Imagine sitting having a beer with friends at a large table in the middle of a South American rainforest. As you sip your drink and chat amiably with your learned friends a huge spider the size of your hand emerges from underneath the table and proceeds to walk purposefully towards you. It's enough to churn the stomach of your average holiday maker but then I am no average holiday maker - and THIS was no average spider...
LET'S BEGIN WITH MY CAPTIVATING BOOK (So good that even a friend preferred to read it at the dinner table rather than eat!)
This is a travelogue of the expedition to Ecuador in 1997. It's a search for giant spiders but more than that there's the interaction between 14 people interested in a wide range of subjects from lepidoptera (butterflies) to arachnology (spiders) and coleoptery (beetles).There are 16 full colour plates and 85 pages packed with facts, humour, emotion and information.
A useful 'kit list' is given at the end to help you on your way should you wish to undertake a similar expedition in the future.
There are still some copies available and you can get them (signed) direct from the author (me!) for £8 in the UK including postage. RRP is £9.95 excluding postage so get in there quickly!
This is a little beauty called Avicularia purpurea one of the most beautiful pink toe tarantulas. They are arboral (tree dwelling) and as cute as chips. The young can be difficult to rear as conditions need to be just right but what a gorgeous spider. I observed these actually basking in the sun on a wall in Ecuador - something tarantulas are never meant to do. It just shows that you cannot do better than observe animals in their natural habitat to get the best information. Fieldwork is fun.
Lots of jungle and lots of hours to put in to find the sort of creatures I was looking for. It was hot work and on one occasion I suffered heat stroke. Luckily my old friend Paul Stevens was on hand to help but I never knew much about it at the time.
These beautiful millipedes were something I had never seen before.I am not sure what species they are but they were keen to give off a chemical as a defensive deterrent - which is fair enough. I put them back where I found them after the photographs as they could dessicate quite quickly.
One of my favourite shots. I studied this Avicularia purpurea for several days and she never went further than this away from her rather marvellous sock web just above her. Spiders like this are sit and wait predators. I noticed a lot of cockroach husks which seemed to mean that the roaches were their favourite meal, It could also indicate that they were the most abundant food source and that the spiders were gorging on what was there. That's what 'opportunistic feeders' do.TEXT
If you want to find your subject matter, ask the locals. These boys knew where to find the large tarantulas. Interestingly mnay were found in man-made areas such as maize fields. I never expected this and had spent the previous day furiously looking through jungle that I thought would be 'ideal habitat' from what I had read in all the books to find spiders. Again - you can't beat your own work for learning something new for yourself.
This very large spider was bigger than my hand and had a bald patch on the abdomen. This indicates that the hair has been rubbed off either to protect an egg-sac (from ants) or as a defensive measure if the spider felt threatened. The thousands of tiny hairs act like barbs that could potentially blind you and get stuck in the throat of a predator intent on trying to eat you.
You never know what wonders you will stumble across in the jungle. This WAS an oasis on a day that was so hot you could have fried an egg on your forehead.
And this little chap is a Rhinocerous beetle. Well, he is not so little actually and is so called for obvious reasons. They use the big horns for fighting other males in the quest to win the right to mate with a female or females that are in the area. Not really any different to lads fighting in the pub over pretty girls.
Don't forget my other book - 'A DAINTREE DIARY' available on Amazon or direct from the lady above ;-)