Environment

Country diary: one spider to make a song and dance about

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Río Almonte, Extremadura, Spain Camel-haired legs, gleaming black eyes and the largest pair of spider jaws you’ve seen in your life – a tarantula

There were all sorts of exciting birds overhead, including vultures in elegant spirals and clusters of crag martins spooked up by a hunting sparrowhawk. Yet the group’s attention had been called to an insignificant hole in the bare ground by the picnic table.

The hole was 4cm across and had an untidy circlet of dead grasses arranged in a silk-knotted perimeter. By sheer chance I had just read about the occupant and how it could be lured into view with a grass stem drooped into the burrow entrance like a fishing line. Sure enough, within seconds, book learning was turned into startling experience.

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