Egg of Life

There have been many attempts to visualise a system of the animals which in the nineteenth century tended to depict a ‘Great Chain of Being’ with people perched at the top of a tree of life. Zoologist Georg Goldfuss in showing stages of development within the animal kingdom, characterises this idea as a series of interconnected nested circles within an egg; with protozoa at the point of the widest end and ‘higher life’ at the peak of the narrowest.  Transferring his diagram to the Exbury Egg, I see that I nest myself somewhere in the zone of the mollusc.

I fell asleep last night considering life as a cuttlefish and contemplating the idea that every single creature is equally evolved and important to our understanding of the interconnection of species.System of the Animals, Georg August Goldfuss. Ueber die entwicklungsstufen des thieres, Nurnberg 1817

System of the Animals, Georg August Goldfuss. Ueber die entwicklungsstufen des thieres, Nurnberg 1817


Chinese Translucent White


This large Chinese translucent white was found yesterday in a mud pool at 50-47-07.69N x 1-24-27.62W, left behind by the tide. It is thought to have first entered the country in large shipping containers and spread quickly throughout most of England. This specimen is not in the best condition and the upper wings have lost most of their multicoloured glittery scales, but its life expectancy runs to many scores of years in the wild unless captured and recycled.

An overwintering red admiral and a brimstone were spotted this morning but proved more difficult to capture on film.


Marble Galls

I spent all morning studying Andricus Kollari, the tiny parasitic wasp whose eggs cause the marble oak galls on both scrubby oaks growing beside my own Egg.  The life cycle of the wasp requires the presence of a Turkey oak which first grew in the UK before the last glacial period around 110,000 years ago and was reintroduced in 1735 as an ornamental tree. Nearby Exbury Gardens has its own mature examples.
‘The developing spherical galls mature in August and each has a central chamber, with a single female wasp larva of an asexual generation, which emerges through a ‘woodworm-like’ hole as an adult winged gall-wasp in September. These asexual females lay unfertilized eggs in the embryonic bud leaves of the Turkey oak, with galls slowly developing during winter, and visible in March and April as small oval structures between the bud scales, looking like ant’s eggs.  The emerging adult gall-wasps in spring are the sexual generation, producing both males and females, which fly to the common oaks to initiate the formation of the summer marble gall.’

By 1830 the galls were a concern in the new Forest, where it was thought that they reduced acorn production sufficiently to have an adverse effect on Pannage* This year there was a huge crop of both galls and acorns. Beadle drawings use ink made from the galls.  *ref. my blog of January 22nd.

The Gall is more often seen than its wasp, which is just 1.5 - 2mm in length.

The Gall is more often seen than its wasp, which is just 1.5 – 2mm in length.

Sea Bass


At seven thirty this morning a sea bass arrived on the riverside. Its gills were gouged and it looks like he wriggled off someone’s line. A meal for the birds now.


Other Homes: A Badger Sett


A slightly sunken lane parallels Smugglers Copse down to the river. My neighbour Nick tells me a custom house used to stand at the head of this path at its junction with Inchemery Lane, but all trace (except for a kink in the road) has been lost. Toward the middle of the lane around 100 metres from the river, badgers have made a home in the soft embankment. I could not find any latrines, but there were a few trails into nearby pasture that would provide earthworms for a healthy diet. A few shallow conical scrapes were also noted under the trees above the sett which may be related.



IMG_9725 IMG_9721



Dust Bath


Beside the eastern bank of the river some 200 yards south of the Egg, a fallen fir provides bathing facilities for some of the many partridge encountered on my walk with local birding expert Juliet.  Five or six separate wriggle holes were evident in the fine dusty ground. Around the other side, an interesting looking bottle has somehow found its way under the upturned roots of the tree.



Pigeon Post



A pair of wood pigeons perched in the blackthorn this morning, took flight just before I could produce a camera. The clay pigeon made by CCI International sometime after 1982 (and still in production today) was more obliging. Found in river mud beside the Egg, it had something of the appearance of a Romano British dish, until washing revealed its true more prosaic identity.