In autumn many people were interested in spiders due to the surge in activity that occurs at that time of the year. Some of you contacted me to ask about different spiders, and one or two asked me if I might be providing a book for identification at some time in the future, and I promised I would do that. It took quite a while but I’m glad to say I finally finished it and it is now one of the only books on the subject available from Amazon for the Kindle e-reader:
My plan is to update the information in this book on an annual basis. It should be of useful to anybody interested in (or worried by) any of the spiders they encounter in Ireland, especially as it’s packed with photos. Feedback is welcome and will allow me to make subsequent editions more user-friendly, so anybody who decides to buy it shouldn’t hesistate to tell me where they feel improvements could be made.
When I recently showed this work to some of my friends a small number recoiled in horror at the thought of such a book, but spiders are creatures we share our world with, and no two spider species are exactly the same in appearance or behaviour. I hope this publication will at least help people to understand spiders a little better, and with a lot less fear.
Some of my readers and viewers might remember the photos I posted of the beautiful Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) I posted in early April: http://www.gardenofireland.com/workbook/?p=649
In the article I was highlighting the incredible complex of burrows on my front lawn, extending for many square metres. But there was an incredible twist to this story which I only became aware of last week when I received and read the autumn bulletin from the Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford. Dr. Úna Fitzpatrick was delighted to inform readers that:
“The most exciting bee story of the year was the rediscovery of the extinct tawny mining bee (Andrena fulva) by Roger Goodwillie in Co. Kilkenny. This species has only ever been recorded from Co. Kilkenny and was last spotted by Arthur Stelfox in 1925.” (BI Issue 10, pg. 12.)
Needless to say, this story took me by surprise and showed just how ignorant I was of the range and status of species in Ireland, because I had seen this species in my garden for many years and both my brother Trevor and I had been photographing them since April 2009. They were never particularly numerous, but this year there were over two hundred burrows of this ‘extinct’ bee in my lawn alone. And when I contacted Úna Fitzpatrick she was very, very surprised.
I also had video:
But that is why the work of the National Biodiversity Data Centre is so important. If you see something you think is unusual, or which might be rare, or even ‘extinct’, then visit the website www.biodiversityireland.ie and contact the relevant person and check out their records and submit your own.
November is a great month for viewing the foraging behaviour of garden birds because so many leaves have gone from the trees and because the insect population begins to crash as foliage and flowers disappear due to the lower amounts of sunlight and increasing cold. In the video below you can see a Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) very carefully searching leaves for small insects and other goodies. The footage is very slightly out of focus, so apologies for that.