My whole life sucks now

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 28 March 2016 22:36

Ever since I got my new handy Black & Decker GWC3600 L20-GB 36V Blower Vac suction sampler that is! Now, we've got a petrol driven machine at work and it's very strong and powerful. It does have its draw backs though. One, if you don't have a shed and a fuel store, it's a pain. It's also not so easy to chuck in the back of a car. It's also quite heavy. So, I was quite pleased to see you can get a fairly strong electric one. I bought this for £140. It runs off a 36V Lithium battery. I've temporarily rigged it up with an old net before my bag arrives from B&S Nets.

I took it up to Ditchling Beacon, a chalk-grassland site with an area of broken sward with bare ground and carpets of mosses. Firstly, it's really easy to carry. Secondly, the battery lasted longer than I did, which was great. As it's light, it's easy to be a little more focused on where you place it and also, the angle you place it at. I was able to get in at right angles under patches of moss. Where it's not so good though is that it's not so strong. It doesn't pick up the quantity of material that a petrol driven one does. On the kind of loose soils I was working on today though, that was actually a good thing. I've struggled in the past with the petrol driven one for the amount of material it picks up which engulfs the specimens. I believe though that having it in the car/with you all the time is likely to result in far more specimens long term than the petrol driven one will provide. In the hour I was up there I managed two new beetles and one new ant (below is Stenamma debile with its tiny eyes). Plus a few nice records too.

And here is the suction sampler favourite, the Devil's-bit Scabious Jewel Beetle Trachy subglaber

The commonest snail was Abide secale, a snail I don't see that often. Spiders were surprisingly poorly represented but I did see the tiny Minyriolus pusillus. The commonest bug was Agramma laetum. Weevils included Orthochaetes setiger, Pseudorchestes pratensis and Ceratapion carduorum. So, it's charged up again and in my car, ready for another blast tomorrow lunch time...

Platyhelminth Worms on a Plane

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 25 March 2016 17:41

I promised to summarise where we are with Pan-species Listing every year on or around the 31st December or 1st January. I've only got round to doing it, three months after I noted down the information on a plane somewhere around Tasmania. Anywhere, First up, here is the top ten as of that date. 

1 Jonty Denton 12240
2 Dave Gibbs 11110
3 Mark Telfer 7172
4 The late Eric Philp 6878
5 Simon Davey 6513
6 Brian Eversham 6271
7 Nicola Bacciu 6074
8 Graeme Lyons 6029
9 Malcolm Storey 5915
10 Matt Prince 5840

Only six of the nine active listers here have updated this year.  I'm on 6123 now out of interest.

Anyway, I also added the 100th lister to this, who was Rowan Alder on 903. It's now Jerry Lanfear on 961. There are only two people in the top 100 who are under a 1000 species. Our youngest lister is 12 and our oldest 63. I know we have some people older than 63 but that's just the ages people have put on the website. Actually 41 of the 162 people on the rankings have put their age down (42 if you count the 0 year old but I reckon that's a typo!) The average age therefore of the PSLer who is prepared to admit their age is 38!

So there were 154 on rankings in the new year and 300 people signed up to the website. I didn't check the Facebook group but there are 261 as of right now. Not bad going at all considering we had to start from scratch with the Facebook group this time last year.

Here are the top ten sites as of the new year

1 Wicken Fen 8674
2 Esher Commons 7945
3 RSPB Minsmere 5928
4 Thorn Moors 5052
5 RSPB Abernethy 4735
6 RSPB The Lodge 4290
7 Hatfield Forest 4184
8 Sussex Wildlife Trust Rye Harbour 3540
9 Northwich Community Woodlands 3118
10 Sussex Wildlife Trust Iping & Stedham 2800

No changes have occurred here in the last three months. I don't think this part of the website works very well without taxa breakdowns on the location rankings. I hope this can be added but it's beyond my abilities and I have asked BRC if we can have this added but I'm still waiting for a reply. I think this could make site managers competitive and would really add to our understanding of sites.

Now for the taxa breakdowns as of the new year.

Algae Jony Denton 288
Slime Moulds Malcolm Storey 51
Protists Jony Denton 24
Lichens Simon Davey 1195
Fungi Malcom Storey 1391
Bryophytes Simon Davey 467
Vascular Plants John Martin 2205
Sponges Jonty Denton 8
Comb-jellies Jeff Blincow,
Richard Comont,
Jerry Lanfear,
James Harding-Morris,
Lee Johnson
Cnidarians Richard Comont 37
Molluscs Jonty Denton 216
Bryozoans Richard Comont 23
Annelids Richard Comont 48
Platyhelminth worms Brian Eversham 17
Sea-spiders Richard Comont 4
Arachnids Jonty Denton 492
Myriapods Keith Lugg 71
Crustaceans Brian Eversham 98
Springtails Richard Comont 35
3-tailed Bristletails Matt Princve,
Nicola Bacciu,
Jony Denton,
Brian Eversham
Odonata Mark Telfer, Dave Gibbs 48
Orthopteroids Mark Telfer 41
Hemipteroids Jonty Denton 850
Hymenoptera Dave Gibbs 792
Coleoptera Mark Telfer 2562
Diptera Dave Gibbs 3123
Butterflies Seth Gibson 62
Moths Tony Davis 1617
Remaining small
insect orders
Jonty Denton 194
Echinoderms Richard Comont 19
Tunicates Richard Comont 17
Fish Richard Comont 95
Reptiles Dave Gibbs,
Seth Gibson,
Paul Clack
Amphibians Jonty Denton 13
Birds Dave Gibbs 519
Mammals Mark Telfer 64
Other animals Jonty Denton 36

 A total of 16739 species! Every time this is updated, a new record has been broken. I was pleased to see that new records now stand for comb-jellies, cnidarians, myriapods, springtails, beetles and birds since I captured this info. The beetle record is already 70 species higher than this since Mark updated. I'd love it if that whenever anyone updates this list and makes a new record, that it shows on the front page of the website as these are significant events and will only reduce in frequency as times goes on and the records get harder and harder to beat. I've still not managed to get on this list again after briefly being joint top fish lister. I'm not even second now. I did have all sorts of plans about going out on fishing boats but I'm always too busy these days. My tactic is to outlive everyone else through extreme exercise and healthy eating. Marginal gains.

With people finding species new to Britain, new to science and a new generation of youngsters getting on board, PSL is really finding its feet. I have already started getting going with my first survey last week where I had a number of new beetles and spiders at Ebernoe Common. I have lots and lots of surveys planned for 2016 and my new battery powered suction sampler just turned up too, meaning I'll always have one in the car ALL THE TIME. Here is to a great 2016, happy listing!

Sucking liquorice

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 18 March 2016 19:00

This is the rather smart Pseudoprotapion astragali and thanks to one man and his electric suction sampler, I was able to see this on a cold day on a road verge in Bedfordshire this week. It's a Na species that only feeds on Wild Liquorice, a plant I have only ever seen once in Sussex. I'm slowly starting to grow to love the tiny apionid weevils and this one is very distinctive being more green than blue. My first new beetle in ages.

Here's a mystery for you. I was shown this after being asked "will you tick a stick?". It's quite surprising but I'd be interested to hear what people think it might be...

SpongeBlob SquirtPipe

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 11 March 2016 19:24

A couple of evenings ago, ago I tagged along on the first Shore Search event of the year. The weather was grim and there were only five of us. Fortunately, Gerlad Legg and Olle Akeson were there to guide me through the weird and wonderful word of...Worthing Pipe?!

As promised by the title, sponge. I thought this looked like something from a paint-balling centre or Jackson Pollock's hangover. The blue one is Terpiosa gelatinosa and the blood red one is Microciona atrasanguinea. I think there is also Breadcrumb Sponge in there (the beige one) and maybe Amhilectus fucorum. We saw at least five sponges. I quadrupled my sponge list.

As promised, blobs. Great big massive dangly blobs. These were the biggest anemones I had ever seen and were all in one huge cluster. Turns out this is actually a common species that is rarely exposed. As you'll never get me under the water, I'm really lucky to have seen the Plumose Anemone. Think this was the star of the show!

As promised, squirts. This leathery looking thing is actually an alien species. This is the Leathery Sea Squirt and is quite possibly the most ugly looking thing I have ever seen. I doubt I would have ever recognised it as a living thing!

As promised, a pipe. Worthing Pipe was an early attempt at the Channel Tunnel. One by one, Victorian's were loaded into the pipe like bullets in a gun and propelled at high velocities across the channel using compressed air. The regular 'Fop', 'Fop' followed by jubilant screams was a frequent soundscape of this part of the Sussex coast.  In France they enjoyed day trips for as little five guineas. It was briefly successful until Queen Victoria herself became lodged in the pipe and a 30 mile chimney sweep's brush had to be deployed to rescue her. 

OK, it was just an old Victorian sewage pipe. There was something very Iain Banks about this structure though. My left ear was freezing!

On the left here is Poseidon, God of the Sea, AKA Dr Gerald Legg. Thanks Olle for the photo. On the way back I found half a Painted Topshell. I couldn't believe how big it was, can't wait to see one of these alive. I really didn't think Worthing Pipe would be that exciting but that was one of the strangest and surprising hours of natural history I've ever done. I can't wait for the next one!

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