The Burton Mistletoe Crisis

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 9 January 2018 21:38

Mistletoe has never been recorded on a Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve. But today we recorded it FROM one. Not that we'll be counting it on the site list but this shows how tantalisingly close we got to it today at the Warren, part of our Burton Pond reserve. The road delineates the edge of the reserve and across the next field you can see a clump of Mistletoe. However, 'from' just isn't good enough even for a bird (let alone something that can't fly. Or move even). We never recorded the Short-toed Eagle using Old Lodge for example, although it was seen distantly from the reserve. Now this might have made a nice tweet and the story might have ended there so why am I blogging about this I hear you ask? 

Well, this is the winter of 2017/18 and you can't even take a photo of a clump of Mistletoe without it being photo-bombed by a couple of these chunky monkeys due to their unprecedented invasion!

Yes, you've guessed it. A couple of Hawfinches! This is getting ridiculous. Not only did we see these two and hear them flying over the Warren we also saw five more round at New Piece. This seems to be a new record for our part of the site. This is my eighth encounter this winter which outnumbers ALL my other encounters ever! The last two times I've been out in the field they have outnumbered Chaffinches. I don't think I'll ever get bored of them and I've never been more tuned in to their insignificant calls. All encounters (except this one) this year wouldn't have happened without knowing this call, so to maximise your chances of seeing one or more of these awesome finches, keep your ears open. I love how upright they are in silhouette. I guess it's hard to perch diagonally if you're head weighs as much as a Hawfinch's does without falling over.

I'll leave you with this. The scientific name (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) always makes me think of these. Hawfinches: they're grrrreat! 
P.S. Mistletoe has still not been recorded ON at Trust reserve.

Everything's different in the world of me

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 7 January 2018 17:30

Where to start with this one. A 120 Hawfinches? Australian Flu? The first airing of Season 3 of the Mighty Boosh some ten years ago? The Big Bang? Or maybe my first day back at work this year. Yes let's start there. I got to the boot of my car on the 2nd Jan and the whole car STUNK of fox. I was even more surprised when the smell had some how permeated into the car. I drove to work half expecting  the Crack Fox from the Mighty Boosh to be sitting on the back seat. This guy. Fortunately he wasn't.

I got back in the car at the end of the day and it STILL stank! I even called one of of my colleagues over and he was amazed at how bad it was. And it wasn't until the 6th that I realised what on (fox) earth was going on! But first we have to go back to the 30th Dec...

...I am recovering from what I now think is Australian Flu and having spent all of Christmas indoors I am itching to get out. I have some freelance work to do at Heyshott Down looking at bryophytes and I'm up there in a bit of a daze, it was way too soon to be back at work but you live and learn. I am seriously wrapped up and I only went out because it was 12 degrees. I have some new finger-less gloves. I'm head down mapping the stunning moss Rhodobryum roseum (which has spread on the site due to the management of the Murray Downland Trust) BUT I am continually distracted by calling Hawfinches. I had seen five at one point perched in the distance but it's so hard to ignore the call as I usually hear them so infrequently. 

Suddenly I look up and the sky is black with Hawfinches. A flock of some 45 birds flies over head and lands right in front of me. I lift my bins and can see a further 20 birds in the mid distance. I heard calling behind me and saw even more!!! Around 55 birds in the trees to the west. I did the math. 120 Hawfinches (and I believe that to be an underestimate). In all the excitement I began to overheat, now this is an important clue: I took my gloves off and put them in my big lower pockets in my combats. Exciting stuff. 

I head home at the end of the day feeling a little rough and spaced out. The next day as I was heading towards the pub for New Years and walked round the back of my car to cross the road I thought to myself "Someone's dropped a glove there that looks rather like one of my new gloves right outside the boot of my car" but the penny didn't drop. I carried on. Then a few days later I realised said glove was mine. It was soaking wet from all the 'rain' so I left it on my parcel shelf to dry off. Big mistake. Yesterday (6th Jan) I retrieved the glove to find it still soaking and then it hit me. Both the stench of fox scent glands at point blank range and the answer to the stinking car conundrum. The local foxes had been having their New Year's celebrations on my glove for days. What went on there we'll never know. Here is the offending article.

Now I know what you're thinking. "Nice hops". No I'm kidding. You're thinking "Why didn't you use 'fox glove' as a blog title?". Well that would have given it away right from the start. I have washed the fox glove now. It kind of now smells of a mix of part washing detergent and part greaty reduced fox musk, which is actually quite pleasant. I wonder though, what will my car will smell like tomorrow morning on my way to work?

The amazing spiders of Graffham Common

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 5 January 2018 15:42

I have just finished all the identifications from the invertebrate survey I carried out at Graffham Common this year (a total of 412 species recorded) and thought I would do a little review of the spiders. It came as quite a surprise to me that 16 of the 80 species of spider recorded during the six visits last year have conservation status! That's a remarkable 20%! I have never recording anything like this, especially as I always thought the conservation statuses for spiders were more stringent than for other taxa. Of these 16, 13 are considered nationally scarce while the remaining three are nationally rare! And when you think it was mostly conifer plantation five years ago with some tiny patches of heath you really start to see how special the site is.

Overall we have now recorded 141 spiders at Graffham. I carried out some pitfalls back in 2009 and in 2014 and we added some interesting species back then. Including Xysticus luctuosus (we had quite a few in 2009 but none in 2014). Interestingly it took me until 2017 to find a living one and only then was it one individual (the female above recorded on Fir Toat)! Back in 2009 and even earlier last year this spider wasn't classified as having any conservation status at all but now I'm please to see it's classified as nationally rare and IUCN Endangered! This spider is currently not known from anywhere else in Sussex!

But the biggest surprise for me was the gorgeous IUCN Vulnerable Uloborus walckenaerius. It's an odd looking beast and is also rare. In Sussex known from neighbouring Ambersham Common. It was well established  on Graffham West and on the last visit we even picked one up from Gallows Pond.

And also the BAP IUCN Near Threatened Lichen Running-spider Philodromus margaritatus. In Sussex known only from here and the adjacent Lavington Common. During this survey the spider was recorded on all three blocks.

We recorded for an hour on each of three blocks: Graffham West, Gallows Pond and Fir Toat. A site list was made for each of the sub-sites over the six visits. The full species list is shown below.

Species Fir Toat Gallows  West Cons status

Achaearanea riparia 1 NS
Agalenatea redii 1
Agelena labyrinthica 1 1
Amaurobius fenestralis 1
Anelosimus aulicus 1 NS
Anelosimus vittatus 1 1 1
Araneus angulatus 1 NS
Araneus diadematus 1 1 1
Araneus quadratus 1
Araniella cucurbitina 1 1 1
Araneus sturmi 1 1
Arctosa leopardus 1
Arctosa perita 1 1
Argyroneta aquatica 1
Ballus chalybeius 1 NS
Bianor aurocinctus 1 NS
Clubiona trivialis 1
Diaea dorsata 1
Dictyna arundinacea 1 1
Dictyna latens 1 1
Dipoena tristis 1 NS
Drassodes cupreus 1
Drassyllus pusillus 1
Enoplognatha latimana 1 1
Enoplognatha ovata 1 1 1
Ero tuberculata (above) 1 1 NS
Evarcha arcuata 1 1 NS
Evarcha falcata 1 1 1
Gibbaranea gibbosa 1 1 1
Harpactea hombergi 1
Heliophanus cupreus 1 1 1
Heliophanus flavipes 1
Larinioides cornutus 1
Lathys humilis 1
Linyphia triangularis 1 1 1
Mangora acalypha 1 1 1
Marpissa muscosa 1 1 1 NS
Metellina mengei 1 1 1
Metellina segmentata 1 1 1
Misumena vatia 1 1 1
Neon reticulatus 1 1
Neottiura bimaculatum 1
Nuctenea umbratica 1 1
Pachygnatha degeeri 1
Paidiscura pallens 1
Pardosa nigriceps 1
Pardosa palustris 1 1
Pardosa pullata 1 1
Pardosa saltans 1 1 1
Philodromus albidus 1 1
Philodromus aureolus 1 1
Philodromus cespitum 1
Philodromus dispar 1 1 1
Philodromus margaritatus 1 1 1 NR
Philodromus praedatus 1
Pirata latitans 1
Pisaura mirabilis 1 1 1
Rugathodes instabilis 1 NS
Salticus cingulatus 1
Salticus zebraneus 1 NS
Savignia frontata 1
Simitidion simile 1 1 1
Stemonyphantes lineatus 1
Tegenaria silvestris 1
Tetragnatha nigrita 1 1
Tetragnatha obtusa 1
Tetragnatha pinicola 1
Theridion impressum 1
Theridion sisyphium 1 1 1
Theridion tinctum 1
Tibellus oblongus 1 1
Trematocephalus cristatus 1 NS
Uloborus walckenaerius 1 1 NR
Xerolycosa nemoralis 1 1 1 NS
Xysticus cristatus 1 1 1
Xysticus erraticus 1
Xysticus kochi 1
Xysticus lanio 1
Xysticus luctuosus 1 NR
Zilla diodia 1 1 1
Zygiella atrica 1 1

Total 39 55 49
Cons status 5 10 9
Percentage 12.8 18.2 18.4

Iping & Stedham are on 204 species of spider and a whopping 25.0% of these having conservation status, Rye Harbour is very close to this with 201 species at 19.9% conservation status. Then we have Graffham Common with a grand total of 141 species (the 80 mentioned above was from the six visit standardised survey in 2017 alone) and a total of 17.0% of these have cons status. Old Lodge is next with 139 species with 11.3% conservation status. All these sites, except Graffham Common, are SSSIs (or with higher designations) with years of recording behind them.

And that's just the spiders. Other taxa are showing some similar exciting changes but that will have to wait for another day.

The state of pan-species listing at the end of 2017

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:34

Time for my annual post of how things are going in the PSL community. We didn't have a field meeting in 2017, the first year since we started having field meetings in 2012 but it looks like the Cornwall one planned this year by Sally Luker is going to be awesome. I'm looking forward to meeting many of you then. I will be going whatever this time having not made one for some time. 

The 1000 species challenge was also a great boost for pan-species listing, we raised over a £1000 for our Trust. I'm also hoping that listing the whole Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve network will encourage other conservation organisations to do the same thing. So who is going to have a go next? Could the National Trust beat the RSPB's 16000+?

First up, what's happening in the top ten. 

2016 2017 Change
1 Jonty Denton 12399 12483 84
2 Dave Gibbs 11327 11327 0
3 Mark Telfer 7478 7603 125
4 Nicola Bacciu 6515 7045 530
5 Brian Eversham 6650 7030 380
6 The late Eric Philp 6878 6878 0
7 Graeme Lyons 6515 6840 325
8 Simon Davey 6722 6722 0
9 Matt Prince 6142 6483 341
10 Richard Comont 5919 6362 545

First up it looks like Jonty and Mark have slowed down a little. Dave Gibbs hasn't updated his totals in over a year and neither has Simon. Richard Comont has entered the top ten (with the highest increase in the top ten over the period) and Malcolm Storey has departed. Nicola continues to shoot up the rankings as the highest female lister. I've over taken Simon Davey making me the top Sussex lister.

Now for the 100th lister. In 2015 it was Rowan Alder on 903 species, last year it was Adam Harley on 1183 and this year it's Stephen O'Donnell (someone else who hasn't updated for over two years) on 1371. That means that everyone in the top 100 has now seen 1371 species. Pretty impressive!

The youngest lister is now only nine! The oldest is 73. There are 219 people on the rankings (up from 192 last year) and 464 users on the website (up from 300). There are 356 members on the Facebook page (up from 288).

Now for the site rankings (changes in bold).

2016 2017
1 Wicken Fen 8674 Wicken Fen 8674
2 Esher Commons 7945 Esher Commons 7945
3 RSPB Minsmere 5928 RSPB Minsmere 5928
4 Thorn Moors 5052 Thorn Moors 5052
5 RSPB Abernethy 4735 RSPB Abernethy 4735
6 RSPB The Lodge 4290 SWT Rye Harbour 4324
7 SWT Rye Harbour 4274 RSPB The Lodge 4290
8 Hatfield Forest 4184 Hatfield Forest 4184
9 SWT Ebernoe Common 3708 SWT Ebernoe Common 3900
10 Northwich Community Woodlands 3118 Sutton Fen 3708

So nothing has changed in the top five. As predicted, Rye Harbour has over taken the Lodge into 6th place. Sutton Fen has joined the top ten ranks and then Ebernoe Common has replaced it. This has pushed Northwich Community Woodlands out of the top ten. There are 63 locations on the rankings (something I didn't note down the last couple of years).

Now for the top taxa listers (again changes in bold).

2016 2017
Algae Jony Denton 288 288
Slime Moulds Malcolm Storey 51 51
Protists Jony Denton 24 24
Lichens Simon Davey 1228 1228
Fungi Malcom Storey 1391 1391
Bryophytes Paul Bowyer 480 503
Vascular Plants John Martin 2278 2292
Sponges Richard Comont 12 12
Comb-jellies Lee Johnson 3 3
Cnidarians Richard Comont 44 45
Molluscs Richard Comont 222 224
Bryozoans Richard Comont 27 30
Annelids Richard Comont 51 55
Platyhelminth worms Brian Eversham 18 18
Sea-spiders Richard Comont 4 4
Arachnids Jonty Denton 493 499
Myriapods Keith Lugg 77 81
Crustaceans Richard Comont 99 100
Springtails Richard Comont 44 45
3-tailed Bristletails Mark Telfer 8 8
Odonata Mark Telfer, Dave Gibbs 48 48
Orthopteroids Mark Telfer 41 41
Hemipteroids Jonty Denton 861 875
Hymenoptera Dave Gibbs 809 809
Coleoptera Mark Telfer 2632 2739
Diptera Dave Gibbs 3146 3146
Butterflies Seth Gibson, Stuart Read 62 62
Moths Tony Davis 1628 1635
Remaining small  Jonty Denton 195
Echinoderms Richard Comont 19 20
Tunicates Richard Comont 22 24
Fish Richard Comont 97 98
Reptiles Richard Comont 9 10
Amphibians Jonty Denton 13 13
Birds Dave Gibbs 527 527
Mammals Mark Telfer 64 64
Other animals Jonty Denton 36 36
Paul Bowyer has set a new record for bryophytes in only around three years, this is really impressive. Mark's added over a 100 beetles. Richard's somehow managed 10 reptiles. I'm still not top lister for anything.

So there we are, lots of new records being made and some interesting changes in the top ten. Maybe next year I will open it up to the top 20, what do you think? Oh and I hope 2018 is an awesome listing year.

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