Crabs at Port Douglas

 

Fiddler crab by its burrow on a muddy seashore in AustraliaOne of many fiddler type crabs (Uca spp.) found on the low-tide mud at Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia. These small colourful crustaceans with their tall stalked eyes emerge from their burrows as the tide goes out to feast on the surface biofilm of the sediments. The one in the video clip is shielding itself, and protecting its territory, with its large right claw while it daintily scoops up mud and food with its tiny left claw and pops it into its mouth. This specimen has a blue patterned carapace about an inch across (2 cm).

Fiddler crab on a muddy seashore

Ants on a Dead Bug

 

Weaver or Tree Ant…….or is it ants on a beetle? These delightful creatures with their bright green abdomens belong to the Weaver or Tree Ants (Oecophylla spp.). They make their nests by ingeniously folding living leaves on the tree and binding them into position with silk. The beetle was one of many of that type we saw when we were on this trip to Queensland in 2011, where most were alive and resting on walls in daytime but some had died and were being investigated by ants, hoping to find a way through the outer hard exoskeleton to juicier bits inside. The beetles were referred to as Christmas Beetles (Anoplognathus spp.) and I cannot say if this was an accurate identification but internet sources support it. They range in size from 15 – 40 mm in size and they belong to the Scarab family (over 3000 species in Australia), which also includes flower and cock chafers, and fiddle beetles.

Spoonbill and Friend

I love to take short video clips. I have many of them and they can be viewed with perfect clarity on my desktop computer screen. They even look good when they are first uploaded to posts on my blog and viewed from the admin side in the Media folder. However, once they are actually inserted into the post, they become too pixelated to view. This is very disappointing. I have contacted WordPress on a couple of occasions and it does not seem to be anything to do with their software. I have even tried posting them on You Tube and the same thing happens. I have concluded that it is something to do with my latest camera. I have experimented with conversions to other file formats without success. I think it is something to do with the specific way this particular camera captures videos – I mostly use the zoom to get fine detail. This is confirmed by the fact that the short clip shown here of a spoonbill and accompanying egret, taken with an earlier camera in Cairns 2011 seems OK.

Flowering fields at Charlton Down

Yellow flowering oilseed rape crop in spring

The weather was very changeable but it was still a lovely spring afternoon for a walk up the hill to the barn. It is a good viewpoint up on Charlton Down, looking over the gentle rolling hills of arable farmland. I haven’t been along that path for some time and it was amazing to see the difference in the surrounding fields.  The young oil-seed rape plants that I had seen as raindrop-covered seedlings last December were now hip-high and covered in clusters of faintly scented yellow flowers. The grey skies broke with the brisk breeze and clouds scudded across the blue sky, making fast-moving shadows over the rural scene. The agricultural machinery parked by the barn remain a constant while everything around changes by the moment, with the weather, and through the seasons.

The South-claw Hermit Crab – Diogenes pugilator

I found this tiny hermit crab scrabbling around in the seaweed and seashell debris of a sandy tide pool beneath Rhossili cliffs. I thought at first that it was just a very small, immature, specimen of the common hermit crab (Pagurus bernhardus Linnaeus) but as soon as I picked it up for a closer look I could see that it was something special because it had a large claw (cheliped) on the left instead of the right. There is only one species with this characteristic – the south-claw hermit crab, Diogenes pugilator (Roux). The mature specimens have a greenish carapace no greater than 11 mm in length.

According to Hayward and Ryland (1998) this crab lives in fairly sheltered sandy bottoms from low water spring tide level down to 35 m, on south and west coasts of the British Isles where it is described as common. It also occurs elsewhere from Holland to Angola, Mediterranean, Black Sea, and Red Sea. Mullard (2006) provides more information, saying that D. pugilator is only found in a limited number of places in Britain and Ireland because it is primarily a warm-water species and may be worthy of further study in relation to climate change since there are signs of it extending its range. It was first recorded in Britain “at Worms Head” from specimens provided by L. W. Dillwyn of Sketty Hall in Gower to Spence Bate in 1850 who described it in Annals and Magazine of Natural History.

The crab can quickly bury itself in clean, well-sorted sand on a gently shelving moderately exposed beach facing southwest where conditions are less turbulent than on steeper beaches. This crab has an interesting extra way of gathering food, in addition to scavenging or eating sediment. While mostly buried in the sand, it can sweep its hairy antennae around in an almost circular motion as a net to capture small edible particles from the water.

South-claw Hermit Crab

References

Hayward, P. J. and Ryland, J. S. (eds) 1995 (revised edition 1998) Handbook of the Marine Fauna of North-West Europe, Oxford University Press, New York, pp 434-437, ISBN 0-19-854055-8.

Mullard, J. 2006 Gower, The New Naturalist Library, Collins, London, pp167-168, ISBN0-00-716066-6.

Pebbles at Manorbier

Brightly coloured pebbles on the beach at Manorbier in South Pembrokeshire, Wales, with patterns of reflected light under clear sparkling water in a gently flowing stream.

Coloured pebbles under water on a sunny day

Coloured pebbles under water on a sunny day

Coloured pebbles under water on a sunny day

Coloured pebbles under water on a sunny day

Coloured pebbles under water on a sunny day