This should have been a winner. It had murder, bright colours and a spider of Shelobian proportions. How on earth did it fail?
A pair of spider wasps (Cryptocheilus bicolor, family Pompilidae) have been visiting the garden. They patrol the fences for huntsman and jumping spiders. On finding one, the wasp will paralyse it with a sting and drag the unlucky arachnid to a burrow excavated in sand or soft soil. The wasp then lays an egg on the spider. When the wasp larva hatches it dines on the living larder provided by mum. Isn't that sweet?
Although they are large insects (more than 30 mm long) spider wasps also very active, which makes it difficult to get a decent photo. So, I came up with a cunning plan. But — and this is where it went wrong — it really was the sort of cunning plan that Baldrick might have devised.
My reasoning went like this: If they're hunting spiders, why not use a spider-shaped lure? A big one, so they could see it from a distance. By coincidence, I happen to own a large plastic spider, which the techies had given to me one Christmas. (Academic tip: It keeps out arachnophobic students.)
The moment I put it out, the birds moved in to investigate. Did you know that sparrows can do disdain? I can't imagine that many people have been the subject of a house sparrow's scornful down-the-beak gaze but I now have. They're very good at it.
The wasps ignored the spider.
So I'm back to stalking them with the long lens. Certainly, it's more successful than the plastic spider technique but the pics are still woeful. I keep trying.