Hundreds and thousands

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 31 May 2012 20:58

For the last two days I have been at Iping, Stedham and briefly, Graffham Commons showing two trustees around and carrying out an invertebrate survey. Needles to say, there was lots to see. Firstly though, I should add I am currently on 3999 species! I stopped identifying specimens for the evening so that species 4000 can be left totally to chance!

Anyway. Graffham Common. I stopped by the road and had a look at a fallen birch log that was covered in Razorstrop. I lifted one up to look for Diaperis boleti (as I have been doing for the last three years since Scotty Dodd told me to look out for them) and there was one! An RDB2 saproxylic. Tick! Graffham keeps coming up with good invert records. We had a very brief walk around the site. I swept once and found a male of the nationally scarce jumping spider Evarcha arcuata.
I went back to the birch log to photograph the Diaperis after saying goodbye to the trustees. Melandrya caraboides were buzzing around in the clearings. I knelt down to take a photograph and saw the nationally scarce wolf spider Xerolycosa nemoralis. A tiny Bitoma crenata crawled on the log and a deawood hoverfly, Xylota segnis, flitted about. This was one interesting log. It gets better. I turned an old Razorstrop over to find a decent background. There was another Diaperis and low and behold a Colydium elongatum! This is an RDB3 species.
Just as all this was happening I looked down to see crawling on the ground between me and the log a big red Ampedus which I suspect is the RDB3 Ampedus cinnabarinus. It took minutes to find three RDB deadwood beetle on a fallen birch. That really is something that doesn't usually happen. Here is the tree.
Earlier at Stedham, James spotted this dead dor beetle and I managed to identify it as the Na Heath Dor Beetle Trypocopris pyranaeus. A species I have not seen alive!
During the survey today at Stedham and Iping, I didn't get many opportunities to take photos but the male Xysticus that I found which was clearly not the super common Xysticus cristatus did allow one half decent shot. This species, a new one for me is Xysticus lanio. Up close, he is as ugly as the jumping spider is cute. I don't like his face, he looks like E.T. These last few years have been great. Throwing myself into entomology and being fearless when tackling difficult groups has paid dividends. I would encourage others to have this attitude towards identification: The only things stopping you is the right literature, the right kit and a little time. The way I see it, if just one other person in the world can identify something, then I should be able to also. My 3999th species was a Violet Black-legged Robberfly Dioctria atricapilla Any guesses what my 4000th species will be?

Marsh Clubmoss found at Stedham after a ten year absence!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 30 May 2012 21:45

During a walk around Iping and Stedham today, I spotted two little green plants in an area of wet heath. A particular shade of green that I know very well so I knew instantly we were talking about Marsh Clubmoss! This is not a common species and the plant was last seen towards the far south eastern side of Stedham, some ten years ago. Scrapes were put in in this area but as yet, we have not recorded the clubmoss in this spot. So it was a complete surprise to find two plants growing close to each other at the opposite end of the reserve. It's great to see that the poaching and bare ground caused by the cattle will have helped this early-successional species get a new lease of life at Stedham. Brilliant news!
The rest of the day followed a similar pattern, with several RDB beetles and nationally scarce spiders turning up at Graffham but after a long day, that will have to wait until another time...

First ever pan-species lister's field meeting: Day 2, Heyshott Down

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 28 May 2012 22:22

Day two. A few less people but also one extra in the form of Steve Gale who I finally got to meet. There is a bit of a walk to get to Heyshott and when you are there the terrain is pretty hard going. We had been on site a matter of minutes when we started recording Grizzled and Dingy Skippers, smart green Cryptocephalus aureolus, Bracken Chafers and then Duke of Burgundy! The coolest thing about this particular Duke was that not only was it Mark Skevington's first, it also landed on his net! Then I looked down at my net to see a really cool Cryptocephalus which was a tick for me. Cryptocephalus moraei.
Clive Washington got his suction sampler out and I was amazed at how well it worked in short turf. We saw all sorts but the Devil's-bit Scabious Jewel Beetle Tachys troglodytes was perhaps the coolest. Another tick for me was the nationally scarce crab spider Ozyptila nigrita. There are very few records for this little crab spider in Sussex. I was hoping it was gonna be a county first. Never mind!

Bruce Middleton showed everyone the bryophytes the site is well known for. People were pleased to see Rhodobryum roseum and all sorts of scarce liverworts. Having covered these with Bruce on a previous podcast, I concentrated on the invertebrates. That said, it was cool to see a green Fly Orchid!
On the way back, a cool thing happened. I asked if there was anything that feeds on Wild Garlic. Someone said there was a hoverfly that nectars on the flowers. I swept the flowers, we caught the hoverfly. Everyone in the group saw the fly and here is little garlic breath himself: Portevinia maculata. I am really pleased with how things went. I added 25 species to my list. Hopefully the next meeting will be held in a different county and rockpooling seems like a popular idea!
I have already been back in the field today setting up some invertebrate monitoring at Iping & Stedham, where I added a further three species including the odd little saproxylic deadwood hoverfly Microdon analis, the crab spider Philodromus cespitum and the cool little weevil Cionus tuberculosus (which also landed on my net). I am on 3987. Only 13 to go to the 4000 mark. Shall I attempt to make 4000 something good or just let it happen and leave it to chance? I predict I will be there by the weekend...

First ever pan-species lister's field meeting: Day 1, Parham Park

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 27 May 2012 13:32

We did it! It was relatively easy to organise really but several things fell into place to make for a really great weekend. Firstly, the weather was great. Secondly, attendance was high. We had 18 people in the field on the Friday (16 people from Mark Telfer's list of 35 listers) which I think is pretty good. Much more than this and it would have become difficult to manage. Thanks to Sarah Patton for the photo above. From left to right we have Dave Gibbs, Martin Harvey, Mark Telfer, Simon Davey, Mark Skevington, Penny Green, Clive Washington, Michael Blencowe (yes we recorded it for the podcast too!), Matt Prince, Dave Green, Nicola Bacciu, Jonathan Newman, Me and Malcolm Storey, Many people even had a tick in the car park, the mining bee Andrena scotica and/or this Burrowing Clover.
So why Parham Park? Well I have been once to Parham for the last two years and we always find good things (usually saproxylic beetles) and I wanted to target a difficult group like this, and many people were quite new to deadwood beetles. Probably the first mega that most people saw though were the Field Crickets. A species that I am so used to down here that I forgot to tell people they were on site! Oops. It was great to get Dave Gibbs a tick that he had to abort 20 years ago!

It's going to take me a long time to add up and identify all the specimens but interesting saproxylics that we saw included the larvae of the exceptionally rare Variable Chafer Gnorimus variabilis. A Melandrya caraboides that Michael spotted and I netted in flight. Mark Telfer found a great tick for me, the striking little bright metallic blue hairy clerid Korynetes caeruleus. This species is nationally scarce and new for the site. Dave Gibbs found what is likely to be Procraeus tibialis in the same tree I found one on two years ago. I also found new to the site a single elytron of Colydium elongatum, the second time I have recorded this species in this way.

Dave Gibbs also got me a couple of new flies. Perhaps one of the most striking invertebrates of the day was this Criorhina floccosa, a really wonderful deadwood hoverfly that looks quite like a carder bee. It was a popular fly!
And also this little doli fly, Neurigona quadrifasciata. I now have two dolis on my list.
Simon Davey showed the group some rare lichens but I find them very tricky to take in with a large group like this, I think they really need to be taught in a more formal, course-like setting. Sadly, I didn't feel confident at re-identifying any of the lichens so I added no new lichen species to my list. Whilst looking closely at a lichen tree, Mark Skevington spotted this smart little psychid, Narycia duplicella. I thought this was going to be a tick for me but Seth Gibson showed me this earlier this year at Epsom. A shame that Seth and Sami were not able to make it but they are currently on their honeymoon quest to walk the length of the country. Meanwhile, a Spotted Flycatcher did its best to 'sing' for us.
Hawthorn, although in full flower, was not as productive as we had all hoped but during some routine sweeping I stumbled across some debris in the bottom of my net that had just a little too much symmetry to it. I very nearly discarded it. As I took a closer look, I saw perhaps the strangest and coolest weevil I have ever seen. Covered in pits and warts, this strange beast looked like no other beetle but when Mark Telfer and Dave Gibbs came along and were almost as equally bemused as I was, I knew we had found something a little unusual. This species is likely to be perhaps the only species that was new to everyone. Mark Telfer was able to tentatively identify it in the field as the introduced Fern Weevil Syagrius intrudens (I did indeed sweep it from Bracken, moments later Mark found another three). This was the highlight for me and was a popular beast, being christened Mr Lumpy. By the afternoon, the relentless heat was making people go a little strange. UPDATE: Mark Telfer has since found out this is only the seventh known site for this the world! Read all about it here.
Someone also spotted this Dendroxena quadrimaculata. I have only seen this once before at Ebernoe in 2009 so it was nice to see this strange nationally scarce silphid again.
After a pub meal at the Crown Inn down the road at Cootham, we headed back out into the field for some light trapping and torching.
And of course, Mark's secret weapon, the Autokatcher. Mark transformed his car into a beetle catching device and he did pick up a number of tiny specimens this way that are yet to be identified. I wonder if anything good will come out of this method. Amazing!
Moths that came to light were a little thin on the ground but I did actually get one macro moth tick, Rosy Marbled!
Clive found a cracking Carabus arvensis but I didn't get to tick it unfortunately. Helops caeruleus is abundant on big old oaks at Parham at night. As we were searching some really old trunks I found a click beetle that Mark is yet to identify, so I hope that turns out to be something good whilst in the distance, a Nightjar churred away. Mark also spotted an odd looking beetle too high up on an oak to reach and it vanished into a crack in the bark never to be seen again, I am pretty sure now it was Opilo mollis. We finished up at midnight, headed back home to get some sleep ready to start again on day two at Heyshott Down. This is perhaps the biggest post I have ever written so part two will be out tomorrow. At this point, I would add if you think you would enjoy a day like this and be inspired to work on new and difficult groups, then put your list together, sign up to the pan-species rankings and you'll be able to come on the next field meeting which is already in discussion!

I am going to spend the rest of the day identifying specimens and staying out of the sun. It was an exhausting few days but that didn't stop me going to the pub last night and BMF first thing this morning. That said, I am looking forward to an afternoon sat down, looking down a microscope! My list is getting very close to 4000, at the time of writing I'm on 3963 so I might even get there by the end of the weekend. Finally, a big thank you to Parham Park for allowing us to host this event on their site.

Episode Seven is out now!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 26 May 2012 18:14

Here is Episode Seven: Bank Holiday Seaside Special (and also on iTunes). It was really great recording this one, one of the best days out I have had this year. Lots of noisy birds to listen to, two great contributors and possibly the coolest thing on eight legs! (the coolest thing on six legs by the way are the Natural History of Sussex - you heard it here first).  Have a listen and let us know what you think. 

Now, I have just got back from the first ever pan-species lister's two day field event, which I organised. It went really well, we all saw lots of new species, we made some important records and made a few friends on the way. I have lots of identifications to process and lists to update but I'll give a trip report of day one tomorrow (Parham Park). Now, I need a cold beer and to get out of the sun!

A swarm of conservationists

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 24 May 2012 19:24

We had a great team day out yesterday looking at invertebrates and their management with Steven Falk. We started off at Pevensey Levels and then went on to look at Southerham and Malling Down. Steven is an exceptional entomologist (Steven illustrated the book on hoverflies and the illustrations are exquisite) and really knows his flies and aculeates. We had walked only a few metres into a field when James spotted a queen Bombus muscorum! A new bumble for me and an impressive beast. Above is Steven showing us the big furry ginger bee and how we could enhance our management for it and other bees.

Round to Southerham and here we have the nationally scarce stiletto fly Thereva plebeja.
I caught this bee which turned out to be the very smart Osmia aurulenta, yet another new species! Amazing what you see when you go out with other specialists. It was hard to take photos of invertebrates in this heat so I didn't get many shots compared to how many new things we saw.
Now, I must get ready for tomorrow's first ever pan-species lister's field meeting! I can't wait, it's gonna be amazing!!!

Bog lollies

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 23 May 2012 23:08

Just a quick one tonight as I have had yet another very busy day in the field. I'm even running 24 hours behind with my blog. OK, so last night Michael took Mat and I to Rowland Wood to look for this cool fungi, Bog Beacon. It's really quite bright, almost luminous, and grows in boggy pools in the wood there. A new one on me, thanks for the tick Michael!

Mat thought they were lollies...

Can you guess what it is yet?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 22 May 2012 21:35

I was out monitoring regeneration of woody plants at Butcherlands this afternoon and I had not looked up into the sky for what seemed like hours. I remember thinking, 'anything could have flown over head today and I wouldn't have had a clue'. I started walking back to the van at about 2.50 pm when about 150 m in front of me, flying right towards me at maybe tree height, was an odd looking raptor. It was of course a very smart Honey Buzzard and for ten minutes provided the best views I have had of one in the UK. What are the chances of one of my photos coming out right behind the electricity cables though? Imagine if that had been my only shot! I have found one Honey Buzzard a year for the last three years now but this is still only my fourth UK HB. Awesome to see this on one of our reserves!

At my loess point

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 21 May 2012 21:02

This is the habitat that the rare bee, Anthophora retusa, is pretty much restricted too at Seaford Head. The sandy soils that sit upon the chalk (loess) there are home to many of these bees, we saw them today thanks to Mike Edwards. The bee looks very like the much commoner Anthophora plumipes, which is also at Seaford Head, but is just coming to the end of its flight season now. Ground Ivy is still a valuable nectar/pollen source for these bees but I also saw them on Hound's-tongue which is just coming into flower. The bees were too quick to photograph though. In the above photo, you can just pick out a Raven sunning itself on the edge of the cliffs.

I also saw a hoverfly I haven't noticed before. The rather odd Eristalinus aeneus. It has spotty eyes but what is really odd is that it is restricted to the coast as the larvae have a thing for rotting seaweed! Again, no photos I'm afraid.

I spotted a few of these micros hanging around Teasel and I'm pretty sure they are Endothenia gentianaena. Finally I had an opportunity to use my bird-dropping mimic micro moth book! This was a tick for me and it seems Seaford Head is somewhat of a hot spot for this quite large tortrix.
When you zoom in you realise just how striking these little moths can be!
Finally I spotted this chunky little dung beetle with a relatively large scutellum. It's Aphodius fossor.

Klingons off the starboard bow

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 20 May 2012 22:30

I went rock pooling again this evening with the gang after work and it was amazing! Four species of fish, two of them new to me. Perhaps the most bizarre, wonderful, ugly, whatever you wanna call it is this Long-spined Sea Scorpion Taurulus bubalis. I have seen the Fatherlasher before on Anglesey which looks similar to this but this one was new to me. The long spine on the gill covers and the short tentacle at the corner of the mouth are clinchers. I only caught one of these.

I caught two of these Corkwing Wrasse Crenilabrus melops (again I have seen it on Anglesey). The black spot in front of the tail fin is characteristic.
The joint most abundant fish went to the Five-bearded Rockling Ciliata mustela, another species I've seen years ago on Anglesey! We caught three of these.
I've saved the best until last though. I have never seen anything like these little fish. I caught three and realised quite quickly it was one of the species whose fins have evolved into a sucker. It actually sucked on to my finger nail! There were two species of clingfish in the book we took into the field but neither of them looked right for it. There were two more in my key to shore fishes when I got home that looked more like it though. I think it is going to be the Small-headed Clingfish Apletodon dentatus but I'm not sure. I can't believe this is just down the road from me! Cool, hey?!

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