It has been a very good year for wasps although a headline in our local paper puts it another way suggesting that it has been the worst year for wasps in 30 years. Of course, this view is from a pest control company and apparently this firm has a 5 week waiting list for insecticides. It is not just wasps that are more plentiful this year but so are hornets. Most years, said a spokesman for this pest control firm, we destroy one to ten hornet nests – this year we have dealt with over 60 nests. Now, I have written about hornets before. I like them, they build their nests in the walls of my studio and during the summer there is a continual buzzing in the air. These beautiful insects often come to inspect my artwork. I have never been stung and I now know fully the life history of hornets. Would it not be nice if people learned to like hornets rather than seek to destroy them? Should we really be proud that hundreds of wasps’ nests and 60 or so hornets’ nests (and that is just locally) have been destroyed? I would be extremely annoyed if a man came to my studio to wipe out the hornets that live alongside me.
I was reminded that it is now autumn when entering my greenhouse I found myself enmeshed in a large spider’s web. This was the web of a garden cross spider – an orb – made by what I can only describe as a monster of a spider. The body of a female of this species is almost 20 mm long. It is usually orange in colour with a rough white cross on its back and it was quite disturbing to walk into a web and find a fat spider walking over one’s face. A couple of years ago one of my grandchildren who, like so many of us, is petrified of spiders was shown a garden cross spider by yours truly. I picked up this fat object to prove to my granddaughter that spiders are harmless. It bit me! I yelled. She is still petrified of spiders and I don’t blame her. So much for claiming to be a know-all.
We are blessed to have such wonderful rivers in this part of the country. I was brought up by the banks of the River Orwell but, more recently, I have been appreciating the Deben and the Alde. Our rivers at this time of the year are peaceful areas of either large stretches of water or mud and, as the autumn gradually moves towards winter, there is much coming and going of estuary birds. Curlew used to be very common when I was young but now, although not rare, they are certainly seen less often. I love to hear the bubbling call of the this bird and this week a couple of them were calling on the river near Woodbridge. It was a lovely sunny evening and these evocative calls were a welcome change from the noise of squabbling gulls. The walk from Woodbridge to Kyson Point is easy with a tarmac path running along the water’s edge. It is wheelchair accessible and this path divides a tidal river from what are very traditional water meadows with grazing cattle. Seating has been arranged along the route so if your legs tire or you get out of breath a bit, then bird watching from the comfort of a seat with a beautiful view is a pleasant option. At this time of the year winter waders are arriving as the Deben mud is home to all sorts of worms and molluscs. Besides curlew, the comfortable birdwatcher can view easily black-tailed godwits at very close range as they probe the mud with their extremely long, straight beaks; redshank are jerkily doing the same. Lapwings too are beginning to gather in numbers and you cannot mistake the black and white oyster-catchers. Birdwatching here is as easy as looking out from the hides at Minsmere but without very knowledgeable birders breathing down your neck.