Get out of the city and into nature
My interest in nature began watching ducks and grebes with my dad, and has continued over the last 12 years via weekly visit to Welsh Harp Lake in my lunch breaks. I’ve been amazed at what can be experienced to close to the North Circular, Brent Cross and
SPIDERS – not everyone’s favourite I know but very abundant at Welsh Harp Lake, with this being one of the times of year when it seems as if their works of silken engineering might actually be holding together the hedges and bramble banks that line the paths.
Some who know me would say that I love spiders, from my habit of fishing them out to show my kids, but what they’ve not noticed is that this usually involves jam jars or VERY LARGE gardening gloves and in truth they have the capacity to un-nerve me. They are however quite amazing, fantastic in their strangeness: quite apart from their eight legs, they have eight eyes which can be arranged in a variety of sizes, combinations and positions depending on the needs of different species.
And then there are their webs, from the concentric circles of the orb web spiders, to the densely woven, organically shaped tubes of funnel web spiders, each with its owner crouched in the entrance, waiting.
My focus here however are the hunting spiders, in particular the nursery web spider.
This, like the rest of its type doesn’t build a web to catch prey but chases it down, relying on speed and good eyesight for survival. They are striking animals, with long legs and slender bodies coloured in anything from light tan to rich chestnut, with distinctive cream stripes down their sides. These are first on display in May when the spiders can be seen sunbathing on leaves, preparing for the task of finding a partner.
They then disappear for a couple of months while mating occurs, a process in which the males risk being eaten. This seems bizarre to us, but it does make sense, for after mating the male’s job is done and he will die, but still his main concern is that his genes live on. This rests on his mate being well equipped to raise their offspring, and by becoming a meal for her, he literally gives all he can to help this happen. The females then demonstrate the reason for their name, emerging to spin a web which surrounds and bends grass stems together, forming a pod to house her eggs and later the spiderlings before they disperse.
She positions herself close by to guard them and seems slower to flee on my approach than she was back in May when survival was her only concern.
The spiderlings will attempt to spend the autumn and winter hidden away. Many won’t make it, in the process providing food for countless other animals who would otherwise have perished, but some will reappear in the spring to start their remarkable life cycle again.
n NO WEB TO WEAVE: Webs catch the sunlight at this time of year, but the nursery w web spider (left) chases down its prey