Sunday, 19 July 2015

Breezy Bryn Du

I never managed to get to see the Pyramidal Orchids at Bryn Du last year, so this afternoon, I put that to rights by making sure I saw them this year instead. They were putting on a fine show and as Martin rightly said, they are starting to spread out beyond their original colony. I counted 106 flower heads in all, but I noticed that some were within the advancing edge of the encroaching brambles, which if nothing is done and NRW don't see them off first, might be the ultimate fate of the whole colony.

I spent some time around the wheel wash area, where an Emperor Dragonfly was seen hunting. I also saw a couple of Golden-ringed Dragonflies along the ride.

Down in the wheel wash, I came across this curious looking cocoon, in the form of a delicate net, with the pupating larva visible inside. It was attached to the leaf of a Curled Dock plant, which itself showed no sign of having been used as a food plant by the larva, which I assume is some sort of beetle, though I really have no idea.

The highlight of the afternoon was this fantastic and fantastical looking Puss Moth caterpillar, which was low down on a sallow, at the edge of the wheel wash. I have always wanted to see one of these and it was a shame that with such a gorgeous creature to photograph, it was in a really awkward position for photography and the breeze kept jostling and buffeting the shoot it was on, preventing a nice crisp image, even when using flash. If I get the chance, in calmer weather, I'll try to revisit it and have another go. What strikes me most about the general appearance of it and it might be just my impression, but doesn't the front of the caterpillar resemble a large, gaping mouth, with pink, fleshy lips, bordered by a yellow face, with two black eyes?

Look at those pink appendages curling out of the prongs at the rear end. 

The pink appendages have withdrawn in this image.

While having a good look at the basic slag bank, I noticed a small, fast moving spider, scurrying about. It was about the size of a zebra spider, but dark and shiny, with cream markings on the abdomen. Again, I must apologise for the poor image, which its the best of a bad bunch, but the spider wouldn't stay still for a moment and following it with the camera and getting any sort of half decent image was more of a challenge for me and the camera's autofocus than we were able to meet.

Steatoda phalerata hurtling through the undergrowth!

It turned out to be easy to identify from the photo and is Steatoda phalerata, which is found in just the kind of open, poorly vegetated habitat as this one was found. They are very fast moving (I can vouch for that) and actively hunt ants, apparently often entering their nests. It's status is regarded as generally uncommon, though there are records for VC41.


  1. Great read mark and you alway have more when you count pmssl. love the pussy moth caterpillar and great find and been looking for them too.

  2. The orchids aren't easy to count, so I wouldn't regard that total as absolute. The caterpillar is easy to find and I'll email you the directions.

  3. thank you mark that would be brilliant mate