Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 11 July 2014 18:07
Yesterday I carried out a reccy for an NVC survey I have planned at Castle Water this year, just north of Rye Harbour. Chris Bentley gave us the guided tour and we made good progress understanding what NVC communities are present and how they fit together. U1 acid grassland is present on top of many of the old shingle ridges as well as areas where sand was left behind after being washed from gravel. In one such area there is an abundance of Common Stork's-bill and Bearded Fescue and Chris told us to look under the leaves of the former to find a rare weevil called Limobius mixtus.
I found one within 10 seconds of searching and it wasn't long before Chris and Adrian spotted one too. This is one rare beetle and Chris tells me that this is the only known location for this in the UK!
However, what happened next was really surprising and resulted in two new species for the reserve, one of which might even be a county first! It just goes to show what happens if you stop and look with keen eyes. Adrian spotted an unusual bug which I was able to identify as Fallén's Leatherbug Arenocoris falleni. There is only one record in the SxBRC data base for this species and as I am now the county recorder for bugs, I believe this record is actually a mistake. This could therefore be a county first, it's certainly a new on for Castle Water. It doesn't have a conservation status but it certainly doesn't seem to be common. Guess what it feeds on? Stork's-bill.
Whilst I was bending down taking a photo of the above leather bug, I spotted this ground bug running around on the sand which I didn't recognise. This turned out to be the Nb Megalonotus praetextatus, a ground bug that feed on...stork's-bill! Only 10 records for this in Sussex.
Then Chris made a characteristic 'Ooo!' and became very animated. Soon we were looking at this Lesser-streaked Shieldbug Odonotoscelis lineola. Another new species for the reserve and with only two records for Sussex! I have only ever seen the nymphs in the car park at Lakenheath in the Brecks. And you've guessed it, it feeds on stork's-bill! And it's nationally scarce (Nb).
This illustrates a number of points: Firstly, one species of plant when growing in profusion in just the right conditions can harbor many other species. Secondly, that if you stop and get down on your hand and knees you often see a lot more than when you are walking (no surprise there). And finally, there are still species to be found in this highly recorded part of Sussex which is great as far as my NVC is concerned!