work so hard during the week and I need a rest’ doesn’t cut it if you’re not actually working). In the process I have amassed a decent list of species from my ‘postage stamp’.
The highlights for me were Red-tailed Mason-bee (Osmia bicornis, below) moving onto my bee hotel for the first time and an immature tube spider Segestria florentina in my garden fence soon after. Prior to moving down to Rye, this latter is a species I had always wanted to see, and while I have now seen several this was a first for my garden list. This species (and closely related spiders) are so named for their tubular web, the spider lurking at the entrance and lunging out to grab its prey as it passes.
Despite being small my garden does ok for spiders, perhaps because its gets sun for most of the day and is therefore quite warm. I regularly get both Zebra Jumping Spider (Salticus scenicus) and (I kid you not) the Fleecy Jumper (Pseudeuophrys lanigera) but this year I’ve also had several records of another small jumping spider, Ballus chalybeius. These were a bit surprising as this is a species I usually associate with woodland.
A couple of rather uncommon species that turned up on the list are worth a mention. A Hairy Hawker dragonfly (above) made a brief visit on the 23rd April, and the flesh-fly Macronychia polyodon (below) on the 24th (despite its English name this species is actually a nest parasite of various bees and wasps).
But it’s not just the garden that has produced some interesting wildlife during the last three weeks. A few days ago I noticed a rather leggy spider lurking the corner of my downstairs loo which on closer inspection turned out to be a young Spitting Spider (Scytodes thoracica, below). This species gets its name from the fact it shoots a mixture of silk and venom from its jaws to immobilise its prey (it’s the only spider I know of which has silk glands in its head!). As well as being a ‘house tick’ this is only the second individual I have ever seen (and the first one with all its legs).