I was walking past that patch of waste ground at the back of the warehouse today, where they cleared all the thickets back in June. It is already pretty heavily overgrown, but with dense wild flowers rather than shrubs and bushes. Anyway, to my surprise, a couple of male pheasants swooped in, noisily chuck-chucking and chasing each other around. I have never seen pheasants here before. It’s not exactly rural; the works back on to a railway, which backs on to an industrial estate, which backs on to the Thames estuary. There is some marshy pasture out the west side on the other side of the water purification works and the traveller site, but I think the pheasants were a bit lost.
I have to admit this: Segestria spiders always make me jump. They are big, black and aggressive, and they move like lightning. Having said that, when I come across one of their distinctive, trip-wire webs, with strands of silk radiating from a hole in the wall, I can never resist stroking the filaments to see if I can coax the spider out. Usually, when they emerge, they are so quick it makes me flinch, no matter how cool I intend to be.
I know there was a big one on the outside of our shed at home, but I have never seen more than its front legs, and recently not even that, so I presumed it had left or died. But it was so warm this evening, overcast with the spooky yellowish clouds of hurricane Ophelia, that I tried again. I stroked the trip wires with a foot-long grass stem so as not to get too close, and the beast came steaming out immediately. It had its fangs into my grass stem before I could react; I whipped the stem away and yanked the spider with it, sending it barrelling across the garden. It landed on a paving slab and sat there, puzzled and a bit disappointed I think.
I could have got some great shots, but it was manically overcast and quite dark, so I had to take these with flash, which meant I couldn’t get that close. The ones without flash are a bit fuzzy. This spider is 2 cm nose to tail, or about ¾ inch not counting the legs.