All Wrapped Up

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You probably have to be of a certain age and disposition to know that ‘All Wrapped Up’ was a double compilation of some of The Undertones finest moments. The album sleeve featured a photo by John Pretious showing fellow graphic design student Cath Johnson wearing a dress made from raw meat and cellophane and accessorised with a string-of-sausages necklace. To put it mildly, it wasn’t to everyone’s taste; in fact it caused something of a hullaballoo. Now, I know – though I don’t understand – that not everyone shares my admiration of spiders. So I should warn you that if, inexplicably, you feel indifferent or even ill-disposed toward our arachnid neighbours, then you should probably look away now; this post consists principally of lots of close-ups of a spider at work, and like the Derry punksters LP cover, it might cause some people offense.  

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The beautiful blue hue in the background of these photos is not the sky, or rather, it is the sky, but seen indirectly, reflected in our kitchen window. I suspect, but can’t remember, that I was on the other side of the glass, washing-up, when I first noticed this spider busily wrapping up a meal for storage purposes.

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I’m pretty confident that this is Araneus diadematus named for the cross which occurs on its back. A common and widespread species, which is found right across Europe and North America, which might explain why, unlike many less well known species of spider, it has numerous common names – garden spider, diadem spider, cross spider, or crowned orb weaver.

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I’m sure that I’ve used this well-known Jerome K. Jerome quote before:

“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

But it bears repetition.

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I don’t need much encouragement to abandon the dirty dishes in the sink, but it would have been a crying shame to miss the deft way in which this spider swathed its prey in gossamer. At times the spider was delicately spinning the fly, presumably shrouding it in the process.

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Once the carcass was all wrapped up, the spider rapidly carried it, hanging by a thread, up to the top of the web.

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Apparently the colours of diadem spiders vary quite considerably, from ‘extremely light yellow to very dark grey’, but maybe that’s as much to do with the quality of the light rather then an inherent feature of individual spiders….

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I remember assuming, at the time, that what the spider was busy dressing was a bee, but now I’m not so sure.

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These large daisy type flowers growing in a bed adjacent to the window were full of hoverflies.

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The spider’s prey could easily have been one of these darker hoverflies.

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In fact, the wonderful Indian Summer we enjoyed in September and October, and which seems so distant now, was in full swing and our garden was generally very busy. The buddleia was host to a wide variety of butterflies for a change.

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I think that this sunbather is probably a Common Darter.

And, now that I was on the lookout, there were plenty more spiders to be found…

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Now – if I could just get outside, with or without my camera, in some light like this….

Links:

More about the ‘All Wrapped Up’ Cover.

More about Araneus Diadematus

All Wrapped Up

Inevitably: Carn Fadryn

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Carn Fadryn towering over the campsite (thanks to the trickery of a telephoto lens)

No trip to the Llyn is complete without an ascent of Carn Fadryn.

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A view down to Hell’s Mouth.

We climb it every year and I can’t see how I shall ever tire of the experience. Lots of elements of the climb are familiarly unfamiliar, like the labyrinth spiders which festoon the gorse…

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…and seem very common here (and on the Llyn’s cliff-tops) but which I can’t recall ever having seen anywhere else.

Even the slight regret that we never branch out and divert to the summit of subsidiary bump Garn Bach has become an integral part of the day.

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The bilberries weren’t quite what was expected however: they were much better this year than they usually are. Often they’ve been just about finished when we climb the hill, but this year, presumably due to the sluggish (non-)arrival of summer, they were still in their prime, much to everyone’s delight.

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The wood sage and the heather which you can see in the bottom left corner of this photo are also part of the ever-present backdrop to our rambles on Carn Fadryn.

An encounter with a Dorbeetle…

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…is also de rigueur, and a hairy caterpillar on, or close to, the path is another essential component…

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We usually see a few choughs…

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…which we don’t have at home in Lancashire. Nor do we have Gatekeepers…

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…which are common on Carn Fadryn, when the sun shines, as it did at the end of this walk, but which, again, we don’t have in Lancashire which is beyond the northern limit of their range.

Inevitably: Carn Fadryn

Reasons to be Cheerful

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Another garden wildlife interlude. B found a colourful spider in the garden – we know the drill now, we have a field guide with a few, wholly inadequate, pages on spiders, but they could give us a start and then the internet would help us to identify our neighbour. First, however, we need lots of sharp photos from every angle.

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And that’s where the project fell down. This was one fast moving spider. It ran across his shirt, it abseiled away on gossamer threads, it just wouldn’t sit still for a portrait. So: I think that it’s an orb web spider, perhaps, but then I’m stuck. It diverted and delighted us for a few moments though.

Also, further to yesterday’s post and its mention of ‘Great Lives’: there are 270 episodes on the iplayer. I don’t know whether that’s all of them, but it seems likely. It’s enough to be going on with anyway. I’ve just listened to Linda Smith and Charlie Gillett discussing Ian Dury with Humphrey Carpenter, from 2003. I didn’t know that the programme had been presented by anyone other than the inestimable Matthew Paris. Ian Dury and Linda Smith, what an unexpected and wonderful combination.

A short post, so here’s some of Mr Dury’s words:

You’ll See Glimpses

You’ll see.

They think I’m off my crust as I creep about the gaff.
But I’m really getting ready to surprise them all,
Because I’m busy sorting out the problems of the world.
And when I reveal all won’t they get a crinkly mouth.
I’ve given my all to the task at hand unstintingly.
When it’s all over I’ll rest on my laurels.

Here for a moment is a glimpse of my plan:
All the kids will be happy learning things.
The wind will smell of wild flowers.
Nobody will whack each other about with nasty things.
All the room in the world.

They take me for a mug because I smile.
They think I’m too out of tune to mind being patronised.
All in all, it’s been another phase in my chosen career,
And when my secrets are out they’ll bite their silly tongues.
All I want for my birthday is another birthday.
When skies are blue we all feel the benefit.

Glimpse Number 2 for the listener.
Everyone will feel useful in lovely ways.
Trees will be firmly rooted in town and country.
Illness and despair will be dispensed with.
All the room in the world.

They ask me if I’ve had the voices yet.
They don’t think I know any true answers.
It’s true that I haven’t quite finished yet.
When it all comes out in the wash they’ll eat their words.
I’ve got all their names and addresses.
Later on I’ll write them each a thank-you letter.

Before I stop, here’s a last glimpse into the general future.
Home rule will exist in each home, forever.
Every living thing will be another friend.
This wonderful state of affairs will last for always.

This has been got out by a friend.

Reasons to be Cheerful

Another Interlude

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“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

Jerome K. Jerome

Another instance of the boys finding something fascinating in the garden and fetching me and my camera to enjoy it.

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Watching this spider deftly spin this wasp, well half of a wasp I think, and neatly wrap it in silk was really something.

Here’s one which was already hanging in the larder to season….

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Of course, once one thing has attracted my attention and has me gleefully snapping away, I’m inclined to start to look to see what else I can find. There were lots of hoverflies about, but I was more interested in this harvestman….

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…mainly because, until quite recently, I didn’t know that they existed. Not a spider, but related, it doesn’t produce silk, so can’t spin a web, nor does it have fangs, but it catches small prey using hooks on its long legs.

This forest bug, photographed on a different day, had a lucky escape – I was pruning a hazel which grows a good deal faster than the beech hedge it has invaded and so can often look a bit like a straggly cuckoo-in-the-nest when I spotted this bug on the underside of a leaf, just as I was about to shove it into the shredder.

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Another Interlude

Towyn Farm – A Coastal Stroll

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And then, almost everybody went home. Even TBH and A left, since they were booked into a Guide Jamboree camp. Originally, the boys and I were planning to head home too, but then it dawned on us that we might as well have a little more time by the coast. (Okay – we live by the coast, but a little more time by the Welsh coast, were there’s sand and cliffs etc. rather than an endless expanse of mud.)

Three of our friends stayed for one more day, but then they were due for a few days in the Lakes.

After the fine weather we’d been having, the day began rather cool, with a strong, blustery wind. We opted for a short excursion along the coast path.

The gorse along the cliff-tops here, and the gorse which covers the lower slopes of Caryn Fadryn, are covered with large, elaborate webs. The centre of each has a opening leading into a webbed tunnel…

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You can see that this one has snared a couple of ladybirds, a smattering of dewdrops and also a litter of flotsam, I can’t decide what it all is. This is the home of a labyrinth spider, agelena labyrinthica. B and I had seen several on Carn Fadryn a couple of days before, they lurk in the entranceways of their lairs, but tend to scuttle away when you peer in at them.

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I’m puzzled by these photos. I think that there are two spiders here, both of them agelena labyrinthica, locked in an embrace or a macabre dance of death? I’m only speculating.

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The coastal walking is lovely here. We should enjoy it more often. On this occasion, with the strong wind, there were waves crashing onto the rocks and beaches, which is unusual: this stretch of coast is often sheltered from the prevailing winds.

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I’m always intrigued by this small building, half built into the cliff-top, and by the ramshackle collection of huts which back this natural harbour, unnamed on the OS map.

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Nearby, there’s also the remnants of what must have been a very exposed house.

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And just across the headland, another natural harbour, Porth Ysgaden.

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We stopped here for drinks and snacks and to explore the rocks and tide-pools, which were large and full of small fish.

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With the weather brightening the majority vote was that would should head back for lunch and then the beach. I was outvoted, but have to confess that the beach was enjoyable – the waves were big enough the make bodysurfing viable, which is not normally the case. The kids also played a warped version of boules in which they kept reinventing the rules and adding water hazards, and which they seemed to find endlessly amusing.

Towyn Farm – A Coastal Stroll

Carn Fadryn – Birthday Hill

Male gatekeeper

Gatekeeper (male).

It’s a long old drive from North Lancs down to Tudweiliog. The children are much more patient* than I ever was in these circumstances and it’s actually fairly rare to hear a plaintive ‘Are we nearly there yet?’

Still, they can get a little restive at times. This year, as we crested the pass which takes us through the hills and onto the peninsula, we had a beautiful view along the coast and they were asking where the campsite was in relation to what we could see. As I tried to explain, little S cut in:

“Is that Birthday Hill Dad?”

It was.

Grasshopper 

He was referring to Carn Fadryn (or I notice, Garn Fadryn on new information boards which have been erected), which we do generally climb every year, and often on his birthday. This year he was adamant when we asked how he wanted to spend his day: climb Carn Fadryn and then go to the beach. Perfect day.

Spider 

I’ve written about Carn Fadryn often: the butterflies and labyrinth spiders, the amazing views, the bilberries, the iron age fort. It’s a small hill, but it punches well above it’s weight.

The horde on the summit 

The ‘camping friends’. Well, most of them.

Actually, this year the weather was a little murky and the views weren’t all they might have been. (Fortunately it rapidly cleared and by the time we got back to the cars it was scorching again, so S got his beach fix.)

I think we all enjoyed the climb none the less. TBH had brought cakes, and even candles to the summit, although the strong breeze meant that it was pretty much impossible to get all of the candles lit simultaneously.

Trying to light the candles 

S didn’t seem to mind.

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Male Wall Brown 

Wall Brown (male).

The birthday boy - laden with loom bands 

Our little crowd have been captivated by the loom band craze just like the rest of the world’s children apparently have+. Here Little S is modelling the look, with, I think, everybody’s loom band bracelets.

The 'naughty nine' - well seven of them.

The kids have taken to calling themselves ‘The Naughty Nine’, which, since they aren’t at all, is very sweet. I realise that there are only seven of them here. I suppose the other two must have been getting into mischief. Putting rocks into Andy’s rucksack hopefully.**

*Audio books on the CD player are largely to thank for that I think. At the moment, the whole family is gripped by the chronicles of Skulduggery Pleasant, especially when read by Rupert Degas, who produces an astonishing range of different accents and voices. Michael Morpurgo stories are a firm favourite too, although I struggle with how decimatingly sad they often are.

“This one’s OK Dad”, they’ll tell me, and then, half-way through, when the central character dies of a brain tumour having suffered being orphaned, deported, enslaved, brutally beaten and alcoholic,  on top of losing his best friend and his adopted mother, they have to reassure me that it isn’t going to get any worse.

+Their enthusiasm may just be beginning to wane.

**An ignoble thought. He made me a cup of tea at the top with his very expensive whizz-bang stove.

Carn Fadryn – Birthday Hill

Garden Wildlife

People keep telling me that we haven’t had a summer this year. (They also often ask about where I’ve been to get my tan and seem rather incredulous when I say North Wales.)

But we seem to have spent quite a lot of time recently sitting in our garden in the sunshine. We haven’t been the only one enjoying our garden. One morning we opened our curtains to see a roe deer sat beside the kids’ swing. That evening it was back. And the following morning. We thought we had a new neighbour. The kids were excited. To be honest, I was excited too. I was reminded of the wonderful story of John Wyatt’s relationship with a young roe deer told in his book ‘The Shining Levels’.

 Roe deer in the garden

But sadly, that was the last we saw of it.

Never mind, plenty more to see. Recently, there always seem to be 4 or 5 dragonflies quartering the space above the garden, and sometimes perching in the borders.

Migrant hawker 

Migrant Hawker

Southern Hawker 

Southern Hawker

Lots of bees about too. This one seemed to like the montbretia every bit as much as I do.

Bee in montbretia 

This one stood out because of its gorgeous orange fur.

Lovely bumble on buddleia 

Because it’s dark, and because I’ve been reading about these things, I think that this is a native British honey bee rather than an imported New Zealand or Italian bee.

Honey bee? 

This is not a bee at all, but a hoverfly pretending to be a bumble.

Hoverfly on scabious 

Lots of spiders about too.  I think that this is probably a garden spider, Araneus diadematus.

Garden spider 

And this another one. Looks like it’s eating, or at least wrapping-up for the larder, another spider. Is it a female preying on a would-be suitor?

Packed lunch 

I suppose that this could be another garden spider, although the colours are very different.

Orange spider 

Little S found this small shield bug and was thrilled with it.

Small shield bug

Of course, it has been very wet this summer, and butterflies have not been anything like as plentiful in our garden as they usually are. I was very pleased then, when some sort of parliament of Lepidoptera seemed to be taking place.

Peacock, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell 

Peacock, painted lady and small tortoiseshell butterflies.

Initially the peacock was very aggressive and kept driving off the larger painted lady, but eventually they all seemed to decide to tolerate each other.

This comma refused to join the conflab however, choosing to occupy an entirely different buddleia.

Comma

Back at work now. No more lazing around in the garden for me (sigh!).

Garden Wildlife