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camera Photo of the Week Winners 2014

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John Dye sent us this photo of a group of 7-spot ladybirds clinging for dear life to a conifer in the strong winds we've had these past few weeks.  These little guys really ought to find a more sheltered place to hibernate.  Notice the little flies on their backs too!
More photos and info about Ladybirds in winter here

Blackbirds are renowned for being one of the easiest birds to identify on account of their black colour... and general bird-like appearance.  But nature always finds a way to discombobulate things.  Tony Messner sent us this photo of a blackbird (scientifically speaking) in Haltwhistle, Northumberland which clearly hasn't been reading the same field guides as the rest of us.
More photos of weird coloured wildlife here

Ever get that feeling you're being watched?  Beryl Ladd sent us this amazing shot of a Tawny Owl sitting in a laurel tree in Devon.  She said this is the first time she'd seen an owl in the wild.  She glanced up into the tree and there it was, staring down at her just a few feet above her head.  The picture was taken with a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon 55-300mm lens.
More photos and info about Tawny Owls here

Otters are renowned for their playful nature and agility, as this one successfully demonstrates.  Roy Flint took this photo of an otter perched in a tree along the River Welland at Market Harborough.  He used a Canon 7D camera and a 100-400mm Canon lens.
More photos and info about Otters here

Looking like an exotic of the rain forest, this photo of a Grey Wagtail was taken by Richard Harris in Kew Gardens.  The Grey has the longest tail of all the UK wagtails as this picture clearly shows.

Grey Wagtails are often confused with Yellow Wagtails on account of the fact that they have a yellow tail... which they wag.  But that's the only similarity.  The plumage on the upper parts of the Grey Wagtail is grey in colour (hence the name).

More photos of Grey Wagtails here
More photos of Yellow Wagtails here

Paul Shaw took this lovely shot of a little Sanderling foraging along the coast at Hunstanton, Norfolk.  It can get a bit blowy along the east coast in wintertime, but these birds are well adapted to the cold weather.  They're raised as chicks in the high Arctic.

Sanderlings are the only members of the sandpiper family which lack hind toes.  This makes them rubbish at perching, but gives them a speedy, almost clockwork toy-like running action.

Paul used a Nikon D7000 and 500mm F4 lens

More photos and info about Sanderlings here

Anne Maskell sent us this rather racy photo of two garden snails engaged in some... ahem... primitive Valentine's day activities.

Snails, as you can see are hermaphrodites, which means that not only are they equipped with a dangerously pointed Master John Goodfellow, but they also posess a Cecily Bumtrinket.  But having both male and female private parts does not make 'amorous congress' any easier.  When the mood takes them, snails have to line up next to each other and extend their 'bits' from an opening near their heads.  They match up their male and female parts and spear each other with a slime-covered love dart.

The coils of their shells, known as 'whorls', are either left-handed or right-handed.  The lining up of sexual organs during mating makes it very difficult for a left-handed (sinistral) snail to mate with a right-handed (dextral) one.  This is why snails of the same species are either left-handed or right-handed.  If you find a snail with its whorls running in a different direction you can be sure it won't have received many Valentine cards today.

More photos and info about Garden Snails here

Andy Newman sent in this cheery photo of a feeding Red Admiral butterfly taken on February 16th.  The butterfly had been briefly woken from hibernation by the warm sunshine between all the showers.

It's not unusual for these lovely butterflies to emerge for a quick flight in the sunshine, even when there is snow on the ground.  Andy said that this one was not taking any chances.  Every time the sun disappeared behind clouds the butterfly flew back to its winter resting place in his garage.

Andy used a Nikon D5000 and a Sigma 105 macro lens.

More photos and info about butterflies here

Pete Tanton sent us this super photo of a Bittern in the reed beds at Far Ings in Lincolnshire.  He used a Canon 7D with a 100 - 400 Canon lens.

The UK Bittern population is thought to be around 100 birds, although their numbers are swelled each winter by the arrival of migrating birds from the continent.

Monitoring the UK population is not easy as they are extremely secretive birds, but you don't always need to see the Bitterns to know when they're present.  Male Bitterns are famous for their foghorn-like call , which can carry well over a mile, and each bird sounds slightly different, allowing scientists to individually identify male birds.

More photos and info about bitterns here

Ron Allen sent us this terrific close up of a female hazel flower, taken during one of those rare spells of sunshine between all the rain.  The bud is enveloped in a rain drop and the shocking pink flower tendrils are protruding out at the end.  The tendrils are slightly sticky and trap windblown male hazel pollen shed from other bushes.  The pink flowers are only 2 or 3mm across and despite the bright colour they often go unnoticed.  Camera used was a Nikon D5200 camera with Micro Nikkor 105mm lens and on-camera flash.
More photos and info about Hazel trees here

Mark Hope sent us this beautiful photo of a Goldfinch perching on a teasel stem.  Goldfinches are one of the few birds equipped with the perfect shaped beak for levering out the seeds from the teasels spiky seed head.  Mark took the photo near Cardross in Dunbartonshire with a Nikon D7000 and an 80-400 VR lens.
More photos and info about Goldfinches here

Nikki Charlton sent us this amazing (and ever-so-slightly gross) close up of a bumblebee loaded with little orange coloured mites.  Most bumblebees (and many other large invertebrates) carry mites on their bodies, but not always in such large numbers.  It's no wonder some bees look so unsteady in the air.  Having to carry all that extra weight can't be easy.

Some species of mite do actually feed on the bee, and some even lay their eggs in the respiratory system of the bee (are you feeling itchy yet?).  However most of the mites found on bumblebees are just harmless pollen-feeding hitchhikers.  They cling onto the bee in order to get free air transport from one flower to the next.  These particular mites can still harm the bee because their combined weight can make it impossible for the bee to fly to flowers and feed.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust suggests that if you find a bee struggling to get off the ground under the weight of many mites you can help it by brushing some of the mites off with a small soft paintbrush.  Probably best to confine this activity to your back garden.  You don't want to be the one explaining to the nice policeman why you're loitering around the bushes in the local park tickling bees with a brush.

Nikki took the photo in Coed Y Brenin, near Dolgellau, North Wales with a Nikon D7100 and an 18-300mm Nikkor lens.

More photos and info about Bumblebees here

Alison Ritchie sent us this lovely photo of toads mating.  The poor female is at the base of the amphibian pile up, while the other 3 toads on top are all males.

Excited male toads (can you can see the look of excitement on their little faces?) clamber onto a female and wrap their limbs around her - often before they've even reached the breeding ponds.  This position is called "Amplexus", which literally means an embracing.  They can remain locked in this embrace for a few days while the female lays her spawn.

Alison took the photo at Loch Belivat in Nairnshire, Scotland.  She used a Canon Powershot Camera.

More photos and info about Toads here

This dramatic shot of a Bottle-nosed dolphin in mid-flight was taken by Derek Corner at Chanonry Point, near Rosemarkie in the Black Isle.  Although the dolphins frequently breach close to the land at Chanonry Point their timing is unpredictable.  Only photographers with a lot of patience are blessed with photos like this.  Derek suggested the best time to see them is between two hours after low tide and two hours before high tide.

More photos and info about Bottle-nosed Dolphins here

Ron Allen sent us this lovely close-up of bee-fly.  There are at least nine species of bee-fly in the UK, and they're a fairly common sight on sunny spring days, with their gangly legs and long pointed proboscis.  But this one is a bit different.  Notice the snazzy polka dot wings.  This is the Dotted Bee-fly (Bombylius discolor), a nationally scarce species in the UK.

Although harmless to humans the Dotted Bee-fly larvae are parasites of certain bee species.  A particular favourite seems to be the Ashy Mining Bee.  In the 60's and 70's the bees declined as a result of intensive agriculture, and the Dotted Bee-flies almost died out.  At the moment they seem to be making a bit of a comeback in the southern counties, so if you spot one in your area let us know.

More photos and info about Bee-flies here

This terrific shot of a brown hare in action was taken by Paul Shaw in Countesthorpe, Leicestershire.  Paul was sat in his car having some lunch when the Hare bounded into view.  Luckily he managed to get a couple of shots before the hare realised he was there.  He used a Nikon D4 and 500mm F4 lens.

More photos and info about the "original" Easter Bunny here

Dan Edwards send us this excellent close up of a hoverfly on the wing.  The hovering of male hoverflies is an incredible feat of skill.  On sunny days you can see these little insects hanging in the air - often for several hours at a time.  But why do they exert so much energy like this?

This hovering behaviour is usually a strategy for attracting a female partner.  The males occupy a small territory and they chase off any rival males which enter their airspace.  Any females entering the territory are literally swept off their feet and given the full romantic hoverfly treatment (whatever that involves).

Despite their small size and delicate anatomy some hoverfly species are able to migrate for hundreds of miles, across land and sea.  In fact many of the hoverflies you see in your garden may have flown in from continental Europe!

More photos and info about hoverflies here

At this time of year we always receive a shedload of caterpillar photos, but this one sent in by Anne Roberts is worthy of a mention because these hairy critters should be treated with some caution.

The larvae of Brown-tail moths are covered with short greyish hairs which cause terrible skin irritation if you touch them.  The caterpillars usually pupate in early June, but be aware that the cocoons are also covered in the irritating hairs!  Anne spotted these ones at Monkton Nature Reserve in Kent.

More photos of Brown-tails here
More help identifying caterpillars here

This shot of a beautiful Green Hairstreak Butterfly shimmering in the spring sunlight was taken by Paul Shaw at Warren Hills, Leicestershire.  The mild spring has led to a profusion of these pretty butterflies emerging so if the weather holds hopefully they'll have a good breeding season.  Paul used a Nikon D4 with a Sigma 150mm macro lens.

More photos and info about Green Hairstreak Butterflies here

Angela Prentice sent us this lovely close up of a dayglow pink grasshopper nymph she spotted at her garden in Essex.  The nymphs usually stay well hidden at the base of grass stems where they are well camouflaged (even in this vivid pink form).  As they reach maturity towards the end of summer they normally change to a green or brown.  Adult pink grasshoppers are very rare, but they do turn up from time to time.

Being a keen-eyed naturalist you've probably noticed that this one is missing a hind leg.  This puts him at a double disadvantage.  Not only will he have difficulty jumping in a straight line, but because grasshoppers communicate by rubbing their back legs together, he'll also find it difficult to have a good conversation.

More photos and info about pink grasshoppers here

This photo of a Roe Deer fawn was sent to us by Richard Whiteside who organises outdoor experiences in the Blackdown Hills of Devon.  Richard was leading a class of 6 year olds through a field near Hemyock when one of the children discovered it.

Roe Deer fawns are left hidden in long grass like this during the day while the mother feeds herself.  The mother returns every few hours to feed the fawn, so if you find a deer fawn it is important not to touch it as you will leave your scent on the fur.  The mother may abandon the fawn if she senses that an animal or human has been near it.

More photos and info about Roe Deer here

Rob Haynes sent us this terrific shot of a family of barn owls (mum, dad and baby in the centre).  Rob took the photo at 5am in north Norfolk using a Nikon D300 with a Sigma 300mm 2.8 Prime on a Beanbag.

More photos and info about Barn Owls here

Love this photo of a Zebra Spider taken by Brian Comer in North Wales.  Not just because Zebra spiders are one of my favourite species, but because this one is enjoying a piece of sponge cake... coincidentally one of my favourite spare time activities too.  Brian had put a few sugary cake crumbs down so he could photograph some ants, but the spider beat the ants to it.

Most people assume that all spiders are carnivorous predators, which wrestle their poor unsuspecting prey to the ground and dig their fangs in for the kill.  Which they do.  But sometimes these furry little critters would rather just chill out with a bit of Victoria sponge.

In fact several types of spider in the UK feed on plant nectar.  Like cake, nectar is sugary, but it also contains many vitamins and minerals which the spider needs to stay healthy.  Research has shown that spiders who supplement their diet with nectar live longer.  They also don't have to suffer the hazards involved with trying to overpower prey, or expend energy producing venom and digestive enzymes.

Camera used was a Fuji X E1 with a 35mm 1.4 prime and a 10mm extension tube.

More photos and info about Zebra Spiders here

Brian Comer sent us this excellent macro photo of a female Ruby-tailed Wasp about to lay her eggs in the nest of a Mason Bee.

The Ruby-tailed Wasp reverses her ruby rear end into the nest hole and lays her eggs next to the Mason Bee eggs.  She then flies away before the Mason Bee returns to finish plugging up the hole to her nest (quite literally sealing the fate of her own young).

When the wasp eggs hatch the emerging larvae eat the Mason Bee larvae and then remain inside the nest until the following spring when they emerge as adult wasps.

Camera used was a Fuji X E1 with a 35mm 1.4 prime and a 10mm extension tube.

More photos and info about Ruby-tailed Wasps here

Angela Prentice sent us this lovely shot of a female Emperor Dragonfly dipping her 'tail' in the water to lay her eggs.  Just below the surface of the water she's busy inserting the eggs into the soft stems of the lily leaves using the tip of her abdomen.

The larvae will hatch out after about three weeks, and then remain in the water for a further one to two years before taking to the air like their parents.

Angela took the photo during her lunch break, which is the best time to watch this species, as they are most active in the middle of the day.  Camera used was a Fuji Finepix HS 50EXR.

More photos and info about Emperor Dragonflies here

Diatoms are a group of algae, and one of the most common types of Phytoplankton.  "What's a Phytoplankton?" I hear you ask.  Good question.  The word means a wandering plant, which aptly describes diatoms because they can be found drifting in water.

The important thing about Phytoplankton is that they are responsible for much of the oxygen present in our atmosphere.  They use sunlight to obtain energy (plus some carbon dioxide and a drop of water) and as a by-product give out oxygen (5 extra house points if you already knew about photosynthesis).  Basically we'd all have a hard time breathing without them.

Only recently it was discovered that diatoms also have a urea cycle (that's a scientific way of saying they can pee).  Of all the things you'd expect algae to do that's probably not the first one that springs to mind.  That changes the way you view them, because having a urea cycle also links them evolutionarily to animals.

It made me wonder what other things diatoms do.  Like do they giggle to themselves when they think of something funny?  Just then Maurice Vaughan sent me some of his Diatom photos and amongst them was this one.  I promise you it hasn't been altered other than adding a blue tint.  Is this a happy diatom?

More photos and info about Diatoms here

Richard Harris sent us this superb shot of a Peregrine Falcon swooping down out of the sky.  Peregrines are quite probably the fastest animal on Earth.  At full throttle, when diving down onto prey, they can hit speeds of almost 190mph (300kph).  That's about seven times faster than Usain Bolt on a really good day.

Peregrines can be found on every continent of the world except Antarctica.  They generally like to live in wide open spaces although they are increasingly found in towns and cities where they nest on tall buildings.

More photos and info about Peregrine Falcons here

This excellent close up of a Six-spot Burnet Moth was sent to us by Tim Woodcock.  If you're interested in photographing moths then Burnet moths are a good starting point.  They're fairly lazy day-flying slow-moving insects which are easy to approach with a camera.  This particular moth is a bit different as it has six extra red spots on its body.

The spots are in fact the larvae of Velvet Mites which are busy drinking the poor insects blood.  Not only does it have to contend with the mites but it's also being hindered with several pollen sacs of pyramidal orchids wrapped around its tongue.

Like other flowers the pyramidal orchid uses nectar to attact insects.  When the burnet moth lands on the orchid and puts its tongue inside the flower to drink the orchid attaches pollen sacs to the moth ensure its pollen is carried to another flower.

The mite larvae attached to the moth will eventually become Velvet Mites, which are those tiny little red critters you see marching over bare soil in springtime.  Although they are parasitic they drop off after feeding without doing too much harm to their hosts.  Curiously most birds avoid eating Six-spot Burnet moths because their bodies contain traces of cyanide.  I wonder how the mites cope with this poison?

More photos and info about Six-spot Burnet Moths here
More photos and info about Velvet Mites here

Getting a good photo of wild mammals in the UK is rarely easy.  Many of them are nocturnal and nearly all of them have learnt that it's safer to stay well away from people.  With the exception of grey squirrels and parkland deer, you need a lot of patience, or a very long lens, or both.

Of the 40 or so wild land mammal species in the UK I would say one of the most difficult to photograph would be this curious wee thing.  They're normally found at elevations above 500m and the scientific name "Lepus timidus" gives a good clue as to how shy they are.  In the past 15 years only four photos of this species have landed in our inbox.

This amazing shot of a Mountain Hare was taken by Simon Duckworth who managed to photograph it near Farr in the Highlands.

As well as Scotland, where it is indigenous, Mountain Hares have been re-introduced to the Peak District, the Isle of Man and parts of Derbyshire.  There are no exact records of the number of Mountain Hares in the UK, but in parts of Scotland where they were once abundant they can no longer be found.  Hunting for sport as well as reduction of suitable habitat are believed to be the main causes.

Simon used a Nikon d80 with a Sigma 170-500 lens, and he took the photo from his car, so not one hair of the hare was disturbed.

More photos and info about Mountain Hares here

Pete Tanton sent us this beautiful photo of a Red Fox at Far Ings, Lincolnshire, enjoying some of that lovely sunshine we had recently.  Although foxes are mostly seen (or heard) at night they'll frequently make an appearance like this during the daytime, especially when they have a litter of hungry cubs to feed.  Pete used a Canon 7D with a 100-400 Canon lens.

More foxy photos and info here

Okay, let's clear up any confusion from the start.  This is the harmless larva (caterpillar) of an Elephant Hawkmoth.  I'm saying that up front because this week I've learnt there are a lot of people (not you of course) who don't know that.

Just today alone I've answered around 50 emails from people who think they have baby snakes hiding in the fuchsia bushes in their gardens.  For the benefit of anyone who may have the same concern, NO, those are not snakes in your fuchsias!

This particular photo was sent to us by Paul Day who spotted the caterpillar (and by the way he knew it was a caterpillar) in Coventry.  We like this shot because it shows what happens when the caterpillar feels threatened.  It draws the front of its body inwards, and in doing so protects it's eyes and fuchsia munching equipment.

This action has the added effect of inflating the front of its body which is decorated with those big false eye markings, making them look even larger (and a little bit freaky).  It's a dramatic change which works as a deterrent to hungry birds (and a few short-sighted gardeners).

Incidentally if you have Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillars destroying your prize fuchsias, please don't kill them.  Simply pick them off and move them to a clump of wildflowers such as rosebay willowherb.  Within a few months they transform from elephant-like caterpillars into one of the most beautiful moths in the UK.

More photos and info about these caterpillars and the adult moths here
More news on these caterpillars here

Polecats are members of the weasel family and the original ancestors of all of todays domestic ferrets.  They are very nimble and extremely quick, so to get a good photo requires a lot of patience, quick reactions, and a bit of good luck.  Nikki Charlton spotted this youngster near her home in southern Snowdonia.  It was one of two kits calling to each other beside the wall of a drystone barn.  Nikki said they looked too young and vulnerable to be out alone, but both eventually took up sanctuary in different parts of the wall, and she added it was a great privilege to be able to watch them.

More photos and info about Polecats here

Christina Cole spotted this frog while digging in her garden in Bedfordshire.  She said she was almost tempted to rescue the worm as she took this photo.  It does seem an awfully big mouthful for one frog to swallow.  Fortunately the frog has two secret weapons to help.

Frogs don't have teeth strong enough to chew worms into small chunks, so as the frog puts the worm in its mouth those two bulging eyes sink down through openings in its skull and help to push the food down its throat.  This is why frogs always blink as they swallow.

Camera used was a Nikon D5200 with a 55-200mm lens.

More photos and info about frogs here

This lovely photo of a Humming-bird Hawk-moth, with its tongue uncoiled drinking nectar, was sent to us by Beryl Ladd from Devon.  As you can see these moths feed in a similar fashion to real hummingbirds.  The rapid beating of their tiny wings creates a humming sound, and they dart from one flower to the next, adding to the whole hummingbird illusion.

Humming-bird Hawk-moths are known to make return visits to the same flowers every day, often at around the same time of day.  Perhaps they are just creatures of habit, or could it be that nectar is good for the memory?

More photos and info about Humming-bird Hawk-moths here

If you've ever been lucky enough to witness the skill and grace of a Hobby soaring through the air in pursuit of dragonfles you'll know what expert fliers they are.  They're truly masters of their environment.

It's hard to imagine chasing a more difficult prey item, but in the summer months dragonflies make up a significant part of the Hobby's diet.  The Hobby relies on precise aerobatic manoeuvres to catch these lightning fast insects.  However, even this gifted black belt of the sky is capable of the occasional error, as this photo sent in by Tony Wharton shows.

Tony had been watching the Hobby successfully hunting for nearly an hour when suddenly it missed the dragonfly it was chasing and crash landed on the ground, very close to where he was standing.  Tony managed to get this shot of it spreadeagled before it composed itself and flew up again, unharmed, but a little embarrassed.

More photos and info about Hobbies here

These rather cute CCTV shots of a badger mum and her two cubs were sent in by Andy McIntyre.  He took the photos in his back garden in Southend, Essex.  As you can see Andy is not only fortunate enough to have badgers in his garden, but one of the cubs is a beautiful albino too.

By the way if you see any badgers being shot in the Gloucestershire or Somerset countryside, don't worry.  It's perfectly okay.  Our glorious leaders (all hail the wise ones) have decided once again that badgers need to be culled in order to stop the spread of bTB.

It's a scheme that has been failing to achieve any positive result for about half a century.  There's a wealth of scientific evidence showing why culling doesn't work, not to mention huge public outrage and a general wrongness about the whole thing, but ever the optimists, our leaders feel that any day now it'll all come good.

In the meantime, there's yet another new Environment Secretary, the Rt Hon Liz Truss.  I expect Liz is a very nice lady who probably doesn't like to see badgers being shot, but Liz does have the power to do the right honorable thing and call off the cull.  So, if you feel you'd like to let her know that killing badgers to stop the spread of bTB is about as intelligent as draining the ocean to prevent beached whales, then drop her a line at:

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

More photos and info about Badgers here

Small Tortoiseshells are one of the few butterflies regularly seen on the wing in autumn.  This photo sent in by Rob Whyatt was taken in his back garden in Haslington, Cheshire.  These colourful October flyers will hibernate through the winter in garden sheds and buildings, ready to re-emerge next year around March.

Ever wonder why it's called the "Small" Tortoiseshell?  With a wingspan of around 50mm it's not particularly small when compared to some other butterflies.  In fact there used to be a very similar looking butterfly called the Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros).  The species has been virtually extinct in the UK since the 1950's, although they are seen most years in very low numbers.

Details about both species can be found in the UK Safari Butterflies Section

This amazing photo sent in by Richard Harris shows why it's not a good idea to get too close to the deer at this time of year.  A full grown male Fallow Deer can weigh almost 100kg, so you can imagine the forces involved when two rutting males collide with such ferocity that they lift off the ground.

Visit the UK Safari Deer Section for more info

Peter Bone sent this itch-inducing shot of a Harlequin Ladybird beleaguered by dozens of tiny phoretic mites.  The mites cannot fly and are using the ladybird as a means of transport to find food, mates, or new egg-laying sites.  When they reach their chosen destination they just drop off.

Normally you'd only see a small number of mites on an insect of this size, but this flight seems to have been overbooked.

Peter took the photo in his garden in Wells, Somerset with an Olympus e620 DSLR, a Sigma macro lens and flash.

Visit the Phoretic Mite Fact File for more photos and info

Jill Shaw took this photo of a Sparrowhawk through her lounge window in Skegness, Lincolnshire.  The unfortunate victim between those razor sharp talons is a little Goldfinch which came to visit Jill's niger seed feeder.  The photo is beautifully clear considering the wet weather, which can be seen on the Sparrowhawks back.  Camera used was an Olympus OM-D E-MI with a 75-300mm lens.

More Sparrowhawk photos here

This photo taken by Roger Wasley shows a Little Owl chick in the hand of Gloucestershire farmer and licensed bird-ringer Steve Palmer from the Forest of Dean.

Steve has been meticulously recording the birds he encounters during his daily rounds since 1964.  Each day for the past 50 years he has listed every species he has seen, and accounted for every bird that has bred in his nest boxes.

From humble beginnings, when he made his first blue tit box from old oak floor boards covered with bark, his passion has steadily grown.  Today he has 500 nest boxes across his own farmland and throughout neighbouring pastures, orchards and woodlands.

More Little Owl photos and info here

You know those big, rounded garden spiders which you see sitting on their beautiful webs every autumn?  You know how their abdomens always look fit to burst?  Well this is what they look like after they've laid their eggs.  More wrinkles than a balloon from the Christmas party left hanging until Easter.

The eggs she's just laid are all safely ensconced inside that bundle of cream coloured silk next to her.  They'll remain there until they hatch in the spring.

This spider and her eggs were found in the framework of a busy office door, which probably isn't the safest place to settle.  Sharp-eyed observers will notice she's already one leg short of a full set.

Photo was taken with an iPhone 5S by Scott McSkimming in South Lanarkshire.

More photos and info about Garden Spiders here

Taken by Jim Duncan at Loch Lomond this photo of a clump of Shaggy Ink Caps shows the fungi in various states of growth and disintegration.  The tallest one on the left has already started reducing to a puddle of the black ink which gives this fungi its name.

More photos and info about Shaggy Ink Caps here

This Raven was photographed by Peter Bone this week as it flew over Wells Cathedral.  Ravens love soaring around steep coastal cliffs so the walls, spires and towers of Wells Cathedral make an ideal urban substitute.  Peter used an Olympus e620 camera with 70-300mm zoom lens.

More photos and info about Ravens here

This is the caterpillar of a Death's Head Hawkmoth, which was made familiar to many in the book/film "The Silence of the Lambs".  It was spotted this week by Peter Aldridge in his garden in Boston, Lincolnshire.

As you can see from the tape measure they're quite a noticeable size, but what's more unusual is they're not usually found this late in the year.  Peter said it was in a sorry state when he found it.  It was very wet and cold, but it's now living in a comfortable dry aquarium and feeding on privet leaves.

There are three different colour forms of this caterpillar, which is natures way of making identification more fun. :)

More photos and info about Death's-head Hawk-moths here

Erythristic badgers are quite rare.  They have a slight genetic difference from 'regular' badgers which makes their fur more reddish or pink.  You could watch badgers all your life and not see one erythristic badger, but Mike Jones was lucky enough to spot and photograph these two youngsters at their sett near Oswestry in Shropshire.

More photos of colourful Badgers here

You know that thing you do at parties where you throw a peanut up in the air and catch it in your mouth?  Then you spend the next few minutes asking people to slap you on the back to try and free it from your windpipe.  Well it turns out that Waxwings do that too.

Roger Wasley caught this Waxwing mid-trick with his Canon EOS 7D and 100-400mm zoom lens.  He was watching a small flock of Waxwings in a tree in Cheltenham when this bird picked a berry, tossed it up and then caught it in its beak.  Nicely done, and apparently there was none of that embarrassing choking afterwards.

More photos and info about Waxwings here

This photo sent in by Pete Tanton of a male Bullfinch was taken in Hessle, near Hull, with a Canon 7D.  You can see Bullfinches in the UK all year round, but in winter their numbers sometimes swell as they're joined by others flying in from Scandinavia to spend the season here.  You can attract Bullfinches to your garden by providing sunflower seeds at your feeding station.

More photos and info about Bullfinches here

Jo Sweetman sent us this photo showing one of the hedgehogs being cared for by Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue.  Hedgehogs lose a lot of weight during hibernation and ideally they should weigh around 900g at the start of their big sleep.  When this particular one was taken in it weighed just 300g so it would not have survived until spring.  Many rescue centres have been overwhelmed with underweight hedgehogs due to the mild weather conditions encouraging late litters.  Given the right sort of food, drink and care this ball of prickles, and others like him will gain enough weight to survive the winter.

As with most wildlife rescue centres Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue receives no funding other than donations from caring people like you.  Hedgehogs numbers are on the brink of extinction in the UK and it's only thanks to this sort of dedicated work that they might still be around for future generations to see.  If you've got a good wildlife hospital near you, consider giving them a few quid this week.  It'll benefit wildlife, the planet and you!

More photos and info about Hedgehogs here

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