Tom Ottley Crew

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 18 December 2012 07:00

On Sunday, morning I met the new county moss recorder, Tom Ottley. We went to have a look at a suite of VERY small acrocarps on a small south-facing bank on the north side of Malling Down. Now to mix things up a bit, I was doing this about 20 hours into a 24 hour fast. A rather dodgy stomach (that the doctor has just told me is norovirus) meant I had to take some drastic measures. Having a very high metabolism, this was very tough but I did find looking at mm tall plants a welcome distraction. So first up we have a plant that only this week Tom recorded here as a first for Sussex, it's the nationally scarce Microbryum starckeanum and is typically 1 -2 mm!

Just when you think things couldn't get any smaller, Tom said 'There is something growing UNDER the starckeanum'! It took a little while to see, but there indeed were the prostrate shoots of the even smaller Microbryum curvicolle.
However, it was the third Microbryum that has to win the prize for most unfortunately named moss of the day. With shoots less than 1 mm tall, here is...Microbryum rectum in all its glory!
Another very nice looking moss was this nationally scarce Pleurochaete squarrosa with some leaves showing their characteristic shrivelled nature when dry.
And also this Common Aloe-moss Aloina aloides with its distinctive leaves.
And here is the man himself on the south facing bank! I added nine acrocarps to my list today (4143) and also managed to learn an entire new community in the process which will help me to help the Trust conserve these little known plants!

Interview with the Taxonomist

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 15 December 2012 14:17

Here is the interview I gave to Emma Sayer for the British Ecological Society bulletin a few months back. If you zoom in it becomes easier to read.
I'm really pleased with the article, it's great to have the opportunity to say some of this stuff and get the message across. Also, have a look at this blog post, written by a very eloquent ten year old is both familiar to me and I hope inspiring to others. We just need much, much more of this.

Damsels in distress

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 10 December 2012 21:06

Last week I was identifying some invertebrates from a survey I did of the lake at Woods Mill in the autumn of last year and this summer. Having identified all the beetles I was working on the dragonflies and damselflies. The first big shock was that I didn't record a single dragonfly nymph AT ALL! No doubt eaten by the carp. Working through the damselfly nymphs I recorded four species. Several Blue-tailed Damselflies, a few Azures and a single Large Red. One large species however dominated the samples being both the most numerous and the largest at nearly 30 mm. What was strange though was that this species, although known from the lake, never appears that numerous. The Red-eyed Damselfly nymph is an impressive creature with strange and beautiful 'caudal lamellae' (the three 'tails' at the tip of the abdomen). These structures which are used for respiration, are particularly well marked in this species, there is something distinctly oriental about them. I wonder if something in this species's behaviour allows it to evade the carp? It was fascinating to learn to identify a different stage in a group of species I know so well. Next time I get a minute to work through the samples, I will try the case-bearing caddisfly larvae.

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