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Chris Connolly

Garden Snail

Snail

 

 

 

With their messy trails and taste for greens, the common Garden Snail is often considered to be a pest whose strong homing instinct makes human control difficult. They are often seen after rain and leave a tell tale trail of mucus. Being hermaphrodites, the Garden Snail each have both male & female reproductive organs, but although they can mate with themselves, it’s more usual for them to find a partner. When conditions are dry, Snails retreat into their shell and seal the entrance. They can survive in a state of suspended animation for several months. A single Snail can have 430 babies in a year. The common Garden Snail is also edible and snail farming is currently a booming cottage industry in Britain.

Gecko

Gecko

 

 

 

The mediterranean Gecko has large, unblinking eyes (ie: there are no eyelids) with vertical pupils. They have bumpy or warty skin and their somewhat odd appearance that also matches their rather intriguing habits. The Mediterranean gecko helps provide year-round insect pest control in our landscapes and homes by feeding on cockroaches and a wide variety of other insects. It is native to Southern Europe and Northern Africa. Geckos have adapted well to living in and around homes. For this reason, their numbers and range seem to be on the increase in many areas in the Southeastern United States. The Mediterranean Gecko body is cylindrical, squat and sometimes flattened on the upper side. They have soft, granular skin that feels velvety to the touch. The coloration of a gecko is very important to their lifestyle. The skin is usually gray with several brownish-red to bright red spots and flecks. They have the ability to lighten or darken the coloring of their skin. They usually do so in order to blend in or to be less noticeable to other animals. Mediterranean Geckos have toes that are equipped with claws and sticky toe pads to aid in climbing. They are expert tree climbers. Their sticky toe pads also allow them to climb walls as well as navigate across glass and screens. They are often observed perched on walls around outside lights, waiting to grab insects attracted to the light. By day, these lizards hide in cracks, crevices and under tree bark. Mediterranean Geckos are nocturnal, being most active during the evening and night time hours. They are frequently found near lighted areas (such as the front entryway), where small insects are abundant during the warm season.

Common Frog

Frog

 

 

 

The frog you are most likely to see in Britain is the Common Frog (Rana Temporaria), which lives on land in damp habitats for most of the year. It may be found in open woods, hedgerows, fields and gardens, not too far from water. The body colour varies widely, with upper parts usually brown or olive, but sometimes yellowish- orange or grey. The underside is normally paler, and the whole body is blotched or spotted with a darker colour, which helps to camouflage it against its background. This frog has a distinctive dark patch behind its eye. A male Common Frog is slightly smaller than the female, which measures about 7.5cm (3in.). Frogs move by hopping or leaping, using their long, muscular back legs; they do not crawl. They have very smooth, damp skins. The fully webbed hind feet help them to swim. Diet: Frogs eat insects and other invertebrates, such as slugs, snails and worms. On summer days, they like to hide amongst tall plants and come out on warm, damp evenings to hunt. Like all amphibians, it is hard for them to find food during the winter, and they cannot function in cold temperatures, so from about mid-October they hibernate in a sheltered place on land e.g. under a log, or in the muddy bottoms of ponds. Males often hibernate in the bottom of ponds, so that they are already at the breeding site when the females arrive in the early spring. They can take in sufficient oxygen through their skin during hibernation under the water. Breeding: A frog is ready to breed at about two years old. After their winter hibernation, frogs emerge to migrate to breeding ponds, returning, if possible, to the places where they themselves were hatched. The males usually arrive first, usually in February or March, but often January in the south-west of England and begin croaking loudly to attract the females. The male frog develops thick pads of rough skin on his thumbs, which enable him to grip the slippery female firmly whilst mating. The female releases about 2,000 eggs into the shallow parts of the pond, and, as they leave her body, the male releases his sperm over them. The jelly around each egg swells up, so protecting the egg and helping to keep it warm. The spawn sinks to begin with, but soon swells and rises to the surface. After spawning, the adults usually stay in the water until April, when the weather is warmer, and then live on the land. Tadpoles hatch from the eggs after about two weeks. It will be three months before they will have developed into tiny miniature frogs, ready to leave the pond. As they leave the water, they are very vulnerable to predators such as blackbirds. At any age they may be eaten by cats, crows, herons, ducks, hedgehogs, rats and foxes.

Green Orb-Weaver Spider

Green Orb-Weaver Spider

The Green Orb-Weaver Spider (5-7mm in length), as the name suggests, has a bright green abdomen and a yellow or reddish coloured head. Just above the spinners (the tail end) it has a bright red spot. This is more obvious on young spiders and can only be seen from underneath the spider. Freshly hatched spiderlings are red, and change to brown before the autumn. Despite it’s almost fluorescent colour the Green Orb-Weaver Spider can remain very well camouflaged amongst vegetation. It is only when it strays from its normal habitat that it get noticed. It is a common native species that is found throughout the UK and northern Europe.

Nursery Web Spider

 

Nursery Web Spider

Members of this family of spiders (12-15mm long) are active hunters with good vision. The Nursery Web Spider hunts amongst low vegetation as well as on the ground. When detecting prey, they characteristically rest on vegetation with the first two pairs of legs together, held out at an angle. During courtship, the male Nursery Web Spider presents the female with a ‘nuptial gift’ in the form of an insect wrapped in silk. Until fairly recently, this gift was thought to protect the male from becoming the female’s next meal. Research has shown, however, that the gift entices the female to mate, and what’s more, the size of the gift is related to how long the female will mate with a male. The larger the gift, the longer copulation will last and so more eggs will be fertilized by more ‘generous’ males bringing larger gifts. Female spiders belonging to this family produce very large egg sacs, which they carry around beneath their body. When the time for the spiderlings to emerge approaches, the female deposits the egg sac on a leaf and spins a protective silk ‘nursery web’ around it. She then opens the egg sac slightly, and stands guard until the spiderlings emerge. These spiders are large, brown and hairy and are often confused with the Wolf Spider. Unlike the wolf spiders, which have two very prominent eyes in addition to the other six, the eyes of the nursery web spiders are more or less the same size. Many species are able to walk on the surface of still bodies of water, and may even dive beneath the surface for a time to escape enemies. These spiders are venomous & can bite you but they are not dangerous. There bite is similar to an ant bite resulting in some very mild swelling for a few days.

Cricket

Cricket

The Cricket can be found hiding under logs, grasses, and in crevices. They can also dig holes into the ground to create homes for themselves, or live in holes created by other animals. Males are territorial and will fight off other males, but allow any number of females to coexist in the same shelter. Male crickets produce several distinctive chirps and each chirp is made by rubbing the two outer wings together. Loud and steady chirps made throughout the night are to attract females and to warn off other males. Loud fast-frequency chirps are emitted when males encounter one another and are preparing to fight. They are intended to frighten off the rival male. A soft clipping sound is made when a female is known to be nearby. Its purpose is to encourage the female to mate. Fun Facts: In many parts of the world, the Cricket is thought to bring good luck. It is rumored that the Cricket can tell the outside temperature: Count the number of chirps they make in one minute, divide by 4 and then add the number 40 to reach the outside temperature. There are about 900 species of crickets worldwide.

Sickle Bearing Bush Cricket

 


Grasshopper


Grasshopper


Grasshopper

The Sickle Bearing Bush Cricket can be found in most of Europe and as far eastwards as Japan, including all central Asia. It is a medium size (35mm) grasshopper with a pale green body covered with black spots and can be seen in dry locations: calcareous meadows, fallow lands, bushes and moorlands from July to October. It can be identified by its wings, which are much longer than the elytra (wing cases). The length of the antenna can reach four times the length of the body. The female’s abdomen ends with a sharply upturned ovipositor. The Sickle Bearing Bush Cricket mainly feeds on plants and the female lay the eggs on the shrub’s leaves, particularly on Blackthorn. The Sickle Bearing Bush Cricket can fly a relatively long distance when frightened. Although, not native to the British Isles, in 2006 a breeding colony was discovered during entomological survey work in Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve in East Sussex. This is the first confirmed breeding record of the species in Britain as adults and nymphs were recorded. Although it was also recorded in Cornwall over 100 years ago this may have been an occasional migrant but it seems that this continental species may be increasing its range.

 

Pink Grasshopper

Pink Grasshopper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“This bright Pink Grasshopper is enough to make anyone jump” – and I didn’t find in the jungles of Borneo or Brazil but in Thomastown, County Kilkenny. When I first found ‘Mr. Pink’, I contacted the Irish Wildlife Trust straight away, thinking that my name would go down in the annals of Irish wildlife history but unfortunately for me, I was informed that it is not a rare species but it is a very unusual colour, which makes it a very rare, interesting and strange find. It’s colour, in terms of percentage in normal Meadow Grasshoppers is less than one percent. Most grasshopper species in Ireland are greenish-brown in colour, but some have genetics that can make them pink or purple-red. It is called erythrism, which is an unusual and little-understood genetic mutation caused by a recessive gene similar to that which affects albino animals. The combination of red hair and freckles in humans is thought to be a form of erythrism, too. These grasshoppers tend not to make it to adulthood or survive for long in the wild as predators easily spot them, so it was a treat for me to see and photograph a grasshopper as beautiful as this one. I suppose if it was found in a field of pink flowers, this Pink Grasshopper would have a distinct advantage. PS: this photograph was voted the Irish National Winner in the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards and also graced the cover of the Irish Wildlife Magazine.

Damselfly

Common Blue-Tail Damselfly

The Dragonfly and Damselfly are insects, they are not flies. They can hover in mid air and eat other insects by catching them as they fly. There are 3 parts to their bodies: head, thorax and long thin abdomens. They have 3 pairs of jointed legs and 2 pairs of transparent wings. What are the differences between them? Dragonflies and damselflies are often mistaken for each other because they appear to be quite similar. However, when resting, damselflies hold their wings together above the body, while dragonflies hold their wings flat. The back wing of the dragonfly is broader near where it joins onto the body. Damselfly eyes are further apart than those of a dragonfly. Damselflies are usually smaller than dragonflies. Dragonflies can fly at 40 kilometers per hour whereas Damselflies fly more slowly.

Banded Demoiselle

Banded Demoiselle

These beautiful Demoiselles are the largest of our native damselflies. The males have a dark blue-green metallic body and dark blue coloured patches on their wings. It is a large damselfly with a total length of up to 48 mm (1.9 in) and a wing length of up to 36 mm (1.4 in). The female has translucent, pale green iridescent wings with a white patch near the tip and a metallic green body. She can lay up to 10 eggs per minute for 45 minutes (450). They lay in a wide variety of emergent or floating plants, sometimes even submerging to do so. Males are usually territorial, but large numbers can sometimes be found in lush bank-side plants and on floating objects. They are easily identified because they resemble butterflies with their gentle, fluttering flight. They court females by opening their wings and performing an aerial dance. You can usually find the Banded Demoiselle around slow moving areas of water and they are very sensitive to pollution so their presence is often an indicator of good water quality. They are on the wing throughout June and July and often into August and it is when they fly in the sunshine that you can see the stunning blue shimmer. The Banded Demoiselle is a Eurasian species and is present throughout Eurasia from the Atlantic coast to the northwest of China. They are also found throughout the UK and Ireland.