Sitting on the fence at Flanders

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Flanders Moss

I have spent a lot of time looking at fence posts recently. You might think I need to get a life but it is actually far more interesting and rewarding than you might think. They are things of beauty in themselves but they are also a good place to look for little stuff.

Fence posts are taller than surrounding vegetation so are obvious perches. At this time of year the south facing side catches the sun and so is a great place to warm-up if you are an invertebrate. The older the posts, the more they become encrusted in lichens, the oldest having a delicate lichen filigree coating that is just a joy to look. And also makes them better places to hide on if you are an invertebrate.

And who uses them? Well recently we have been surveying them for one of our rare moths the Rannoch Brindled beauty.  Counting moths on a fence is a much easier way of monitoring them than searching the undergrowth. These moths use them as a high vantage point to make pairing up easier.

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A female rannoch brindled beauty.

A quick search this week highlighted just how many other creatures uses them.  I found a whole range of caterpillars, plus spiders eating the caterpillars, ladybirds and crane flies.  It is a great way to catch up on the hidden world of invertebrates that so often passes us by. So why not get a life and start studying fences. and also if you have an old fence maybe consider leaving it up or at least parts of it when replacing it?

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A close look reveals a spider and the skin of a caterpillar that it has eaten. It seems to have just left the rolled up, bristly skin having feasted on the juicy insides.

Below is a selection of inhabitants from just one fence line. Some great hairstyles there!

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