A Guest for LunchTuesday 25th April 2000
THROUGHOUT the winter, a spider has kept its web in an upper corner of the lounge window-frame. The orb-web, which, I should explain, is on the outside, is about eight inches across, but is almost invisible seen against the sky.
This morning the spider is out on its web wrapping up its prey. I take a closer look as it heaves its dangling food parcel back to its lair and sets about sinking its fangs into it.
The prey looks suspiciously like a smaller spider. This could be a male that has been unsuccessful in approaching the larger female.
By the way, I have to admit a mis-identification. I thought this object, which I sketched last September, on the window of the spare bedroom was a spider or moth cocoon, and I left it to hatch out. Sadly it has turned out to be a small fruiting body of a fungus. It is now dry and brown inside. It is growing on one of the old windows which we didn't replace when we moved into the house.
Nest buildersPart of the problem is Starlings, which I love to see nesting in the corner of the house. I can glance at them over my shoulder, a few yards away, as I'm sitting here at the desk. They use a space on top of the cavity wall and below the roof. About seventeen years ago, bumble bees nested in this space. The following year the starlings threw out the remains of the bee's nest. This year it looks as if House Sparrows have taken over from the starlings. The only trouble is, because of the construction of our 1930s house, young birds occassionally manage to appear, panicking, trapped behind the air ventilator grill in this bedroom. Dust and debris come through, so we leave the vent closed. I imagine this has led to condensation during the long periods when the room is unused and that is why the fungus has got a hold.
Neighbours a few doors down grow Pampas Grass. We've found pieces lying on the drive near the front door. These will be pieces dropped by starlings or sparrows which are a little over-enthusiastic in their selection of nest materials.
I'd love to have House Martins nesting here too, but their main colony is across the road. A few birds, the first I've seen, freshly returned from their winter in Africa, fly around this evening, taking a look at last year's mud-cup nests below the eves.
There's a wild cherry now in flower on Millbank. It's most likely Wild Cherry or Gean, but I expect it could be Bird Cherry, which is on the southern edge of its range here. I shall have to check it out.