As you can tell from the title, this is the part 2 from a 3 part post series. If you haven’t read the first part I recommend you go do that, if not let me make a short resume. Last summer I have been back home, Romania, in a visit and had 3 hours to spend wildlife spotting while in the visit to my girlfriends’ parents. I have found over 40 species of insects, birds, and reptiles from which around 20 new to me. This is a place of great biodiversity that until now benefitted from the low development of the country but now is more and more threatened by corruption and all other problems that affect nature all around the world. In this article, I will continue presenting other 7 species not presented before in this blog.
Let me start with some creepy crawlers that I’ve found waiting for something to land in their trap. These spiders are from Funnel Weavers family (Family Agelenidae) but I am not sure what species exactly and if I am right the ones with big abdomens are females and the skinny one is a male. Funnel weavers build usually build their web in the grass like a flat sheet and a funnel-shaped retreat on the side or on the middle where they usually wait for prey. The web is not sticky but is full of entangling filaments lays continuously when the spider passes over. The funnel weaver moves very fast, especially on their web, so when a pray gets on they rush out and deliver a paralyzing bite and then drag it back to the retreat where they consume it. They are very selective with their prey and do not consume large quantities.
Next ones are not considered creepy crawlies but they can definitely inflict more damage than the Funnel Weaver spider. From spot to spot I’ve found these massive nests of European Red Wood Ant or Black-backed meadow ants (Formica pratensis). I have tried to keep as much distance as I could from the nest but I still wanted to get a shot with my macro phone lens. That was a difficult job as they bland in the background, they are many and they constantly move and had to spend as little time close to the nest as possible so they don’t start climbing on my feet. I think the majority of people sat down at one point and later realized they are right next to an ant nest, it can be a painful realization J. They build nests that can have a 1-meter diameter and are important for their environment because they consume a large number of insects, some of them pests. However, they are also sensitive to changes in their environment so they have become rarer where agricultural practices are used.
There were so many bugs in that area that some of them just landed on me and my girlfriend or crawled, or just took a hike. This was the case with this European Striped Shieldbug (Graphosoma italicum) that ended up on my pants. It has an orange-yellow color with wide black stripes and can reach a length of 8-12 mm (0.31-0.47 in). The orange and black colors are warning colors, signs that the insect is bad-tasting but the nymph lacks this colors being mostly brownish (probably more tasteful than the adults). Most of the species of shieldbugs are consider pests because they feed on crops and are resistant to many pesticides but the ironical side is that people eat shieldbugs too, in Laos are regarded as delicious because of their strong odor.
As I mentioned in the previous article, there were all sorts of butterflies flying around tireless. One of the big ones, actually the only big species that I’ve photographed, was the notorious Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon). One of the most loved butterflies; it has a huge range, through all Palearctic regions and across into Canada, Alaska and United States leaving the Old World despite its common name. Although it is widespread, often common and globally not threaten is listed as vulnerable in some areas and protected by law in some countries among which it is also Romania. It is a big butterfly with a wingspan of 65-86 mm (2.6-3.4 in), it has a strong and fast flight and it has a particular shape with the two longer ‘’tails’’ on the hind wings resembling the bird swallowtail from which it takes the common name.
Flying up in the sky where tree birds of prey, a pair with its youngster probably. I have always seen birds of prey when I was there and I always thought they might be eagles, some locals even told me they are owls. This time I had my camera and my lens to help me figure once and for all what they are and I was lucky and I manage to take some decent photos as they’ve descended from the sky. It turns out to be The Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), the most common medium-sized bird of prey. I say a medium-sized bird of prey but their wingspan is still great, 109–140 cm (43–55 in), although they weigh only 427–1,364 g (0.941–3.007 lb). Present all over Europe, it is an opportunistic bird, feeding on anything from rabbits, pheasants, small mammals, reptiles, carrion and it can even be seen searching for worms and insects in the recently plowed fields. When the pray is plenty, several may be seen together but usually, they are very territorial fiercely defending their territory.
Another critter that managed to land on me was this 22-spot Ladybird Beetle (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata). A Ladybug with 22 black spots that is yellow unlike many other species from this family that are red. This species is commonly found in Europe and unlike many other ladybirds, this one feeds on mildew, which is a form of fungus, and not aphids. When I was little we used to take ladybirds in our hand and sing them a special song and they were supposed to fly at the end of the song. They sometimes were in a hurry and leave early and sometimes they needed some convincing with a gentile blow but other times they would synchronize only strengthening our belief that the song works. My girlfriend started singing the song this time and the ladybug quickly rushed to get on with her day.
All grasshoppers look almost the same as the first look but that they I have managed to find 4 different species. Two were presented in the last article, one is the Small Gold Grasshopper (Euthystira brachyptera) and the last one I live for the next post. This species is common through Europe and the adults can be found from July to September. It prefers tall grass in mountains and subalpine meadows and it can be distinguished by its sharper top of the head and its proportionally smaller eyes. Grasshoppers can be great photo subjects, I hope that next summer I can make some pictures where I can blur the background for better separation.
Now let me show you some pictures of the landscape so you can make an idea of this magic place. Unfortunately, I did not have any short lens with me so I took the photos with my phone without any consideration for the quality :).
Thank you for reading and please leave a comment below with any suggestion, information, story… anything.
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For all species found on my spotting adventures, take a look at INaturalist.
The gear that I’ve used for spotting and book used for identification, here.