Eight-legged freaks!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 7 June 2010 18:16

Surrey again I'm afraid. I have been on a Heath Tiger Beetle training day at Pirbright Ranges, a site that is difficult to get on to as it's a military site. A large part of the site has recently burned down too and the recovering vegetation is fascinating. Anyway, Scotty Dodd from Surrey Wildlife Trust organised the day and a whole host of invertebrate specialists attended. The Na Heath Tigers were quite easy to spot being very active but much bigger than Green Tiger Beetle which we also saw. We even saw one take down a grasshopper. I was also surprised that they were present in areas with taller heather, so long as there was plenty of bare ground underneath it.

Spiders were also impressive and we saw plenty of the RDB Surrey heath speciality, Oxyopes heterophthalmus (middle photo). They are very nicely marked, very cryptic against heathy foliage. They jump but in a strange fluttery way, quite unlike jumping spiders. Both the males and females legs are covered in thick long hairs and the males have huge palps. I'd love it if we could find this at Iping Common. However, my favourite find of the day was this amazing crab spider (top photo). It's a heathland specialist, fond of hiding out in the flowers of Cross-leaved Heath where it pounces on its unsuspecting prey. You would think a pink triangular spider should have a name as odd as it looks and you would be right. Thomisus onustus. Nice!

Other highlights included a couple of Woodlark and a new longhorn for me, the amazing Agapanthia villosoviridescens and a very convincing social wasp mimic hoverfly that I still need to key out. A Chrysotoxum species.

Amazingly, the grass (mostly Purple Moor-grass) that has grown up in the few days since the fire is 10 cm or more in some places and greener than the areas that were not burned! It was a real privilege to see and it's fascinating to see how this habitat recovers from fire. Just to reiterate, this is a military site and access is restricted.

1 Response to "Eight-legged freaks!"

Graeme Lyons Says:

Hi Tristan
Thanks for finding the blog, I'll have a look at your work on flickr and I'd like to know what camera you were using. I can't rely on the 10 year old 4 mega pixel Coolpix forever!

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