30 Days Wild: Days 4 & 5

Day 4….was very nearly a write-off on the wild stakes, but I managed to get through the occasional tedium (sorry, fellow committee members, but I’m sure we would all acknowledge it!) of a meeting by listening to birdsong drifting in through an open window. The unhurried evening strains of song thrush, blackcap and blackbird provided a calming backdrop to our discussions.

Day 5. On my way to the supermarket this evening I paused mid-stride to admire a red kite gliding serenely overhead. If ever a bird flew just for the sake of flying it would be a kite, surpassed in this regard perhaps only be freewheeling ravens. By the time I was heading back the sun was low, and we were into the so-called ‘golden hour’ It’s well named, a phenomena I’ve noticed particularly since moving to the Twyford area. Perhaps we have particularly good light here, anyway, I certainly remark very often on the quality of the golden glow on the trees at the end of our garden. This evening the low-angle sunlight even made the view from beside London Road look good.

The golden hour on London Road, Twyford.
The golden hour on London Road, Twyford.

The obligatory wild pause on this leg of the journey was not for a bird, but for some just-bloomed elderflowers. A reminder that this will probably be peak cordial and champagne making weekend this summer, time to dig out some spare bottles. Crawling about with seemingly methodical intent on one of the branches was a small beetle that goes by the name Anaspis maculata. This is one of the Scraptiids which I’ve collected in abundance from umbellifers as part of my PhD, so I watched it for a good while to see what it would do – cutting edge research! It seemed to be focussing on a bend in the branch where the wood appeared cracked and a little dry. I wondered if what looked like little flexes of its abdomen around this spot indicated that I had found a female laying eggs – that would be an interesting observation since the breeding ecology of Scraptiidae is not that well known (though A.maculata has been reared from a number of different trees and shrubs).

Anaspis maculata investigating an elder bush. These are seriously diminutive beetles!
Anaspis maculata investigating an elder bush. These are seriously diminutive beetles!

Once I’d given it a bit of time to finish its business I took it home to confirm it was definitely a female, and of course under the microscope she turned out to be a he, with enlarged front tarsi and, ahem, clearly visible genital appendages. Why a male beetle appeared to have been dabbing the tip of his abdomen repeatedly on an elder twig I will never know* but either way it was nice to catch up with an old friend – the first maculata I’ve seen this year. Wild in miniature.

*It was almost certainly on the bush in the first place having been attracted to the flowers. Scraptiids often visit spring and early summer flowers – particularly white ones such as elder, hawthorn and the various umbellifers – in large numbers.

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