Monday, 14 March 2016

A zebra in the sunshine

After a few weeks of icy temperatures, the weekend brought a change in the weather, with prolonged spells of sunshine sending the mercury heading for the dizzying heights of double figures. I was itching to get outside today to see what effect all this spring-like weather was having, and practically ran out of the office at lunchtime. It didn't take too long to find the first creature enjoying the sunshine, a beautiful male Zebra jumping spider hunting for prey on a fencepost. I think this is a male Salticus scenicus, but it seems tricky to tell these from the other Salticus species, so perhaps best to err on the side of caution.

Zebra Jumping Spider
A cute Zebra jumping spider

Onto the heath, and although the magic sallow is yet to put out its catkins, the Andrena clarkella colony was starting to get going, with 10 or so males alternately sun-bathing and searching for females. To my surprise, one female had made an early appearance (they usually emerge a bit later than the males) and was promptly jumped on by two males, eager to secure their genetic passage into the next generation. 

Andrena clarkella (m)
Male Andrena clarkella
In the gardens a first Eristalis pertinax for the year was nice to see, with the distinctive body shape showing why this species is sometimes known as the Tapered Drone-fly. The winter heather is always a great place for recently emerged queen bumblebees, and no fewer than four Buff-tailed Bumbles were joined by a single Tree Bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum, which has become such a familiar sight in recent years it's easy to forget that it only arrived from the continent a decade or so ago.

Eristalis pertinax
Tapered Drone-fly, Eristalis pertinax

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