For the love of longhorns

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 23 May 2020 09:18

When I first started this blog ten years ago, saproxylic beetles featured really heavily. In fact, the first time I went out looking for a beetle on a hunch was 2009, when I figured I might have a chance of seeing Leptura aurulenta at Ebernoe and I found it! I was hooked. Over the last few years though, spiders kind of took me away. This year though, I've really started getting back into them. Earlier this month, at an undisclosed site in Surrey, I found a new one. I beat the Nationally Rare Grammoptera ustulata from Hawthorn and I could not believe how beautiful it was! Look at those gold hairs!

I have now seen 38 species.

I have not seen, any species of Saperda, Grammoptera abdominalis or Molorchus minor.

I pulled out how many records I have of longhorns, 349 in all. Now this is a bit behind, as I am still to enter most of last year's records and this years but it gives a good indicator. Here they are in reverse order.

Acanthocinus aedilis (Timberman) - Nationally Rare - 1 record
WOW! Look at its antennae!!! I picked this up in the wood yard at Abernethy when Mark Gurney and I were doing bird surveys for the RSPB way back in spring 2007.

Asemum striatum - 1 record
I have only ever picked this up once, way back in 2010 at Iping Common where several were flying around pine trunks. Didn't get a photo.

Glaphyra umbelletarum - Nationally Scarce - 1 record
Another one I have only ever seen once. This time feeding on Hemlock Water-dropwort in Furnace Meadow at Ebernoe Common. I have a rubbish photo but it's on my old work computer.

Mesosa nebulosa - Nationally Scarce - 1 record
Recorded in April 2016 by a young lad on a BMIG weekend at Sheffield Park, semi-emerged in a fallen log. This is one of the smartest beetles I have ever seen.

Rhagium inquisitor - Nationally Scarce - 1 record
Also at the wood yard at Abernethy back in 2007. I found a hard copy of the photo!

Aromia moschata - 2 records
I have definitely seen this three times, the first being in flight at Lakenheath around 2005. Such an impressive beetle.

Arhopalus rusticus - 2 records
I last recorded this under pine bark at Old Lodge in 2013.

Paracorymbia fulva - Nationally Scarce - 2 records
I first picked this up in Jersey in 2017, recorded twice since in Surrey in 2018.

Poecilium alni - Nationally Scarce - 2 records
This doesn't seem right to me, I am sure I have seen this more than this and I have recorded it at least twice this year already. Like a tiny budget version of Anaglyptus.

Pogonocherus fasciculatus - Nationally Rare - 2 records
It's only known Sussex site is Graffham Common where it's not hard to find on low pine branches.

Stenostola dubia (Lime Beetle) - Nationally Scarce - 2 records
I beat one from foliage on the edge of the glades at Ebernoe back in 2009 and the nothing until May 2020 when I beat one from a veteran lime in West Sussex, amazingly I thought to my self, I wonder if this is how you get Stenostola?! It also flew off before I could get a decent photo! It was quite a lot bigger than the first one I saw.

Stictoleptura scutellata - Nationally Scarce - 2 records
I have only ever seen this in the New Forest, way back in 2011 and not seen since.

Agapanthia villsoviridescens - 3 records
Still not all that common in Sussex but spreading. Spectacular but not saproxylic.

Leiopus sp. - 3 records

This also seems wrong, I have definitely seen this more than this. Yet to pick one up this year though.

Obrium brunneum - 3 records
I have had this a further three times this year already, despite my last previous record being 2013.

Phymatodes testaceus - 3 records
A beetle I very rarely see. I see many species with status more then this in Sussex.

Prionus coriarius - Nationally Scarce - 3 records
This is one impressive beetle! Not seen it since 2015 at Ebernoe. Finding this one at rest at the Mens in 2010 was great fun!

Pyrrhidium sanguineum - 3 records
Spreading rapidly in Sussex, already had it twice this year. Lovely colour/texture, quite unlike any other beetle.

Phytoecia cylindrica - 4 records
Another non-saproxylic. I have never managed a photo of this species. 

Stenurella nigra - Nationally Rare - 4 records
Ebernoe, especially Furnace Meadow, and the West Weald is a stronghold for this beetle and it does seem to like the flowers of Hemlock Water-dropwort. Nice little red abdomen underneath not obvious from most photos.

Stictoleptura rubra - 5 records
Another one that has spread rapidly after first being recorded in the county at Iping Common. It's now well established at Graffham Common.

Pogonocherus hispidulus - 6 records
I can easily separate these two beetles but the names continue to frustrate me. Shorter name = shorter beetle should be an easy hint!

Pogonocherus hispidus - 6 records
Everything about these two beetles similar, including it would seem, how I often I record them!

Anaglyptus mysticus - 7 records
I have picked up this beetle twice this year. It is such a glorious beast. What's not to like about the magical wallpaper beetle?

Rhagium mordax - 8 records
Seen once this year so far, a Hawthorn blossom classic.

Pachytodes cerambyciformis - 9 records
Seen once this year so far. The tubbiest of all longhorns.

Leptura aurulenta - (Hornet Beetle) Nationally Scarce - 10 records
Despite being quite scarce, this is pretty widespread in West Sussex and even occurs at Graffham Common. I have a great photo of a female somewhere but I think it's on the Trust computer. This is the beetle that got me into beetling back in 2009 when I found it in the glades at Ebernoe. This is male, the females are much bulkier with more yellow on them.

Rhagium bifasciatum - 10 records
The pinewood classic. Had it twice this year already.

Alosterna tabaciciolor - 11 records
Thought I had a photo of this little brown job but obviously not! The common little wriggly ones clearly don't hold as much interest for me. Not seen it yet this year.

Leptura quadrifasciata - 11 records
Another one I can't find a photo for. Much less common in West Sussex where it is replaced by aurulenta. I picked up a male aurulenta attempting to mate with a female quadrifasciata at Knepp back in 2015!

Stenocorus meridianus - 11 records
Another big impressive beetle I can't find photos for. 

Pseudovadonia livida (Fairy-ring Longhorn) - 12 records
No photos again of this little grassland longhorn.

Tetrops praeustus - 18 records
Had this a lot this year already. A trend here, no photos again!

Stenurella melanura - 29 records
A big jump in records here.

Clytus arietis (Wasp Beetle) - 35 records
Everyone know this one!

Rutepla maculata - 52 records
And this one...

Grammoptera ruficornis - 66 records
The super abundant little black longhorn. Amazed I have a photo of this one.

They are such wonderful and charismatic beetles. I think their brief flight period also adds to their excitement value! They are also a great window into beetles in general. I would love to get Saperda populnea next, it's only known from one site in Sussex as far as I can tell. I think however, Saperda scalaris is my most coveted beetle but no chance of that down here.

Ten years of blogging: the top ten of top tens

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 25 April 2020 13:48

Yesterday was the ten year year anniversary of my first ever blog post. A thousand posts and over a half a million hits later and here we are. It's been a hoot, so much has changed for me in the last decade. Pan-species listing being a big feature of my natural history adventures which in turn led to becoming an entomologist and eventually going fully freelance and leaving Sussex Wildlife Trust. Working on those reserves though was an incredible experience and three of top ten were on Trust reserves. 

When I first put my list together I had only seen 2748 species, as of today I am on 7648 species, that's almost tripled. I must admit I do love blogging, it's a nice way to inspire other naturalists as well as acting like a journal and a photo library. Oh and gripping friends off of course. I am at present however limiting my time on social media as it feels healthy to do so in this crisis.  That said I put the 24th April in my diary at the start of the year so I wouldn't miss this date. 

Before I get to the top ten of of top tens, I must say a huge thank you to Jo Knell for encouraging me to start the blog. Jo is sadly no longer with us and without her encouragement I doubt I would have started it. Here is the link to my first post which was about an encounter with a Snow Bunting we had at the top of Snowdon during a holiday. I've been blogging for so long now I can't remember not blogging.

Now for the top ten in reverse order. ALL of these encounters were in Sussex. If you didn't read these the first time round or need refreshing, I have included the links to the original posts, please do follow these as there are plenty of anecdotes for each encounter.

10). Pardosa paludicola
In April 2017 I found a healthy colony of this incredibly rare and impressive wolf spider at Butcherlands, Sussex Wildlife Trust's rewilding project, this being only the 8th site in the UK for this  species. I have since found it another site. Read more here.

9). Columbus Crabs
In February 2016, after watching reports online, I had a hunch that I might find these crabs on Brighton beach after a storm and low and behold, there they were. This species lives in goose barnacles and floats across the oceans. These were the first records for the county.

8). Portuguese Man o' War
As above, there were reports about these washing up along the south west coast after storms in October 2017 and I really wanted to find the first Sussex one. I wasn't quite quick enough but did find my own one on Portslade beach.

7). Melodious Warbler
Last June, when I was finishing up a bird survey at Butcherlands that I had been doing for nearly a decade, I had a WTF moment when I heard a warbler singing I didn't recognise. After nearly losing it, I got a good view and a sound recording. So exciting. The fastest bird song I have ever heard. I loved that site and that survey. Butcherlands features twice in this list!

6). Philodromus fallax
The spider year listing challenge of 2019 was extremely fun and by October I had almost given up. Right at the end of a day of recording in Camber Dunes, a spider I had long given up hope of finding popped out! What a beautiful spider.

5). Polycera quadrilineata
2019 was probably my best overall year for natural history, so it's not surprising that four of the top ten are from this year. In March at the spring tide, I usually try and get down to the Pound at Holywell. This time Evan Jones and I had an amazing evening with four sea slug lifers, Evan found most of them but this one I found by netting sea weed, the tropical looking Polycera quadrilineata. See the rest of the blog for the other species.

4). Crimson Speckled
The oldest post here from October 2011. Michael Blencowe and I trapping at Beachy Head. We very nearly never even saw this moth that was resting in a bush, not the trap. I will never forget shouting CRIMSON SPECKLED!!!

3). Large Tortoiseshell 
A lunch time walk at Woods Mill in March 2018 produced a Large Tortoiseshell. It's a terrible photo but just enough to clinch the ID. Another one that almost didn't happen as it flew off so quickly.

2). Coptosoma scutellata
My first first for Britain and an entirely new family of shieldbug at that. This was from Marline in July  2019, Where DO the wings go?!

1). Calosoma sycophanta
Stumbling across this beauty in an arable field at Bishopstone in June 2016 is going to take some beating. It really was mind-blowingly lucky. Big, beautiful, rare. It ticks all the boxes.

So that's it. Ten years reduced into one post. What a decade. So now what for the Lyons Share? Is it time to call it a day?

I don't think so. I'm not done. Not yet. 

So here's to the next decade.

A long time ago in a bog far, far away...

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 7 March 2020 08:55

Well about an hours drive away. Just before I left my seven years at the RSPB, one of the last thigs I did was a load of monitoring at Broadwater Warren RSPB reserve, a recently acquired conifer plantation with some isolated pockets of heath, acid-grassland and mire. I did a baseline NVC survey but also put out a series of pitfall traps and pan traps in the existing habitat. I didn't know how to identify any of this stuff back than, 12.5 years ago. The spiders were passed to Ian Dawson but because the records were in the SxBRC, when I set up my database, the records were synced with my database. 

So I have frustratingly a number of records for spiders that I have technically seen but don't feel like I have and won't count them on my own personal list. Including some goodies, like the only Sussex record of Jacksonella falconeri, our smallest spider and loads of records of Walckenaeria furcillata, what must be my most wanted spider. All in all, there were 82 species recorded and 8 of these have status (a respectable 9.8%). I am sure that more spiders have been recorded since but I sued this as the site species list and headed back there yesterday. Probably my only day out in March.

The posts from pan traps are almost all still in place, despite so much grazing! Even a bit of solidified raspberry net was still in place, what I used to pin the traps down.

I recorded 34 species yesterday in half a day. Most of the action was in the bog. A lifer for me was this diminutive Hahnia pusilla (NS) sieved from Sphagnum. Only the 2nd Sussex record, and the first since 1969.

I was struck by how many of the species recorded yesterday were not picked up in the pitfalls in 2007, albeit they were in the summer so it's not that surprising. All in all 21 new species and six of these had status, bringing the records I have for the site to 103 and 14 with status (13.6%), suggesting the assemblage is improving, which marries up with observation on site.

The other goody was my first Sussex Walckenaeria nodosa, and the first in Sussex since 1969 also! The other new species with status were Cercidia prominens, Sintula corniger and the ubiquitous Meioneta mollis.

I went to have a look at this W5 Alder carr, I was expecting great thing from the tussocks but for some reason they were not very rich but I did get Theridiosoma gemmosum from them.

The huge changes on this site though are the great expanses of open heathland, all this was under conifers 12.5 years ago, a remarkable achievement. Woodlark were singing away nearby.

It's amazing how much things have changed for me in 12.5 years, or an eighth of a century. I was so desperate to move back to Brighton then living in Cambridge at the time and moving back down here and getting the job at the Trust was an amazing experience. Once upon a time I never thought I'd leave the RSPB, then I thought I'd never leave the Trust! I never thought then though that I'd end up as a freelance entomologist and county recorder for various groups. Pan-species listing wasn't even a thing then. I was in my late twenties when I last looked at this site in detail and now I'm in my forties, about to start the next chapter. 

I absolutely can't wait for my first full year of freelance, I can't wait to get out in the field too! My spider year list is now on 160 with nine new species today. I will try and go back in the summer to refind Walckenaeria furcillata.

Leap frog

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 29 February 2020 21:34

Once every 1461 days we get a 29th February and a chance to see a 'leap frog' (this isn't a thing, I made it up). By a total coincidence I did exactly that today and got a new amphibian thanks to James Harding-Morris, Seth Gibson and Mark Telfer. I had a long overdue day off and headed to the butterfly house again at Whipsnade Zoo. All that will have to wait as it was rather eclipsed by these beauties at the end of the day in Bedfordshire. This is the Midwife Toad Alytes obstetricans. What a smart little beast and a great scientific name too. Introduced but apparently not a major threat being a poor disperser. James found three very quickly and I indulged in some shots.

Such incredible eyes on them. The rather sickly colour and texture of the skin reminds me of the zombies from the Walking Dead! Such pleasing proportions too and great to see them next to Common Toad. This little one really showed the lines of red warts that are really distinctive.
I didn't get to hear the Call of the Midwife Toad, (which sounds like a bar code scanner), but you can hear them on this video here on this One Show piece from 2010. Thanks all for a great day!

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