Posted by: Ross Gardner | November 9, 2015

This and That

It’s been a strange old November down in the South East of England so far.  There’s been very little in the way of sunshine just lately, with lots of cloud and a fair bit of rain.  Yet all the while it has been exceptionally mild.  Even without the sunshine, these are conditions – with the temperatures as they have been – that can create that satisfying dichotomy of seasonal shift and the blurring of boundaries.

I found myself in the middle of town the other day (Southend, as it happens, but not specifically relevant to the context of this post) visiting, as I sometimes do, a small public garden, en route from A to B.  It is set with the walls of an old pit that was excavated long ago for sand.  As a garden, it may have seen some better days, but as that proverbial oasis for wildlife in an urban setting it is perhaps doing rather better for all its rougher edges.

A dense strata of grey cloud slid by continuously overhead, heavy with the promise of rain, and the place had an undeniably wintry façade.  As so often happens at this time of year, I found myself wondering where all the birds were, so silent it was, but for the occasional tutting of Robin and Wren from within the denser cover of shrubs and scrambling thickets of Ivy.  That was until the mixed flock of small birds came past, mostly Long-tailed Tit, purring their way through the branches.  Others were among them, as is so typical of flocking habit at this time of year, including a few Goldcrest, very much a bird of the season with their winter influx significantly boosting numbers and frequency of sightings around these parts

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus). Ross Gardner 2012)

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus). Ross Gardner 2012.

But what of the seasonal dichotomy mentioned above?  Well this was provided by the irresistible lure of peering into a body of water, no matter how briefly and how unpromising it may look.  On this occasion, floating on the surface of a pond among the scattered leaves of duckweed were a number of Water-measurer.  They have been mentioned on this blog before, but having managed to get a better picture of one than previously, they are deserving of a re-run.  They are true bugs, as also are the more familiar surface dwellers, the pond skaters, but possess are far more considered and ponderous gait across the water and not the rapid jerking movement of their cousins.  Neither do they hunt their food from the surface, but use their needle-like mouthparts (the ‘rostrum’ is common to all true bugs) to stab beneath the surface and capture small aquatic animals, such as water fleas (Daphnia).  A small reminder of the summer plenty of aquatic habitats.

While the winter shows its face, with the air still mild the season just gone gives a wink from the shadows.

Water-measurer (Hydrometra stagnorum). Ross Gardner 2015

Water-measurer (Hydrometra stagnorum). Ross Gardner 2015.

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