Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Life on a Rudbeckia flower

Today I took a little walk in our garden. At this time of year, I think our garden looks really beautiful as many of the flowers are in full bloom.

Above you can see our pond, which we made around 3 years ago. It is designed in shelves, so that there are layers of deepness, allowing for different plant and animal life to thrive. In the middle, there is a sharp dip that is nearly a metre deep, where a lot of dead leaves have fallen from the bush above, making lots of lovely rotten plant material for things to feed upon. Around the edge of the pond we made a nice bog garden, full of things like water mint and figwort.
It is really amazing to think how unnatural the pond looked when we first made it, compared to how beautifully natural it looks now.

 Above you can see the figwort growing around our pond. We have figwort weevils (which live on this plant) in our garden, which are not that common in our area.

Another thing that amazes me is the amount of frogs that can be found in our garden since we made the pond. In a few minutes I can find around 15-20 small frogs and a few really big individuals.

Here's a frog that I found today. He was underneath a bit of wood that connects the tall grass around a wood stump to the bog garden and the pond. This is a favourite amongst the frogs, and I can usually guarantee that I will find at least 1 individual under the wood.

We now have 3 nestboxes in the garden, but non of them are in occupation this year. One is in a pine tree and is being used by a wood mouse to stash seeds, another seems to be entirely empty, and the third one is inhabited by a huge house spider. She has made her web around and inside the nestbox, connecting her silk to the fence and the pine tree. I don't think any birds would dare nest in there now! The spider looks about big enough to eat a little chick, though I doubt it would bother to take that kind of prey.

 Today I tried to identify some yellow flowers that grow in our garden. After a few minutes of research, I believe that they are some kind of Rudbeckia, but this particular species of it is somewhat unusual in not having a black or brown center, instead having a yellowish one.
What really interested me was the amount of life on this single plant. As I watched, I saw hoverflies and bees, pollen beetles, and an unusual spider, which immediately caught my eye, so I caught it to identify it.
 It turns out that this small spider, just a few minimetres in length, was a common crab spider, Xysticus cristatus. These spiders are so-named because sometimes then can be seen scuttling sideways like a crab. They are ambush predators which wait for prey to blunder near, and can take on insects much larger than themselves. They are generally found on the ground or on low vegetation (as is the case with the individual that I found). My spider was clearly taking advantage of all the pollinators visiting the flowers.
I tried to get a picture of the spider on a flower, but it escaped. However, I did manage to get some photos of the pollen beetles.

The species you can see above is Meligethes aenus. I am quite fond of these beetles, as they have an amusing habit of not only being attracted to yellow flowers, but a variety of other yellow things. I have seen this several times, when wearing yellow clothing (high visibility jackets are particularly enticing for them!), and finding myself with beetles landing all over me. I have heard that they are also quite attracted to tennis balls. They feed upon nectar and pollen, making them important pollinators for many plants - although bees are more well known, these little beetles play a fairly vital role for many species of plants.

To finish off, above is a picture that I took amongst the Rudbeckias. I quite like experimenting with angles in photography, so I took this quick picture on my tablet. The quality isn't great, but I like the angle and the way the light shines through the leaves, so that you can see the veins.

Until next time, keep on the wild side!

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