Even more incredibly rare spiders found on an old conifer plantation!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 23 May 2017 18:59

Where do you start with a day like today? The invertebrates came thick and fast, as they so often do at Graffham Common. When we acquired the site in 2009/10, it was mostly conifer plantation with some nice heathy clearings and an old bog, that were quite rich with invertebrates. We were very keen to maintain and enhance this interest when took the trees off, so we left around 70% so that the site felt more structured. It continues to throw up surprises. The Philodromus margaritatus from last time has been confirmed. This time the star of the show was completely unexpected yet again being the bizarre looking Uloborus walckenaerius. This strange spider is known in Sussex from Ambersham Common and one other site up on the border with Surrey. Beyond that it's well established on the Surrey heaths with some older records in the New Forest. Now it's not that far from Ambersham Common to Graffham but we have looked at this site in detail (I have swept the Hell of the established glades and not seen a single Uloborus there). Today we found FIVE adults on the western side of Graffham, all in the building phase of Heather and none in the old established areas. This is hugely significant as the spider was only found today in areas of Heather that only five years ago were under pine and bracken. It's a great conservation Sussex story and shows the benefit of joining up sites! So it's a new species for the reserve network and a welcome RDB3 species to this surprising jewel of a site.

It was a fascinating spider to watch, pulling itself along upside down along lines of thread sent out from one patch of heather to the next. The underside of the abdomen is dark which seems like a way of breaking up the outline when it's at rest. They also don't keep still so I struggled to get that perfect shot. 

But the fun didn't stop there! On the east side I swept this HUGE Xysticus and it's Xysticus luctuosus. Now we found it at Graffham west in 2009 in pitfalls (it's still the only Sussex site for this species but we are the first to see it alive!) but I wasn't doing spiders then (Andy Phillips did the identifications) and it's took me this long to find a live one. This is a big Xysticus (9 mm this female). She was still enough to use the photo stacking function on the new camera and I was really pleased with it. This was a new species for me.

Right at the end we recorded Sibianor aurocinctus AGAIN. In fact I think we recorded eight species of jumping spider today which is a record for me.

Now for the beetles. This species is new to all our reserves, it''s the naturalised weevil Magdalis memnonius and feeds on pine wood.

And a trio of longhorns provided cameos throughout the day. Such as Pachytodes cerambyciformis.

Stenurella melanura
And Rhagium bifasciatum

This carabid has been recorded there before, it's the stunning Agonum sexpunctatum.

Jane accidentally swept this Golden-ringed Dragonfly, a stunning creature.

We also saw the first Dodder growing on the site, Woodlark with three fledglings, Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Firecrest, Hobby and Spotted Flycatcher!

Oh and in one small patch of Bilberry, clouds of this little tortix moth that I think is the Bilberry Bell Rhopobota myrtillana. IF it is this species, it will be a first for Sussex, having a very northwestern distribution. Watch this space for this one!

Not bad for an old conifer plantation hey? Well done Jane!

A new shieldbug for Sussex!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 20 May 2017 16:50

So this isn't my find, it's Derek Binns who got this smart looking beast. I was notified via Twitter of this and Tristan Bantock confirmed the ID, I've never heard of it! So, the following photos and words are all Derek's but as county record for Heteroptera, I thought I should promote this amazing find. What a smart looking beast, if you see one out there, please send in your records!

"Searching for invertebrates in the margins of the old quarry in Hastings Country Park has produced unexpected rewards. Whilst checking a reasonably large patch of spear thistle, two purple shieldbugs were found. One was the Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum, an attractive native species that can be found in good numbers on woodland margins everywhere. The second shieldbug warranted more than a second glance. It was a species that is reasonably common in France but does not occur in this country. There are no more than one or two records of it getting across the Channel to our shores, and this was the first record for Sussex.

Many photographs were taken so as to get sufficient detail to allow accurate identification as there is taxonomic debate about certain species in this difficult genus. A note was sent to the national recorder for heteroptera to ask for confirmation that this was Carpocoris purpureipennis, and after some discussion and reference to specific details on the pronotum and scutellum, the identification was confirmed, The county recorder was included in the discussion, and he confirmed it to be a first record for Sussex. If you start with a mental picture of the native Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum, this species seems at least half as big again and the pronotum shoulders project noticeably, also the scutellum is very obviously different from the Hairy as colouration of the top of the scutellum blends into the pronotum which has longitudinal stripes that continue onto the head. The wingtips extend to a buff point beyond the body. The striped connexivum around the sides of the rear half of this bug are a very bold cream and black stripe and is a lot more convex than the black and white striped connexivum of the native Hairy Shieldbug. In the field this area appears to be a striped circle that is broken by a “tail” formed from the wingtips.

As many species of shieldbug are at the northernmost edge of their range in this country, the prospect of global warming gives potential for some european species to cross the Channel. A site such as the quarry which provides sheltered warmth close to landfall after migration might be considered to have potential for a colony to establish. Further observations will be made as the summer progresses to see if this shieldbug is a lone record or not."


Posted by Graeme Lyons 15:17

Latin dictionary: head
Urban dictionary: done with, over, dead broken, the end of, no more

Last week, Alice and I did a 'mini-bioblitz' at Gillham Wood. One of our smaller sites with no designations (in over seven years of blogging, this is my first post about the site!), it's much lower down the priority list for monitoring. This means we don't do much structured monitoring there, it's simply not going to greatly inform management. It's at sites like this that casual recording is welcome though, so we attempted to see if we could beat the 108 species noted on the spreadsheet. We did, with 145 species in just over two hours. The highlight was this micro moth which I beat from a Hawthorn on the southern edge of the wood. It's Spuleria flavicaput (what an awesome scientific name?) or the Yellow-headed Cosmet. The are only six records in the county so it's quite a goody abd it's new to the whole reserve network.  It's my 1045th moth and 6545th species. It's the 1233rd moth on our reserves and the 9846th species we've recorded on our reserves so far. We also recorded a few nice ancient woodland indicators such as Pignut, Wood Speedwell and Butcher's Broom.

Now for the bad news. My back has gone again and this time it's pretty bad. I had thought that last week's flare up had resolved itself as yesterday I mostly felt fine but this morning the disc has got much worse and my left lats have gone into spasm. It's pretty bad when both happen at once. I have only three weeks left before the 1000 species challenge! Dave has suggested he'll be carrying me around on a stretcher. Maybe we could get some Segways?

This post has been brought to you by the medium of opiate based pain killers and Libby's birthday cake which has more sugar in a slice than I've eaten all year. Now to catch up with entering some records, my 40,000th record is coming up!

Please sponsor us for the 1000 species challenge!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 17 May 2017 07:56

A couple of weekends ago, Dave and I had another go at limbering up for the 1000 species challenge (that's the two of us aiming to see and identify 1000 species or more in a 24 hour period on the 10th June). We did 400 species in 4 hours and 16 minutes which I am pretty pleased with. Most of this was from two sites with a bit of Burton Pond tagged on at the end. The highlight for me was this mystery caterpillar that I had to admit defeat on. I ended up going right up to the top of Butterfly Conservation to get a species name. It's none other than a Pale Eggar. This was my bogey moth for a long time. This was beaten from oak in Dennis's Croft in Ebernoe. It's quite a scarce moth that I have only seen once or twice before.

Anyway, four hours was hard work but I reckon we are going to make it on the day, weather permitting! We will have our hands full but are hoping somehow to do social media and photographic updates on the day but this might need the help of some other friends. We have our (top secret) route planned and we think it's a good one but time will tell. So don't forget the 10th June 2017, we certainly won't!

Fund raising for the 1000 species challenge has now started, so please sponsor us what you can here at our Just Giving page.

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