Fission Chips

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 29 August 2010 12:41

I was only able to attend the first day of the beetling weekend at Dungeness RSPB Reserve but I saw most of the good stuff anyway. Grey Bush-cricket was new to me as shown yesterday. Omophron limbatum, the above beetle is perhaps THE Dungeness speciality. This atypical RDB1 carabid was once abundant on the silty margins of old gravel extraction sites but has declined in recent years (in some traps I set when I worked for the RSPB back in 2006, it was the commonest beetle, last year, in a repeat study, it was not not even present). We found several on the ARC pit, so it's great to confirm this national rarity is still present. It looks more like a ladybird than a carabid but with very long legs allowing it to scurry along quite rapidly. 

Another unusual carabid running around on the silt margins, although common, is this stunning Elaphrus riparia (photo). Other rarities on the edge of the silt margins including many of the RDB species Augyles hispidulus and the nationally scarce Cercyon bifenestratus. This 11-spot Ladybird Coccinella undecimpunctata (photo) was also a new one for me, the spots looked a little busy, the body longer and the red more scarlet than orange. I have a lot of smaller carabids to key out and identify too.
All this against a back drop of the strange vegetated shingle and lichen heath in the shadow  of the nuclear power stations. Plants included masses of the rare Jersey Cudweed (photo), the scarce Nottingham Catchfly, Lesser Centaury, Brookweed and Knotted Pearlwort.
Finally, I spotted this big tortrix and thought it might be a goody, it's Cochylimorpha alternana. Surprise surprise, it's a species pretty much restricted to Kent with a stronghold on the Dungeness peninsula, not sure of a conservation status on this yet but I bet it has one! It feeds on Greater Knapweed. It seems that almost everything you bump into at Dunge is rare or scarce. It was great to go back and see some old faces and catch up with old colleagues from the RSPB. The last nine years have gone pretty quick since I started out my career in conservation there as a volunteer. I have some very fond memories of my time there, Dungeness is bloody awesome, if you haven't been you should!

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