In September I posted about the 7 pregnant Poll Dorset sheep that a young farmer in our village had put in our paddock. I predicted “pastoral scenes, evenly-cropped grass… with pre-Christmas lambs in prospect…”. The sheep were removed for a month or so to let the grass regrow. Yesterday morning there was an unusual sound coming from the field. Rounding the corner of the house we saw a single tiny lamb, 2 days old, mewing rather piteously.
Number 2: the first in its field…
It was soon joined by twin lambs a few days older
Then came the 2 mothers. Then the 5 still-pregnant sheep waddled into the field, all due to lamb within the next 3 weeks. Here’s one of the proud mothers.
The sheep and lambs were numbered so it was easy tell which belonged to which. But whereas the mothers also knew their own lambs, it was taking the lambs a while to cotton on to the numbering system…
Number 2 has still to get the hang of the system…
Number 2 and one of the twins
Pretty lambs all in a row
It doesn’t take much to stump me in the natural world, even with online resources. But what the heck is this little bugger I photographed today? It’s probably obvious; maybe it’s an insect in an intermediate state of metamorphosis. Or something. But I’ve never seen one before. Or if I have, I didn’t notice it. The last time I found a mystery insect (not in the UK), it turned out to be a spider or pepsis wasp, also known as a tarantula hawk, which has the second most painful sting of any insect. I posted about this creature in my main blog HERE, but here is an excerpt dealing with the sting and the ‘pain scale’. The sting of these wasps is among the most painful of any insect, though the most intense pain lasts on a few minutes. Entomologist Justin Schmidt bravely submitted himself to the stings of various insects and described this pain as “…immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations.” Schmidt produced his SCHMIDT STING PAIN INDEX The pain scale, based on 78 species, runs from 0 to 4, with 4 given for the most intense pain. Spider Wasps of the species Pepsis – i.e. Tarantula Hawks – have a sting rating of 4.0, described as “blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath” Only the bite of the Bullet Ant (not found on Abaco!) is ranked higher, with a 4.0+ rating, vividly described as “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel”
ADDENDUM (within 2 hours of posting!)
I knew someone would ride to the rescue. Jessica Winder of the excellent blog http://natureinfocus.wordpress.com has come up with the answer – see Comments for details. Suffice it to say that this creature has the Monty Pythonesque name Gasteruption Jaculator (there are other… no. Im not going down that road). It is a parasitic wasp. WIKI says “The head and thorax are completely black. The head is strongly rounded, the thorax is elongated in a sort of long neck, which separates the head from the body. The abdomen is strongly stretched, broader at the posterior end and placed on the upper chest. The colour of the abdomen is black, with reddish-orange rings. The tibiae of the hind legs are club shaped. In the female the ovipositor is usually very long with a white tip. In resting position, these wasps slowly and rhythmically raise and lower the abdomen. The females of this parasitic wasp lays its eggs by its long ovipositor on the body of larvae of solitary bees or wasps. On hatching its young larvae will devour grubs and supplies of pollen and nectar of its victim. The adults grow up to 10–17 millimetres (0.39–0.67 in) long and can mostly be encountered from May through September feeding on Apiaceae species.”
The sun is shining, the birds are twitterpating (©Disney), the trout season has opened. Also, the first swallows arrived on Tuesday, followed by the martins on Wednesday. These birds are already checking out the mud nests under the eaves that remain from last year.
The hedges are suddenly greening up and the grass is beginning to grow fast. The Alpacas, formerly the official lawnmowers for the paddock, have been banished to another field to give the ground a rest. That means resorting to the mechanical method for the first cut of the year.
Some creatures appear to have got Spring fever. The rabbits for a start, who are clearly ‘going at it’ for all they are worth. And the sheep over the road surprised me one evening when I opened the kitchen door (the notice on the gate is good for their self-esteem).
My first fishing of the season yesterday, on the River Piddle (as in Tolpuddle) – very pretty, pretty unproductive… Today on the River Frome, the swallows were skimming insects off the surface of the water. There were heron and egrets, and a pair of common sandpipers clearly looking for a suitable nesting site. It’s been a great Spring week.
The moon and stars have been wonderful all week. There have been plenty of moon photos around, pink or otherwise, but one evening Mars was gleaming brightly too. Only one shot was steady enough to use – at maximum zoom most of the images looked like squiggles.