I was taking a quick wander around the garden tonight and I spotted a small rounded spider crawling across a tightrope of silk.
At first I thought it was a European Black Widow but on closer inspection it was an equally cool Triangulate Cobweb Spider.
The scientific name is Steatoda triangulosa. Any spider belonging to the species of Steatoda is known as a False Widow due to the similar size and shape of a Black Widow. This species is not known to have any issues with biting humans but of course as with any spider a rare allergic reaction could occur.
I snapped this quick shot on my smartphone (more information continues below).
These eat other insects and spiders and can even be known to eat the only real problem spider here in Portugal, the Brown Recluse. It also eats ticks! It’s unusual to see one out in the open like this, but suspect I may have disturbed it as I cut back the large Rosemary that grows in the garden earlier today.
The name comes from the triangular patterns on its back. The female can grow to just 6mm in length.
This is a real sign that the thermometers are rising, it has been well over 20 degree Celsius for the last few days during the daytime and this has awoken the Violet Carpenter Bees.
These gentle giants are flying around feeding and also mating. You may think that these are dangerous due to their size, but are really docile and yes like all bees the female has a stinger, but rarely uses it. Many people think these are black, but if you look closely, you will notice the violet reflecting in the sunlight. In some countries Carpenter Bees are a pest as they damage wooden structures, however, Violet Carpenter Bees only seek out dead wood. If you have a garden or some land, leave out a rotting tree trunk or large branch which will become a nest and hibernation home for them. They are solitary bees, but this time of year you may see them mating.
Here are a few shots I snapped in the garden this morning
A few days ago I was photographing the Serins that have flocked around the Quinta and a surprising couple turned up. I say surprising as I’ve never seen them this close to the house before. There are certainly not a rare bird and often see them along the river banks.
The female arrived first and it wasn’t until the male followed soon after that it was obviously a pair of Common Linnets. The male has a pinkish-red breast that really makes him stand out. This will further become saturated as the breeding season starts. They are ground feeders which is why they are currently mixed in with the Serins, this is common behaviour to see mixed Finches in flocks during the winter.
With the scientific name of Linaria cannabina, the Linnet has 6 sub-species, the one found locally in the Iberia, Mediterranean and North West Africa is the Linaria cannabina mediterranea. Like most finches, they are a small bird at around 14cm in length and their diet consists of mainly seeds and buds.
Yes, it may only be mid-January, however, this is the time everything starts coming to life in the Algarve, particularly here in the hills.
The first sign of spring is the European Serins singing and a large flock (at least 50) have arrived here at the Quinta.
I took a wander around the garden this afternoon to grab some reference shots of both the female and male. They are very similar except the male has much more yellow on his breast and head.
As you may have noticed, there has been a lack of wildlife shots and posts recently as I have been busy with other projects, however, I will be making some time to get out an about in the next week. Firstly, I will be working out a way to get up close and personal with these tiny birds, but for now, here’s two shots showing the difference between the sexes.
A great find this morning in the garden, although, it was the dogs that found it, not me!
This is a Death’s-Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, the name comes from the pattern of a skull on the back of the moth. I have never seen the actual moth, but have put a library photo at the end. There are 3 species of this moth, this one is the African Death’s-Head Hawkmoth with the scientific name of Acherontia atropos, the other 2 species (Acherontia lachesisare and Acherontia styx) are found in Asia.
This Caterpillar is one of the largest I’ve seen, even bigger than the Elephant Hawkmoth. It was around 12-14cm in length and over 2cm wide. In fact it was so long that I struggled to get it all in focus, even with a small aperture.
When approached they click their mandibles as a defense tactic, although it’s not very loud. I relocated it away from the dogs to go about its business.
Now that autumn is starting, although the days are still warm, even hot, the evenings are starting to cool down and dew is settling. This has started the almost electronic sounding beeps of the autumn mating calls of the Iberian Midwife Toads.
We have one in our vegetable patch tonight, clever toad as its very damp in there and plenty of bugs to eat. It was calling this evening so I found it and took this photo with my smartphone. These toads are small, this one smaller than 4cm in length.
I will try and get some video of it calling over the next few nights, but of course if I approach, it stops.