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Englishman in Bandung

Sunday 4 December 2011: Orb spider - argiope

Thank you for your sympathetic comments after yesterdays events. I did find a couple of land patches locally, but I really need to find something adjacent to the stream to have a chance of exotic butterflies and dragons. I will keep looking.

I spent most of yesterday repairing the washing machine. It took several hours but eventually I managed to rejoin all the twelve wires back in the correct order and the machine worked first time. I always expect a bang and a nasty smell when working on electrical devices. The water had got a bit pongy after standing for three days, so I just added an extra capful of softener in the final rinse. I am leaving the machine plugged in from now on, so next time Mickey decides to chew my wires he will get the shock of his death.

Today's trials and tribulations started earlier than usual, at 01:00am when a sudden desire to pee struck me with a vengeance. During the mildly pleasurable act, all the lights extinguished. My first thought was that I had forgotten to pay the bill again, but that was not due for another week, so no problem, a power cut. Upon completion of the said act I fumbled for the flush button and accidently knocked the bottle of body wash off its mantle. The clattering sound was followed by a loud rushing of water, followed seconds later by a cool wet sensation around my toes.

I hooked up the camera rim light and went to investigate. The bottle had struck the cistern water supply pipe which had subsequently sheared off flush with the wall. Things could have been worse, it could have been a waste pipe problem, but this was bad enough. Had this been an English bathroom then this would have been an expensive disaster with flooding through the ceiling, re-plastering and redecorating of the down stairs rooms, possibly carpet replacement too. Indonesian bathrooms are designed to be wet, the floors sloping to a drain. Nothing I could do now, so I shut off the water pump and went back to sleep.

In the morning I cleaned up the area, set out some tools and sent for the landlords Mr fixit guy and left him to it as I had some blipping to do. When I returned from the grove, everything was working again. Like I have mentioned before, this is the best landlord that I have ever had.

At the grove, no further carnage had been inflicted since yesterday so I proceeded to patrol what was left. I spotted a few lizards and dragons, but could not get close enough for a decent image. The brown butterflies were in abundance which made sense seeing as half the grove was now largely brown. I picked up shots of a small caterpillar, a nice green hopper shot and a mediocre dragon.

The browns are slightly skittish, they wait until you have gotten down to full commando posture, got your elbows bedded in and raised the camera to your eye, before flitting off about three feet, leaving you with the decision between stand up and move on or do the elbow foxtrot for another take. They are a lot of effort for one of the more drab butterfly specimens, but on close inspection the beauty is there.

They all look the same from a short distance, but when you get up close, there are a lot of variations in the number of spots. I read that they are classified by the number of spots, but the two smallest spots don't count, pairs of spots count as one and the big one on the forewing does not count and?. At that point I stopped reading. I think I will have to pay more attention to the browns and give them a bit of blip space. The main problem is that they are small so to get a half decent blip, I have to be at minimum distance which is eight inches, not an easy task, but I managed it today.

Having made my mind up to blip a brown, I skirted past an area next to the compost mound that I rarely visit, mainly due to the household rubbish bags deposited there, you never know what you are stepping in, I am more afraid of human rubbish than lizards and snakes. I tell you, some people do not deserve to be sharing this planets oxygen supply, oh god, I sound like a tree hugger.

In the corner, amongst the worst of the crap, I spotted a web with a cross pattern and a large blob in the centre. Finally I had found an arachnid worth blipping and even human excrement was not going to part me from it. The light was bad and one of the wires on my rim light needed re-soldering. I took a few test shots and returned to the lab. The beauty of web builders is that they do not move around. I will be able to fully blip and document this specimen for weeks. This was easily the best find since I started coming to the grove.

I returned thirty minutes later, rim light repaired and ready to collect a hundred arachnid images. To my horror the plant murderer was there, hacking away at the undergrowth about three feet from where the spider was. I rushed over and stopped him, asking him to give me ten minutes, to which he agreed.

The spider was still there, but the web was all but destroyed. I collected a bunch of images best I could, but what a golden opportunity destroyed. I thought I was pissed off yesterday, but that is nothing to how I am feeling right now. I think the guy sensed it too, as he stayed well out of my way.

The image that I chose to blip was one of the test shots, taken before the web was destroyed. I chose it to show as much as possible as there will be no follow up blips. You see the unique web construction. This spider sits with its legs paired together forming an 'X'. You can see the stunning colors and patterns, albeit a bit on the shaded side, I have clearer images but not with the content of this one.

The small spider to the left is actually the male of the same species. This enormous size difference is quite common amongst orb spiders and I am pleased that I was able to show this phenomenon.

Sorry for the length of the write-up, but there was a lot of ground to cover, I actually trimmed this back from close to three pages. I'm going to curl up and cry now.



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