What did we see on a walk in the woods on this mild autumn day? Very little frankly. Just a few long tailed tits and the odd wood pigeon and crow. No squirrels, no woodpeckers, no jays, and generally a very quiet walk indeed nature-wise. Where are they all hiding and why?


A short while ago I posted about the missing sector spiders living in the metal frame of my gazebo, but it was only after I'd taken the photos that I identified the spider, so I promised to go back and get a shot of the apparently distinctive web itself. Good to my word I've done just that, and I handily picked a misty dew-soaked morning so the web stands out nicely to be seen.

It's a slightly scrappy web, but the classic missing sector can be seen in the top right, with just a single thread (hardly visible) running to the spider's favourite hiding place up in the corner.


I was surprised to see a Comma butterfly in the garden a few days ago, it being late October, poorly photographed with an outstretched arm to where it was on the top of a 2m hedge. However a bit of research shows that I shouldn't have been so surprised as butterflies are to be seen in the UK from March to November. I also wonder if that bracket is gradually widening further with the warming climate. So there may be butterflies for a month yet, perhaps especially with the very mild weather we've had recently.

According to the BBC more species of rare bird in the UK have increased in number in the past ten years than common species. Is this an impressive result for concerted attempts to help rarer species, or does it just beg the wider question as to whether human intervention is 'right' or 'wrong'?

It's a tough one, but indulging in a bit of parlour philosophy, this author wonders whether our attempts to freeze the ecological status quo are just as unnatural as any of the changes we wreak on the globe. Some species benefit, others lose out – no matter what we do we had a hand in it, and it's not clear how to decide which specific species will be helped or hindered in the name of ecology. But enough of that – it's nice to have more ospreys around!

WoodPecker SquirrelHead

With the leaves falling off the trees, it's a good time to spot life that would otherwise be hidden in the higher reaches of the branches. All the food gathering going on at this time of year also brings a lot of animals out into the open more frequently - Jays for instance.

I've seen a lot of woodpecker and squirrel activity recently, and maybe rarer birds such as treecreepers might be easier to see too.

The BBC reports that the red squirrel colony on the island of Anglesey (at the North West tip of Wales) might be breaking out of the island and settling in new habitats on the mainland. The colony on the island has been aided by a ten year cull of grey squirrels, but it will be particularly interesting to see whether the red can forge its own niche without human intervention. That said, the locals are gearing up to cull grey squirrels on the mainland side too in order to give it a chance, so it looks like that experiment will not occur.


Away from urban squalor they're actually quite cute really, brown rats. They're mostly nocturnal, but this one forages during the day for spilled grain beneath a bird feeder in a nature reserve.


I found this Speckled Bush Cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) sunning itself on a fence in the dying rays of the autumn sun. Click above for a larger version of the photo on which the tiny black speckles are evident. Note the antennae, which are much longer than the body, and the curved ovipositor at the rear, which indicates this is a female. She uses it to lay eggs beneath the surface of the soil. Adults are generally seen from August to October, so it genuinely is the end of the cricket season.

Crickets (and bush crickets, which are a bit different) can generally be distinguished from grasshoppers by their long antennae and lack of (or tiny and useless) wings, amongst other more subtle traits. Supposedly crickets are nocturnal and less vividly green than grasshoppers but this specimen didn't seem aware of those distinctions.


The Autumn of spiders continues unabated. I've noticed a number of orb web spiders of some sort living on the gazebo in the back garden, but I never got around to figuring out what they are until today. They're mostly very shy, disappearing into holes in the metalwork when I come close, but after trying over several hours I found one that was happy to be photographed in the open. This shot was taken with flash at night, hence the glowing eyes.

UKSafari.com helped me identify this as a Missing Sector Spider (Zygiella x-notata). Wikipedia also has a decent description. This spider generally leaves part of its web empty apart from a signal thread to the hideout, but I can't say I noticed this. However at the time I hadn't identified it, so I'll have to go back and see if the webs conform to type. I remember them being a bit messy and not classy orb webs at all mind you!

Update: I went back as promised and got a picture of the missing sector web itself.


I noticed an unusually large number of ladybirds on the wing and landing on my house, shed and everything else today. I understand this is fairly common in the autumn, as they look for somewhere to hibernate through the winter. Is anybody noticing this phenomenon right now?