The Great Cycle of Life in the Cotswolds

Just for a moment, back to England, where the BBC are currently setting up to broadcast Springwatch from our village next week. After a long cold spring, we have had a glorious spell of sunshine, and the first mayfly sub-imagos are hatching:

DSC09562Here is a close-up from last year:

Mayfly, sub-imago, also called a dun.

The mayflies, who have a short life but hopefully a happy one, risk being eaten by the omnivorous moorhens:


but the moorhens must be forgiven because they have chicks to feed:



Lurking nearby, this three-foot long Barred Grass Snake swam across the stream and slithered into the reeds where the moorhen nest lies concealed:


Here it is in closeup, and a baby moorhen would be an excellent dinner:


I was told by a neighbor that there were four chicks, but I only saw three. One may have been hiding, or one may have already fallen prey to the snake.

The snake is non-venomous, and usually lives in and around water. It is a protected species in the UK. Interestingly, in August 2017 it was recognized, on the basis of DNA analysis,  to be distinct from the Common Grass Snake Natrix natrix. It is now agreed to be the Barred Grass Snake, Natrix helvetica. It lacks the yellow collar of the Common Grass Snake, and any instances of the collared varieties in the UK are now thought to be from imports. Still, it seems to me to have a collar: what do you think??




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