What’s around in mid-May

Here we are, six weeks into the dry season: sunny days with a top of 25C or thereabouts after a chilly 10C or cool 16-18C overnight and no rain to speak of. (We have been watering our garden for a month. It felt so weird at first, so soon after months of flooding rain!) As you would expect, the wildlife has changed: no dragonflies, as I said, but what do we see?

    Butterflies: lots of Junonia hedonia, quite a lot of Eurema and Hesperidae, and a few each of Cairns Birdwing, Common Crow, Common Eggfly, Lemon Migrant, Ulysses, Orchard Swallowtail, Clearwing Swallowtail … that’s quite a long list, but in a walk once around the garden you would probably see ten Junonia, two Eurema and one out of all the rest.
    Moths: Hawk moths, usually in the evening and occasionally coming to indoor lights, and a lot of smaller moths flitting around the grass during the day and likewise coming indoors at night. Here’s one of last night’s visitors:
Can I call it a copper moth until I find out the real name?
    Wasps: paper wasps, hatchet wasps, mud-daubers (not many), and miscellaneous smaller wasps including Braconid and Ichneumonid species.
    Bees: hardly any, but occasional leaf-cutters and resin bees.
    Flies: yes, mostly the tiny green long-legged Dolichopodidae, plus a fair few hoverflies, bluebottles and crane flies.  There are more kinds of flies than most people suspect and I’ll have to put up some pictures soon.
    ‘True bugs’ (Hemiptera): occasional Hibiscus Harlequin bugs and a few others, but not many altogether.

    Grasshoppers: a few Giant Grasshoppers, mainly immature.

    Spiders: quite a lot of small ones – Austracantha, Silver Orb Weaver, St Andrew’s Cross, etc – but nothing much bigger than my little finger nail.

    Cockroaches and termites: lots in the compost bin and underground respectively, as always.

    Beetles, Mantises, Lacewings, Ant-lions: very few.

… which doesn’t mean there is nothing happening, but the garden is far less active than it was – reminding us once more just how much all life depends on water.

The dry season begins

Two weeks ago we had a deluge – 150 mm or thereabouts in 24 hours – to cap off the wettest March on record. It seems to have been the last of the Wet (fingers crossed!), because we haven’t had any rain since then. Days are mostly sunny and getting up to 29C or so, while nights drop to low 20s.

The garden is full of butterflies and dragonflies – dozens of Chocolate Soldiers (Junonia hedonia), lots of Migrants and Euremas, and a good sprinkling of Orchard Swallowtail, Clearwing Swallowtail, Pale Triangle, Cairns Birdwing (lovely female feeding on Ixora this morning), Common Crow. Blue-banded Eggfly, though, aren’t around, and the Common Eggfly are rare, not common, at the moment.

Dragonfly species have changed relative numbers. The orange-and-yellow ones which dominated the population are still present but have been overtaken by Neurothemis stigmatizans and another which is similar but has dark wingtips:

Dragonfly - gold body, dark wingtips
As for the spiders, we still have lots of St Andrews Cross, Astracantha and Silver Orb-weavers but the brown-and-gold Common Orb-weaver are back for the first time in months.

Golden Orb-weaver males

Yesterday I found a fairly large (but not full-grown) female in a web between the red-neck palm and the chilli bush. More pleasingly still, she had two males waiting their chance to mate – boxing gloves at the ready. I took some pics, of course, though some with the spiders against the sky didn’t show as much detail as I would have liked.

I went out to look again this morning: the web was damaged and the female had gone but the males were still there and were duly re-photographed.

One of the males

Afterword, Tuesday 22.2.11: By Monday the web hadn’t been repaired, the female hadn’t returned and the males had left. I’m assuming that a bird got the female.

Two Golden Orb-weavers

I was pleased to find a well-grown Golden Orb-weaver in her web between a banana tree and the side fence a few days ago. Then I found another, much smaller (about the body size of a full-grown St Andrew’s Cross spider), near the top rear corner of the yard, low down between a cycad and an ixora. She was happy then, but by the time I came back with my camera she was having problems with a fallen leaf and was running around cutting it out of her web. A few minutes later I fluked a nice shot of her trying to pull the sundered halves back together:

Golden orb-weaver repairing web

But last night we had a terrific thunderstorm just after midnight (70 mm of rain, half of it in half an hour) and this morning both of them were gone – along with lots of smaller spiders, of course.

• This is the first-published post on Green Path proper.