nature

Hippo’s guide to the beach

Like the hippopotamus our usual habitat is mud — glorious mud. Only occasionally do we venture from the soggy highlands of these British Isles to the sand around the edges and then what we see is unfamiliar.

Like this red banded sand wasp (Ammophila sabulosa).

This is a solitary (actually quite antisocial) wasp that stings its prey, often caterpillars, into submission then drags them to a burrow, sealing them in together with an egg of its own that will hatch into a hungry lava. If she finds another burrow that already contains prey and another female sand wasp’s egg she will eat the egg and replace it with one of her own — not very sisterly. They lose a third of their offspring this way which perhaps explains the frenetic way they were dashing about the sand on the day we visited Dunwich Heath.

We met this woolly bear on the sand dunes at Ynes Las, it is the caterpillar of the garden tiger moth (Arctia caja)– not rare in our childhood and not limited to sandy habitats, it becomes a colourful moth that evades our attention by flying at night. It is increasingly uncommon despite its disgusting taste which it enhances with a horrible sauce exuded from the back of its neck when attacked by a bird — its bright colours advertise this fact.

The garden tiger moth — Arctia caja by Vlad Prokiov (CC BY- NC 2.0)

Not everything on the sand is unfamiliar, not even to this mallard!

Rats on the beach at Titchfield Haven
Compass jelly fish stranded on the beach at Ynes Las — the tentacles give a nasty sting.

Strangest of all — what left this foot print

Seen on the bank of Kinewell lake.
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