Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 15 March 2018 15:59

Today I decided it was time to go for along overdue walk around Woods Mill. I haven't been doing it half as much as I used to, work has just got so busy. So, I decided to head out after finishing my conservation committee work (which is on this evening). I didn't have my binoculars, yet I wasn't too worried about this. I kicked up a Jack Snipe in the valley field, first I have seen in years. I was heading back pleased with this record when at 1.45 pm I saw a butterfly in the distance. It's only the second butterfly I have seen this year so I was quite pleased. I walked past a Bombus hypnorum and eventually got closer to the butterfly. I was expecting a Peacock or a Red Admiral. It was clearly a Large Tortoiseshell. Now, I'm really regretting not having my binoculars at this point. My camera is in the bowels of my back but I managed to get it out and take a record shot before creeping forwards. This is the photo I took.

I took one step and it was off! It flew past me to the left at an incredible speed. I took this photo as it flew by me...

Now at this point I drop my bag and ran (in wellies) as fast as I could as it flew south east. I got half way down the valley field before I lost it. It was zigzaging so much I must have looked like I was dodging a sniper. I was thinking that my shot was not going to be good enough to separate Large from Scarce (not realising the Scarce influx was likely a one hit wonder). I got everyone excited looking for it but it wasn't seen again. Turns out that the above photo is enough to clinch the I.D. This is the 50th butterfly species on a Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve and my 56th.

I can't remember the last time saw a new butterfly, it might even be the Long-tailed Blue back in 2014, let alone a self found one when you're not expecting it! This is definitely the way to start the field season!

Spring into action

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 10 March 2018 14:49

Alice and I had a recording day yesterday for the volunteers of the new Flatropers Wood volunteer group to excite them about wildlife and biological recording. For a site with no designations that's so far away, Flatropers is really well recorded so to record at least four species new to the site was pretty good. Including one that is nationally scarce that I have only seen once before. 

Why is that? The answer: recording in March. It's a great time of year to find stuff that many naturalists and even entomologists don't usually pick up. It's also a time of year I am at my most DESPERATE to do some recording. It's also the time of year I (usually) have the most free time before the field season starts.

I love finding moths at rest. It's such a rare event, I'm certain that is the first time I have ever found a Yellow-horned moth at rest (and might even be the last). Although it's a well known location for moths since the Victorian era, this early spring species (along with Tortricodes alternella) were also new to the site. We swept a tiny (almost) mature male spider which I am pretty sure is Dipoena tristis (which IS known from the site). Turning logs in the wood provided only my second ever record of the Nb weevil Caenopsis fissirostris. The only other time I saw this was on the 17th March last year under a damp log looking rather soggy and dead, just like this one. I wonder if it is typically found like this?

We had a new bird for the site too. Hawfinch! At least five of them that took a bit of stalking but eventually perched high at the top of a tree.  At the start of this winter we had records for 6/32 sites, it's now at 11/32 sites and that's just the ones we know about! It's now been recorded on as many reserves as Greylag and Teal and Marsh Tits were also good value. 

So why not get out there and do some early spring recording? You never know what you might find!

There's a tramp in the compost bin!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 6 March 2018 17:29

A Tramp Slug Deroceras invadens in fact. You can tell it by the pale patch around the breathing pore. I think it was 'compost bin assisted' in its provenance though. 

The reason I am posting this is I have finally got round to putting my garden on the PSL location rankings. You can see it here. The garden is currently ranked 63rd out of 66 (albeit 64 to 66 have no records yet, so effectively I'm at the bottom). You have to start somewhere though. I need to add 28 species to go up a rank. I bought the flat back on the 13th November and made my first records that day. Today I have added a few bits just by being on the phone in the garden and finally got Sparrowhawk on the list. So as of today I have recorded 61 species in my 36 square-metres of garden. There is no lawn by the way and until very recently it was mostly covered in palms and non-native ferns. This is all changing though.

Probably the commonest invertebrate at the moment is Girdled Snail. My highlight though so far has been a Stock Dove that landed on the shed for 15 second and the obligatory Psilochorus simoni that seems to follow me around in boxes of books. I am yet to add a beetle or a moth to the list! the garden STINKS of Red Fox. Here is the breakdown:

Birds - 27
Plants - 12
Molluscs - 5
Spiders - 5
Mammals - 3
Crustaceans - 2
Springtails - 2
Bryophytes - 2
Butterflies - 1
Bugs - 1
Hymenoptera - 1

So why not start a list for your garden? It's a great way of getting records in. You can do this in iRecord and set up your list total by joining the pan-species listing website here.

I forgot this. I was Googling Tramp Slug as I forgot the scientific name and this came up...


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 4 March 2018 18:50

The festival of the crest to test which crest is best. 

I jest. We know the Firecrest (I mean look at it, thanks to Tony Davis for the photo) is infinitely superior to the Goldcrest. Goldcrests are cute but every time I see a Firecrest I get a little buzz, you know like when you see a Med. Gull? Anyway, what this is actually about is seeing which crest I hear singing the most. I like to do crazy little bits of pseudoscience and data gathering each year, like scoring every film out of 10 I saw in a year (I learnt I needed to watch more world cinema and less horror films), how much exactly I drank in a year (I won't say what I learnt about that!) or total distance walked in a year (before smart phones I would add - it was well over 1500 miles). I gave up on how many (and which) vegetables I ate in a year. I once tried to see how long I could go in a year without seeing a Pheasant. It's harder than you think. I've been working too much, can you tell?...

For years I've been saying I think I hear as many, if not more Firecrests, than I do Goldcrests. Now I'm talking specifically about singing birds, not calling birds. I am sure Goldcrest would win that hands down, I saw five in a tree yesterday on the way to the corner shop calling away. As I wasn't too well over the last few months I haven't been out much yet this year, so I haven't heard many of either but I did get a singing Goldcrest at Ebernoe at the end of Feb when putting some ARDs out for recording bats and today, two singing Firecrests and a Goldcrest (also at Ebernoe) when I was collecting them.

I'll also produce a little map of where I saw them. So here goes. Even Stevens for now but who knows which way it will go by the end of December? I just need to remember to keep it going and keep my GPS on me (it's highly unlikely that I'll forget that). Place your bets on which crest is best! Oh, if anyone else wants to have a go then the more the merrier, it would be interesting to see how the proportions compare in different regions. Not everyone knows the difference in the song, the basic difference is this; Goldcrest is a repeating pattern on two notes while Firecrest is only on one note.  They both usually finish with a little flourish. The basic vibe is the same in each; high-pitched. Like the worlds smallest violin playing just for you. 

The 10,000th species on a Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve was...

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 20 February 2018 09:52

Last year you may remember that we pan-listed all the Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves. You can read about this in more detail here. With the first draft we were tantalisingly close to reaching 10,000 species. More recently though I have been quiet about it, that's because I wanted to wait until Adastra (the Sussex Biological Recorders' Seminar) to reveal who the finder of that 10,000th species.

But firstly, Adastra! Wow, how lucky are we in Sussex to have this? Well, actually it's not luck; you make your own luck. It's the coming together of a huge collective passion and hard graft coupled with some of the most biodiverse counties in the UK. There were some fantastic talks on Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Knepp, flies and much much more. It was also the launch of this fantastic publication. So much awesomeness in one day was difficult to take in!

I gave a talk on the species list on the reserves and announced the finder of the 10,000th species BAFTA style. The winner was James McCulloch and the species was the leaf-mining fly Phytomyza ranunculivora recorded at Graffham Common last year. This species is identifiable from its mines and can be seen above in James' photo of a buttercup leaf. The distribution of the larva's droppings in the mine are enough to clinch the ID. A huge well done to James for finding the 10,000th species. Here he is receiving the prize.

James is also a pan-species lister and I had a look at his profile to write this blog. James is currently ranked as 51st place and has seen 2787 species. What's remarkable about this is he is 14! I put my total together before pan-species listing had a name at age 32 back in 2010. My list then was 2748! So James has beat my by 18 years. This is an incredible achievement. The prize was some NHBS book tokens and I am informed James will be acquiring some books on rove beetles. Well done James!

The species list on the reserves has already shot well beyond 10,000 after the review. In fact we are on 10,094 with the addition of the spider Steatoda grossa that Chris recorded at Rye Harbour in the last few days (thanks for the photo Chris). So what's next? Well, we'll keep adding to the list. I'm about to review all the species recorded at Seaford Head that have conservation status for the management plan. I'd love it if someone who was in a position to, were to approach me to help pan-list another wildlife trust out there, if we could do them all it would be a hugely powerful tool.

Meta data

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 6 February 2018 20:12

This post is like so meta. Cubed. I went to an undisclosed site in East Sussex a few weeks ago and was shown a small natural cave in a sandrock outcrop. I was in there like a shot! There was the ubiquitous Metellina merianae (or as I call it the Cave-entrance Spider) which I see in any tunnel or cave. There were also dozens of Meta menardi, the true cave spider. This is only the second time I have seen this large and impressive spider in Sussex. Well, that's probably because you don't spend enough time in caves I here you say. Wrong I say. I suddenly thought about it and I have looked at loads of caves and tunnels in Sussex with bat specialists such as Tony Hutson and moth-ers like Steve Teale. In fact, I've looked at plenty of (what I assume are) suitable sites and I just don't see this spider.

So why is it so restricted? I have no idea, so I will pull out the records and have a look at the metadata. First off this record is in a natural cave. It was very wet with flowing water, there were perhaps 40 in there that I could see. Lots of mosquitoes and a Herald moth. Mammal droppings too, so plenty to eat. Secondly is the previous record in Sussex which was found in the workshop at Woods Mill by Michael Blencowe, I confirmed it as Meta menardi. It was the first record for West Sussex. The far end of the workshop is a bit musty but mostly quite dry. It's pitch black until you open the door or turn the lights on. No real opening and very little food. We only ever saw one there and I've not noticed it since.

Prior to that there are three  East Sussex records (all bar one are of single female records). Two from the soft-rock sandy cliffs  to the east of Hastings in 2006 (this record is of three females) and 2003 have no metadata so I can't comment on these, so lets assume they are natural caves. The only other record was made, would you believe it, from Beachy Head! This record states that it was "found in a fissure on cliff top". 

So most of the records are from relatively small natural caves with permanent openings. This also tallies with where I have seen them up north. The Woods Mill record is the anomaly. So, maybe it's worth looking at smaller more natural caves than the bat tunnels I have spent more time in (where you are more likely to see a Bloxworth Snout moth than a cave spider!). There is also the scarce Meta bourneti to look out for, that hasn't been recorded in Sussex yet.

Super Facial Recognition and Natural History: the Results

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 30 January 2018 14:13

If you didn't read the post I put up requesting help for a 'research ' project, you can read it here. Thanks to everyone who contributed. It's not come back with anything conclusive, if anything the results are quite difficult to explain but I will try!

To summarise the data: 61 people took part with scores ranging from 29 to 70. My score of 68 was beaten only by three people putting me in the top 7% (thanks for spotting that mistake), at least I'm not making it up when I recognise people all the time! The mean of the whole data set was 58.8, considerably higher than the 53 which was noted as the mean on the website.

In the above chart, you can see the data is split between three categories. This therefore requires a one-way ANOVA (assuming normally distributed data). The data wasn't normally distributed and no amount of data-transformations was going to do anything about that. So we had to go with the non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis test (X2=3.65, P=0.16, n=61). And no significant differences were found. I was intrigued to compare just the 'Naturalists' with 'Pan-listers' using a Mann-Whitney test and the same was true but this result was approaching significance (Z=1.82, P=0.07, n=61). 

This would be quite interesting if the 'Non-naturalist' category wasn't sitting right in the middle. All I can think is, is that many of the PSL and naturalist types just did the test while perhaps the people who didn't see themselves as naturalists only did the test if they thought they had pretty good facial recognition. In fact, this was the group that had the least submissions. All of the groups were way above the mean on the website of 53. I believe my data collection method was causing an intrinsic bias across all three classes as only people who thought they might score well were entering. Who knows. All thoughts on this are most welcome.

I'll stick to the ecology.

But is there a correlation with PSL list size and test score I hear you say? Well, no is the answer (F=0.05, P=0.82, n=21). A big fat no at that. That line can barely get more level.

Once you pop, you just can't stop!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 29 January 2018 14:48

Yesterday was the first meeting of the Ditchling Beacon Conservation Super Squad. A conservation task force aimed at tackling this difficult site with it's seemingly inaccessible steep slopes and back-breaking scrub removal; it's not for the fainthearted. We started gently on the slope above though and had a great day. We used the new Tree Poppers for pulling up the invasive Wall Cotoneaster that has invaded large areas of the quarry (along with smaller amounts of native Hawthorn and Wayfaring-tree) and it was really successful. We covered pretty much the whole of the slope above and the plateau beyond that which will make way for all sorts of chalk-grassland plants, bryophytes and invertebrates. I personally loved getting my hands dirty again after all these years and it was a great feeling doing it as a volunteer.

By the end of the day, the slope looked great! I can't wait to see this in the summer. The Tree Poppers are so much better than just cutting and coppicing the scrub as they pull up the whole plant roots and all. They also create some bare ground in the process. The drawback is it takes much longer and they are quite hard work on the slopes. Manageable though.

What was a real surprise (considering we only surveyed it last year) was that Carole Mortimer found an insect new to the site. This is the Nb Agonopterix pallorella which is restricted to the eastern Downs and feeds on Knapweed. As we mention all species with conservation status in the management plans and Ditchling is just about to be submitted, this moth just scrapes it into the plan! It's the 181st moth we have recorded at Ditchling and the 1233rd species over all. I really like being able to tie the management together with some worthwhile species recording as we go, it really completes the circle.

Next month we will try some larger scrub and maybe put some spuds on the fire. If you're interested, please message me on It's always on the last Sunday of the month so the next one will be 25th February.

114 site firsts: the recording gains of the 1000 species challenge

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 21 January 2018 14:06

I have literally only just managed to enter all the records from the 1000 species challenge. I have been chipping away at them for weeks. I have already reported that we had three species new to the reserve network (never recorded on any SWT reserve before). These were; the Welsh Oak Longhorn Beetle (shown above), the mite Aceria origani (a gall forming mite on Wild Marjoram) and...Walnut. Yes there is a naturalised Walnut tree that's grown up in the last few years and that's a new record for the site and any reserve. Although it turns out there is one at Ditchling too.

What about the species new to just the specific reserve they have been recorded on? Well, of the 1033 (this has dropped by two since pulling this together, I doubled counted Great Tit and deleted Oyster Mushroom), 177 (17.1%) were recorded between the reserves leaving 856 (82.9%) record on the reserves. Of these, 114 (13.3%) had never been recorded on that particular reserve before. Levin had the most new species with 24 out of 93 (24.7%). This is surprising as I surveyed the invertebrates there in 2016! 

Here is the breakdown of the species we recorded by reserve. We wanted to break the back of it at Ebernoe early on without moving too much which I think was a good tactic.

This just goes to show that was partly a bit of fun and also partly a fund-raising and promotional event turned out to have a real tangible recording element. I think part of this is down to being on sites at unusual times using methods you perhaps wouldn't normally use. The other big factor is going to parts of reserves you wouldn't usually go to. You tend to survey at the best bits of reserves but if you want to get a huge list you need to start sweeping as soon as you walk through the gate. The rank grass at the bottom of the hill at Levin that is a long way from being good quality chalk-grassland, produced a lot of site firsts!

Some of the site firsts were indeed quite surprising. That is how recording goes though. Here they all are in the order they were recorded. Just bare in mind that this is the first record that's been made, it might not be the first time it's been seen there. Also, the sites with multiple ownership (Burton and Amberley) this is just referring to SWT's portion of the site. So, Bombus pascuorum is new to SWT's portion of the site, it may well have been recorded elsewhere on Amberley Wildbrooks.

Taxa Species No. Reserve
Spiders Metellina merianae 88 Ebernoe
Plants Slender Rush 106 Ebernoe
Bugs Velia caprai 150 Ebernoe
Moths Psyche catsta 217 Ebernoe
Plants Hairy Bitter-cress 245 Ebernoe
Moths Hedya pruniana 283 Ebernoe
Moths Argyresthia conjugella 302 Ebernoe
Beetles Welsh Oak Longhorn Beetle 326 Ebernoe & network
Bryophytes Polytrichum juniperinum 334 Ebernoe
Spiders Robertus lividus 342 Ebernoe
Spiders Philodromus albidus 407 Ebernoe
Beetles Conopalpus testaceus 430 Ebernoe
Springtails Orchesella cincta 433 Ebernoe
Spiders Ballus chalybeius 450 Ebernoe
Lichens Ramalina fastigiata 458 Ebernoe
Plants Wilson's Honeysuckle 463 Ebernoe
Moths Depressia daucella 469 Ebernoe
Bugs Polymerus nigra 481 Ebernoe
Molluscs Planorbis carinatus 588 Amberley
Bugs Capsus ater 589 Amberley
Fish Three-spined Stickleback 590 Amberley
Aculeates Bombus pascuroum 595 Amberley
Aculeates Bombus lapidarius 598 Amberley
Beetles Kidney-spot Ladybird 599 Amberley
Spiders Lariniodes cornutus 600 Amberley
Bugs Cymus claviculus 601 Amberley
Beetles Tychius picirostris 603 Amberley
Moths Water Ermine 608 Amberley
Molluscs Derocerus reticulatum 610 Amberley
Moths Small China-mark 622 Amberley
Flies Rhagio scolopaceus 623 Amberley
Crickets Slender Groundhopper 624 Amberley
Aculeates Lasius niger 629 Amberley
Spiders Misumena vatia 637 Amberley
Crickets Meadow Grasshopper 638 Amberley
Moths Brown China-mark 640 Amberley
Plants True Fox Sedge 641 Amberley
Flies Helophilus pendulus 644 Amberley
Flies Leucozona lucorum 645 Amberley
Spiders Agelena labyrinthica 671 Waltham
Beetles Cionus tuberculosus 686 Waltham
Beetles Dorcus parallelipipidus 692 Waltham
Crustaceans Platyarthrus hoffmannseggii 693 Waltham
Plants Rosebay Willowherb 694 Waltham
Beetles Phyllobrotica quadrimaculata 698 Waltham
Bugs Teratocoris antennatus 700 Waltham
Beetles Pterostichus diligens 701 Waltham
Flies Chrysotoxum festivum 704 Waltham
Cockroach Dusky Cockroach 709 Waltham
Bugs Pithanus maerkelii 710 Waltham
Flies Tropidia scita 739 Waltham
Flies Platycheirus rosarum 740 Waltham
Plants Procumbent Pearlwort 747 Graffham
Spiders Araneus angulatus 750 Graffham
Beetles Aphodius fossor 756 Graffham
Crickets Dark Bush-cricket 757 Graffham
Moths Red Sword-grass 780 Graffham
Spiders Salticus scenicus 785 Graffham
Spiders Micaria pulicaria 786 Graffham
Moths Pempelia palumbella 796 Graffham
Plants Yellow-rattle 807 Graffham
Plants Groundsel 809 Graffham
Moths Oak Eggar 824 Graffham
Birds Mistle Thrush 828 Graffham
Flies Mesembrina meridiana 834 Graffham
Moths Pine Beauty 836 Graffham
Bugs Gorse Shieldbug 840 Graffham
Bugs Blue Shieldbug 841 Graffham
Plants Carnation Sedge 846 Graffham
Beetles Cionus alauda 853 Graffham
Moths Ancylis uncella 854 Graffham
Spiders Tibellus maritimus 856 Graffham
Spiders Dipoena tristis 857 Graffham
Beetles Ontholestes murinus 866 Graffham
Flies Jaapiella veronicae 890 Levin
Bugs Stenocranus minutus 905 Levin
Ticks & mites Aceria origani 909 Levin & network
Beetles Cordylepherus viridis 915 Levin
Molluscs Pomatias elegans 921 Levin
Beetles Cryptocephalus aureolus 924 Levin
Spiders Neoscona adianta 927 Levin
Bugs Stenodema laevigata 935 Levin
Bugs Deraeocoris lutescens 937 Levin
Flies Bacha elongata 941 Levin
Plants Walnut 944 Levin & network
Moths Cinnabar 948 Levin
Beetles Variable Longhorn Beetle 951 Levin
Beetles Vine Weevil 955 Levin
Millipedes Tachypodoiulus niger 967 Levin
Spiders Neottiura bimaculata 975 Levin
Millipedes Proteroiulus fuscus 977 Levin
Moths Brown Plume 978 Levin
Moths Helcystogramma rufescens 980 Levin
Beetles Caladromius spilotus 981 Levin
Plants Cotoneaster horizontalis 986 Levin
Scorpion fly Panorpa germanica 993 Levin
Moths Pseudargyrotoza conwagana 994 Levin
Moths Nettle-tap 998 Levin
Moths Gold Swift 1016 Burton
Moths Small Elephant Hawk-moth 1019 Burton
Moths Rustic Shoulder-knot 1021 Burton
Beetles Byrrhus pilula 1024 Burton
Beetles Silpha atrata 1025 Burton
Beetles Brown Chafer 1027 Burton
Moths Donacaula mucronella 1031 Burton
Molluscs Oxyloma elegans 1033 Burton
Beetles Cockchafer 1035 Burton
Moths Water Veneer 1038 Burton
Moths Lobster Moth 1039 Burton
Moths Pale Prominent 1041 Burton
Moths White Ermine 1042 Burton
Moths Small Seraphim 1043 Burton
Moths Eidophasia messingiella 1044 Burton
Bugs Closterotomus fulvomaculatus 1046 Graffham

The Burton Mistletoe Crisis

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 9 January 2018 21:38

Mistletoe has never been recorded on a Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve. But today we recorded it FROM one. Not that we'll be counting it on the site list but this shows how tantalisingly close we got to it today at the Warren, part of our Burton Pond reserve. The road delineates the edge of the reserve and across the next field you can see a clump of Mistletoe. However, 'from' just isn't good enough even for a bird (let alone something that can't fly. Or move even). We never recorded the Short-toed Eagle using Old Lodge for example, although it was seen distantly from the reserve. Now this might have made a nice tweet and the story might have ended there so why am I blogging about this I hear you ask? 

Well, this is the winter of 2017/18 and you can't even take a photo of a clump of Mistletoe without it being photo-bombed by a couple of these chunky monkeys due to their unprecedented invasion!

Yes, you've guessed it. A couple of Hawfinches! This is getting ridiculous. Not only did we see these two and hear them flying over the Warren we also saw five more round at New Piece. This seems to be a new record for our part of the site. This is my eighth encounter this winter which outnumbers ALL my other encounters ever! The last two times I've been out in the field they have outnumbered Chaffinches. I don't think I'll ever get bored of them and I've never been more tuned in to their insignificant calls. All encounters (except this one) this year wouldn't have happened without knowing this call, so to maximise your chances of seeing one or more of these awesome finches, keep your ears open. I love how upright they are in silhouette. I guess it's hard to perch diagonally if you're head weighs as much as a Hawfinch's does without falling over.

I'll leave you with this. The scientific name (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) always makes me think of these. Hawfinches: they're grrrreat! 
P.S. Mistletoe has still not been recorded ON at Trust reserve.

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