More properly labelled Nuctenea umbratica, I stumbled across this darkly scary looking spider for the first time in the garden recently. Odd that it was the first I'd seen of it since apparently it's quite common. At first I thought it was just a natural variation on the common garden spider that I know and love. Indeed it looks very similar, but darker and more flattened and a bit wrinkly. It even behaves much the same, spinning a large orb web and sitting out of sight at the end of a signal line.

This particular character, poking out from the top of a shed window was quite the vicious little thing, aggressively attacking the long grass stem I teased it with. In fact in the picture it's running up that stem to bite my arm off!

Perhaps the reason I haven't noticed them before is that they don't sit in the middle of their web during the day like the common garden spiders do, so though you may see the web, you probably won't notice the spider.


You might recall me mentioning Chafer beetles flying around a birch tree at dusk a while back, though I couldn't get a picture at the time, what with them being up in the air and me down on the ground. I found one today resting in the crook of a brick, and frankly probably on its last legs. These beetles are notable for how very fat and furry they are, being about as tall/fat as they are wide. It's as if the wing cases are an ill-fitting suit struggling to sit on a very overweight gentleman!

Actually it probably looks a bit larger than it really is in the photo above. This one was about 18mm long perhaps (as a retrospective guess).


I think this might make a good desktop wallpaper for a computer, especially if I lost the slightly shrivelled brown bit in the bottom left. It's the lush leaves of Yellow flag iris, growing in shallow water.


I was lucky enough to see a fox out in daylight (just before 8pm) at the weekend, and for it to be obliging enough to be photographed. Albeit across a large garden, with just a utility 18-200mm lens and ISO 1600 as it stood in the shade. So the Wildlife Photographer of the Year prize isn't in much danger, but it's nice to to get even a record shot. This is in the countryside too, so probably not a fearless urban fox.


Why was it hanging around this particular garden? Because it's full of fox food of course!



One from the UKNB vaults, purely because I like the photo. This is a Venus fly trap in the botanical gardens at Oxford.

The BBC reports that the "Dainty damselfly" (the name of a specific species, not a description of damselflies in general) has made a return to British shores. Apparently they lost in the great floods over 50 years ago, but have now returned to North Kent, probably blown over the channel from increasing populations in Belgium.

I'll be honest, the pictures don't make it look particularly different from other black and blue damselflies that I see around, so you'd probably need to be quite clued up to identify this one. More info on the species here courtesy of the British Dragonfly society.


The badly photographed frothy mass above is commonly known as Cuckoo spit – found on plant stems it houses a small bright green Froghopper nymph that's feeding on the sap. It produces the froth as a deterrent to predators, a moist hiding place and a good use of excess sap. The adult, below looks fairly similar to the beastie within the froth, but dryer and usually drabber. And it doesn't hide in froth. But it does leap as if shot from a gun when you prod it and resembles a frog somewhat from certain angles – hence the name Froghopper.



Dragonflies look majestic and enthralling whirring above a pond, or as a rarer surprise through your waterless garden on a summer's day. However if a really big one accidentally gets into your house and starts banging off the walls and ceiling as you were peacefully watching Midsomer Murders, then you'll look on them a little differently and realise they most certainly wouldn't make good house pets.

And no, I didn't identify the species, though I can say for sure that they look much bigger and angrier indoors.

The BBC has a nice slideshow of extremely rare critters that have just been given common English names to go with their existing Latin ones. Actually the fourth picture in the list makes me wonder if my 'orange wasp' from a few days ago might be a sort of cuckoo bee.


The average Joe on the street might be forgiven for thinking that there are two kinds of bee: honey and bumble. But bees come in many shapes and sizes and if you stand in the garden a while and watch them visiting the flowers you'll probably see plenty of different sorts, quite visibly varying. But what of the common honey bee? Which one is it? Well I'm pretty sure the one pictured above is a standard European honey bee. Personally I look at the abdomen, being uniformly segmented and with just a very fine hairiness. Some others look similar but are noticeably smaller and usually a bit hairier, being solitary bees that live in holes in the ground rather than in hives. I saw one going into the hole at the top of a bamboo cane in the garden just the other day, though it didn't come out again whilst I was watching.

Learn everything you everything wanted to know about the European honey bee on Wikipedia.