Derek – Thursday 12th September 2019

It’s a warm day, hot even when the sun is in the clouds. We are overlooked by two huge cranes on the building site next to us. One was built yesterday and the other this morning. I know this as I went out to get a paper at 7.30 am and there was only one crane on site. There was a strange structure like a stout mini crane which I thought might be a crane builder. And likely I was right, as by 2pm when I came to open the garden, there was the second crane. They are about forty metres high, and I am sure they are spying on us, as they are certainly not doing any work. What is more disturbing is that you quickly forget about them. Which is obviously what they want.

Two weeks ago, I cleaned a bird box. I decide to do the others. There are four altogether, so that leaves three to clean. Material left from year to year can pass on parasites and pathogens, so an annual clean out is recommended. They are all somewhat tricky to get at, being high up, but I manage without breaking my neck. Two are empty, and obviously haven’t been used. I leave these where they are, as I can tell by lifting the flap that no birds have nested there. The third has been occupied. I unscrew it from the post it is attached to. This one hasn’t got a top flap, which is a bit of a nuisance, as I have to undo screws to look inside.

There’s a thick mat of nesting material. I note it is composed almost completely of moss. I suspect this is used as it is soft and easy to pull off walls or the ground, whereas grass can be pretty tough and sharp too. I take out the mass and scrape debris off the walls. I then fill a bucket with water and disinfectant. Wearing rubber gloves, I give the nest box a good slosh around. Then I wash the disinfectant off, let the box dry in the sun, and reassemble it. Finally, I put the birdbox where it was, cleaned up for new residents in the spring.

I think about the two boxes that haven’t been used. Both are in sunny positions, whereas the two occupied boxes are well shaded by the sycamore. I suggest we move the two that didn’t work to a shadier position.

We are in spider time. These are the days in autumn when mature spiders build their webs and mate. By the yucca, near our door-fence, are two webs surprisingly close, occupied by garden spiders (Araneus diadematus). The webs are about a foot apart, perhaps just far enough not to interfere with each other. The garden spider is an orb web spider, which means its web is roughly circular. Arms of silk run into the middle and the spider weaves a spiral round them. The silk is as strong as kevlar which is used by police for bullet proof vests.

The female of the garden spider is bigger than the male and has been known to eat the male, especially if the male is a lot smaller. Then she may not realise he has come to mate and sees him as food, like the other creatures, mostly insects, that she traps in her web, paralyses, and wraps in silk until needed. Eating one’s mate is known as sexual cannibalism. For the male, it’s all or nothing, as he may not even get to mate. The female definitely calls the shots in this reverse Gilead.

We see a large frog, but it doesn’t like the look of us and quickly hides. It could be a sign that we’ll get tadpoles in the spring, though rain would assist our frog’s survival, and fill our pond too.

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