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!

2 Response to "Even more incredibly rare spiders found on an old conifer plantation!"

Ali Says:

Sounds like an epic day. i could watch hobbies all day, never mind the rest!

Hilary Melton-Butcher Says:

Hi Graeme - thanks for sharing all these wonderful photos and giving us a chance to look at these amazing insects and Dodder - congratulations on all your finds ... enjoy the continued search during the summer months - cheers Hilary

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