The weevil fork

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 3 April 2012 17:28

Beetling in the Brecks was great. It would have been far less great if Mark Gurney hadn't had a fork with him. Just a simple fork you would eat your dinner with but also just the right tool for turning over rosettes of low growing plants and picking through the top layer of the light sandy soils. I reckon he was finding ten beetles for everyone I found. I will be carrying a fork on my person from now on. Another amazing thing I saw Mark using was a photographic reflector and filter, that also doubles up as a beating tray! It's great for taking photos on very bright days AND it packs down to almost nothing. I have already ordered one. That and my new fork should be arriving any day.

Now, for some beetles. We went looking for Fingered Speedwell at a site near Lakenheath (Caudle Farm) but failed. We did find Breckland Speedwell, Grape Hyacinth and Bur Medick there though. There were a number of big, impressive mega weevils to get the blood pumping. Joint candidates for most impressive weevil of the day were the above Mogulenes geographicus and this Hypera dauci (that we found later in the short turf around Lakenheath RSPB car park). Both nationally scarce. Both new species for me. Now, I have not done much weevling. With around 600 species, they are a big chunk of the UK beetle fauna, some 15% perhaps. I can't afford to keep over looking them. 
In the above two photos of Hypera dauci, king of weevils, you can see the difference between casting your shadow over the subject on a sunny day (top) and using the filter (bottom). The difference in the colours of the golden threads of the moss Brachythecium albicans is clear! The fork and the filter will be great for finding inverts and taking photos on chalk-grassland in Sussex. Spending time in the field with other naturalists is great for learning new techniques, even if it does make me feel a bit like a chimp with a type writer.

We also saw this nationally scarce (Na) carabid and Breckland specialist, Harpalus pumilus, our smallest Harpalus.
Here is Mark in action with the fork in front of some Grape Hyacinth.
Oh yeah, we also saw some birds this weekend. Without even trying really we saw Stone-curlew and Bittern. On the Saturday I also saw  Rough-legged Buzzard at Ouse Fen. I went there with another old friend and colleague from the RSPB, Matt Self. First time on a bike in seven years and I rode 45 miles! Here is Matt shortly before the Rough-legged Buzzard was spotted. Saddle sore is an understatement!
Towards the end of Sunday, Mark and I went on two last plant twitches, to Wayland Wood for Yellow Star of Bethlehem. Very nice but mostly gone over.
And the odd Mezereon, again the flowers had mostly gone over. This plant had escaped from the enclosure.
All in all it was a great weekend and I was glad to see so many new species. The highlight for me was sadly none of the plants. It was getting back to the office and seeing a little slip of paper with 'look out for 'Hypera dauci' written on it. Peter Hodge's tip for beetling in the Brecks. Looks like we struck gold! I added at least 14 species and I end today on 3844. A massive thank you to Matt and Mark for a great weekend of excessive exercising and natural history!

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