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Tuesday, 16 November 2021

October, 2021 - A Round-up

Having returned from the wonderful Isles of Scilly on 4th October, I found myself rather bogged down with photo processing, blog post writing, gardening, time-consuming household maintenance works, and the making of Lindsay's Christmas present (an ongoing project which, hopefully will be completed in time!).

In consequence, I only ventured out once with the camera in the rest of the month, but I did take a few photos around the garden.

So here is what will probably turn out to be a rather short blog post - by my standards, anyway!

Warning!      If you are an arachnophobe, you might now want to rapidly scroll down a way!

Wednesday, 6th October

While painting the garden fence, I had to pause to let this harvestman depart. Harvestman is a group of  arachnids, but not spiders, of which there are several species in UK, but many more worldwide. This one had lost one of its front legs

harvestman (Leiobunum rotundum) (male) - Garden on 6th October
Thursday, 7th October

At this time of year, we seem to get many Garden Spiders in the garden. The Garden Spider is one of our most common and largest spiders and makes a large web of the sort that features in halloween motifs. It rushes to disable prey caught in the web, quickly encasing it in silk, as this one has done, before removing it to its larder for later consumption. 

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) - Garden on 7th October
More recently, from the comfort of our conservatory, Lindsay and I watched a wasp getting caught in a Garden Spider's web. The spider was instantly on the scene and wrapping the wasp. It was obviously conscious of the sting which was thrusting in and out of the wasp's abdomen in an effort to defend itself, as it wrapped the front end first and waited for the wasp to become still before cautiously working on the tail end, and then carrying it off.
Friday, 8th October
Sadly, Great Spotted Woodpecker is now a very infrequent visitor to our garden, so I was particularly excited when a female of the species visited us on this day. 

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus major) (female) - Garden on 8th October
Saturday, 9th October
After a disappointing period of absence, a Robin has now included our garden in its territory and is a daily visitor. Even if it is a common bird, there's no getting away from the fact that it is a British icon for good reason!

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Garden on 9th October
Sunday, 10th October
This was the one time that I made it out for a local walk, with my destination being Thortit Lake, which is less than five minutes away from our home by car. I could walk to it in less than half an hour, but I'd probably get wiped out on the way as it is a narrow bendy lane with no footpath and people tend to drive rather fast along it.

A few days previous to this, I had participated in an on-line presentation on the state of dragonflies in Leicestershire. During this, it was stated that the Willow Emerald Damselfly, first recorded in the county in 2019, was spreading rapidly. Someone commented that they'd recently happened upon one at Thortit Lake. As, just one month earlier, I had travelled 45 miles (72 km) to the other side of the county in order to see this damselfly species, I was keen to see if I could find one 'on my doorstep'.
The lake is just over 300 metres long by just under 100 metres wide with views only available from the long north side. There is a well made path which runs at an average of approximately 25 metres from the water's edge. This is probably best explained by the 'grab' from Google Earth, below.
Thortit Lake, taken from Google Earth
From the main path there are a few places where tracks have been worn to the water's edge, possibly by dogs as much as by people. I went down a couple of these, before I found one which looked promising. In the water ahead of me was a pair of swans. This is one of them.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Thortit Lake
Nearer to the water, a Common Darter was perched on the path ahead of me.
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Thortit Lake
I stood at the edge for a while, scanning the small Willow that was in the water at the edge of the lake before I noticed a movement and a damselfly flew to the back of the reeds in front of me. It eventually moved to a spot where I could see it more clearly. However, it was distant and into the light. These are heavily cropped images taken with the lens fully extended to 500mm, and not to a standard that I'm happy with, but show that I had, indeed, found a male Willow Emerald Damselfly.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) (male) - Thortit Lake
I waited patiently hoping it would move to a more accessible position but, eventually, it flew off and was lost to sight. While waiting and hoping for its return, I photographed another Common Darter - this one a female.
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Thortit Lake
I also spotted a rather unusual-looking spider (another warning for arachnophobes!) which appeared from behind a leaf and then descended out of view. I have consulted my spider field guide and can find nothing that resembles it. Any help would be much-appreciated!

spider species - Thortit Lake
Before I left, I tried taking some shots of a Migrant Hawker in flight, but this was the best I could do against the light and at a distance.
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Thortit Lake
The finding of the Willow Emerald had made my day. Sadly there was a change of weather after this day, and a few other things got in the way too. My next visit yielded absolutely nothing in the way of Odonata.
Wednesday, 13th October

On this day, I noted a micromoth resting on the remains of the mint against the shed wall. It was one of the plume moths with its distinctive 'T' shape.
Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla) - Garden on 13th October
Thursday, 21st October
A sunny day, with me busy in my study, but I couldn't resist a shot from my desk of this very spotty Starling in the elder at the other end of the garden.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - Garden on 21st October
Thursday, 28th October
Yes, I'd been a whole week without photographing anything, and my offering for this day was purely a chance spotting of a caterpillar crossing the path outside our back door. I brought it in so that I had better light to photograph it in before placing it somewhere safer outside. I have tried to identify it, but without any success whatsoever. Not finding it on a food plant doesn't help!

unidentified caterpillar - Garden on 28th October

This brings me to the end of my October round-up. I have no concept of when my next post will be or what it will feature as I seem to have lost my mojo of late and have only managed two relatively brief, and frustratingly uproductive, excursions so far this November.

Until then, please take good care of yourselves and Nature - - - Richard


  1. Hi Richard! Wonderful nature sightings.

    1. Thank you, Anne. I'd be lost without my garden!

  2. First class post, Richard, with excellent pictures of the arachnids and the plume moth. I remember the first time I saw a plume moth and doubt that I would have recognized it as a moth had I not been with a moth expert. The presence of the Robin in your garden reinforces the fact that it is not always rarities that cause us to swoon with pleasure. I just filled my feeders and three chickadees and a Downy Woodpecker were buzzing around me as I did. They are common species but no less delightful for their familiarity. In fact if we don't see one after looking out the window several times we always say, "Wonder what happened to the chickadees today?" Familiarity breeds appreciation, not contempt. Best wishes to you and Lindsay. David

    1. I recall that, long before I got interested in moths, I too wondered what I was looking at when I first encountered a plum moth. We have twenty one species of plume moth featuring in the UK field guide, many of which look very similar to each other, and ID can be a bit of a headache!

      If I'm in the garden and a Robin is around, I always find myself talking to it (I'm the same with Blackbirds). Lindsay and I, sitting in our conservatory, will often say "I've not seen Robin yet today" and will invariably greet 'him' with a "hello Robin" when 'he' does show up.

      Best wishes to you both - stay safe - - - Richard

  3. Hello Richard
    your mojo will come back sooner than you think. but your "short" post is also a great success .....
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you, Frank, I hope it returns soon. However, there are a few things that I have got to get out of the way first!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  4. Love the various arachnid shots in particular.

    1. Thank you - your approval is very encouraging! Best wishes - - - Richard

  5. Hello Richard Emerald:=) Well done in finding the Willow Emerald, your images are fine. What large eyes it has. Your macros are amazing! Thank you for showing the Harvestman with it's long legs as it really is, and the larger image which shows such detail, and the Garden Spider with it's prey, carefully avoiding the wasps sting. I know just how small the Plume moth is, so can appreciate your macro image. The Robin and Starling captures are beautiful. I also cannot identify the spider, which looks like it is carrying something on it's back, nor the caterpillar, but if I find out, I'll let you know.
    Wonderful post Richard
    All the best.

    1. Those plume moths are rather small, aren't they Sonjia, and there are several species of them that look very similar, so I had to seek help from an expert in getting confirmation of the ID. Thank you for your kind words - - - Richard

  6. An enjoyable visit to your garden, with a nice illustrated mix ending with a White Ermine larva that feeds on your herbaceous plants?

    Kind Regards, and do Take Care Richard/Lindsay.

    1. I'd discounted White Ermine, Pete, as there was a distinct lack of dorsal stripe (unless it was hidden under the dense covering of hairs), and I'd expect W E to have an orange dorsal stripe.

      Best wishes to you and KT - stay safe - Richard

  7. Beautiful photos of your trip Richard. Have a nice weekend !

    1. Hi Caroline. Apart from a very short visit to a place near home for about an hour and a half, all these photos were taken of birds and other creatures in our garden. Have a good weekend yourself - - - Richard

  8. Hi Richard...Thank you very much for telling me ... A Hug...
    Very nice pictures... Regards from Madrid...


    1. Thank you, Ana. Warm wishes from a rather cold England. Stay safe - - - Richard

  9. Lovely Harvestman images, and Garden Spider. Beautiful female Great Spotted Woodpecker, and loads of dragonflies, thanks Richard.

    1. I'm pleased that you liked the arachnids, Bob. Unfortunately, I'm finding very little to photograph at the moment - I must try and get out into the countryside, but have rather a lot going on at home at the moment. Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  10. If I had a garden like yours I would not have to go far for enjoying Nature Richard. Some great birds and spiders to observe. Immagine us have that long legs like that spider ;).
    All the best and hope your present for Lindsay will be ready before Christmas.
    Warm regards,

    1. It's not the long legs that would worry me, Roos, but the number of them - one missing out of eight is not too bad, but one missing out of two and I'd be in trouble!

      I feel very privileged to have a garden that attracts wildlife, although I do work at it. We had twenty different species of bird visit us today!

      So far, the present for Lindsay is going well - perhaps a little better than I expected. I hope she likes it.

      My very best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  11. Hi Richard,
    just like you, I really don't have time to photograph, but I also don't have time to read everything or write a blog. I am slowly coming to terms with it now.

    And no, I absolutely do not like spiders iiiiiiiiiiii.....!!!!
    your photos on the other hand are very beautiful and this way I don't have to be so afraid hihi.....

    A very nice blog with a nice variety of birds, insects and the beautiful dragonflies.

    Regards, Helma

    1. I was sorry to hear of your loss of people close to you, Helma. This evil virus is claiming the lives of too many good people, mainly because there are selfish people who act stupidly without caring about the safety of others. I hope that you regain your spirits soon!

      I hope that I did not give you too many frights with those spiders. The biggest problem that I have with spiders is that I absolutely hate it when I'm outside and accidentally get a spider's web draped across my face.

      Take great care and stay safe - my very best wishes - - - Richard

    2. Hi Richard,
      I recognize that from that spirag in your face hahahaha...
      We had a very large spruce in the front yard where many birds always came. Unfortunately spiragges always came in in the fall and went to the other side of the path where there were some conifers.
      Still be careful.

    3. It took me a little while to work out what a 'spirag' was but I got there in the end! Yes, they can be quite uncomfortable, and a nuisance! Take good care - - - Richard

  12. Hi Richard, Lovely set of photos and enjoying the different spiders as well. We seem to gat dozens of Harvestmen around in early autumn. That starling is stunning.

    I apologise for not being online much. I had a bad fall out walking a couple of weeks back, sadly causing some damage to my lens which we are trying to get a spare part for. I think I cracked a rib, and I was black and blue and very sore. Just on the mend when I cracked my shin on the wheelbarrow yesterday, my leg ballooned and turned blue so an urgent trip to the Dr. I am now heavily bandaged with a compression bandage and a special dressing for the next 10days!!!
    Otherwise all is well !!
    Take care and keep safe. Very best wishes, Diane

    1. I'm so sorry to hear of your accidents, Diane. I've expressed my sympathy more fully in a comment on your blog. I'll just reiterate, however, that I hope you take great care and recover quickly, and that it doesn't interfere too much with your preparation for, and enjoyment of, Christmas!

      For some reason, we get a lot of Harvestment indoors. They seem to like being in the bathroom!

      Now we are in December, the birds are visiting the garden more. However, the light has been terrible so the photography has been pretty dismal too.

      My best wishes to you and Nigel - stay safe, and look after that leg - - - Richard


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