Bristol Natural History Consortium has been running a Meet the Species initiative, as part of Discovering Places, the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Campaign to inspire the UK to discover their local environment. As part of this they've been publishing guest blog posts over the last week or so, as it draws to a close. There are two contributions from UKNatureBlog that were included today, on Zebra spiders and the Common Woodlouse (mostly drawn from content previously published here).
Michael writes in with an excellent find. He tells the story best, so in his own words:
I discovered this perching on the insect screen of our back door in Suffolk at around noon. I'm a bit of an amateur insect freak, but never seen this before! A couple of hours online last night and reference to my small library, I decided that it is 'Urocerus gigas' - giant wood-wasp or horntail (female). We have some mixed woodland overlooking our back garden.
She was a little lethargic at first (thus allowed these photos) - appeared to be well-attached to the netting of the screen, but we managed to get her into a jam jar - still a bit indolent, but when I tipped her onto the lawn, she quickly took off (loud buzzing) and flew off, gaining height very fast - a very strong flier!
I'll be honest, I wasn't aware of these impressive sawflies (for they are not truly wasps) and I don't believe I've ever seen one. It's wonderful to come across such 'exotica' native in the UK. BTW, the frightening looking spike on the back-end of this Giant wood wasp is actually an ovipositor for laying eggs, not a sting. In fact it's completely harmless and unable to sting.
It seems to be the cricket season - I've seen four Bush crickets (at least I assume they are) in and around my house in the last two days. That's an old picture above of a Speckled bush cricket, which I've blogged about previously. Most of my current crickets are in the dim corners of my porch, where they seem to like to congregate for some reason.
A southern hawker is not a chap from Dorset that turns up on your doorstep to sell you cleaning products. It is a common dragonfly, and I found this one dead on my lawn. I imagine next door's cat shot it down. Sad to see it dead, but wonderful to able to examine it up close.
The sun has been shining so butterflies have come out of hiding. Mostly I have seen Ringlet (pictured), Large white (Cabbage white) and Gatekeepers. It's nice to see them flitting around finally.
Bumble bees seem to have been fine whatever the weather. I have a nest of them under my deck and they're still buzzing in out to the lavender.
It's been so wet there's been quite a bit of fungus about - I have various types of mushroom growing in my lawn.
The slugs and snails continue to run rampant. Step out into the garden in the darkness and it can only be described as crunchy/squishy underfoot!
The birds are back after their summer break (apparently they've been lying low as they moult into new feathers) and are hoovering up the sunflower seeds in my feeders. Mainly tits (Blue, Great, Long-tailed), Goldfinches and sparrows in my garden. Wood pigeons wait for the crumbs on the floor.