Following on from Andrew K Brown‘s comments here, it appears that a very rare creepy crawly, known as Oxyopes heterophthalmus shares something in common with The Bugle – we are neighbours. The spider is only found on a few heaths around the UK.
The wonderful photo above is not taken by me, and used by kind permission. Click on the photo to enlarge, or click here to see more of Ferenc Samu’s photos.
6. NOTES ON THE DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE OF Oxyopes heterophthalmus Latreille IN SURREY.
This rare spider (RDB2) is currently only known from sites within Surrey, although there are old records from the New Forest. I have surveyed most of the known sites for the spider and have noticed a dramatic difference in abundance from north to south in the county. Oxyopes is locally abundant on all the north Surrey Tertiary heaths that I have surveyed: Ash, Brentmoor (part of Pirbright) and Chobham. At these sites numbers are greatest on mature heather, but it does appear on more degraded areas of ling. It is also abundant on Blackheath, a Greensand heath east of Guildford.
The pattern is very different on the Lower Greensand heaths to the south. Hankley and Thursley Commons are large sites with substantial areas of structurally similar conditions to the northern heaths. However, despite spending proportionately much more time on the Lower Greensand heaths in Surrey and North Hampshire, I have only found three specimens of Oxyopes, an immature male on Hankley, on a south facing slope, and recently two adults on Thursley Common NNR in September. Both were swept from Hypericum growing in a large area of acid grassland, completely devoid of any heather, but surrounded by open dry heath. Intriguingly, the Oxyopes look-alike, Philodromus histrio, is in my experience common on mature heather areas on the Lower Greensand, but much scarcer on Tertiary heath sites where Oxyopes is abundant. Could there be some interaction between these spiders? I would be interested to hear from anyone who can support or debunk this tentative suggestion. For instance, is Philodromus histrio abundant in the New Forest?
If anyone spots one, please let me know!
UPDATE: It appears, that this may be another case of mistaken Blackheath identity, as JohnDunn points out in the comments below, as there is another Blackheath in Surrey (googlemap). For other Blackheaths, have a look here.
The Blackheath Blog