Animals and other Encounters

I have written quite a bit about animal geographies.

I will put links to papers here asap but see

I have become increasingly interested in the meetings I have with animals and insects.

I have begun to film these – only very short simple efforts

And also write them up.

The bee, the water and the flower 22.04.2015

Enroute to London Paddington from Bath Spa quite early, arriving at the station with quite a wait for the train – I got a lift with someone going to work – I went into the waiting room. Some ’empty time’. Immediately, and gratefully, I noted the room was quite – even rather – warm. The spring weather was bright and sunny but with night temperatures still dropping to near freezing under the very clear skies. After a few minutes of idly looking at the free newspaper, a honey bee fell to the floor at my feet, landing on her back and gently rotating on the shiny stone floor as she waved her legs around. She seemed reasonably vigorous but was obviously in some trouble.

I looked around the room to note all the windows were non-opening (or certainly not open) and the door closed. I guessed she had followed a passenger in, and for her to escape again via the door – which sprang shut after use – was a matter of slim(ish) chance. So I decided to take her outside. Offered the edge of a bank card (which got lost in what followed), she climbed aboard.

The platform outside was in shadow, and it was still cold, but the long rectangle of gloom that made the platform roof was framed by dazzling early morning sun. So I walked down the platform to where the roof ended, so I could put the bee in the sunshine – figuring that might help. I had to turn the bank card a few times as the bee kept crawling and exploring – but showing no indication of fright, or flight. In the sun was a large round concrete planter with vegetation which included some pansies with blue petals and yellow centres. I offered the card to one of the flowers and the bee readily transferred onto one of the petals. And there she stood – and there I stood.

It had been a very dry few weeks – with some discussion at home of the returning swallows and house martins not having enough mud for nest building due to lack of rain – and how this might be addressed with a bit of effort. So I thought of that – not enough water around, and the warm waiting room, the bee might have been stuck in for some time, and I just wondered if she was dehydrated.

So, almost as a gesture, I spat onto my fingers and let a small gob of spit drop next to the bee. She immediately started to drink, extending her proboscis into the fluid. I was a bit taken aback. And then worried that, maybe, my spit would carry harmful infection to the bee. But she was still drinking, and showing no sign of stopping. Then I realised I had a bottle of water (tap water) with me, so I filled the cap and carefully poured it onto the flower near the bee. But the water slid off the petals like mercury, or like water off bird feathers. I guess flowers need a counter measure against the weight and saturation of raindrops. So I tried again, more carefully still, and this time some water seemed to rest on the top of the petals, and clung to their edges.

Still the bee drank. I took out my phone and took a few close up photos, and then videoed her drinking. The first shot was only a few seconds, but I readjusted my position and filmed her drinking for two minutes and twenty seconds. At one point the bee seemed to be pulling at a blob of water  at risk of slipping off the petal with her front left leg as if to keep it by her. But maybe she was simply tapping her leg as she drank. Finally she stopped drinking and moved around a bit, to me it seemed, in a sprightlier manner. And then she started to clean her proboscis with her front legs.

As I know well from watching our cats, grooming, while not a certain sign of well-being,  is quite possibly a sign of well-being. So at that point I went off to get a coffee, which, with a bit of queuing, must have taken five or so minutes. Then I went back to check on ‘progress’, and the bee was now going thorough a vigorous all-over groom; scraping her back (or middle) legs along her wings; scratching at the fur on her belly with her back legs; running her front legs down her antenna, twisting her head each way in turn as she did so (like someone drying their hair with a towel). I filmed this for a minute or so – then finally had to depart.

So my conclusion was that the bee was  dehydrated, and that access to water had revived her. I remain concerned that the drinking of my spittle might have caused her – even her colony, where ever it might be – a terrible thought – infection. But I just hope not. The film of the bee is here (to come).

Spider (and glove) 30 01 2015

In a holiday flat in Tenby (Wales), late at night, I am peeing into the toilet prior to going to bed. I notice a spider on the tiled surface next to the toilet. It does not look in good shape – maybe even dead. Brown and black. I pick it up carefully, by a couple of its legs initially, to get it off the slightly sticky tiled surface, and drop it into my other hand. As I am doing so it suddenly waves its legs around frantically – then it is still again, lying in the palm of my hand. There is no discernible weight, or even feeling of it, on my palm. I ponder the situation. There is a towel radiator on the wall with a grey glove on it – drying.

I saw this glove washed up on the beach a few days before. I passed it by once. After the next tide it was further along the beach. The waves had washed sand into it to such an extent that the fingers were filled out, as if inhabited by a hand. I decided to keep it. I have got a drawer full of found odd gloves at home. I use them sometimes. I have written a song about them – well sort of. I maybe expect to use them – need them – in some unforeseen future. I turned the fingers inside out, one by one, to remove the sand, swooshed it around in a rock pool and took it back to the flat to dry.

It was cold in the flat. I figured that maybe the spider was just too cold and I put it on the glove folded over the top of the radiator. But then I thought – it’s not that cold. Maybe the spider had another problem – dehydration. I looked around the bathroom. The shape of the bath and sink and toilet would have meant – possibly – that accessing water was difficult. We all know – I trust – that spiders that turn up in the sink or in the bath have gone there to drink and then can’t climb out – and need rescuing.

So I take the spider into the kitchen. It is still and limp. I get a plate and let a drop of water fall upon it and then place the spider on the plate. I turn the light out. Back in the bathroom I contemplate the bottles of bleach and anti-bacterial spray. Bottles of poisons that are liberally sprayed around the environment. I am thinking now maybe the spider has suffered the consequences of these.

In the morning the sun is out. It is much warmer in the flat. The spider looks like a tiny lifeless rag. I put the plate on the table in the warmth of the sunshine. One last try. But I am pretty sure it is hopeless. We go out and walk along the beach. Dogs charge about – how they seem to love the wide windy space revealed by the ebbing tide. When the season comes they won’t be allowed on the beach until the autumn. Is this fair I wonder. When we return I open a window and throw the dead spider to the wind.

Spider 2  (July 2015)

I sometimes sit down to pee. Seems easier. I did so while running a bath. On rising I glance into the toilet bowl. A small spider is floating seemingly lifeless in the now amber water. I do not mean a really tiny spider, like a ‘money spider’, but one with a body maybe a bit smaller than a match head. A young spider making its way in its world – our house – upon whom misfortune had fallen. I could just flush everything away – but I bend and scoop the spider out of the water with a fingertip. There it lies, seemingly lifeless; legs a raggle of non-symmetry. I wonder was my urine toxic to it? Also wondering momentarily if I should rinse it? An idea that surely would not help. I gently transfer the spider onto a square of toilet paper, figuring that will dry it out a bit. Then I think I see a flicker of movement in a few legs. Or is that just as the weight of water is pulled into the tissue paper? I consider very gently patting it with more paper – but again, not a sensible plan. So I blow gently on him or her – maybe for about 20 seconds. S/he certainly is alive. Not moving much but the legs are getting back into an ordered pattern. By now my bath is run. I turn to close the taps. As I do I brush the paper accidentally off the toilet cistern, and it falls, face down. But I am sure the spider will be ok and will still be holding on as I retrieve it. And that is so. I put the toilet paper back on the cistern and proceed with my bath. I look up once, and the spider has moved to the corner of the paper and is stationary again. Perhaps further recovering him/herself. A few minutes later I glance again. S/he is gone. I continue to bathe.


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