If you live in an apartment your chances of spotting wildlife from or around the apartment are low but not inexistent. You can find bugs or spiders coming to your windows and you can definitely see some birds. Now, if you live in a house your chances increase especially depending on the positioning. I am so lucky to leave right next to a forest, with almost no neighbors and along the time being able to see all kinds of wildlife, from bugs to foxes or big red deer, from or around the house.
I did not get the chance to photograph every animal I’ve seen around my place, some staying only for few seconds, but I managed with some and I will start with an awesome mammal which everyone wants to see around their house. Last year it had a bunch of babies (pictures with them in the second row) in a glasshouse near the house and this year wanted to make a nest right in front of the house under a wood bridge but I guess the neighboring cats ruined her plans. As I was saying the Western Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is a favored appearance by the majority because of his cute looks and also because it eats a lot of unwanted neighbors like rats, snakes and some insect. It can weight around 1.1-1.5 kg (2.4-3.5 lb), it grows to around 260mm (10 in) and with its almost 6000 brown and white spikes it is unlike any other creature on its territory. Being largely nocturnal I was lucky to catch this one in the beautiful light of the sunset right from my window.
Now I will move a little bit in the house before going out again. Spiders usually tend to look for shelter in homes especially in autumn, but there are some species that prefer homes in any season. Not the case with this Cross Orbweaver (Araneus diadematus ) which can be seen in different environments but this one decided he likes my home. So I took my new macro lenses for my phone and tried them out on him. I was satisfied with the result but I had a pretty good light and he was cooperant and did not move. His Cross name comes from the markings on the dorsal abdomen where you can see four or more segments forming a cross. The other name, Orbweaver comes, as previously discussed, from the ability to form orb shaped spider web. The female stays in the center of the web or hidden close to it, with a claw hooked on a signal line. When the pray gets caught in the net, the spider rushes to bite it and wrap it in silk before storing it for later consumption. The bite paralyzes the pray and injects it with enzymes that liquefy the pray’s internal structure. Later, the spider put’s a straw in it and enjoys its shake :D.
The first butterfly to wander around the house this year was the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) and once it started showing up I’ve got to see several of them during the summer. The Small Tortoiseshell butterfly is the national butterfly of Denmark. It feeds on nectar, hibernates in the winter and deposits its eggs on the common nettle, on which the larva feeds. The common nettle is a well-spread plant, yet the butterfly’s numbers face a serious decline, especially in Western Europe. The causes of this decline are not yet fully understood but the studies show that the species has more success on summers that are more cool and moist at the beginning leading researchers to think that this butterfly is sensitive to global warming.
This year I’ve experimented with planting some flowers and even vegetables in my little garden next to the house, it turns out I’m a horrible gardener, lol. Still, some field flowers turned out to be really nice and attract many critters to them. That’s where I found this Red-tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus lapidarius) with his distinct black body and red ‘’tail’’. The Red-tailed Bumblebee is common in Europe and it is an important pollinator, fact given by the length of the proboscis (explained here) which allows him to effectively pollinate a great number of plants. They live in medium-small sized colonies with an average of 100-200 workers. An interesting fact that I’ve discovered about these bumblebees is that they will often attempt and sometimes succeed to eat the eggs laid by the queen. The queen will try to prevent this, but she will not kill the workers, she will only threaten them with her mandibles or kick them with her head. Why this is happening is a total mystery and it remains an interesting question for further studies.
In the sunny warm days, I often stay in front of my house reading a book or a magazine or just sunbathing and because I do not sterilize the surrounding of my place by getting read of all plants and weeds I often find critters hanging there. That is where I found this species of leaf beetle (Gastrophysa polygoni ) which was probably in search of his host plants like bistorts, knotweeds, and knotgrass. I found this species at the seaside also, in the sand, probably carried away by the wind from the forest edge that was nearby. Not too many information about this specific species on the internet, just that they make part from a quite controversial family, the leaf beetle, Family Chrysomelidae. Our way of viewing the members of this family is according to the importance of the plant they host. If they host a plant we like and use, like the potato or asparagus plant, then they are pasts, if they host a plant we try to get reed off, they are beneficial and we love them.
A very interesting wasp made her appearance thought the stones. This time a solitary and carnivorous wasp that paralyzes her pray with a venomous stinger. In pictures is a spider wasp (Family Pompilidae) that was so fast that I’ve only managed to get few usable shots. She was dragging a, most likely, paralyzed spider. They use the spider as a source of food for their larvae and it is not a nice story, let me tell you. After they paralyze the spider they dreg it to the nest where they will lay a single egg in the abdomen of the spider before closing the nest. They protect the nest by putting dead ants in the outermost chamber so the chemicals released deter the predators. When the larva hatches, it begins to feed on the spider that is still living. Some spider wasps lay their egg on a still-active spider, this feeding with the hemolymph externally until the spider dies. Horror stories indeed.
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For all species found on my spotting adventures, take a look on INaturalist.
The gear that I’ve used for spotting and book used for identification, here.